Democracy in twenty first century means much more than elections of a President or a Parliament. It must reach a stage where people can participate in policy formulation.
And the most important policy for any government is HOW MUCH TAX TO BE COLLECTED and WHERE SHOULD THAT TAX BE SPENT.
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY TO TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
Democracy in eighteenth century was a right to choose your rulers. That was because it was virtually impossible to involve the masses in making decisions. However, things are not the same any more, and it is time we all realise this.
In twenty-first century, with seamless human networking, massive information explosion, and the technology to gather detailed views of millions on the click of a mouse, democracy is no more about the choice of rulers. Democracy today means a say in all crucial decisions that affect our lives, and the most important decision of all are the ones that impose taxes on us. Given the technology, and the ease of secure communication, it is very much possible. Only, we need to back ourselves for taking a greater control and responsibility of our lives.
“RULE OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE” – NOT RULE BY ELECTED MONARCHS
We have all come to worship the word ‘democracy’. I say ‘worship’ because it is more a matter of faith. But putting this faith aside, let us once ask ourselves, do we really have a democracy, which is supposed to be the “rule of, by and for the people”. Just the power to elect the ruler is not sufficient for democracy, if the citizens do not have the right to decide the most important of their affairs, most important of them being the taxes that they have to pay. In fact, the ‘rule by the people’ will never be a reality unless citizens do not have a right to choose the taxes they have to pay.
HOW CAN IT BE DONE
Some may feel bewildered on reading this, but it is very much possible. In today’s world of Internet, where business can be done at the speed of thought, things that were earlier unthinkable have become possible and are happening round the clock, throughout the world.
Just imagine a scenario where every citizen votes not only to elect the President, or a Member of Parliament, but also to have a say in how much tax she will have to pay to the government, and what will she get in return. So she quotes a percentage that she thinks everybody should pay including herself, and she also suggests how she would prefer the taxpayer’s money, partly belonging to her, to be spent by the government on different public services.
PROBLEMS & CHALLENGES
There would, of course, be a problem of different people suggesting different figures, both for taxing as well as for spending, but that will also show how many citizens are willing to pay how much tax for a particular service that the government provides to them. So if the government service is unsatisfactory and if people anyway have to spend from their pockets, they won’t allow any government budget on that sector.
On the other hand, if something important, like health care is becoming too costly in the open market and the people think it might be preferable to have it arranged by the government for everyone, they will vote for a higher tax, with a suggestion to have a greater spending on it. It would also mean that people pay specific tax for every particular public service that government provides, imposing a much better accountability on the government.
That will be the real democracy, or if I may say so, the real ‘economic democracy’.