TED Conversations

Thomas Ware

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Is our democratic system out-dated and in dire need of reform to fit the 21st century?

In our modern society citizens of democratic countries have received a powerful voice to oppose or push their own political ideals. Whilst democracy works on a majority system it is often questionable whose majority the system is favouring. In Australia the vast majority of citizens are in agreement and see no problem with gay marriage, according to the latest polls. The decision to change current legislation is solely in the control of the government. In a democratic system it would seem that the government should change the legislation to represent the view held by the majority of Australians, however, the beliefs and values of individual government officials are what ultimately decide the outcome that being against. It seems a failure in democracy when the public isn't represented by their government in that the political values do not reflect national ones. The other face of this coin is in common sense reform/policy where what is best for the country is prevented by opinion polls and political agenda rather than national interest.

Some believe that the current democratic system was most effective when people lacked the knowledge to make political decisions in their best interest and were represented by someone who did. The accessibility of the internet and widespread accumulations of knowledge has made individuals more aware and in a better position to make their views well known but often to fall upon deaf ears. The 'big brother' watching the government through media and the internet also seems to have created a system where the government is scrutinised at every turn and in some cases the risk of losing an election is more important than changing bad election promises or making unpopular but necessary policies.


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    May 11 2013: Of course our systems of democratic decision making needs reform. No political process can ever be deemed beyond reform or even dismantling, especially as those whose lives will be, inevitably, dominated by those decisions become more and more demanding of that reform. After all, if we are sincere about it being democratic, then the process must reflect the needs and ideals of its constituents, namely the people governed.

    And, as we see in this 21st century, more and more people are well informed, and competent enough and capable enough to actively participate in their political processes. They don't need or want anyone to "represent" them. They decry the politicians and their parties as irrelevant middlemen and announce that the "party" is over. These empowered citizens are the face of democracy in the 21st century. They want direct, participatory democratic decision making. The internet and social media opportunities furthering this process are both timely and, ultimately, will become key aspects of that reform process.

    Referendum balloting is another important component of the democratic voice and, although there are still some serious concerns over who drafts the tone and content of the referendum question, those concerns are only technical ones and will be worked out as the reform process progresses.

    On the educational side, imagine a generation or two of young people who had been given both the information regarding the various forms that the democratic process can take and then the opportunity throughout their schooling years to practice those forms within the school setting? Does anyone else find it odd that there are so few nations that profess themselves to be democracies - Canada and the U.S. for example - that do not have any educational curriculum regarding democracy itself?

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