I thought this article by George Monbiot was quite interesting because it is starting the fight back for democracy. A couple of books I’ve read recently, and reviewed in this website, have been undermining the very foundation of democracy and this a refreshing change.
He does look at the idea of deliberative democracy, although with some caution it has to be said. But the real advance, I think, is his reference to the German system of trying to ensure that voters are well informed. This problem is at the core of those who either oppose democracy or argue that we should drastically reduce our expectations of it. It should be said that in addition to my review of Against Democracy, Brennan imposes an impossibly high hurdle of knowledge that he thinks the electorate should have to enable it to make informed decisions. They would need to know social sciences, political philosophy and so on. At the other end of the scale he acknowledges that those who vote do know slightly more than those who don’t but only by a few percentage points. Also his research focuses almost entirely on the American system with its largely two party system, so we don’t know what the situation is in the UK – although I suspect it’s not much better if at all.
Brennan does not, however, address the paucity of information provided to the electorate nor the appalling misinformation spewed out by politicians who should know better and certain sections of the media. If simply voting improves ones political knowledge, albeit slightly, could not a massive state sponsored system of objective political information provision have a much greater effect? The BBC and the OU already collaborate in a number of areas and this could be the framework for such a provision. I think the BBC is already working on a fact check programme.
Perhaps it could be linked in with the UBI being conditional on some form of engagement with such an educational programme. Proof of engagement, rather than having to pass an exam, might be sufficient to avoid demographic bias, with all the usual caveats and exemptions – although as I write this it does seem to be a little condescending.