Disrupting democracy: Nynke Tromp at TEDxDelft


Translator: Daniel Martinez
Reviewer: Capa Girl In my work, both as a designer and a researcher, I try to understand how we can develop deceptively simple changes, to tackle complex social issues. And today I would like to propose such a change for our democratic system. Because the way we have organized our democracy now, is causing some serious problems. And I will illuminate three of them. The first problem is the fact that we’ve created a system in which incidents are more important than long-term vision. If you look at what politicians mainly do nowadays it’s reacting to daily hassle, it’s commenting to scandals, or even a juicy gossiping of some of their colleagues. But is questionable whether we voted for them to do this and I would say we did not. We voted for them to lead us to a better future. However, something time-consuming and complex, as developing long-term plans for a country, finds no response in our system because we want action now. The second problem is the fact that we’ve created a system in which lovability is more important than capability. If I would show you these two pictures, and I would ask you the question, “Who’d you want to lead your future?” or “Who’d you like to lead your country?” We all know who’s going to win. We love beauty, and apparently we prefer a president who spends his time on body pump instead of reading political sciences. Now, I’m not saying that dealing with the media isn’t the capability a politician should have nowadays. But what I do argue is that there are other qualities that are equally important, or maybe even more important for good leadership. What about creativity? What about truly listening to counter-arguments? Or what about collaboration skills? Those qualities do not matter in our system, as long as you’re not lovable on camera. The third problem is the fact that our political arena has become a platform for destructive competition. Now, this is always true, but becomes mainly visible in the build-up to the elections. Because at that moment, party leaders surround themselves by complete campaign teams who develop the most effective strategies to tackle the opponent, to stab them in the back, to do this at the right moment in the campaign, and to do it in such a catchy manner that it will be repeated over and over again in the media. Our politics has turn into an ordinary gladiator fight, and we are the public that cheer for this. Now, what this all leads to can be summarized in this graph. So, for years, politics does not interest many of us. But as soon as the build-up to the election starts, our craving for entertainment is triggered. And we gladly buy the tickets to this media circus. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, but what can we actually digest in these 2 months? So surely it will be about the things that worry us today, and surely political analysis do not exceed the level of judging media performances or campaign strategies. However, this does not do justice to the complexity of what politics is about. So therefore, I would like to propose something different, which is — to — (Music) To vote on your birthday. Now, this is how it works: Each year yo have one vote, and during a term of four years, which is the case in the Netherlands, this means you have four votes. However, when you’re voting nothing directly happens. Is only after 4 years that all the votes, of all the citizens, will be counted, on so called “Counting Day.” And this day is the kick-off of the formation of a new government. Now, let me walk you through a scenario, to let you experience what this means. So, amongst all these people, it’s your birthday that is coming up next. So, amongst all this people, it’s about you now. And a week before your birthday you will receive this postcard from our government, or in our case, from the queen. And it says: “Congratulations! You’re about to end the fortieth year of your citizenship in this country. We would love to have you in for another year, so please go to www.longlivedemocracy.com and vote. Kind regards, Bea.” So you put on your television, to see if there’s already some party who’s leading, or maybe to tune in to some prime debate. But there is no such thing on television by then. It simply cannot be campaign day every day. Politicians do have other things to do. So, the next morning, you discuss your upcoming birthday with some of your colleagues, and you ask them whom they voted for when it was their birthday. And a colleague of [yours] tries to explain why he voted for that particular politician, and he says: “Yes, he made this very firm statement about that incident.” And while he is explaining to you why he voted for him, you both experience that that incident was actually quite futile and how unsatisfying it is to base your vote on something that is already unimportant three months later. But then, how to decide whom to vote for? So you decide to visit the website just like your queen adviced you to do, and there you will find the future visions of all the parties in your country. So, there you will read what the Labor Party has in mind for your healthcare system. And there you will read what the liberals want to establish for our economy. And while reading this, you will probably recall the moment in which politician actually made contributions into this direction. And that’s the basis on which you decide whom to vote for but after having finished your birthday cake. Now, this will happen 4 times in a row, and then it will be “Counting Day”. And “Counting Day” will be an event. Because what will happen on “Counting Day” is that the media will flashback over the last 4 years instead of the last 2 months. And they will try to illuminate the moment in which politicians actually made contributions to the future that they depicted for you, and that they promised you. And then, of course still politicians may be worried about being lovable on camera, or about stabbing their opponents in the back. But for those politicians, “Counting Day” will become quite painful, and so too for their voters. And in contrast to our current system, we do not have another 4 years to forget all this, because the day after “Counting Day”, again people will vote. So, this system seduces politicians to truly show their capabilities to develop a country into a better place. And it seduces us to vote for them on their capabilities instead of their beautiful smile. So, if you support this system, and if you would like to see it implemented in our country, then please tweet us a birthday tweet on your birthday, and we will try to make it happen. Thank you. (Applause)

Maurice Vega

21 Responses

  1. Business is changing, the world is changing. Old models are getting outdated fast. Old business models are dying faster than ever and new ones are springing up faster than ever too. If we can do it in Business we can do it in government too. I really do think we need change from the outside because once inside the political machine you change to the will of the machine. I love her naivety of how change is possible but actually getting countries to execute these models is another challenge.

  2. What if a leader seems like a truly great leader for three years, then something happens the forth year that makes nobody vote for him? Nobody will want him as the leader, but he will get 3/4 of the votes..

  3. But this is already a negative aspect of the current democratic system , when you elect someone now it happened more than once -probably even most of the times- they turn out to be asshole/idiots but your stuck with them for the rest of the term.

    this way you can keep a check on them for longer time and asses their work for a longer period.

  4. Seems like a good idea but how do you verify votes? It would be difficult to have this be an anonymous system.

    Reminds me of electronic vote. Looks like a great idea but it seems impractical for a voting system.

  5. This would require a continuous 7/7 24/24 public surveillance of the ballot boxes. Could be done, but it would be kind of tricky. Fraud would probably be too easy.

  6. Dear Nynke, great talk. I think some of your talk can be summarized by the quote: "Those who have the ability to get themselves elected president, are the least suitable to actually do the job".

  7. I don't think this is a problem of system, but a problem of people. We tend to be so focused on appearance in daily life, why expect anything different when it comes to politics. I personally stopped believing in being lead by people.

  8. I am doing my bachelor thesis about design projects/methods/systems that aim at solving social/political issues. I´m looking for ideas just like the one depicted in this video. Can someone help me find more projects/ideas like this? Thanks

  9. Interesting proposal. I'm all for better accountability and for choosing rationally, and this might add to incentivising that.

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