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Point/counterpoint: democracy and e-democracy

Counterpoint: E-Democracy Won't Save Democracy. Democracy Will Save Democracy

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10 francs, spirit of liberty

Credit: Numista

Democracy is radical. It exists when people are involved in their own governance: participating in public problem-solving and checking power. It entails awesome responsibilities that citizens don't always embrace. But shirking these responsibilities invites catastrophe: decisions would be made by the most powerful to enrich the few at the expense of the many and the natural environment. Also, as the trend persisted, the ability for citizens to engage wisely and effectively would degrade. More obstacles to engagement would be erected by those who make the decisions. And so on in a downward spiral.

I agree with Ehud Shapiro's statement in his "Point" column, "Foundations of e-Democracy," that democracy worldwide is threatened and degraded. Many countries are becoming less democratic and citizens around the world are losing confidence in democracy.5 I disagree, however, with many of his prescriptions including the assertion that "e-democracy may offer the only feasible remedy." Declining democratic culture—not lack of technology—is the best indicator for declining democratic participation. When people see governance as irrelevant and unresponsive, they become cynical and withdrawn and the general ability to help address shared challenges withers. Moving the mechanics of democracy to the Internet ignores these core realities.


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