Writing process

Democracy in space


Compulsory voting

It seems that everyone is voting at the moment.

Britain with their Brexit. The US with their primaries and getting ready for an election later this year. And us, here in Australia. We had an election yesterday.

I vote. Everyone citizen over 18 years old votes in Australia votes. (Or at least, they’re supposed to.) Because, you see, voting in Australia is compulsory.

People from countries where voting is not compulsory think it weird. “What about your rights?” they say. “They’re denying you the democratic freedom to not vote if you choose to.”

I’m a fan of compulsory voting. The majority of Australians are. (Last I heard it was 70% in favour.) Sure, it takes an hour out of your day, but there’s usually a sausage sizzle happening, and the mother’s club at the schools (where most polling booths are) run a sweet stall.

It’s even easy to choose not to vote. Turn up, have your name ticked off, and then don’t fill in any of the boxes before you put the papers into the ballot box.

Democracy as governing body

I’m also a big fan of democracy. I think most of us who live in democratic countries are.

But democracies aren’t generally the first government of any country. They evolve, over time, when people become knowledgeable enough and powerful enough to force the incumbent government to listen to them.

It can go back the other way, too. An elected government can take away civil liberties, effectively removing democracy if it goes too far. Or the military take over.

Governing in space

Who’s going to make money in space?

Government agencies? Probably not. Governing bodies spend money, they don’t make it. They spend it services and infrastructure for their constituents. No matter what type of government they are. (By making money here, I mean actually getting something from space that will net them money.)

Thus the first people to make money in space will probably be companies. It follows, then, that the first peoples in space to be large enough to require any sort of government will be working for those companies.

Suppose a big, multi-national sets itself down on an asteroid and starts mining it. Whose laws are they bound by?

No-one’s but their own. So the first laws on that asteroid will be that company’s code of conduct. It may turn into a democracy eventually, but it’s a lot more likely to stay a ‘company’ for as long as the people are treated well enough and can survive.

The other big group I could see going into space is religious groups. Pilgrims, spreading the word of their god forever on or outward. Or escaping from persecution. For these people, the leaders of their church will become the ruling body.

Again, a fully-fledged democracy will be a long time coming.

3 replies on “Democracy in space”

Many do not seem to understand how fragile modern democracies (and societies) are, how much they depend on the average citizens supporting and actively steering them.

I think compulsory voting is a great idea, but in itself it achieves little. It must be possible to make an informed decision and the vote must also mean something, otherwise people will either stop filling in the boxes or vote mainly based on prejudice or preconceptions rather than current issues.

Currently I see four major problems for the future of at least european democracies

* Information flow

* Bureaucracy

* Stagnation

* Control of trigger individuals

A functioning democracy relies on information flow being largely independent of the government, political parties and ideology. While blogs and other information sources improve this, there is also a disturbing tendency of mainstream media being populated by ideological activists of various kinds, who promote their own agenda regardless of evidence and suppress information that could speak against that agenda.

Increased bureaucracy tends to channel, diverge or block political changes, leading to a distrust of the system and less interest in voting (rather than more, which would be the logical reaction).

Stagnation of established political parties have a similar effect as bureaucracy. Even large changes in voting patterns leads to small apparent changes in policy. The parties start to believe in concepts such as that the voters are stupid/voted wrong/were misguided, rather than that they failed to show what was great with their point of view.

Control of trigger individuals is more of an upcoming problem related to internet and centralisation of information. There are usually only a few individuals who trigger changes, which then cascade to large changes in public opinion or policy. If these trigger individuals can be found quickly and either blocked or neutralised, it does not require a large organisation to essentially control public opinion, only access to the data and ability to act quickly. So far we have only seen rudimentary attempts at this, trying to censor key individuals from news or block them, from for example twitter, with bogus complaints etc. The potential in combination with large scale information gathering is scary though.

My guess for colonization of space would be that the governments will act quickly to force companies to adhere to whatever laws govern their actions where they are based. Any other solutions will probably not be possible until there are large and long term colonies in space which are independent on resources from earth. Enforcement will probably be from company officials at first and by authorities when in larger scale (tens of thousands). Think similar to ships, oil rigs or similar today, they will not suddenly become independent countries.

The next interesting question would be how to avoid the problems above when expanding into space? And how to avoid or minimize them on earth…

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