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Open letter to Steve Baron

Open letter to Steve Baron of the binding CIR campaign: Voters Voice

Dear Steve,

As an anarchist, in principle, I support the idea of binding Citizen Initiated Referendums (CIR) but I find it disconcerting that your campaign pushing for such CIRs in New Zealand currently makes no effort to outline of the sort of processes needed to ensure that binding referendums are actually democratic. This seems to exhibit a distinct misunderstanding, implicit in your campaign, about the very meaning of democracy.

On your website, http://votersvoice.org.nz, it says, "It is we the voters, not the politicians, who are ultimately responsible for the being of our society."

I couldn't have said it better myself but to be responsible you need to be properly informed of the facts and the debate. Merely being a majority does not make you right nor democratic.

As Charles Wright Mills once wrote, "Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them—and then, the opportunity to choose."

On your website it also says, "At the 1999 election New Zealanders spoke loud and clear. Eightyfive percent of New Zealanders voted and eightytwo percent of them wanted fewer MPs. But the Government has made it clear it has no intention of doing what the people want. 1.7 million people voted for 99 MPs and the Government has ignored us!"

I was one of the few voters who chose to tick neither box in that particular referendum. Not because I didn't care but because when I stepped into the voting booth it was the first I had heard of it. Whatever your opinion on that issue the process was clearly undemocratic and using it as "evidence" to try and further your campaign does nothing for the progress of democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In fact, when reading this on your website, it became clear to me that what you are in fact advocating is mobocracy, not democracy at all.

Democracy is about defining who is affected by a decision. It's about informed public debate and consultation. And ultimately it is about devolving decision-making down to those who are affected by the decision.

If your campaign follows these principles and pushes for reforms that respect democracy, not mobocracy, and the need for decision-makers to debate and be informed then I will get behind your campaign. But until then there is little to do but expose it for what it is.

Christiaan Briggs Napier expat/London

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