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Senator On-Line
November 15, 2007 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Senator On-Line (‘SOL’) is a truly democratic party which will allow everyone on the Australian Electoral roll who has access to the internet to vote on every Bill put to Parliament and have its Senators vote in accordance with a clear majority view. They will be running candidates for the upcoming federal Upper House (Senate) elections.
posted by finite (28 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, good ol' tyranny of the majority.
posted by mrnutty at 1:21 PM on November 15, 2007


Their minimum for a "strong majority" is 70%
posted by finite at 1:24 PM on November 15, 2007


I predict that Ron Paul wins.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:28 PM on November 15, 2007


As H. L. Mencken put it, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."
posted by signalnine at 1:37 PM on November 15, 2007


SOL is a rather unfortunate acronym.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:59 PM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's an inherent problem with making part of the government operate according to a direct vote.

You could have a split system, akin to the U.S. House and Senate, but replace the House with a direct democratic vote, and retain the Senate in its current form as a buffer against demagoguery. (I think I'd also make it so that if you wanted to amend the Constitution, you'd have to get it past two consecutive, potentially completely different, Senates, i.e. it would take 6 years at an absolute minimum.)

The "omfg tyrrany of the majority" argument only applies if direct voting is your entire lawmaking process.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2007


It's about time javascript programmers got a chance to be bribed er um ah I mean lobbied.
posted by srboisvert at 2:08 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


SOL + this = scary
posted by anomie at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2007


Sorry, my previous comment was somewhat misleading, and they don't even use the term "strong majority" so that shouldn't be in quotes.
What they actually say in their faq is:
Under the SOL constitution, SOL senators are required to vote in accordance with the party’s view. The party has been set up to represent the clear majority view. SOL will use on-line polls to ascertain if there is a clear majority view. Where a poll indicates a clear majority view (that being at least 100,000 votes and at least a 70% majority view) SOL senators have committed to vote in accordance with that majority view. In the event of votes being less than 100,000 or the majority not reaching 70%, then the SOL senators have committed to vote in accordance with the majority view, if a clear majority view can be determined by the party or otherwise abstain.
I think they need to clean up that answer a bit, and have the pledge (which candidates will be signing, explaining in simple terms under which circumstances they will vote or abstain) available on the site. Also, I think their software (of which there is unfortunately not yet a demo) needs to be really excellent for this to stand a chance. But, if well implemented, couldn't this concept effectively shoehorn direct democracies into many existing representational democracy systems? (I think it could.)
posted by finite at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2007


SOL is a rather accurate acronym.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Australia, the Government that anyone can edit?
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:24 PM on November 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sounds awful close to the CEC weirdo's platform (apologies to any MiFite that maybe involved in the CEC, but you're a weirdo)
posted by mattoxic at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2007


To the "tyranny of the mob" haters who don't think that direct democracy is a good idea, hey, feel free to remind us how exactly representative democracy purports to solve the problem, eg, how are the professional politicians who claim to represent the citizenry any less unreasonable than the "mob" which elects them?

Imho, they're actually far more unreasonable, and the simple cause is that they govern by their own platform instead of a platform of actually representing their constituents. And, of course, in many countries (like mine) things are so corrupt that it is a certainty, and is widely accepted, that many elements of their platforms are bought and paid for!

Also, direct democracy doesn't mean that 55% of the people get to rule over the other 45%. The idea is, when a large minority disagrees with a bill, their objections aren't ignored. The proposed legislation should continue to be modified until a consensus can be reached.

Dismissive one-liners like "Ah, good ol' tyranny of the majority" are a predictable response to a proposal like this, but what do they really mean? That the current system, where in many places a clear majority disapproves of their representatives' representation, is superior? Why is it superior?
posted by finite at 2:34 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that a "tyranny of the majority" would be all that much worse than our current "tyranny of lobbies and cronies" when it comes to the legislative branch.
So long as the other branches of government aren't abolished i'd probably be in favor of a direct vote system.
Don't people in Switzerland get to vote directly on a lot of stuff?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:36 PM on November 15, 2007


That's great. All we got over here are SOBs.
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on November 15, 2007


Australia has compulsory voting, yes? But without some new laws, the SOL party can't force compulsory voting in their internal policy votes. Sooo, special interests can always rally the troops to push through an item that most other people can give fuck-all about. See: The US's religious right vs. the US low voter turn-out and student body elections dominated by fraternities. It would be cool if it could, but I wonder see how well direct democracy can scale to our overpopulated and attention deficit societies. Not that the representative democracy system is working out so great, either.

Also, way to further disenfranchise those on the wrong side of the Internet gap.

Nevertheless, it's a pretty spiffy idea and social experiment.
posted by Skwirl at 2:47 PM on November 15, 2007


Ah, good ol' tyranny of the majority.

