#CitizensRoute73 – Can Democracy rise to the Challenge (by Bjarni Snæbjörn Jónsson)

bjanri-240x240There are two sides to the governance of societies: Democracy (making policies) and Technocracy (Implementing policies). It seems a common issue in all Democracies that the Technocracy is taking over and the ordinary citizen is feeling more and more alienated. This is not the fault of Technocracy which is necessary for implementing policies in today‘s complex social system. The issue is that the politics on behalf of Democracy has allowed this to happen by politicians becoming more and more an integral part of Technocracy.

This seems certainly to have been the case with the governance system within the EU, which may be one of the reason for growing resentment in certain areas.

During the last 10 years or so, my research focus has been into how to develop direct democracy which builds on seeking consultancy from the general public on big social issues. The basic philosophy rests on the fact, that Democracy should be occupied with WHAT is important and WHY it is important and having resolved that as the case may be, while Technocracy takes over and resolves the HOW TO DO what is important. It is very important that the answer from the WHAT and WHY is grounded with the general public and addresses the needs of the members of the society. Otherwise there will be resentmet and even protests. What is happening increasingly is that policymaking is in the hands of the Technocrats which means the HOW question is the one which gets the most attention and the Politicians are giving in to the fact that when these policies enter their desk it is too late to unwind and start from the beginning.

In Iceland a social experiment was carried out in November 2009 by a grassroot organisation which called itself „The Anthill“. It was done in the wake of the financial crisis with the aim of reconciling the nation around some overarching superordinate goals to guide the path out of the crisis towards a long term well being of the people. The participants were chosen randomly from the National Register from the population in the voting age. An open question was dealt with, as well as what should be the values guiding the development onwards.

This event attracted great attention and it so happened that the Parliament of Iceland decided to use the same method to initiate the total revision of the Icelandic Constitution. That process was carefully planned with the dialogue, deliberation and decision making in place in the right sequence. Unfortunately when the proposal was presented politics lacked the strength to actuallly finalize the changes, partly due to the fact that both Academia and Technocrats turned against the changes. Despite the two thirds of the nation voting for the changes, the matter remains unresolved.

I decided to make this the subject of my PhD dissertation to document the experience and discuss it from an inquiry methodology point of view. There are important things to learn from these experiments. What can be expected from a public dialogue on social issues? How can this be used for policymaking? What to look out for when initiating a citizen consultancy with regard to public policy-making? and on the questions go. The final solution is yet to be achieved, but the development must go on, otherwise we risk the Democracy not being able to be the necessary counterpart to Technocracy resulting with further alienation on behalf of the citizens which in the end can result in further unrest and lack of citizen accountability on which Democracy itself rests and ultimately the social system as a whole.

Bjarni Snæbjörn Jónsson (IS)

Bjarni Snæbjörn Jónsson, will intervene in the intellectuals and activists panel: “Changing Europe, yes! But how ? » (Saturday 1st)


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