The following is an excerpt from my latest book, What The World Needs Now, due for release in November 2020. It followers a chapter that criticises how our current legislative system within Parliament works and is meant to be a solution to these inherent problems. I go on in further chapters to talk about crowdsourcing a UK constitution and calling for reforms in the Executive and Regulatory branches as well. Here you will get a feel for how I think the platform could contribute towards a better democracy, how the introduction of such a platform could at first enhance our current system and then go on to influence it and perhaps even in the future to completely replace it only once completely road tested, culturally adopted and proven useful to all. I describe a system that is much more democratic but not completely left to the will of the many for populist reactions but is intellectualised by the input of subject specialists and has a process of rationalism built in. The most noticeable part of the structure is the separating out of the arguments into 12 categories each relating to a specific part of our society where we can make definable and measurable increases in well-being. This is based on a philosophical perspective which directly influences the design so you would have to first agree with the premise before you agree to its design and use. In my mind the premise is all about finding common agreement in what constitutes the improvement of society between people of all backgrounds and cultures and is therefore a socially moral endeavour. I believe it to be a wholesome approach that is nearly universally agreeable but you might like to explore the idea first and have the conversation first about your involvement in the project as a whole because this is my starting position on design and perceived end goal.
SOLUTION – Using technology to engage the public in the legislative process
We must change the system. It must undertake a re-design in order to eradicate its ongoing faults that are a product of how it has been designed for previous eras and indeed by those wielding most power in those times. It must be re-designed not just for today’s society but for the challenges that we are yet to properly take on going into the 21st century. The new design must bring out the best in us, in our compassion for each other, and not sow the seeds of division and selfishness. It must make use of those showing an aptitude in a role, to be able to recruit from those most capable and knowledgeable of a given situation if they are to be charged with working on behalf of the many. We must be the best we can be to have some sense of progress. We should be able to openly discuss ideas so that we are able to ascertain the true ‘will of the people’ in what they want of their society and how they want it to improve. But while we are unable to get behind the ideas themselves we are not getting closer to democracy, we are only achieving temporary elected dictatorships. We must start from a place where we are certain of the things that we can more or less collectively come together on as agreeable benefits for society. So, I have an idea of how we may achieve these things and more, how we can re-design our system and how we can transition from where we are to that new design.
Before delving into the details of my proposed solution, let me make it clear here that this idea is still subject to further scrutiny and critical evaluation so that the gaps can be addressed for making our system perfectly adapted. For I have gone further than simply pondering on what kind of system would be better. I have started to actually build what I think would be better so that it may be scrutinised and analysed by you. My approach is a kind of ‘build it and they will come’ strategy in some respects, if it proves useful then people will use it, like Facebook or any other platform of App that you know of. The ones that you have already forgotten about outlasted their usefulness. The idea is that I present this App as a solution but then we go about discussing if there is a better way based upon the shortcomings you may have of this idea and so it can evolve. I’m not precious about this idea if it triggers off better ideas. I simply want us to engage on what would be a better system and then for us to go about making it happen. My idea of producing such a system is inspired by an old quote from R. Buckminster Fuller that says:
‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, you build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’
Here then is my vision for the kind of model that could eventually make our current Parliamentary Representative model obsolete –
MagnaSocia is a complete system of Constitutional Direct Participation Democracy that incorporates the use of the latest technology. It is a multi-functioning App. It has been designed for the UK but there is no reason why it cannot be adapted for use in both similarly developed and developing nation states
It is called MagnaSocia as it is meant to be a milestone in the evolution of our democracy that dates back to the Magna Carte (one of the England’s first constitutional documents), itself based on the term Magna Grecia (a set of rules between the Greek City States). Whereas Magna Carte meant ‘great Charter’, this means Great Society but I’m not sure if this was what David Cameron had in his mind when referring to The Big Society but essentially it is a way in which people can be more attached to their own system of governance.
