Aalto Art and Design Cases

Decentralization of the decision-making: exploring the pros and cons of the current democratic system

Our group’s focus was on exploring the pros and cons of the current governmental decision-making model. The research covered the problems in the democratic decision making and searched for alternatives. The conclusion was that the current system is overloaded with problems dealing with human factors, bureaucracy and political entanglements, and that an ideal form of decision-making in the future should be based on long-set goals, long-term vision, facts over fiction, based on expert-driven committees, all this resulting in a feeling that the voters really can outspeak their minds and that every vote matters.

Our topic focuses on decentralization of the decision-making and alternative forms of democracy.The iIndividuals in today’s political environment share the feeling that they can’t be meaningfully involved in the decision-making process. Some of the reasons for this include the layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy between the citizens and the decision makers as well as the political instruments. This relates to an intersubjective myth, in which people need to share beliefs in order to collaborate within each other. However, in today’s environment this leads to decisions that are taking over the others, the ones that might be more beneficial and sustainable ones. A common vision of the world and ideologies are missing and give way leading financial markets. The postmodern society is relativistic and it leaves people without further limitations.

The societal structure of today is radically different from before. As the size of communities grow, the ideologies and cultural sub-groups grow in variety and a shared understanding through existing democracy over political decisions seem to develop more and more difficult and genuine. There already exists examples of this change, to mention Brexit in UK and recent actions in the US government.

In the future, the humanity will also face different societal crisis which needs a faster and more comprehensive responsive than what the current democratic system has to offer.

The current liberal democratic system in Finland dates from the turn of the century and hasn’t much changed since.. It doesn’t take on account the technological changes and  the modern, modulated and hectic world. Although the democracy is not perfect but it is the best functioning social structure that has been created to date. For this reason,  our group focuses in reducing the disturbing factors that affect the interaction between the knowledge and actions and highlight accessible approach in order to raise common awareness, and create an image of an active individual, aware of responsibilities and  their own effect to the environment in everyday life.

At the very present;  there seems to be two important type of problems in democracy. The first category is linked to human factors;  including decision-making based on feelings instead of knowledge, and the fact that politicians are just mere mortals with personal problems. A Finnish parliament member and a sociologist, Anna Kontula, has written a book about what kind of workplace is the parliament. In a Helsingin Sanomat article she mentions the highly tense political atmosphere at work which leads to  complex hierarchy, social rules and a group discipline inside the community. Some politicians are very concerned of losing their jobs, and this may easily result in populism, nationalism and xenophobia. In some cases, the experts should make decisions, since the politicians are not necessarily experts of everything, and in some cases they are voting on matters they have absolutely no factual knowledge upon.  The politicians work is about struggling against authority and trying to gain power among individual voters and target groups, as well as striving for publicity and a direction of politics.

The second problem seems to be structure of democracy meaning personality-led voting system and parties. The very idea of parties is based on disagreement. This polarises opinions and as a result causes disintegration in the society. This is one of the paradoxes in democratic system. The true values of the parties are blurred because you can’t compare objectively how different parties are related to each other. In the current system you are not able to vote for your precise view, but instead you have to choose a best match. With voting a person you take whole package, even when it’s very rare to agree with someone on everything. Also, while voting a person you also choose a party. The politicians are too attached to the parties and this makes their hands tied with peer pressure. One common outcome of this is a mistrust towards politicians and democracy itself. We argue, that the politics should derive from egos towards the real issues. We also claim that more experts should be involved in the decision making.

We started to approach our topic by researching optional micro-utopias that worki under democracy. Few of our finds included the Swedish voting system, where its possible to vote only for the party, the estonian e-government and local micro-utopic eco-villages in Finland.

We also looking in to the designers that have developed some suggestions to challenge the existing form of democracy. For example, Dutch Rudy van Belkom has suggested a new voting model where citizens would be able to vote for an individual thought rather than a politician or political party.  He made an voting experiment how voters views represented party they voted for in 2017 election in Netherlands. From 75000 people who participated, merely 10-20 percent of people’s opinions correlated to what party they voted for.

We noticed that form of democracy should be more transitional,  modular and relying on multidisciplinary expertise. The transition-based thinking can be used as a tool when imagining different scenarios of futures, values and possibilities. For an individual, it means having a capacity to function in current systems in ways that also begin to transform them. The modular thinking instruct democracy away from polarisation and egocentric approach, and the presence of multidisciplinary experts would our actions based on real information.

Right now is the time that the technology had a huge potential to come to help in reconsidering the future structure of our government.


Current democratic system of USA and how should it be re-designed


Anna Kontula kertoo huimia tarinoita eduskunnasta – ”Ei jumalauta, sä oot taistelukentällä”


Global lessons from Estonia’s tech-savvy government


Democracy needs re-design, Rudy Van Belk


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