Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Lies, damned lies et al. What does it mean (if anything) that the iCan "No compulsory national Identity Cards" campaign has 73 non-anonymous votes in support of banning them, and 12 against? (And a further 285 anonymous votes for, with 105 against)

Is democracy all about statistics, i.e. n more voted for A than B, and if so shouldn't we be extremely careful about using sloppy statistics to produce a sloppy democracy?

In this case, it's obvious that the BBC site will attract a particular kind of person, more obvious than when an opinion poll is carried out by an "independent" commission, and so isn't necessarily "representative" of a population. But then again, isn't it also true that the people going to the site, signing up and voting may well be a). more interested, and b). more informed than average?

In other words, what good is a democracy if it's an uneducated or apathetic population? Is such a system dangerous/unrepresentative of the goals of democracy?

It seems that proponents of various unpopular schemes always seem to quote a poll of "average" voters, in the knowledge that a bit of spin will drive them in the chosen direction, like One Man and his Dog. Maybe it's time to start thinking about how to encourage an informed democratic system.

Thought this for a while now, ever since reading about the original Greek demos which limited democratic power to the "elite" men of the society. While I can't take the Greeks' line that women and servants all have their own, powerless place in society, I think that democracy in this country certainly lacks some of the point of the system, purely due to its all-inclusiveness and desire to incorporate all, thus watering it down.

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