It is a purer form of democracy than what we currently have, designed to solve our current system’s inherent problems. It requires the participation from the population to vote on issues on a monthly basis as well as providing consensus on a random basis and who are given the option of contributing ideas towards policy development. The people are ultimately the highest level of the Legislative body but there are mechanisms that require an intellectualisation of ideas and an empirical approach so it is not a simple App and it requires careful design. There are no representatives of the people who are placed higher than the citizens but there are subject specialists who set a level in the conversation towards evaluating public opinion and the support or rejection of ideas for society. It requires a transition in thinking by the population to see themselves as part of an ‘Agreed Collective’ rather than people subjected to the will of the state and those supposed wise governors who currently run it and it is a transfer from a system or supporting or reject representatives to supporting or rejecting ideas.
On MagnaSocia every citizen has their own profile, rather like Facebook, no more complicated in its functionality but certainly no less. You have to log on and be certified that it is really you. You use it by scrolling through the issues and talking points; by starting or joining campaigns for change; by commenting and adding to consensus on set questions; by checking on back up information; by understanding counter arguments and, on a monthly basis, placing your support or rejection of a People’s Bill that could be presented to Parliament. It is a whole lot of things as you will see and there are stages that it would need to evolve through to take us from where we are now, interacting with our MPs in Parliament, to being more influential on MPs and the process of legislative governance, and finally being at a stage where both the MagnaSocia platform and Parliament are used in conjunction as part of the institution for legislative process.
MagnaSocia then is an evolution of democracy where ‘the will of the people’ is placed firmly at the helm of the decision-making process. Decision making though requires specialised knowledge and so a complex system must be constructed to intellectualise how new legislation comes about so that it perfectly serves ‘the people’ across the nation, while recognising their responsibilities as citizens of the world, and serves those people on the basis of ‘equality of citizenship’.
To be clear, MagnaSocia recognises the notion of ‘the separation of powers’. It is a tool for bringing in new Legislation and so deals only with the Legislative side of politics, not the Judiciary nor the Executive. There is a primary campaign though to crowdsource the compilation of a written constitution and then to bring that in by referendum. The platform is designed to eventually bring all Bills in by referendum essentially even though in the initial phases, while it is still being road-tested, it is a tool for enhancing what we get out of our Parliamentary process. I shall be discussing potential reform within both the Judiciary and the Executive branches of government in the next two chapters and the Regulatory branch of governance in the following Chapter 4.
The founding idea of MagnaSocia is, as its banner states, ‘Evolving Democracy’. This is not just empty rhetoric; this is part of how it is meant to start its process of gaining popular support among the public, serving a purpose as it runs alongside our current system within Parliament, enhancing how our government functions. And then, as long as it is road tested followed by the ironing out its fault and bugs and potential corruptions, it could potentially replace how we vote in MPs into our system. It is, therefore, not a revolutionary approach bent on tearing down the stability that we have in place now but rather is an evolutionary pursuit in the hope that the replacement proves something better. Running the system alongside our current Parliamentary procedures is a way of proving itself to the public, a way of gaining public confidence. It would only work if people saw the merit of having it. It encourages the population to take their participation seriously and steers the end users towards constructive outcomes. Its functions then start by adding value to our current Parliamentary process, by providing necessary tools for both the public and Parliamentarians alike so that the two sides are fully engaged in a useful format.
There are essentially three parts to the design and each is named to carry out the three main functions of what we want to improve overall in our current political methodology; to Intellectualise, to Rationalise and certainly to Democratise the political process.
The idea is that you sign up and make a profile the same as you do over many social media platforms, again, like Facebook. You have levels of privacy where you can keep your picture and name private or only allow those you invite or connect with to see. There is not a completely anonymous option because people should be accountable for what they say but you can limit who is able to see you and so you can keep, for example, your political views separate from your employer or colleagues or family members where you want to. You can still make great comments and suggestions while being known as P1478M of Derby. If you edge towards saying radical things then people get to know you as such and so your reputation stays with you for others to see so you might want to think about what you say first, perhaps fact check it, perhaps curbing your language etc. There will be sanctions for not following the rules which will be reasonable social etiquette based. You have a timeline where ideas wrapped up in ‘vehicles’ scroll by, you can make comment on them and drag them over to your own timeline. You get to have your say by going through daily questionnaires about opinion and you can see how the rest of the nation responded to questions en masse but not individually, those contributions are private. There are features that allow you to tap into the latest studies of a subject and links to Wikipedia etc. When views are expressed, there are features that allow you to look at counter views so that you are able to challenge your own position or practise making your point to opposition. Let’s take you through the functions available to you one at a time:
PopDictum – is the daily tool for logging your opinion. The system itself continually looks for public opinion on all matters relating to society and politics, current affairs and ongoing issues. You can take as many or as few questionnaires as you like. The more you take the more you rise in a level of Participation which people can see (if you want them to) so you end up with a ‘participation ranking’.
