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The advance in telecommunications will not cause people to be dependent on their
computers and alone in a world of billions. Rather, it will open up new avenues in
democracy and will help people involve themselves more in the democratic process.
Computers can simplify voting, create less biased views of world events, and encourage
more political awareness.
Going to the polls could be a thing of the past. A click of the mouse could
instantly register your vote. Furthermore, nationwide results could be instantly tabulated,
to increase voter participation and decrease costs. The main argument against on-line
voting is security. The national computer system could be hacked into, but this problem
could be rectified with a secure computer system like that used by the Department of
Defense. Another potential problem is multiple votes. A simple solution is to use
personal identification numbers, such as social security numbers. While these arguments
are valid, they can be easily solved in order to maximize the benefits of an on-line voting
system.
It is often predicted that by the year 2000, 5-10 corporations will control most of
the worlds important media. This concentration of ownership raises concerns that the
information citizens receive from the media may be censored or biased in favor of the
owner corporation. With the Internet, you can receive news almost instantaneously from
eyewitnesses. You eliminate the middle man who can censor the news and color the truth.
A problem with news on the Internet is credibility, which is a problem in all media.
Whether in a newspaper or magazine, on television or the Internet, information should
always be verified by other sources. Despite this, the timeliness and breadth of Internet
news can lead us to being more open and informed voters.
Computers also aid democracy by providing a unique venue for increased political
awareness. Many politicians and political interest groups have websites that provide a
wealth of information. With Internet “chats”, you can get to know your local government
officials and air any subjects that concern you. Also, anybody can now e-mail the
President and other high ranking officials. All this makes the bureaucratic process less
impersonal and gives us a convenient and better way to know the people and issues in our
political life.
These advantages in telecommunications have created the possibility of a more
direct form of democracy, or "electronic city-state." The United States could become a
country where every citizen votes over the Internet on every law . This will not happen,
however, because most congressmen would vote against an "electronic city state" as they
would feel it is not in the best interest of the U.S. At the present our country is having
problems with citizens not being informed on the major presidential candidates. If average
citizens do not know about the president they are electing, how can we expect them to
understand every law that comes up for vote? This is the reason that, in our
representative republic, we elect officials to vote for the good of their district. Another
problem with direct democracy is that referenda and plebiscite voting on-line could easily
be abused. If all people are rational and think the laws through, there is no problem.
People as a group, however, are often in fits of passion, which can have dire
consequences. The Founders feared what might happen in a direct democracy,
particularly the direct election of the president. In Article 2 Section 1 of the Constitution,
the founders created a system in which the popular vote is tabulated and the electors then
vote. The electoral college acts as a check on the popular election of someone who is
obviously not good for the country.
The main concern with direct democracy is the tyranny of the majority. If the
United States became an "electronic city-state," we would have less protection against a
majority group passing unjust laws or blocking good laws. Even Tocqueville warned
against the tyranny of the majority saying: “If it be admitted that a man possessing
absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a
majority be liable to the same reproach." This was most feared by the Founders and is
why they created such a complex system for passing laws. With a bicameral legislature,
presidential veto power, and judicial review, it is almost impossible for the majority to pass
unjust laws. Yes, an “electronic city-state” is a possibility, but it will never become a
reality.
In conclusion, for all of its advantages, telecommunication can never compare to a
face to face meeting. A computer