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Croudsourcing Democracy
September 23, 2012 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Finland is about to start using croudsourcing to create new laws: Earlier this year, the Finnish government enabled something called a "citizens’ initiative", through which registered voters can come up with new laws – if they can get 50,000 of their fellow citizens to back them up within six months, then the Eduskunta (the Finnish parliament) is forced to vote on the proposal.

Now this crowdsourced law-making system is about to go online through a platform called the Open Ministry. The non-profit organization has been collecting signatures for various proposals on paper since 1 March, when citizens’ initiatives came in, but a couple of days ago the government approved the electronic ID mechanism that underpins the digital version of the platform. That means it can now go live on 1 October.

posted by troll (69 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is somewhat similar to the ballot initiative process already in place in about half of the United States. The real innovation here is the online voting system; it's only a step away from rendering the average citizen a lawmaker—but as is, the citizen's initiative has no teeth. Utilizing existing financial industry IDs is probably a smart move, but the purported security (“The National Communications Security Authority audited our code, our security policies and our service/hosting providers to ensure that the details of citizens are safe and can’t be hacked into”) is dubious. If I know anything about hackers, it's never say never. Can someone with security expertise comment on this?
posted by troll at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahahahaha. You will regret this, Finland!

(I say this as a California resident)
posted by ryanrs at 4:36 PM on September 23, 2012 [47 favorites]


Does Finnish not have a word for "petition"?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:37 PM on September 23, 2012


Oh, wow, according to newly enacted Finland law I am to be crowned Queen of Finland and have a palace built on the moon. I feel so honored. Online voting made my dream a reality.
posted by littlesq at 4:44 PM on September 23, 2012


Oh God, the apotheosis of the ballot initiative.

It's not quite as bad as the ballot initiative system that plagues California and other states. In those states, complex legislation is boiled down into inscrutable language that nobody reads or understands, and is sent before millions of voters who have little expertise on the matter. Instead of committees hammering out differences in language, it gets sent straight to the voters for an up or down.

In Finland, from what I can gather, millions of voters who have no expertise on the matter craft simplistic language that is immediately voted up or down by aggravated legislators, or (the sensible option), a petition mandates a bill drafting process starts. At least this is just a forced trigger to the sausage-making process, instead of a whole sausage being presented to hungry voters who don't really understand what's in it.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:50 PM on September 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Look for the Ermagerd Motorway any day now.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:52 PM on September 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


We already crowdsource our politicians, and look at the fucking mess that's turned out to be.
posted by howfar at 4:58 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Welcome to the tyranny of democracy. Majority rules is actually a pretty terrible system of government, which is precisely why most democracies have checks and balances to protect the minority interests.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:59 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ahahahaha. You will regret this, Finland!

(I say this as a California resident)


I was about to type just this. Maybe the Fins will come up with less idiotic ideas but I doubt it.
posted by fshgrl at 5:00 PM on September 23, 2012


Nobody tell Tim Eymann.
posted by mwhybark at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Looking forward to the vote on the new Finnish National Anthem.
posted by R. Schlock at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is somewhat similar to the ballot initiative process already in place in about half of the United States.

Oh, I hope not, because that shit is fucked and utterly under the control of special interests. Is there a Finnish equivalent of Tim Eyman?
posted by Artw at 5:09 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dammit mwhybark.
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hooray! More Laws!
posted by b1tr0t at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Helsinki to be renamed "Hitler did nothing wrong" based on online petition swarmed by 4chan and SA.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:11 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've heard it said that short of a handful of genuinely chaotic zones, we don't need any more new laws anywhere. There's always one in place already that just isn't getting enforced. But that said, I'm for the banning of all shitty music in public places.
posted by philip-random at 5:15 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Such a cynical bunch! Comparing this to California's democracy is, like, inherently flawed, dude. Platforms are about reducing friction and getting to better answers faster. If you imagine there is "x" amount of time for an election, the result will be vastly different if the process involves signatures and television commercials, than if it involves SSL and clicking.

Whilst the philosophical concepts may be similar – like, direct democracy, man – the process will completely affect the outcome. This is awesome and the harbinger of truly great things for self-governance.

It's quite fascinating that rich, progressive states (Finland) are moving into digital democracies, whilst in the US – "the home of freedom" or, like, whatever, dude – the battle is (still) about non 'straight, Christian American male rights' (women, gay, Islamic, immigrant, Pakistani, Palestinian, Iranian)... aka "them". Come to think of it, Finland's system seems to be "how do we get us to vote better" whereas America's system is "what can we do to prevent them from having a voice."

