Julian Blanco


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Why don't we use technology to have a real Direct Democracy?

In democracy’s origin, all citizens gathered together to make decisions on relevant matters.
As populations grow this became impossible and the best choice to keep the model was electing representatives.
We currently have the technological capability to have a large part of the population or may be all the population (if we talk about cell phones)of many countries making choices real-time on topics each individual is interested in.
So we have a chance to get back to the ideal democracy and avoid many of the problems that arise from the representation model.
I think it’s time to get at least a hybrid model where people can easily and massively participate in the decision process.
I’m very interested in the TED community’s perspective on this.
the perspective is science based, publicly open and available to all.

A fine example here (thanks Lucas):

http://CitizenME.org (thanks DK)

Other links provided in the posts:



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    Apr 16 2011: Great idea that I've been pondering about for a few years too now...

    Here is a list of links I posted in a similar topic:

    I would add "science based, publicly open and available to all" or something...

    Actually here is my take on it:

    1) Put all laws of a country online
    2) Translate them to understandable language (for non-jurists)
    3) Link the laws with the corresponding themes and search words
    4) Let people discuss by topics and own chosen areas of expertise (much like Quora)
    5) Proposals of people get voted up or down
    6) Add the scientific data (psychological, economical, sociological, historical, biological,...) and debunk the ideas, do the math for finance... => this is the BIG work. Suggest the crowd does this together with administration

    7) What remains should be better than before
    => Law gets changed,

    There are a lot of ifs and buts, but it might be better than current systems.
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      Apr 17 2011: The modifications to the Demoex system that you mention are good ones, but it makes me think about all of the difficulties that could be associated with this. For example, it wouldn't be a very simple thing to put all of the laws of a country online, and then translate them into common language--jurists use really technical and precise language by necessity, and in any case, the text of some laws are soooo long that the representatives rarely read most of them....how many busy citizens would take the time? I'm not sure. There are a lot of other problems which would arise from the lack of general expertise and interest regarding some of the laws which would be debated; it's really daunting to think about.
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        Apr 18 2011: True mr Shamploo

        It would be difficult, but not impossible

        It might take mess than the total amount of World of Warcraft played thus far...
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        Apr 21 2011: So, in other words, I hear you saying "some of the laws are too long and complex for the average person to really understand". Is it just me, or is something fundamentally wrong with that? How can we expect people to follow laws they can not even comprehend?

        Perhaps making the laws in such a way that everyone CAN understand it (as tested by such a system as proposed) should be a pre-requirement for a law to be passed.
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    Apr 21 2011: in that case... whom will we blame if a decision went wrong....if minority gets unnoticed... every nation will have some kind of minority community, who will talk for them? and do all we citizens can show the responsibility like a politition have? they are dedicating their life for public service...can all we do the same? we have our own problems and family/job related commitments..maybe some of us can turn into a part time politition.... polititions are inevitable for a democratic system..ONLY LEADERS CAN LEAD...its not just that population has increased its because that leaders are inevitable in democracy...
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    Apr 19 2011: How To:
    Fund a party Demoex style
    TED talk by someone implementing this
    TED active project
    Add “citizen training” to the curriculum (DK)
    Info should be shared ASAP to evaluate for accountability
    1) Put all laws of a country online
    2) Translate them to understandable language (for non-jurists)
    3) Link the laws with the corresponding themes and search words
    4) Let people discuss by topics and own chosen areas of expertise (much like Quora)
    5) Proposals of people get voted up or down
    6) Add the scientific data (psychological, economical, sociological, historical, biological,...) and debunk the ideas, do the math for finance...
    Start local
    Needs to be refined thru trial and error at small scale
    What should we decide about?
    Universal access to vote
    Social network format
    Protect anonymity
    Open source system
    Who should manage the system?
    Clear success metrics
    Build a priority list
    Need check and balance? How?
    Which power should be engaged?
    A system that tracks the votes of representatives and shares the data.

