In his letter, Brandon Love expresses that the effects of political parties and the modern system of government are “disastrous to society,” and advocates for a system of direct democracy to replace it. Love argues that it would lead to a system with “a peaceful and productive society” and “no permanence among leaders.” This could not be further from the truth.
Any system of government is going to be imperfect. There are 35 million people in Canada — 35 million opinions on each issue. At the end of the day, though, only one opinion can become law. Worse, there is a mathematical theorem (Arrow’s Theorem for the mathies), that guarantees that whenever there are more than two possible options on a single issue, there is no way to always decide the alternative preferred---whatever that means---by voters. It simply cannot be done.
Direct democracy, where everyone has a vote on an issue, may work on a small scale (such as a five-member club), or occasionally on an issue of particular significance (such as the referendum this week on a fall break), but it simply does not scale. There are far, far too many decisions made by government all the time for there to be any real progress. In a big city, being a councillor is a full-time job. The same goes for being an MP, MPP, or judge. This isn’t because of how few people there are who can do those jobs, but rather how many decisions there are to be made. If we were to all try to stay on top of government decision-making and participate in every vote, society would grind to a halt under the weight of its own decision-making process.
If, as is much more likely, people only voted on the issues that they cared about, the result would be equally disastrous. Mr. Love bemoans the supposed imposition, by government, of the will of the minority on the majority. I contend that direct democracy would exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, this problem. Voters would simply be unable to give the time required to make educated decisions on all of the proposals before them — a daunting task that modern legislators are unable to do unassisted — they would vote only on the issues that they cared about. Special interest groups would rule the day, or worse, social media campaigns, backed perhaps by rich corporations able to afford the staff to convince people to vote on legislation favourable to them. The abusers of modern democracy would only be empowered to further distort our society.
So that is why we must have representative government. But it’s never a good idea to have many indistinguishable candidates running for election, especially in a voting system that punishes this (and most do). So people with similar views band together to come to select a mutually agreeable candidate who will carry their banner... and bam! You have a political party. Of course, this means that not all of every person’s views will be represented in a party. In fact, it’s very rare to see someone who agrees with their party on every issue.
So what are you, voter, to do when there is no party that aligns to your views, but you wish there was? Step up and make it happen. Join a party, and begin arguing for what you want to see happen. Canada has 17 registered political parties, and that looks likely to go to 18 soon. If you don’t like any of them, found your own. It’s a dirty, messy process, whether your party is large or small, but in our system, if you care enough to put your ideas and arguments forward, your chances are way better than 1 in 35 million.
Math Masters student
Current member, Liberal Party of Canada
Former member, Pirate Party of Canada