Maybe that looks like:

Finland, 2012: "How to we implement secure online voting for direct legislation"
USA, 2012: "How do we disenfranchise poor voters so that a few can continue living of the largess?"

Process matters. Dude.
posted by nickrussell at 5:16 PM on September 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Did you mean: crowd
posted by w0mbat at 5:16 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looking forward to the vote on the new Finnish National Anthem.

Ahem… I believe you meant new Finnish National Anthem.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:25 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


More laws is not the answer. Vote to remove laws and then decide on whether a better law should replace it.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:26 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Platforms are about reducing friction and getting to better answers faster. If you imagine there is "x" amount of time for an election, the result will be vastly different if the process involves signatures and television commercials, than if it involves SSL and clicking.

You sound like a Wired article from 1996.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ahem… I believe you meant new Finnish National Anthem.


What, this?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2012


I wonder what would happen if we had a stochastocracy. Whether that be like the original democracy based on a lottery system or some form or random law picking (i.e. people submit laws, and then draw them from a hat or whatever the appropriate metaphor would be).

I generally think the common person is pretty fucking stupid, but... then I think about how stupid the entire system is and wonder what sort of improvement may or may not come about. And of course, how would you prevent manipulation of said stochastocratic system?
posted by symbioid at 5:31 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Platforms are about reducing friction and getting to better answers faster.

You realize that the reason representative democracy has done so well, despite it's flaws, and has done *vastly* better than any direct democracy, is that you empower your representatives to say no.
posted by eriko at 5:32 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did you mean: crowd

Haha!
posted by troll at 5:43 PM on September 23, 2012


Metafiter: "You sound like a Wired article from 1996"

But seriously, I was thinking today that a better democracy would be the opposite of what finland is doing -- have elected legal reps write laws, but have a system in place where the people can vote on them, in other words a perpetual democracy which would be funded by tax incentives (or penalties, I would suggest paying for it by taxing people who don't vote - it would certainly be easy to get that one across, since ut would only penalize people who don't vote.)
posted by illovich at 5:46 PM on September 23, 2012


Seems less efficient than just letting industries write them, which is working great in America
posted by thelonius at 5:48 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not clear at all from the links how the crowdsourcing will work in practice. And it even seems like the Citizens' Intiative process described does not require or emphasize crowdsourcing ( one person putting together a bill and organizing a petition to support it seems sufficient, even preferred)

Even with just the petitions, the low bar on signatures needed would suggest a likely legislative logjam unless the votes on these bills in parliament are given strict quotas
posted by Bwithh at 5:48 PM on September 23, 2012


Seems less efficient than just letting industries write them, which is working great in America
posted by thelonius at 5:48 PM on September 23 [+] [!]



Corporate lobbying, with a bit of innovation grease, can still work just fine and dandy with crowdsourcing
posted by Bwithh at 5:50 PM on September 23, 2012


This is awesome and the harbinger of truly great things for self-governance.

This was exactly the sentiment behind the rise of ballot initiatives.


Finland, 2012: "How to we implement secure online voting for direct legislation"
USA, 2012: "How do we disenfranchise poor voters so that a few can continue living of the largess?"


This is the problem with systems like these: the process you praise so much is no guarantee of good results. The threat is tyranny of the majority: if you can get the requisite number of people to propose something reprehensible, say voter suppression laws in the guise of "fighting voter fraud", it gets voted on. If anything a direct system like this would make terrible, restrictive laws easier to pass because this system is geared towards simplistic statements that can be pushed by a motivated interest group.

I have no idea what the internal issues facing Finland are, but I would bet money that such a system in the US would only exacerbate existing problems.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what would happen if we had a stochastocracy.

