On What Planet Will Politicians Want To Be More Accountable?
Not this one. Maybe on Mars? I hear we are going there.
But as soon as that first Martian colony of two or more is established and some sort of social order is set up, you can be sure that promises will get made and the argument will begin about whether they were kept or not. Making, keeping and breaking promises is intrinsic to human nature. The first casualty of politics is not truth, but objective accountability.
"The first casualty of politics is not truth, but objective accountability."
When the concept of building a mechanism for recording, tracking and reporting on election promises -- what was eventually to become VoxVolo -- the first question was "which politician in their right mind is going to voluntarily subject themselves to more accountability?" Well, precisely none, obviously. Curiously, the number that would be willing to go on the record and say that? Also none. Like that old Mark Twain trope "[e]verybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it", accountability around election campaign promises is held in very high esteem, but the actions often do not match the words.
"which politician in their right mind is going to voluntarily subject themselves to more accountability?"
Make no mistake, shortly after the election there is always the flashy, photo-op of the winning party signing a bill, cutting some ribbon or repealing some hated law with a subtext of putting actions behind their campaign rhetoric. There is no real harm in that, of course, but these things are what they are intended to be, symbols that are easily understood and easy to consume. Big, important things, however, require more than momentary acts. They require sustained effort over many years, typically on a much longer time scale that exceeds the electorates' interest or patience. The challenge, therefore, is to provide a mechanism that captures the big promises and frames them in a way where they can be easily tracked over time. That mechanism should also provide pervasive access to that information. This ensures that sustained effort on the big, important things is always there because it is always as close as your mobile device.
To the question as to how do you get politicians to subject themselves to more accountability? You don't really give them a choice. It's like that old movie where the cub reporter sticks the microphone in the face of the villain and says "we are going to tell this story with or without you, are you sure you don't want to go on the record?" You enable citizens to record promises and track progress on the recalcitrant politicians behalf -- Wikipedia-style. A wise politician will likely think that if the story is going to get told with or without them, they might as well jump to the front of the crowd and call it a parade.
"To the question as to how do you get politicians to subject themselves to more accountability? You don't really give them a choice."
A chilling footnote. Of those with whom I have spoken about this subject, those who arguably have benefited most from things-the-way-they-are are anecdotally the most abjectly cynical about making the system any better. But there's a duplicity to that attitude -- superficially there is a stated desire for change but coupled with a underlying belief the situation is so beyond hope that it's not even worth trying. It's an attitude of withdrawal with a sinister note of 'democracy is for suckers'. I think this is potentially the most corrosive element in the discussion. It is what I worry about most as I lay awake at night and think of life on Mars.