OneAction NZ

Democracy Co-operative

Dealing with doubt

Posted by Rhys Goodwin on January 31, 2023 · 7 mins read

Kia ora folks,

Here we are already at the end of January 23 and at our first TallyUp. I’m excited by what the year will bring as we continue to evolve and explore these ideas. As the kaitiaki of OneAction, faced with what often feels like an insurmountable challenge of innovating politics I often find myself in an emotional battle about the project. If I’m honest some days it feels quite hopelessly impossible, and I think to myself why am I doing this? Am I wasting my time? Am I insane for even trying? Doubts arise like, maybe politics is fine as it is and there’s no real problem to solve, most people are simply not interested in becoming more involved in politics, and perhaps we humans have already reached our limitations in political organising – maybe this is the best we can do. But when I put the emotions aside and analyse each of these doubts rationally, I always come back to the same conclusion which is that the project is worthwhile, and it is achievable, although certainly a long slow road.

In this post I dig into some of the doubts that arise both in my own mind and in the discussions I have with people about the project. Hopefully it will provide some concrete perspective on the value and viability of what might seem like an outlandish idea.

Doubt – is there really a problem to solve?

Things are going pretty well for most people up here in Aotearoa, right? And as it happens we rank right up there as far as democracy is concerned, 2nd in the world only to Norway according the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. But here’s the thing, democracy as we know it, in which we are truly a sovereign self-governing people is a relatively new thing and really quite fragile. I’ve used the tree analogy before - a tree is never static, it’s either growing or it’s dying. Likewise a democracy is either growing or retracting. If it retracts to far it will be significantly harder or impossible to get it growing again. It doesn’t even need to become corrupted at the power centres to retract, all it needs is for enough people to lose faith or believe that it has become corrupted. While we might look at our political institutions and see them as healthy and strong, and I think there’s a reasonable argument for that in Aotearoa, it’s no secret that across the world people’s faith in, and democracies themselves are declining. Take for example the situation the US faced on the 6th of January 2021 where the capitol building was stormed. It’s hard to know how close the US came to a democratic collapse that day but it’s certainly an indicator of some deep and serious rot. While New Zealand might seem a long way from that world, I don’t think we’re an exception or in any way immune to the rot we see internationally. It might take on more of a ‘kiwi flavour’ but it’s not hard to see the increasing disillusionment in politics and an increasing feeling that people are left out of the process. Even if you don’t feel that way, it’s still a serious concern if the number of people who do feel like that is increasing.

If the general erosion of democracy isn’t reason enough to innovate politics, let’s return to New Zealand’s high democracy ranking on the world stage – it seems to me that being so far ahead is the exact reason we’re so well positioned to lead the next evolution of democracy and politics, rather than a reason to be complacent. If you think it’s the latter, then this is probably not the project for you!

Doubt – Most people are not interested

The other discouraging voice that often visits tells me that most people are not interested in a more collaborative form of politics – for a whole range of reasons – too busy, too self-interested, too-stuck in their ways, too apathetic. The list goes on. The troubling thing about this argument is that I think it’s 100% correct. It’s true most people won’t – for all those reasons. On the face of it this alone could be a good reason to abandon the project as a fools errand. But then I remember this one important fact – for this project to be successful, we don’t need most people, we just need a small percentage of New Zealanders - say about 7.5%. That would be sufficient to prove the concept. I believe that once the concept has been proven many of the naysayers would see the merit and we might be able to reach 15-20% within a decade or so. Would 7.5% of New Zealanders be prepared to try a new approach to politics? I firmly believe so. The challenge for us now is to find and bring them together.

Doubt – Is this as good as humans can do?

Finally, I sometimes wonder, have humans simply reached our limits in terms of political organising? Can we really innovate further? Well, maybe we have reached our limits, but it seems quite unlikely to me when you consider the progress that we’ve already made. In fact, the leap from being ruled subjects by kings and tyrants to being truly self-governing people is a substantially bigger leap than evolving and refining our methods of self-governance. Likewise, the development of human rights, as well as other incredible technological advances suggest that we have miles of unrealised political potential ahead of us. In any case we won’t know unless we try.


In short, yes there is a problem to solve, yes there is unrealised potential, and yes we can do it. The project is worthwhile. Keep going. Don’t give up.

You can support the ideas OneAction is presenting by joining the monthly TallyUp™. It takes less than two minutes per month. Once enough people support the idea (as indicated by the TallyUp), we’ll move to the next stage.

Ngā mihi nui