Leading Article: Press a Button for Democracy

The Independent (London, England), January 1, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Leading Article: Press a Button for Democracy


ONE OF the most troubling themes of last year, and one that will continue into 1994, is the declining authority of democratic governments. Weak at home, they have also responded poorly to external challenges, thereby further undermining their domestic standing. The vicious circle shows no sign of being broken.

This is pushing a new question on to the agenda: is the whole concept of representative government under threat? All the obvious reasons for the unpopularity of democratic governments take us only a certain distance towards an answer. Yes, there are some tired, corrupt and mediocre politicians around. Yes, there has been a recession. Yes, the passing of the Cold War has dissolved the glue that held some governments and parties together, giving them purpose and authority. Yes, the power of European governments has been seeping away to Brussels.

Yes, and probably most important over the longer term, the growth of global markets and the dispersal of manufacturing have reduced the ability of even the best governments to respond to the needs and wishes of their voters. Wages, prices, pensions, interest rates, health, safety and many other aspects of life are shifting beyond their full control.

But there is something else going on of equal or greater significance that could threaten the fundamentals of the system. The principle that we elect people to take decisions for us on the basis of their own judgements, properly influenced by a desire to be re-elected, is already being undermined by opinion polls and the media. The spread of interactive electronic communications will weaken it further. Before long, practically every citizen will be able to sit at home with a beer (or something stronger), listen, or not listen, to a speech, and register a response by pressing a button. We shall then be on the way from representative democracy to direct democracy. Although the political system will be slow to grant any formal authority to mass electronic voting, it cannot fail to be fundamentally altered by it.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Leading Article: Press a Button for Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?