Precisely. What's wrong with the present tyranny of the rich?
posted by pompomtom at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


You won't think it's such a good idea when they start hanging pediatricians.
posted by seanyboy at 3:36 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think there's a distinction between direct democracy and (more) participative democracy. I think the first one is great in theory but hard - almost impossible - in practice, while the second is easier and more in tune with the constitutional arrangements that most people in Western democracies are used to. It's also more tolerant of failure: if one participatory method fails, you can pack up and try another.

The problem with SOL (as with other similar parties - there was one in the UK recently but I can't be bothered to go and look it up) is that because they are small-scale they can get jumped very easily by ultra-minority groups, and become a mouthpiece for them. Even if this doesn't happen, you get a classic internet 'only the nutters are committed enough' problem.

The final point against them for me is that most votes in most Parliaments are not of the 'do you want the death penalty or not' variety, they are 'whether to leave out subclause 7a of schedule II' variety.
posted by athenian at 3:42 PM on November 15, 2007


seanyboy: If you think that is what a clear majority of Australian voters actually would like to do, can you explain why they have not done it yet through their representative democracy system?
posted by finite at 3:45 PM on November 15, 2007


You won't think it's such a good idea when they start hanging pediatricians.

get your filthy pedagogy out of our schools!
posted by wilful at 4:28 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


The proposed legislation should continue to be modified until a consensus can be reached.

Yeah, good luck with that.

What do they do if there's no 70% majority? They abstain from voting. Screw that, I'm not paying you to sit around and surf the internet.
posted by robcorr at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2007


Time to build myself a voting botnet to rent out to Hillsong & the Exclusive Bretheren...
posted by Pinback at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2007


Of course, SOL are S.O.L. on getting a seat, so really it's just about debate raising.

If anyone wants to talk about the Australian Federal election more generally (and why would you?), we're over here.
posted by wilful at 5:41 PM on November 15, 2007


....direct democracy and (more) participative democracy

I don't mind the status quo, when the senate works well as in the RU486 debate, I'm quite happy with the process. But those occasions seem few and far between.

I would hate Australia get to get into a situation where nutjobs mobilise to force an agenda or close down a debate- bacause it is noly really fundamentalists that ever do that. I'd back proportional representation along party lines before any devolution of power.

It's a pity that Stott Despoja is retiring, and Lyn Alyson looks like losing... and Fielding isn't up for election.
posted by mattoxic at 6:29 PM on November 15, 2007


Is it just me who'd rather vote for someone with a little vision, someone who I can hold to their promises, someone who can make the case for my point of view in Parliament?

Yup, thought so. This is, by definition, a complete absence of leadership.
posted by imperium at 12:38 AM on November 16, 2007


I don't often agree with Burke, but...
it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs—and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.

But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure—no, nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
posted by athenian at 8:32 AM on November 16, 2007


robcorr: What do they do if there's no 70% majority? They abstain from voting.

If it is acceptable to you for representatives to pass bills which more than 30% of the people are opposed to, how low would you suggest setting the requirement for a "clear majority"? Why do you feel that abstaining is the wrong thing for a representative to do when there is no consensus among the people they represent? If it is merely because "a lot of the bills that get passed today couldn't get passed if this becomes popular", well, I think that is part of the point of this.

robcorr: Screw that, I'm not paying you to sit around and surf the internet.

I'm not sure what you mean to imply when you say "surfing the internet", but actually you should be paying [via their salary via taxes, not via bribery/campaign contributions] your representatives to keep abreast of their constituents' views and the internet is a great way for them to do that (especially given a forum that authenticates its members' identities against the electoral roll to prevent sockpuppetry). In the case where there is no consensus, or there is a weak consensus, representatives should be engaging with their constituents (which will involve using the internet, of course) to find out what their objections are so that they can try to resolve them. If the objections cannot be adequately addressed, and no consensus can be built, then (imho) they should abstain from voting on that issue.

imperium: Yup, thought so. This is, by definition, a complete absence of leadership.

If you define "leadership" as a willingness to misrepresent the interests of a large group of people, then I agree that is certainly lacking here, but I do not accept that definition of "leadership". Their FAQ includes: What input will SOL senators have? Although SOL senators will give a written commitment to vote with the party’s majority view, they will have their views on each bill or issue posted on the website [and have] input as a SOL executive in deciding if a clear majority view can be determined where a poll does not present a clear majority view, i.e. not more than 70% of the vote or less than 100,000 votes.

Please, help me understand the instant opposition some people have to this concept. You do not believe that governments should operate without the consent of the governed, do you?

SOL seems to me like it is an excellent idea, and while I don't expect them to take the election this month I think the model could well prevail one day. Which is why I say, please, help me to better understand the opposition to this idea.
posted by finite at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2007


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