The use of the internet has transformed how we engage with each other and how we consume everything, from news to music to learning. Why, therefore, should it not also transform the way we are governed? A conversation with author and MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell.
Anyone who has read Douglas Carswell's previous book, The Plan (co-authored by his friend and colleague Dan Hanan MEP) will know that he is no fan of big government. And this theme continues in his latest book, The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy.
Speaking during a luncheon discussion at the Legatum Institute, Douglas was keen to point out that governments do not grow because of democracy. Rather, he suggests, history shows us that governments grow as elites become better and better at concealing the costs of government.
But, he argues, the ability for governments to keep borrowing – and thereby keep growing – is coming to an end. Or, as he elegantly asserts, “the pillars upon which Big Government rest are crumbling.”
There have been three great revolutions in human history, explains Douglas:
- the Agrarian Revolution during which man learned how to make best use of the land;
- the Industrial Revolution in which man learned how to use fossil fuels to unleash the productive capacity of the economy;
- the Digital Revolution in which he learned how to use communication technology to foster social cooperation, exchange of ideas, and innovation;
And it is the Digital Revolution that Douglas believes will have a profound effect on how we engage with politicians and, crucially, how our politicians engage with us.
Does this mean we should expect an era of mass referenda where each citizen has a vote on every policy decision taken? Douglas rejects this idea. "I’m not talking about a great cloud in the sky where we all vote on every decision. Far from it. This is more about the citizen consumer who is able to take control over some parts of his life that are currently held by government."
One specific example Douglas offers is the school curriculum. “If you can choose which episode of Peppa Pig your three year-old daughter watches, you will also want to have a say in which maths course she takes.” This type of bespoke curriculum will soon be on offer for parents and it is only a matter of time, suggests Douglas, before governments realise this.
Change is inevitable. The Digital Revolution is already here. The challenge is how governments react to it.