The Pace of Change
As a society, we’re familiar with a legislative process that passes individual pieces of legislation at a consistent pace, largely dictated by the constraints of the parliamentary process. We’ve never really had cause to question this approach as it evolved from existing power structures and methods of communication that remained fixed for hundreds of years.
With new methods of communication, we can question our assumptions and reassess the way that the law is made in a democratic society. This is what we’re doing at the Model Democracy research group. The main thing to grasp here is that all legislation can now be packaged together in a way that wasn’t possible before the mass digitisation of information.
Because legislation can be defined in its entirety it can become the object of choice, the thing that we choose. The most chosen body of legislation can be easily identified and become the law of the land. Instead of changing the law one addition at a time, this approach encourages us to think of the law as a whole. Like updating an operating system, changes aren’t presented individually but as updated versions of the original code. This approach means that the lofty aspirations of politicians must be met with the relevant reallocation of funding and any other implications that are usually omitted.
While we’re unlikely to read or understand an entire body of legislation and will follow the advice of public figures, the choice would be clearly defined and couldn’t be misinterpreted or denied by anyone. Crucially, by choosing a body of legislation, we would each opts-in to all individual pieces of legislation and the most chosen body of legislation can be recognised as the will of the people.
This would give us a greater sense of responsibility, the law would be the law because a majority of citizens made it so. It would also give us a greater sense of agency as a majority would always be able to change the law by choosing a different body of legislation. This approach doesn’t present us with impractical decisions or ambitious promises that need extensive interpretation by politicians and it doesn’t expect citizens to understand complex legislation or become involved in individual decisions. We expect different groups to work together to propose the best, complete body of legislation no matter how radical or far-reaching it might be in comparison to the status quo.
The checks and balances afforded by parliament can instead be found in the process of persuading tens of millions of citizens to choose a specific, complete body of legislation and the debates that ensue can focus not on the character of politicians but on the implications of new legislation.