This might sound like an episode of Black Mirror, but I think with today’s technology it is entirely possible to replace the need to have parliaments represent the people in a democracy. On all the tasks parliament is there for, a good case can be made that technology has allowed us to do those tasks ourselves without the need of a middleman (elected representatives). We can create laws, agree on budgets, and oversee the executive branch ourselves, in a crowd-sourced sort of method, the way we are already doing a lot of other things.
The reason why parliaments exist in a democracy is because it is practically impossible for an entire population to have to convene and vote on every single bill introduced by any one person within themselves, or to agree on the collective budget for example. Of course every now and then in some countries there are referendums that get voted on by the public, but this is about as far as it gets when it comes to the people deciding on legislations without having their representatives doing it for them. The logistical hassles would be too enormous if we were to hold referendums for each and every proposal.
Enter Democracy 2.0
The technology to change all that already exists today. Imagine if every citizen of a nation has an account on a government online platform that allows them (with proper security authentications and verifications, of course) to vote on all the bills put forward, on the comfort of their desktop or smartphone app. Anytime a new bill gets proposed, the entire population gets a notification on their smartphone asking them to vote Yay or Nay within a limited time period.
And yes, anyone can put forward a bill. Of course, before it comes up on everyone’s phone to get voted on, they will need to get a significant number of initial backers, in which a threshold shall be put in place before the bill gets to the ‘floor’. If people today can get behind online petitions that rarely impact anything, they would most certainly get behind and back bills or amendments put forward in this future democracy platform.
Still before the bill gets to the floor, after enough backers are obtained, the bill’s draft can get edited by anyone within a time period. Similar method, each edit needs to get enough votes before it can make it onto the draft. The people of this earth have been able to collectively create and edit an entire encyclopedia with similar methods, why not edit a draft for a bill that can really affect their lives?
Some more details perhaps:
A voter will have to go through the summary, main arguments from proponents and opponents, and other important deciding factors of a bill/amendment/budget entry before they vote on it.
Algorithms decide which bills/amendments/budget entry or edits appear higher on the list to get voted on. This might include the credentials of the proponent and previous records (number of votes for previous bills/amendment/budget entry/edit proposals) among others.
Yes it’s totally possible, but why should it?
I can think of at least three reasons why it would be massively beneficial to get rid of parliament and do democracy this way:
Savings on resources. This includes the amount of money needed to be spent both on conducting elections to elect representatives, as well as all the money spent on their salaries and tactical budget (which they use to hire staff, meet constituents, etc). In Democracy 2.0, that money could be used somewhere more important.
Fewer opportunities for rent seeking. Under the current system, it’s easier for businesses to gain unfair advantages in the form of favorable regulations, as they only need to lobby parliamentarians. They may even bribe them legally in the form of campaign contributions. In Democracy 2.0, it would be much harder to do so.
Room for more political views. What if you are liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues but you could only either vote for a liberal OR a conservative representative? You will have to live with the fact that the representative you vote for will vote against your views about half the time. In Democracy 2.0, that doesn’t happen, you vote your way every single time.
However, the hard part is not getting the technology right. The hard part is getting the political will to actually make this happen, as it is absolutely not in the interests of the people in power to transfer said power to the people. But if we could make the move from feudal to monarchy to democracy, I don’t see a reason why further democratisation processes such as the one proposed here cannot take place.