The Debate

When Demoex entered the City Council so the political debate in our local newspaper took on a new lease of life. In 2003 Hans Strandin from the Swedish Social Democratic Party and I discussed the forms of democracy. Strandin defended electoral democracy while I argued for the Demoex model:

debate-per-hans

Strandin:
The main benefit of parties and general elections is that all voters can influence policy both through involvement in political parties and take part in elections.

Norbäck:
It can also be included among direct democracy – and also you can vote on the substantive issues between elections.

Strandin:
In the party system all who wants can involve in shaping policies which political parties stand for. If you do not have time to cope so at least every four years you can choose between parties that will present a program which shows which direction you want to drive development.

Norbäck:
We do not remove this possibility, only supplement it. Demoex also enables to vote more often – even on the substantive issues between the elections.

Strandin:
With party system voters can influence what kind of society we want. If you choose Demoex you have no idea.

Norbäck:
Well, if you want a society with more democracy you can vote for Demoex!

Strandin:
Demoex policy is unpredictable. You know nothing about the members who vote in your Internet voting.

Norbäck:
No we don’t know, because we don’t register the members voting. It’s a secret, just as in the general election. But average people ain’t that stupid, thats why democracy works – and we trust in it.

Strandin:
You are standing on an impossible combination of representative democracy and direct democracy.

Norbäck:
You use the word impossible wrong. We prove that the combination is possible.

Strandin:
Genuine direct democracy means no City Council and no general election. Then all the issues goes to citizen voting. It is too much to demand. I don’t think for a moment this is possible.

Norbäck:
Firstly, we want to mix the representative and direct democracy. Secondly, during the election campaign, voters are drowning in information. To be familiar with all the party platforms and candidate campaigns both in heads of state, county and municipal elections every fourth year is too much to demand. Then it is better to spread the information throughout the term of office, we think.

Strandin:
Direct democracy would require that all citizens invested much time and effort to become acquainted with, and form an opinion in every single substantive point, and then all would need to vote at least 10 times a month.

Norbäck:
Demoex make no demands. We just want to give opportunities for those interested in political issues to have a direct voice.

Strandin:
In addition you need access to computers and the Internet and be able to express himself well in writing.

Norbäck:
70 percent of the population have access to Internet today, and it just gets more. And Demoex is definitely nothing to hold on linguistic swank. Our language is different from the usual role models in politics and administration. We cut the office language and the rhetoric to refine the arguments. Incidentally, there is no need to express himself at all, to read and press a button is enough.

Strandin:
If this is going be the “democracy” so few will guide the development without being elected by anyone.

Norbäck:
If Demoex would have a strong influence, we would probably get a lot of members…

Strandin:
You are about 50 of 25 000 inhabitants. Even if you get a little better, you obviously can not claim to be representative for them all.

Norbäck:
Of course not, but our sample of the population is probably more representative than other parties, because Demoex consists of people with different ideologies and interests.

Strandin:
The idea of direct democracy is not new. A number of extreme socialist parties in particular during the 60’s and 70’s tried it. We were against it then as well as now.

Norbäck:
It’s embarrassing to have to say it, but central forces in your own party would like to see participatory democracy.

Strandin:
In the 70’s you would have big meetings where a few loud persons could dominate without having received any mandate from anybody. The difference between them and you is that there was no internet so they had to meet.

Norbäck:
You are making an association fallacy. The difference between oral and written debate is huge! We can not overpower each other in writing. The content is in focus on the written debate, while the speaker is in focus at oral. You cannot run with fatigue tactics in writing. (Hope that someone will bother to read this dialogue, although it is long! We are talking about important issues.)

Strandin:
The Democratic problem is the same in Demoex as with them. We fought them because we wanted to protect everyone’s equal right to influence. We did not want oligarchy.

Norbäck:
All the big parties suffer from the iron law of oligarchy according to Robert Michels. We don’t have equal right to influence in politics. Me and other non-elected are not in the same power as you and other party leaders.

Strandin:
I am concerned that you as a teacher of Social Studies give evidence on a foggy idea of what democracy is and how it can work in practice. If you do not have a better analysis in your teacher’s offense so I think the school management should look at what you teach.

Norbäck:
I think it’s sad that you as a leading politician slanders a citizen who dares to disagree with you – without any objective justification. If I were just as irrelevant, I could ask how you can have a driving licence? Do you think we should have this level of democratic debate? I do not. You are certainly an excellent driver, but be sure to know the facts before you write a letter to the editor. I am, moreover, not teaching the Civics, but the Philosophy. You are welcome to visit a lesson in argumentation analysis!

Strandin:
I beg your pardon for that. You run the thesis that a few people control the politics and that all members are voting the same way as party leader. But those few who are leading the parties have presented their policy in detail in the election campaign.

Norbäck:
Yes, but we don’t know how they will vote in every single point. Moreover, not all the substantive issues raised in the council of the ideological nature. What does the socialist ideology say of refreshing the Municipality House in example?

Strandin:
Well, we will meet and discuss, and agree on what view to have. The party leader is only a spokesperson. The difference between us and you is that we meet in person and talk to each other and you send messages on the Internet. The personal meeting is, in my view, essential for democracy.

Norbäck:
In my opinion, it is more important for democracy that people have the right to vote, than to meet people in person.

Strandin:
The main difference is that our members still gather before the election and make a program that we present to the voters. It gives the voters a choice.

Norbäck:
Demoex gives voters the opportunity to choose 400 times during a term. Ain’t that a better choice than to have a few view packages to choose from?

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