    People don’t have the knowledge/capacity/education to deal with the responsibility (the most persistent con by far)
    People don’t have the time to understand and vote
    Media Influence is so big, it will lead the decisions
    Some things (diplomacy) should be secret
    Complex terminology of the law
    Minorities and rights protection
    Difficult to plan long term
    Decisions would not be made
    Electronic fraud
    Too many decisions
    System data overload (massive participation in discussions)
    Less need to discuss and reach agreements

    People would make their own decisions
    information will be shared
    Decentralize decisions
    Can connect and empower people
    People know best what they need/want than a representative
    Less influence from parties
    More control / less corruption
    Lobbies would lose power
    People assume responsibility
    Growth of interest groups/ nontraditional media
    It would be cheaper
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      Apr 20 2011: Julian..great idea to try and summarize especially on a big topic like this to which many have contributed. Also did you add all the links at the top? I think that is a good idea as well. You are a wonderful moderator of this talk.
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        Apr 20 2011: Hi Lindsay,

        yes, all the links are on the main idea (not enough space for the links and the summary).
        I'm glad you liked the summary, I spent a few hours at it.


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    Apr 18 2011: some times diplomatic decisions cannot be shared with the public. considering its highly confidential nature.
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      Apr 18 2011: Even in such cases, a lot of information can be given. And we can ask for recordings to evaluate after the diplomatic decisions have been made and taken effect.

      It should be made available after a few years
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    Jul 1 2011: Hey Julian, Still a little time to build our recrd on theis exploration and here is an excellent article on Iceland's wonderful experiement in Direct Democracy in the rewriting of their consitution. This link refers to three other artciles about it tigether with abrief commentray by Tom Atlee.

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      Jul 1 2011: Nice, Thanks Lindsay!
      • Jul 6 2011: All over the world, electronic direct democracy (E2D) parties have been started independently at local, regional and national levels, inspired by the collaborative potential of the Internet to bring true direct democracy to the political arena and give power back to the People.

        Demoex in Vallentuna, Sweden (local): http://demoex.net/en
        Online Party of Canada (national): http://www.onlineparty.ca/
        Citizens for Direct Democracy, Belgium (national): http://www.directdemocracy.be
        Senator Online, Australia (national): http://senatoronline.org.au/
        Aktiv Demokrati, Sweden (national): http://aktivdemokrati.se/
        Partido de Internet, Spain (national): http://partidodeinternet.es/
        Online Reglemented Party, Romania (national): www.votdirect.ro
        Svojpolitik.si, Slovenia (national): http://svojpolitik.si/

        Direct democracy is coming soon to a country near you!

        "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come"
        - Victor Hugo
        • Jul 19 2011: Having helped to build and propagate the Internet for 20 years I wonder why people trust it so? I certainly don't. How do you verify the person casting the vote electronically is entitled to do so and not just a server set up to influence the vote? If I can build one I am certain others can too. It has been said that opinions are like noses. Everyone has one and they usually smell.
    • Jul 19 2011: That's a funny quote but your point is invalid.

      Your concerns about identity verification is directly related to anonymity. In fact, I'm surprised that more people haven't stated the obvious when it comes to e-voting: the problem is not the Internet, the problem is the "secret ballot". If you get rid of the secret ballot, you effectively get rid of all technical arguments against e-voting.

      Let me put it this way, when citizens (e.g. candidates) run in elections, win and eventually vote on legislation in Parliament... they become "legislators", right?

      If instead, we allow citizens to vote directly on legislation via the Internet (as opposed to electing politicians who will in turn vote on legislation on our behalf), then WE the People become the "legislators", right?

      So why should our votes be kept secret?

      Surely, you wouldn't accept that the identity of politicians and their votes on public affairs be kept from the "voters", right? In Canada, for example, you can keep track of how your Member of Parliament (MP) voted on each and every Bill ("Yay", "Nay" or "Abstention") by visiting the Parliament website: http://www.parl.gc.ca

      And even if someone did manage to hack into the Parliament website and changed the votes, individual MPs would know how they voted and someone would alert the website administrator that there has been a breach in the system. Laws wouldn't get passed because of a hacker or webbot; the administrators would simply revert the votes and enhance security accordingly.

      Similarly, when a member votes on an issue on the Online Party of Canada website (http://www.onlineparty.ca/), their vote is displayed for everyone to see. To address the issue of identity fraud, for members' votes to count toward the official position of the party, citizens first need to fill out and sign a paper membership form which can be cross-referenced with the National Registry of Electors. Therefore, only eligible citizens can officially register and hacking is futile.
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    May 9 2011: Great discussion!

    The use of technology for the purpose of achieving more and better public participation is a very exciting area. In 2009, my company launched ParticipateDB (http://participatedb.com), a collaborative catalogue of tools for participation. The site aims to keep track of the ever-increasing number of tools and how they are being applied in practice. At 150+ tools, it's quickly grown to become the largest database of its kind world-wide.