Slightly tangentially, there was a paper published this year on the possible benefits of introducing some random selection of MPs into parliamentary systems. Here's a link to the PDF.
posted by howfar at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I actually think this is a neat idea. I'm interested to see how it turns out.
posted by windykites at 6:29 PM on September 23, 2012


"There shall be no laws on New Hong Kong" -- Buck Godot, by Phil Foglio
posted by Mad_Carew at 6:31 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually this sounds rather different from ballot initiatives. The actual decision here is still made by the legislature, and the votes are just to make them consider a bill. That's ... interesting, but you're gonna see a lot of clutter.
posted by kafziel at 6:40 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Erm... is this significantly different than Britain's e-petitions? The first link does observe that there's a difference between forcing a debate and forcing a vote, but it doesn't sound like Finland is having citizens actually draft legislation, only propose it, so is that a meaningful difference? (I can't get the actual site to load. I think that's probably my internet connecting sucking, rather than them being slammed.)
posted by hoyland at 6:52 PM on September 23, 2012


Apparently the initiatives can simply offer a bill for approval, if it's formulated in that manner: A citizens' initiative may include either a bill or a proposal that a bill drafting process should be started. An initiative may also concern amending or repealing an effective Act. If the initiative is formulated as a bill, it shall include the actual sections of the proposed legislation

So an initiative can simply be Repeal Law A, or Enact Law B (as long as the text of B is attached).
posted by mek at 7:01 PM on September 23, 2012


Ah got the site to load. Yeah... I'm not actually understanding this as particularly different than what Britain's got going. In Britain, successful petitions go the the "backbench business committee" who can bury them, but I think it's equally possible for Finland to bury petitions that aren't in the form of draft legislation. (And, of course, we know all to well from California forever ended up with unconstitutional propositions that citizens are not very good at drafting legislation.)
posted by hoyland at 7:03 PM on September 23, 2012


Eponysterical.
posted by acb at 7:04 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's quite fascinating that rich, progressive states (Finland) are moving into digital democracies, whilst in the US – "the home of freedom" or, like, whatever, dude – the battle is (still) about non 'straight, Christian American male rights' (women, gay, Islamic, immigrant, Pakistani, Palestinian, Iranian)... aka "them". Come to think of it, Finland's system seems to be "how do we get us to vote better" whereas America's system is "what can we do to prevent them from having a voice."

One of the major differences between these progressive European countries and the US is homogeneity of the population. The United States has an incredibly diverse population with all manner of clashing ideological, racial, ethnic, and religious subgroups. Human beings are naturally divisive; when presented with an Other we seem bound and determined to hate them. If your population all has generally the same background you don't get hung up on that and can move to a more communal system of governance.

It certainly isn't that Europe is immune to this phenomenon. The last time there was a significant population of people perceived as culturally Other in Europe, well, Hitler came along. And I think it is telling evidence of this Othering phenomenon that in countries that have seen a large influx of very culturally different immigrants, like the large numbers of Middle Eastern and North African immigrants entering many West European countries, there has been a rise in fascist, right-wing hate groups.
posted by schroedinger at 7:07 PM on September 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


My point is the US is in a much tougher situation when it comes to finding common ground within its populace. It's more complicated than "America sux, Europe is so enlightened".
posted by schroedinger at 7:08 PM on September 23, 2012


I think it's equally possible for Finland to bury petitions that aren't in the form of draft legislation.

Even draft legislation can be easily buried, and most legislation that is not government sponsored does get buried.

A bill gets introduced, and it is then referred to the appropriate committee. Months later it will re-appear with modifications from the committee, with maybe an alternative form as proposed by the committee's minority view. Then the parliament will discuss the post-committee bill, suggest a few amendments, and then take a vote.

Of those draft bills submitted by the public, only those that are highly symbolic or originate from the Finnish equivalent of ALEC will be vaguely recognisable when they are finally put to a vote.

That said, anything which encourages public participation in the legislative process is a good thing. I don't see this as having much of a chance of producing any real results, but rather as another opportunity for people to let the government know what they feel is important and learn something while doing so.
posted by kithrater at 7:25 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that this wouldn't (and couldn't) possibly work in the U.S. has little relevance to whether it can work in Finland.
posted by lastobelus at 7:32 PM on September 23, 2012


This is an interesting thing, this, but I think it would be more interesting if the possibility also existed to select laws to abolish.

It would certainly bring wars on drugs (if not wars in general) to a screeching halt, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2012


This is an interesting thing, this, but I think it would be more interesting if the possibility also existed to select laws to abolish.

It does. You start a citizen's initiative that would introduce a bill to repeal an existing act.

It would certainly bring wars on drugs (if not wars in general) to a screeching halt, at least.

It wouldn't, because your bill would be introduced and then immediately buried in a committee.
posted by kithrater at 7:47 PM on September 23, 2012


It does.

Huzzah!

your bill would be introduced and then immediately buried in a committee.