FixThis – is a feature that allows anyone to start a cause or campaign that needs to be drawn to the attention of our politicians and for the system itself to start responding to. There are similar Apps to this single feature at the moment found on platforms such as YouGov or Petition. Anyone can start one of these but you will be asked if you wish to join or merge with a similar cause or campaign already out there. For beginners, the ‘participation ranking’ goes up particularly when the momentum rises around a campaign that you start and get support for or engagement on.
BillWatch – This is a feature to take apart those Bills that are currently before our existing Parliament. Specialists take apart the complex issues and you get to give your opinions and vote on some of the features of a Bill and an overall support or rejection. This is something that our current Parliamentarians may also find useful to engage with and indeed learn from. Your opinion and for and against votes would be collated and presented to Parliament and on a constituency basis too so that your MP knew the views of their constituents and then, in turn, you would see if they truly were a representative. It may turn out that they have been promising their constituents one thing and then they go and vote for another. This would be exposed, they would have to explain themselves and stick to their convictions without the smoke and mirrors. In time, people may start to think that a representative should purely listen to their constituents on matters and vote accordingly. That would be phase 2 for MagnaSocia because candidates could stand in local elections for the MagnaSocia platform and to be contractually obliged to vote for what the people want.
As a MagnaSocia user, you need to click through to many functions that help you make your mind up on topics before voting on them. You’re expected to witness a conversation that gets to the heart of fixing a problem but more than being a passive observer you need to contribute your thoughts as well as your support for elements of the idea so that the idea just keeps on getting better.
You can click through to back up information, to statistics and studies and you’ll be asked if you have considered the counter point of view before voting on issues. The key notes of conversations are framed and debates would be televised by contributors so that you can see them unfold at your convenience and then in turn see where you stand on the matter once all the ideas have been fully thrashed out. It’s the kind of thing that you might do on the bus on your way in to work or in the same way as you check on your Facebook during your lunch break. Or you might want to go in search of an issue that means something to you or that you have just become interested in due to your own current circumstances. You may want to share your thoughts with a network, ask your network to consider your thoughts and where they are considered highly you might find your ‘meme’ making its way to the top of the ideas that gets considered as a campaign or within the Meritocracy and within the coming together of new Bills to be presented before Parliament.
This is where the system takes on something more than just mob rule. This part of MagnaSocia is organised into Twelve Tables, each corresponding to the Societal Objectives that I have spoken about in the introduction chapter. Each Table has 5 or 6 sub-Tables. Each Table has multiple Chairs open to subject specialists who are voted on by the public where they have demonstrated a deep knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Each person in a Chair is able to then present their ideas for how legislation might be shaped. The presentation of ideas will be structured a little like a legal document so that anybody having a counter argument or wanting to bring empirical evidence to a point made can do so easily and in a set format. Their ideas are openly shared, discussed and debated within the online chambers of MagnaSocia and every so often a consensus is put to the people to gage the response to ideas. Each Table operates for a year where they are instructed to present a Bill before Parliament at the end of that year, a People’s Bill. As there are twelve Tables, this means that every month one of the Tables presents their Bill. After their presentation, a new Table is brought together with other subject specialists. Subject specialists can return each year if they are voted back on to the table but other candidates can be selected instead. We should think of the Committees around these Tables as the people’s choice of ‘Select Committees’ which is where I feel the main progress that has happened within Parliament in recent years.
