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Accountability in Democracies

December 20, 2019

One of the most important factors in the future of maintaining our democracies is going to be keeping a central focus on the notion of accountability. The more things get delegated to machines, automated processes and experts, and the more we agree and acquiesce in this delegation, the more there will be events in society for which no one is going to be held to account.

When people are not held to account, this gradually corrodes political trust on one side, and social responsibility on the other side, slowly crippling the community that gives democracies their ultimate validation and legitimation. If, as an example, there is no one to point the finger at when climate changes don’t match the accepted expectations of change and warming, then on the side of this, the people who make these climate change claims will have less and less reason to be responsible in their assertions, and on the other side, people listening to them will have less and less reason to trust their claims.

The whole fake news phenomena, could well be an example of this corrosive process. We have an increasing number of social phenomenon and areas where no one is ever being held to account. As a result, they make more outlandish claims each day, that less and less people believe. A good example of this would be, first the Russia Collusion story, then the recent impeachment story regarding Donald Trump. In both cases, they keep making more and more extreme claims, as they are not being held to account by anyone. The elite media and the elite politicians can spout one official narrative and line of thought, and it all looks great on paper, but what they don’t see, is that balancing out their extreme claims is that fewer and fewer people are trusting what they say, and so fewer people are listening to them.

This is not really a polarisation process, as it has been commonly described. It is more a case of a simple lack of accountability. And this lack of accountability is going to have effects on all sides of the political spectrum. This is why it is a key metric we need to be focused on if we genuinely want to preserve democratic institutions. The enemy to this accountability is multifarious. Too much trust of experts, too much reliance on automated processes we don’t supervise over or understand, and too much trust in computers, technology and in whatever the internet search engine decides to tell us.

All these things are going to require a communal human effort to counteract, and it goes across all political divides, because what is at stake here is the future of a dignified existence for human beings.

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