Our democracy is broken

Elections cost obscene amounts of money; they have always been the domain of the rich.

Today, with declining party membership, politicians must be either wealthy or seek large corporate donations to fund campaigns. And corporations don’t give their money away from a sense of democratic duty – they buy influence. When not giving money directly to politicians many corporations are financing the swarm of lobbyists buzzing around parliaments and congress, or offering their services for free to government departments – but these firms are certainly not charities.

Politicians are roundly seen as self-interested, hypocritical individuals who put winning elections or political point-scoring ahead of any moral or ethical concerns. The level of cynicism and mistrust directed towards politicians is extraordinarily high and election turnout is, in general, in decline. But what can be done? How can democracy be remade to be responsive to the concerns of the people it is meant to serve, and not the corporations and vested interests that have captured it? How can the multiple crises confronting society, from climate change to debt and inequality, be addressed fairly when the hands on the levers of power are restrained by those who hold the purse-strings that fund political parties?

Fortunately there is a solution. It has been with us as long as democracy has been with us – indeed, it was, for thousands of years, seen as the defining element of democracy – we must demand a real democracy, a democracy using sortition.

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