Collectively I refer to these subject specialists themselves as the ‘Meritocracy’. They do not have any more voting powers than any other citizen. The Bills they present are shaped initially over the course of the year to correspond to what the public want of its governance expressed through the ‘FixThis’ part of the App but also guided by the PopDictum consensus on related issues. They are there to make suggestions based on their deep knowledge of the field, fill in the detail, crunch the numbers, present ideas for scrutiny and argue their point over other ideas where required. The starting point for presenting ideas towards a People’s Bill by each of the Meritocracy around each of the Twelve Tables is to pick up on public sentiment presented in the ‘FixThis’ vehicles that the public generate. The ideas do not have to start there but they should at least take the public sentiment on board. Each of the Twelve chairs work together, passing their ideas around, criticising each other’s ideas as well as other ideas out there both within Parliament and emanating from the public. They work as a very argumentative team towards building the kind of Bill that is satisfactory to the public which is gauged by public feedback via PopDictum.
The People’s Bill then is a vehicle that goes around the system. It starts from the seeds of FixThis causes and campaigns where the people have highlighted something that needs fixing. The variety of ideas coming from the various members of the Meritocracy goes into this Bill being evolved by consensus. There are twelve of them in the system at any one time, one for each Table but each one is made up of specific things that need changing within the subject matter of that particular Table. So, if you take as an example The Education & Progress Bill, it will be made up of several sub sections that deal with certain aspects surrounding that particular Committee Table i.e. School Education, College & University Education, Vocational & Adult Education and National Research & Development, being those departments within The Department for Education as proposed. The sub-departments with the legislative follow the same executive departments that the legislation is meant to reach (see 12 Pillars section of Chapter 3 for a full list of executive sub-departments)
Every debate happens in full view of the public; it could be televised at some point or brought into a real-life situation and filmed so that the public can see the ideas fully aired. It means that nothing gets smuggled through and it means that where an idea is ideologically driven, the presenter still has to make their full case and convince the public of the ideal.
This means that there are Twelve main conversation chambers. I hope that leading Universities will host these chambers as impartial administrators and any real-life chamber be regionalised around the country so that Westminster is not the only centre of the nation’s political life. My ideal for where each Conversation Chamber can be hosted in real life (as well as being online) is on a map at the end of this chapter.
Each of the Twelve Tables would also need to start talking about suitable budgets to match the expectations placed upon the executive powers with the proposed legislation at the beginning, because it is designed to run alongside our existing Parliamentary system, this would not be fully utilised but when it is, it would require a finance team.
Each of the Twelve Tables would also require what is in essence a ‘2nd Chamber’ which is also for a later stage but where the Judiciary makes sure that all new legislation is within the realms of the Constitution but this will be discussed in detail in the next chapters.
Each of the members of the Twelve Tables also get to scrutinise the Bills currently before our current Parliament using the BillWatch vehicle and then they would let the public know what elements they think the public should be aware of. The public in turn might start to get on to their local MP about such issues and this is where the MagnaSocia App starts to become useful alongside our current system. MPs can get a feedback page as well as useful data broken down by constituency and of course the MPs can be part of the App as citizens too gaining their own support for ideas. They can even sit on the Legislation Table that corresponds to their portfolio so that they can attempt to convince the public of the merits of Bills before tabled in Parliament. It is a platform that MPs can gain from in the short term even though the platform is designed to eventually replace them when the system is fully used and fully functioning and proving to be more useful than our current Parliament.
There will be an MPwatch, which scrutinises statements said by MPs both inside and out of Parliament and then how they vote on Bills which is public information but the App will attempt to match up how the MP voted compared with a consensus on how their constituencies would have had them vote on a Bill which would bring more light to the role of MPs once in office and it would provide a good source of information at the next election time. There are some of these features on the website TheyWorkForYou.com This is how the system might go from being used as a useful enhancement of our current system to eventually being something that starts to heavily influence the Parliamentary process because in bi-election people may start to run as a candidate for the MagnaSocia App. If a MagnaSocia MP is elected into a seat then they would act, by contractual obligation, purely for their local constituents on each Bill (as opposed for a party whip) where the local constituents expressed their support or rejection of the Bill. They would also be obliged to present MagnaSocia Bills to Parliament where they could and work inside the corridors of power in ways like asking a crowdsourced question at Prime Minister’s question time in the Houses of Parliament.
