Democracy’s Missing Link

David Van Reybrouk in Noema:

Here is what it might look like: At the polling station during the next general election, you get not one but two ballot papers. The first is your usual list of candidates and their political parties. The second is something new — a document with 30 different proposals that you are invited to analyze, one after the other.

Underneath each idea it says “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “agree,” “strongly agree,” etc. It feels like one of those online questionnaires you’ve seen many times before.

At the bottom of the form, you are invited to highlight the five proposals you care about most. Every citizen in your country on voting day would be looking at the same list and doing what you are doing in the voting booth: rating and ranking proposals. The goal is to establish a list of shared priorities.

The process looks like a referendum, a process you might’ve participated in before. But where a referendum asks you for a straight yes or no answer to a certain question, this new process — this preferendum — has a much richer interface for indicating your policy preferences. You get to translate your individual preferences into the collective priorities of your community.

Of course, you would’ve been able to see the list of proposals before. You would know it had not been defined by government officials or competing political parties, but by a random sample of citizens who had been working on it for months. You would know, too, that this random group of citizens had been given a mandate by the government to draft proposals as they saw fit.

More here.