Openness is not sufficient for Democracy

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Bill Thompson [1]:

"The network, and the tools and services it supports, have certainly encouraged debate and discussion. Websites have cast light on political funding and how it distorts the exercise of power, and social network sites have encouraged citizen action of many different forms.

Thanks to the internet we have, in some places and some areas, a more open political system, but there is a fundamental difference between openness and democracy.

Democracy is a political system, and as such it is concerned with the exercise of power. While open debate is generally recognised as being one of the building blocks of an effective democracy it is, as the philosophers put it, a necessary but not sufficient condition.

Free speech does not, of itself, build a democracy and having held a consultation does not give a democratic mandate to the holders of office.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, especially the sort of representative democracy that has evolved in this country as we seek to combine elements of an autocratic monarchy with an elected legislature, is about far more than openness.

In the media openness to different points of view may be desirable but does not amount to democratisation. Power in the media still lies with editors and proprietors, just as power in the British political system still lies with the government.

So although we should welcome openness and interaction we have to hope that new technologies will lead to changes in the distribution of power and not merely superficial changes to political practice, just as access to the network and mobile phones are starting to change business, education and forms of social engagement." (