    You can follow our progress here:

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/participatedb
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParticipateDB
    Blog: http://blog.participatedb.com

    Please check it out and let us know which tools or projects we're missing. Thanks!
  • May 4 2011: There is one thing that is in my opinion the number one reason against a direct democracy and the reason why I am against it: fear.

    For example the fear of the Swiss of Muslims which led to forbid building of minarets in some parts of the Swiss. This is for me against human rights, and it was only possible, because a right-leaning populist party raised the fears against Muslims in the population.

    Also a big problem is, that MANY people just didn't care about it, and they don't vote. So it was (for me) Muslims against people that fear Muslims. And in respect of the association "Terror = Muslims" these days, the result of the elections is clear. I am quite sure, that many of the people electing there, did not even know, what a Minaret is, but voted against it, because people fear what they don't know.

    So as a conclusion, my main points against direct democracy:
    1. fear of the people is much easier to produce than comprehension
    2. people who are not interested don't vote, so you don't get "the real" opinion of the citizens
    3. not everybody can get into every problem (i mean its a full-time job for politicians [should be])

    I you wanna change the political crises in the US (we also have one here in germany, nearly same kind, but not as big), stop the parties depending on money from companies. For example: Clear is, when an oil company pays your election, you will not speak about global warming. And the people living in all these catastrophe areas in the US, they pay the bill.
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    Apr 25 2011: Julian..and all who have read or contributed to this post..what if we could actually pilot/model direct democracy by e-voting for each element in the model democracy ? what do you think about listing each "proposition" that has evolved and asking people to vote yes or no and also indicate whether they have read the whole thread. Would be a great test of the debate about the wisdom of the commonman and whether discussion and discernment. Perhaps the Converstaion moderators could help us figure out how to do that. My theory is that tgere are many more people following these conversations than are actually posting and that this discussion has reached a larger audience than those who have been a active participants. Worth expoloring?
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      Apr 28 2011: Hi Lindsay!

      Let me see if I get your idea (my English is not perfect): you want us to use the TED site to cast an e-vote on each aspect of direct democracy?
      If that is correct, propositions equal how would the structure/model of this democracy be.
      Hopefully I'm getting it right, please confirm :)

      I think the main issue with your proposal is that people commenting and reading are probably not the average citizen (by quantity).
      On the other hand I think it makes total sense because the people that will predominantly participate in this type of political system will be involved and educated citizens (like the ones reading this).


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    Apr 15 2011: Hi Julian!
    Do you know about Demoex?
    If you don't, I encourage you to take a look at this, it is very related to your idea (good one, by the way).
    Tell me what you think about it!
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      Apr 15 2011: Hi Lucas:


      looks great!!!!

      We should get one of the funders speaking at the next TED (how can we do that?), and also spread the word!

      (I personally didn’t love the format of the page, but that’s just my opinion).



      PS I want a t-shirt from the original campaign
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        Apr 16 2011: Hi Julian, you're welcome!
        Definetly, that's an idea worth spreading, I'll find a way to get in touch with TED and recommend it, good idea!
        I didn't like the format too, and they should invest on it, most people don't know about them and it would be great to make them well known in the world.
        Is there Demoex or something similar in Argentina? I'm looking for more of this systems, there are some being used in condominiums here in Brazil. You know, I think it should be expanded, not only to governments and politicians, but to local comunities too, like schools.
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      Apr 16 2011: Excellent, excellent site.

      I 'liked' it on stumble and was the first to do so, thank you Lucas for that link.

      Only wish it was implemented in the states.
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      Apr 21 2011: fascinating..thanks for sharing that..and so great there is a working model and expereience we could all look to.
  • Jul 21 2011: If anyone is interested in starting (or joining) an electronic direct democracy (E2D) party in your jurisdiction (local, regional or national), please contact us at e2d-international@googlegroups.com

    We have recently started collaboratively drafting up an E2D Manifesto based on these basic founding principles:

    1. Right to vote.

    a) Every citizen of the jurisdiction, recognized by law, has the right to vote on every proposed Issue.

    2. Right to propose law.

    a) Every citizen of the jurisdiction must be given an equal opportunity to propose an Issue for debate and voting.

