Monday, January 08, 2007


Well my friend in MA, Abi can give me a hard time over his hardline MOOP; little does he know my other nemesis and ‘fruit of my loins' lives not so far from him. He should tremble because my only daughter is an Avid empiricist.

Even Abi will acknowledge that a dad must be wary or clever familial associates. He might even admit that their outrageous views might carry some cache, or not.

For me the whole discussion of taking ‘Money out Of Politics' feels personal; not only because of my own experiences, but because I know my only daughter and her only brother will call me on my ‘gut reaction' which coincides with the views of Abi.

"Show us the evidence" they will challenge. We know what you think, but prove it!" I'm not really sure where these clever little (ooops, now adult) creatures came up with the idea of evidence based debate, unless it was to thwart clever fatherly type argument.

So if I appear reluctant, Abi my friend, to dive headlong into this issue, it is because I am caught between what is and what if. The what ifs you have kindly supplied, and I will repeat them here.

Here are some ideas:

* If voters want to learn about the candidates' platforms, it's as easy as going to their web sites. I pay under $12 a month for my site. Blogger is free.

* Newspapers and broadcasters have a responsibility to inform the public, and they should do so as a public service.

* Restrict how much a candidate can spend on an election, including the candidate's own money.

* Restrict the length of campaigns -- weeks, not years.

* Ban political contributions by any entity except individuals.

* Ban political advertising.

* Ban paid lobbying.

I guess, with the foregoing qualifications, I can take these ideas one by one and explore them. No doubt other ideas will be added along the way. Let's see how we go.

If voters want to learn about the candidates' platforms, it's as easy as going to their web sites

Somewhere in the future I can envisage interactive media playing a major role in linking the people to the political, governing process. This is not a matter of cost of information delivery as much the potential accessibility through the medium.

That time is not yet because, ubiquitous as it is becoming, the internet connected home computer is still poorly understood and under utilised by the mass of users.

In fact, from my experience, there is a dreaded fear of the computer and internet taking control of homes - like TV hasn't done that already. There is certainly no broad acceptance that the technology can be harnessed for any positive or productive purpose.

Perhaps in another generation the technology might be sufficiently accepted to the stage that is possible to harness it for greater social/political good. It might, but I have my doubts. Social ignorance is not overcome so easily and will more likely go only so far as needs for entertainment allow.

On top of that argument I would suggest that polling regularly shows that people are simply not engaged enough to go and seek information of a political nature. It will still need to be force fed in some way.

Newspapers and broadcasters have a responsibility to inform the public, and they should do so as a public service.

I would go further on the use of the more traditional and acceptable media delivery methods. The major barrier here is economic, with media companies relying on the regular windfall profits from political campaigns.

Even so, I could envisage a situation where all political advertising was prohibited, replaced by a system controlled by an independent electoral commission. The media would still benefit, but by way of pre-purchased blocks controlled by the commission. The purchased blocks would be matched free by participating media, effectively discounting overall cost by 50%.

The blocks proposed would be sufficient to outline both party policy statements and candidate information and positions. The voters would benefit from having a fair and equal access to the information they need to make a decision.

Any of the other nonsense which is now included in advertising would be relegated to straight editorial and would be required by regulation to allow balance and rebuttal.

I know there are similar provisions at local government level in some places. It works well and serves to create a more even playing field and more thoughtful policy statements.

In some place the requirement for balanced coverage is also in place for all levels of office seekers. Although there is a certain flexibility on the issue of news worthiness. I know during my candidacy in Australia I easily achieved 30% of the media, although my official allocation was 10% in line with my party's previous national vote. We just worked hard on making our media releases interesting and newsworthy.

It does mean politicians need to be far more astute with their communications skills, but then that should be a requirement for the job anyway.

Enough for now - I will deal with the other proposals in future blogs. I guess the main approach for now is to lay out the options and potentials for a MOOP drive. I am not fully convinced that it is ‘doable' but I do support the broad concept as essential to creating something like real democracy.


abi said...

Cartledge, reluctant though I am to contemplate your loins, with or without fruit, I feel compelled to respond.

Kidding aside, I appreciate the time and thought you've put into this.

Here are some stats for your empiricist kids: Internet use as a percentage of population, as of 12/1/06:

North America - 70%
Australia/Oceana - 54.3%
Europe - 38.9%

Eurpope's internet use is surprisingly low - but overall, these stats are not too shabby.

By comparison (tho admittedly not an apples-to-apples comparison), here is a stat on US newspaper readership in 2004:

"Today, just more than half of Americans (54 percent) read a newspaper during the week, somewhat more (62 percent) on Sundays, and the number is continuing to drop."

And don't forget, in democracy-spreadin' America, only about half of voters, more or less, actually bother to vote.

But let's not look at MOOP from the point of view of information delivery. Let's look at it from the other direction -- what would be seriously scaled back or eliminated altogether:

* political advertising (eliminated)

* Endless and expensive trips around the country/state making appearances, gladhanding, kissing babies, etc (scaled back)

These activities contribute nothing of substance to a campaign, yet they account for the bulk of the cost.

Moving on -- In the US, radio and TV broadcast over public airwaves. In return for their lucrative licenses, they are requred to provide public service programming. They don't do nearly enough of it, and MOOP would require them to.

Newspapers already do a pretty good job of compariing candidates. And I think they'd rise to the occasion and do even better if we needed them to, and MOOP would need them to.

Cartledge said...

Abi, I would really like to see a qualitative take on theses stats, it is one thing to have connectivity and another to use it to any reasonable degree.
You then compare to newspapers alone rather than the spread of traditional media. I would suggest the TV or radio is turned on more frequently then the modem.
I’m still cot convinced that internet is yet a sufficiently effective medium to carry the weight of the democratic process. But I agree it would be far more effective to have our politicians wearing out shoe leather and pretending they are listening.