Boo!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:49 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having had experience in drafting laws, and having also met many members of the public, I say this:
Flee. FLEE! RUN! FIRE! PANIC!

FLY, YOU FOOLS!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:59 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Twelve years ago, would-be Canadian Prime Minister Stockwell Day had a similar notion. It was quietly struck from the platform soon after.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:04 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Slightly tangentially, there was a paper published this year on the possible benefits of introducing some random selection of MPs into parliamentary systems. Here's a link to the PDF.

From the paper:
In recent years also physicists have started to provide a quantitative understanding of social and economical phenomena.
The appropriate response to this paper is this XKCD.
posted by kithrater at 8:10 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The appropriate response to this paper is this XKCD.

That's certainly a good point, physicist's disease is at least as bad as engineer's disease. OTOH the paper was authored by two economists, a sociologist and two physicists, and does actually provide some review of the literature, so it's far from an egregious case, if the diagnosis applies at all.
posted by howfar at 8:20 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what would happen if we had a stochastocracy.

Philip K. Dick has a book about just this very idea:
Solar Lottery takes place in a world dominated by logic and numbers. Loosely based on a numerical military strategy employed by U.S. and Soviet intelligence called minimax (part of game theory), the head of world government is chosen through a sophisticated, computerized lottery. This element of randomization in the society serves as a form of social control since nobody, in theory at least, has any more of an advantage over anybody else in becoming the next Quizmaster.
Society is further entertained by a televised selection process in which an assassin is also allegedly chosen at random. By countering and putting down these threats to his life (using telepathic bodyguards as defense), the leader gains the respect of the people. If he loses his life a new Quizmaster, as well as another assassin, are again randomly selected. Quizmasters have historically held office for timespans ranging from a few minutes to several years. The average life expectancy is therefore on the order of a couple of weeks.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:31 PM on September 23, 2012


It's an egregious case.

The core argument of the paper is that the randomly selected representative will be less beholden to the party than the party representative. The assumptions used in their model to prove this are laughable, in line with the assumptions you find in your average micro 101 perfect competition models: "Assume a market/parliament like no other market/parliament that actually exists, filled with actors who behave in a way like no other actors actually behave. Now, be amazed when as the model arrives at the outcomes we predicted!".

Their historical review is abysmal. The "for" argument is a few examples of previous polities that used random selection, with no review of the outcomes of these examples. The other "for" argument is an attempt to tie studies on random promotion within hierarchical organisations as being relevant to random selection to parliament - the correct comparison would be random promotion to positions within parliament. The "against" argument amounts to reciting the iron law of oligarchy, and notes the disproportionate female and minority representation in many parliaments. Again, no real review of the outcomes of existing parliament systems, only vague mentions of "corruption" and "manipulation".
posted by kithrater at 8:39 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: Is there a Finnish equivalent of Tim Eyman?

I dunno, what time is it?
posted by mwhybark at 8:45 PM on September 23, 2012


Please rise for the new president of Finland, Ron Paul.
posted by Behemoth at 8:48 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What could go wrong?
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2012


posted by troll

Troll was my first thought when seeing this.
posted by stbalbach at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2012


ismo's having a big, *really* big party next summer - unless the supreme court of finland shuts us down again.
posted by facetious at 9:56 PM on September 23, 2012


All things considered, the only real problem with the California initiative system is that it is too easy to change the State Constitution.

Regardless of how idiotic some initiatives have been (Prop 8 comes to mind -- a constitutional amendment that passed with a simple majority, and would not have passed had the threshold been 2/3 or 3/4), and how some had very bad unintended consequences (i.e. three strikes and the infamous Prop 13) -- they actually tend to be LESS pernicious than many of the worst excesses of the normal laws that come from the legislature. And in recent years the number blatantly "bought" initiatives by corporations is a tiny fraction of normal laws that are bought by corporations.
posted by chimaera at 9:59 PM on September 23, 2012


What could go wrong?

Democracy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 PM on September 23, 2012


Regardless of how idiotic some initiatives have been (Prop 8 comes to mind -- a constitutional amendment that passed with a simple majority, and would not have passed had the threshold been 2/3 or 3/4), and how some had very bad unintended consequences (i.e. three strikes and the infamous Prop 13) -- they actually tend to be LESS pernicious than many of the worst excesses of the normal laws that come from the legislature.