The system is designed to be fall proof. It is being built after understanding the faults of our current system, the potential of corruption, the over influence of Big Business on political parties, the inefficiencies of MPs reading and understanding every Act of Parliament put before them etc. It would need to be road tested and where people attempt to put pressure on the system or manipulate it for unfair advantages etc., the system itself must adjust. Given the scope of evaluation, the period of time where it runs alongside our current system could be anywhere from five years to fifty years. The idea is that we smoothly transition from our current way of doing things to the better way of doing things once it proves to work and only then.
In conclusion, the App is designed to channel the ‘will of the people’ into a positive and constructive direction where the citizens start to feel empowered and informed and engaged in their political process. Too many of us sit at home swearing at the TV or at newspapers with frustration when we read about political decisions that are being made or the processes of political power that are happening around us. This App is a way of putting that energy to constructive use. It is a way of protesting as well rather than disrupting traffic for people going about their business or putting too many angry people on the streets that might trigger some anti-social behaviour. People do currently use their Facebook or twitter account for politically engaging and the platform will be designed to crossover with these platforms to some extent so that continues to happen but more importantly it could become a more specialised area where you can rant and debate outside of other Apps that people want to post pictures of kittens on or keep in touch with family members etc. MagnaSocia could be the go to place for contributing to an overall drive of people power. I think it is worth developing, don’t you?
Social media technology has really developed to a high level recently. There are so many programs running relating to your use of a system like facebook all designed to keep you logged on and involved. Their customers never forget are the advertisers who pay their wages, you are the users who are exposed to the advertising and whose data is collated for the benefit of corporations looking for your business. It’s a trade-off that you have to get a useful but free social media system. MagnaSocia does not need to run such programs because it will not have advertisers or any third party interested in your data. It will remain a founding and unbreakable principle of the system. It will use some technology to understand participation and find where it can self-improve and deliver the ultimate in direct democracy that brings out the best in us, that is rationalised and intellectualised.
In conclusion, the benefits of MagnaSocia are:
1) We evolve our system without any need for a revolution by carefully and thoughtfully improving on what we have in place as a democracy.
2) Everyone gets the opportunity to air their views and contribute their opinion on the understanding that their opinions will be intellectually challenged and scrutinised like anybody else’s. People will need to understand the counter position to their own and be made aware of the full range of influencing factors; so in a sense everyone learns how to have a conversation and become their own MP.
3) By recognising the faults of our existing system and offering an alternative, more people are brought into the conversation of what makes things better in society and so the social contract is only enhanced. It is not an elite conversation between only a small sub-section of the populace.
4) There is a timetable for working on improvement; what cannot be achieved in one year has to be compromised so that the conversation returns in the next year. All involved are asked to focus on getting the job done within the deadline because society should not have to wait so long to become better.
5) Parliament would be presented with a People’s Bill every month. Will they ignore it? Will at least one MP make it his own project? Will they make their own Bill based on what the public get behind with the FixThis vehicle? If people get behind MagnaSocia, we will instantly see if our MPs are truly working on our behalf or in a world of their own making.
6) Regardless of who we voted for, once a party forms a government after our vote we need to maintain the pressure to have them act in our interest and so we need to apply pressure on pressing the issues that we want from our system resolved. MagnaSocia is more than anything a platform for focussing on issues rather than personalities.
7) More people are expected contribute their ideas and solutions to social problems. Where those ideas appeal to people, they gain momentum and can be widely discussed and scrutinised and potentially adopted into policy formation.
How to achieve Democratic Reform
The only answer is to overwhelm the current system with public participation and scrutiny and we can achieve this by turning the everyday trends that many of us participate in, our commentary and responding on social media, into focussed and useful analysis, healthy debate, consensus and other contributing practices that would steer the system towards achieve what the people want of it, which is the primary purpose of democracy.
I have been building this project for a few years now with the notion of ‘build it and they will come’. I ask that we have a nationwide debate on this subject. Join us via the website of www.magnasocia.co.uk If you can find ways to improve on this idea, then let’s hear from you. If you see fault with the idea, tell me about it and then allow me to improve upon it before you dismiss the idea completely. Our current system is not addressing some of the most important problems that we are facing in the 21st century; sustainability, human suffering, global conflict etc. The most frequent explanation of this inaction is that our current system is designed as a means of parties grabbing power for a 4 to 5-year period. We must change this.
