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January 2008
February 2008

2008-01-23 »

Voting and fairness

Some people think that in a democracy, getting more people out to vote is the most important thing. People who don't vote, they say, are "disenfranchised" - they don't think their vote will make a difference and they don't believe in the system - and this is a problem to be solved.

There is a problem here that needs to be solved, but I only wish it were so easy.

I rarely vote in national or provincial elections, but it's not because I'm disenfranchised. In fact, you could say I'm overly franchised: I feel in tune with other people to a great enough degree, and I have enough faith in the system that I believe it will work just as well with my help as without it. I test this theory with every election; I decide who I would like to win, and then I see if they win (both in my riding and "overall").

Usually the result is pretty close to what I see as the local optimum. Stephen Harper, for example, wasn't such a great choice of Prime Minister, but he was a better, more balanced choice than the other options we'd been offered. And pretending to be conservative for a while will give Canadians a much better understanding of what we really want next time around.

The reason this comes to mind is not the upcoming U.S. elections (if I was an American, I would certainly be severely disenfranchised, and I'd need much more than platitudes to fix it), but because I'm thinking about the culture of software companies.

Basically, I see most programmers like this: they want to program, and they don't want to be distracted. They want control over their destiny, but they don't want to micromanage their destiny. They want to be paid fairly, and that's more important than being paid hugely.

For programmers, neither selling your soul to a megacorporation in exchange for stability, nor entering into the nonsense of a startup in exchange for control and a 10% chance of striking it rich, is a good solution.

The thing that makes Canada's political system feel safe and fair is that I can vote, not that I do vote. It's much more about good options being available than about constantly trying to choose which one I want.

The question is, how to build a company around that principle?

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