Isn't Prop 13 generally considered one of the worst things to happen to California's educational system? Not to mention being directly responsible for the near impossibility of getting a budget through Sacramento? And although Prop 187 was struck down, its passing wasn't exactly a shining moment for the glories of direct democracy.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:14 PM on September 23, 2012


One of the major differences between these progressive European countries and the US is homogeneity of the population.

This is demonstrably false.

Wikipedia, Immigration in the US: "The highest percentage of foreign born people in the United States [...] peaked in 1890 at 14.7%." More recently: "nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005 – more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history."

Immigration in Europe:"According to Eurostat, in 2010, 47.3 million people lived in the EU who were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million)."

That Wikipedia article summarizes it more comprehensively with its Statistics section: "As of 2006, the International Organization for Migration has estimated the number of foreign migrants worldwide to be more than 200 million. Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, with 70 million people in 2005. North America, with over 45 million immigrants, is second, followed by Asia".

There's also a nice Reddit comment on diversity in European countries, where aspects other than immigration are accounted for. I quite like this bit:
We have Catholic countries, Protestant countries, Orthodox countries, and Secular countries. We have significant historical and cultural relations with and populations of Muslims, Jews, and more.

We have experienced growth, decline, war, co-operation, destruction, construction, enlightenment, persecution, and more. We have hated each other. We have loved each other.

We can trace our cultural roots to Greeks, Romans, Moors, Vandals and Goths, Celts, and more.

We have experienced mass upheavel that has permanently changed countries and societies. We have monarchies, republics, democracies.

[...]

Although difficult to measure, it's believed there are around 200 languages spoken in Europe, with varying proficiency and prevalence. That is not counting the languages brought by immigrants and migrants.
All that to say: the question is not diversity/homogeneity, and it is also not superiority/inferiority. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the US having terrible lobbying regulations and campaign funding laws vs. the tighter lobbying and campaign laws in European countries. In short, the US left the door open to private interests further than it's been open in European countries. Private interests in the US have since eked it open until they could get through enough in order to eventually pulverize it. European countries are not immune; they're increasingly influenced as well, but not yet to the same degree. Here in France: In France, the political system does not integrate the lobbying practice. Much French republican thought has been suspicious of the claims of "particular interests," which are often contrasted with the "general interest" of the nation.
posted by fraula at 12:21 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh and since I imagine it will be redirected towards Finland, where I happened to have lived two years, it's good to keep in mind that there are two main, official languages: Finnish and Swedish, as well as Karelian, Estonian, Saami, and others. Those all correspond to minority groups who... don't take it too well when you tell them they're homogenous with Finns. There is a lot of history surrounding Swedish rule of Finland and Karelia, to mention just two parts (and ex-parts) of the country.
posted by fraula at 12:25 AM on September 24, 2012


Ahahahaha. You will regret this, Finland!

Yeah because Finland is so much like California.

Finland is a tiny country with a population a bit over 5 million.

California has 37 million residents.

Finland is not a terribly "diverse" country with 0.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population most of those "migrants" coming from other Nordic countries.

California's population is 42.7% white non-Hispanic, 36.2% Hispanic, 6.7% black, and 12.4% Asian.

There is a distinct, ancient Finnish language, culture and history which makes the population of Finland somewhat radically different than the population in California.

Democracy in Finland nothing like democracy in California.

Also, it's cold in Finland. Very cold.
posted by three blind mice at 1:22 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is demonstrably false.

I'm not talking about immigrants. I'm talking about racial, ethnic, etc diversity within the native-born citizenry itself. You can't possibly be arguing Europe has the same percentage of say, non-Caucasians that there are in the US. Or people identifying as non-Christian. Or the same number of ethnic enclaves, where "ethnic" represents clear, delineated cultural differences between the population within and outside. Frankly, I think a French guy visiting Spain would feel more comfortable than a black guy changing counties in some parts of the South.

I'm not arguing that Europe is completely homogenous, not at all, but that if a guy from North Germany visits South Germany he's not going to feel as out of place as a person from Massachusetts visiting Arkansas. And that guy will identify himself as German first, and other cultural aspects--religion, race, food, etc--will come secondary to that overarching definition. Meanwhile, in America someone is more likely to use their specific cultural indicators as proof of their own American-ness (the Midwest is the Heart Of America where True Americans live) and then if they see other people not adopting those specific cultural practices they're likely to see them as not American.
posted by schroedinger at 1:43 AM on September 24, 2012


I'm not arguing that Europe is completely homogenous

But Finland is extraordinarily so. In 2011, there were 262,130 foreign-born residents in Finland, corresponding to 4.9% of the total population.