It would be great if Universities would agree to get involved to host the Conversation Chambers as trustworthy institutions. Building the Meritocracy would not be easy but I am sure it is possible to fill the seats with as wide a range of different idea makers and subject specialist experts. MPs should consider integrating with the platform to explain what exactly their policies are and what they will be voting for (it’s in their short-term interest after all) which would give you a direct platform for all to scrutinize and argue their ideas. The most important element though is YOU! This is an idea that could bring you as a citizen so much reward. You will finally have a say in the shaping of your society. It would be a far more powerful, effective and efficient method available to you rather than travelling down to protest outside Parliament on a rainy afternoon could ever be. Let’s not dismiss the opportunity. All that I ask is that rather than rant about what you don’t like about your community, your nation or what’s going on in the world in a media that only circulates among your friends and peers why not focus at least the same energy and participation into a platform that would be able to collectivise that will towards actual change and political influence.
There is an initial reason to get involved and signed up to the platform to have your say and that is with the first project of the day on the platform which is Constitutional Reform. That is having ourselves a written constitution in the UK that is truly ‘of the people’. It is a project that we can discuss as we all learn to use the App so we may forgive the inevitable temporary glitches or disfunctions as teething problems rather than failures of the democratic process once the platform is fully operational and launched on a big scale. The idea is to work towards having the people of the UK agree on what written constitution may look like and have within its content. The next chapter is a presentation of an idea on that. If the first newcomers to the MagnaSocia platform can agree to a constitution initially then it can be used on the platform itself as a guide to what values we can start to agree are fundamental to our society. The constitution itself would be, in effect, road-tested by the users of the App to help keep what could be describe as an ‘Overton Window’. Once you see the next chapter I hope you will agree that we have ourselves a starting point. Each of the chapters within this book I have called ‘Reforms’ rather than chapters because each chapter deals with the various aspects of society that follow more or less the format of HWix12, the original thesis on developing overall well-being by defining and measuring across 12 main categories. Each chapter calls for a reform in a specific department of government. Each of the chapters in this book could then act as a starting point for discussion with the populace, on the MagnaSocia platform, to see if the ideas here have merit and support or whether the populace have among them better ideas. I hope you will see that my attempt here is to provide a structure and a format that is useful. I hope that you will be fair in your judgement of that end. Where you feel that it has shortcomings and can be improved then please let me know as I would gratefully receive your input. The platform is still in its design phase so any contribution would be useful, in fact, we still need volunteer coders, graphic designers and ux specialists, not to mention crowd sourced funding, so feel free to get in touch.
This is a project that cannot be taken over by Parliament itself. Parliamentarians would not be so enthusiastic about too much change and so would want to see where they can take control. If Parliament offers funding then that’s great but any other controls placed on the system should not be trusted. The system too would have to be financed by donations because it cannot be corrupted by those placing advertisements of any kind or wanting to buy the data. This would not be allowed as it would potentially pervert the process. Any funding contributions would not buy influence.
While this is a drive to bring our political reasoning online, I recognise that there is also still a need for people to meet and discuss in the real world. There is an opportunity here to go some way to partly decentralise the political process; that is to say to spread out the conversation around the country if it is to take on a physical space. As we establish the Twelve Pillars, we can place each of those pillars in different parts of the country so that people on the whole do not feel that they are being manipulated by conversations that are just going on in our capital city. The idea is that democracy is created all around us, by the people, by their real-time participation. It should be online and therefore open to the input from all but if it does need to take up a physical space then it should not be centralised in one area despite that area being the capital. It could be an idea, should we choose to go in that direction, that the head offices of our Executive bodies place themselves in the cities that I have suggested, again, for reasons that the whole country would not feel that they are being managed by a Westminster elite.
MagnaSocia could also be televised in a news and debate program type format where guests are invited on to present their case and have their point of view challenged to reflect the conversations being had online. Essential supporting information could be presented and criticisms of the debate and of the system should also be included to make sure the system is responding to criticism.
These are just ideas at this stage but I hope they may find traction. So just to make it clear, while we hold the conversations largely online, any physical forum could be placed around the country and I suggest in the following way: