Project Introduction

In the search for a better government we found this road called democracy and chose it. The problem is not the road but the fact that we haven’t ventured very far down it. The world has changed significantly enough in the last few centuries that it makes sense to take a step back and see how this thing called democracy has or hasn’t evolved. Yes, a lot of attention has been paid to electoral and parliamentary reform but the rest of it, has been sadly neglected. The logical conclusion after a thorough examination is that we can do so much better.

Democracy should result in a government that is responsive to the desired outcomes of its citizens. A democratic government is unlikely to be responsive if it cannot be held accountable. Accountability requires two conditions of those holding decision makers to account, 1) they must want to hold decision makers accountable and 2) they can hold decision makers accountable as they not only know outcomes but also understand them. Citizens want to hold decision makers accountable but the human brain is not capable of knowing and understanding most of the outcomes that fall under the public realm. Rationality, no matter how smart you are, is bounded.

To improve the chances that for each decision, someone wants and can hold decision makers accountable, we need to improve our government system in two broad ways:

1) Reduce the number of decisions that are in the realm of public accountability (not to be confused with reducing the role of government). This can be done by, where possible, designing the accountability framework so that those that are close to decisions also have a desire for accountability, and therefore we can shift the burden of accountability from the public realm to them. Having clear, purposeful delineation of powers can also eliminate the duplication of decisions requiring accountability.

2) Make what remains in the sphere of public accountability understandable to the public. Understanding requires simplification, increased comparative accountability and an increased role for independent evaluation.

Of course there is a time and cost limitation to the project of democracy but the beautiful thing is that the pursuit of the above, is also generally a pursuit of efficiency. This project will use the bolded text highlighted here as a new foundation for democratic government.

Effort will be made to ensure that the recommendations are not ideological in nature and that whatever your political stripe, the proposal provides you with a more efficient, accountable and responsive democracy. Since some of the proposals will stray far from the status quo and be difficult to implement under the current political environment, the point of the project is not to make immediate change but rather demonstrate that on the road to democracy we have a long way to go and we need to amp up the conversation. Even if you don’t think the sky is falling, having a better democracy is something worth discussing.

In summary this project will take the following steps:

1. Demonstrate that the current government system (i.e., all levels of government) is not democratic.

2. Provide a new design for government that is more responsive, accountable and efficient.

3. Apply this basis to the current government system.

4. Look at how to get there from here.