Yeah, there are some Sami and Kale who are native born, but not racially Finnish, but Finland, along with the other Nordic countries, were never part of the Roman empire and are today one of the most racially homogenous populations in Europe. I don't argue that this is good, bad, or indifferent, only that it is a fact surely to influence how democracy is practiced in Finland as compared to California.
posted by three blind mice at 1:59 AM on September 24, 2012


It certainly isn't that Europe is immune to this phenomenon. The last time there was a significant population of people perceived as culturally Other in Europe, well, Hitler came along.

Worth noting that he was significantly helped along by the Weimar Republic's embrace of ballot initiatives. As a result, the post-war Federal Republic of Germany has always looked very askance at almost any concept of direct democracy.
posted by Skeptic at 2:52 AM on September 24, 2012


Sys Rq: Does Finnish not have a word for "petition"?

Not only that (it is vetoomus), but Finnish also has a word for "even without your [plural or formally polite you] petitions", which would be vetoomuksittannekaan.

On a more serious note, there Avoin Ministeriö page already has active petitions, ideas and initiatives, some of which are:

Suora demokratia : "Direct democracy," which is about legislation for making the results of public votes (voted directly by citizens) binding.

Lakiehdotus turkistarhaamisen kieltämiseksi : "Proposal for a law prohibiting fur farming."

These two are listed as initiatives. In the category for Ideas there are more proposals in the making. The progression on the site appears to be from Ideas to Sketches (luonnos) to a Proposed Law (lakiehdotus). Some of these may already be on the Sketch stage for all I know, but they were also listed as Ideas at the time I checked.

For example:

Toimenpidealoite perustulosta : "Inititiative for a basic income guarantee". (Wikipedia)

Tasa-arvoinen avioliittolaki : "Marriage equality law." It says this proposal is exactly equivalent to one made by some members of the Eduskunta, which is in danger of being stopped or postponed before being voted on. They think that turning it into an open proposal this way will force it to be voted on publicly in the Eduskunta, without someone being able to stop it "anonymously" [their word] in the process. (Please don't ask me about the details of this process. I don't know the English vocabulary required to express it well and admittedly I'm quite vague on the parts that don't really concern me as a voter.)

Aloite koiraverolain kumoamiseksi : "Initiative for repealing the law on taxes on dogs." (For context: There are only two municipalities in Finland that choose to collect the tax, out of 336. The current law (from 1991) allows every municipality to decide on their own whether to collect or not, and almost all have opted not to. The two municipalities that still collect it are the cities of Helsinki and Tampere, according to the Finnish Wikipedia (Wikipedia (fi)).)

(My translations are probably not idiomatic. I rarely use or encounter legal English, so I didn't have good examples draw on and didn't want to make use of a specialist dictionary, not having one handy.)

posted by tykky at 3:18 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a result, the post-war Federal Republic of Germany has always looked very askance at almost any concept of direct democracy.

Propositions are actually on the table to the extent that the parties have the positions on the issue. They're pretty much all in favour aside from CDU/CSU. I'm amused when the Wahl-o-Mat comes around because I do the quiz and propositions are the only issue on which I agree with CDU/CSU, every time. I don't think they're on the table in the sense of being likely to happen any time soon, but it is one of the standard questions parties get asked for their position on.
posted by hoyland at 6:52 AM on September 24, 2012


I wonder what would happen if we had a stochastocracy. Whether that be like the original democracy based on a lottery system or some form or random law picking (i.e. people submit laws, and then draw them from a hat or whatever the appropriate metaphor would be).

Like the lottery in babylon?
posted by palbo at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2012


I'm not arguing that Europe is completely homogenous, not at all, but that if a guy from North Germany visits South Germany he's not going to feel as out of place as a person from Massachusetts visiting Arkansas. And that guy will identify himself as German first, and other cultural aspects--religion, race, food, etc--will come secondary to that overarching definition.
Even leaving aside that many Germans feel much stronger about their regional identity than about their national identity, this is a horribly bad example. Many of my friends who share my nationality grew up in a country that was fundamentally different from the country I grew up in. Any difference that might exist between US states is just ridiculously small by comparison.
posted by snownoid at 4:38 PM on September 24, 2012


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