I just read an article about Apple spending $720,000 on lobbying the US government for patent reform and technology education. While I completely agree with the causes Apple is lobbying for, I really dislike the fact that the only way to get anything done in our government is with large sums of money. Isn’t the government supposed to serve the people and not the money?
I understand that it obviously isn’t possible to hear every single voice in the country, as there are only 100 members of the Senate and 435 members of the House of Representatives that collectively represent the interests of 300 million people. However, we have the technology that could make it possible for this to happen.
Think about this: Google serves up answers for 91 million queries per day. Imagine some sort of human-powered oracle that answered any question you had in any language in less than a second. Just thinking about a human-powered version of that boggles the mind, yet Google does it effortlessly every single day for the world. This is the kind of solution we need to embrace for telling our governments what we want and helping to make political decisions.
We already have the right to vote on politicians and select propositions, but lobbying is how those propositions make it to the ballot. Why do only the people with money get to decide what appears on those ballots? It’s like we have this false sense of participation in our government because we get to vote on things, yet we didn’t get a say in what issues were worth voting on.
I understand that the United States is a republic and not a direct democracy, and that is why these things are the way they are. It even makes sense that it is a republic because when the country was founded in the 18th century it was completely absurd to think that everyone’s voice could be a part of the process. But now that we have the means to aggregate the collective opinions of the populace, should that system perhaps change?
Note that I’m not advocating ochlocracy or anything where the people just make all the decisions and self-govern. I think James Madison had it right in Federalist Paper No. 10 when he said that government should protect its citizens from factions and that a direct democracy would value the opinions of the majority and sacrifice individual liberties. What I’m proposing is just a solution that can aggregate the thoughts and opinions of the populace and make those opinions known to the politicians so that they can make more informed decisions. What I want is to see headlines like “720,000 people support patent reform” as opposed to “$720,000 supports patent reform.” Something like the Facebook Causes application but on a more global and accessible level.