E-Petitions, a gimmick, not direct democracy in action….
Let’s be quite clear that the whole e-petitions scheme by the government has turned into a bit of a circus and a technical fiasco. Oddly, the reason for this is not the capital punishment debate which is actually breaks some new ground by being a serious political issue. Other examples of petitions on serious issues exist although of course the site is peppered with the idiotic ones as is perhaps inevitable. Incidentally, the prominence of petitions demanding an improvement shows how bug-ridden and badly structured it is.
However, the big point I want make arising from this fiasco is that e-petitions are not an example of why direct democracy is a bad idea because it isn’t direct democracy. Direct democracy is not a system where you lobby representatives to discuss something on your behalf. The whole point of direct democracy is, in fact, that you don’t have to do that all because you have a direct stake in the decision making process.
I would suggest that when people are in that position, that the vast majority of people would behave differently if they had direct control as opposed to if they were merely writing too or signing e-petitions. People, tend, for example, to be more protective over their own property or something they have an immediate stake in.
The whole point of e-petitions, and are such a gimmick, is that they exist to paper over the cracks in representative democracy; they are a tacit admission of how flawed it actually is and an ultimately doomed attempt to make it more ‘responsive’. Of course, that does not mean they should be dismissed and not interacted with but it means that we have to recognise that direct democracy is actually the solution to the issues in our current system that they expose and that since they are not in any way ‘direct democracy’ so we should not dismiss it while dismissing them.