    3. Political neutrality of the party, at the onset.

    a) The Party is not, at the onset, governed by any other principles than Electronic Direct Democracy;
    b) Once established, voting citizens will decide the direction of the Party in the democratic manner stated above.

    4. Political neutrality of representatives, always.

    a) When a party representative (e.g. candidate) is elected into legislature, the representative must always vote (e.g. on Bills) in accordance with the views expressed within the Party.

    5. Voting by proxy (delegation).

    a) If voting by proxy (delegation) is permitted within the Party, whereby a citizen may cast a vote on behalf of other citizen(s), there must be an official and public (or accountable) agreement between all citizens involved;
    b) Regarding delegation, the direct citizen’s vote on issues must always override the delegate's vote and a citizen can change their delegate at any time (e.g. Recall).

    6. Voting by (non)-members.

    a) It is recommended that only members of the party be allowed to vote on internal matters of the Party (e.g. Statutes, Constitution, Candidates, etc.);
    b) All Citizens and Members of other officially registered political parties (e.g. Liberal, Conservative, Labour, Green, etc.) are encouraged to vote on Issues while keeping their affiliation with their respective party; ensuring maximum representation of the citizenry.
  • Jul 5 2011: Wow! I’m really glad to have found this thread!

    In Canada, we have just recently started a new political party called the Online Party of Canada:


    It will be the country’s first non-partisan party and founded exclusively on the principles of electronic direct democracy (E2D): one citizen, one vote, real-time.

    Let’s face it, we could debate the pros and cons of direct democracy vs. representative democracy all day -- no system is perfect (thanks for summarizing the major issues, Julian!) or… we can start demonstrating the ideas of E2D in practice and provide a tangible option to voters who wish to partake in political decision-making between elections.

    Electors who disagree with direct democracy will still have the choice to vote for traditional parties and delegate their voting power to elected representatives, others can keep it for themselves or delegate it conditionally via liquid democracy. The fact remains, elections may be the only free and fair medium through which most of us can bring direct democracy to our countries (unless you live in Switzerland or have already some form of Citizens’ Initiative, Referendum or Recall law at the national level)… anything else would be undemocratic ;)
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    May 11 2011: wouldnt that be a bit easy to manipulate??? if not then its friggin ausome!!!
    • Jun 24 2011: listen to David Bismarck. THAT is the concept of the future
  • Apr 25 2011: The problem isn't the means of collecting votes. There are actually 2 dominant problems key to effective government.

    1. First is the problem of true democracy, which is, what do you do when really bad ideas become popular?

    2. That brings us to the twin to the first issue: How do we qualify people to analyze issues for public dissemination without the spin of biases or simple ignorance?

    Addressing 1:
    I believe that we need to test and qualify all public servants regarding all the aspects of logic/reasoning, communication, and the math skills necessary to perform effectively and actively work to improve both government
    and every day life, while these skills are taught just as vigorously to the public at large.

    Addressing 2:
    A comprehensive system needs to be developed of standards for human existence and behavior that are constitutionalized not just on a parchment, but in the development of all children of all ages and promotes diversity, while recognizing that actions that affect others and our environment are strictly limited to a range that promotes both our physical, social, and mental health.
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      Apr 28 2011: Hi Stephan, Thanks for your comment!
      My thoughts on your objections:
      1 I think it is far more likely that a small group of people push a really bad idea that a large group of people. I can happen in any case but I this is far less likely the larger amount of people you consult.
      2 the group of representatives also have biases and ignorance, why should we prioritize theirs vs ours? Also my guess is that the vast majority of the input in this model will come from concerned well educated people and not from the large majority, but that I’m saying all will have the same right, some simply are more likely to use it than others…

      About your solutions:
      1 the definition of that curriculum for representatives would be a big fight, and even if applied that does not address the neutrality issue. About teaching people to be citizens and vote I totally agree.
      2 agree in general terms, but you are adding values that are not necessarily universal, and that should also be debated, from a what and a how perspective.


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      Apr 30 2011: I believe that only your first question needs addressing Stephan and the answer is... let people make mistakes! Surely we will make better and better choices when we have to own the responsibility for the outcomes?
  • Apr 22 2011: The Swiss, who employ a participatory democracy allow and encourage citizens to take part in legislative decision making, even to the point of introducing legislation. They utilize a lot of referendums, some mandatory, and permit a number of ways to vote from the ballot box to electronic voting. I'm sure that our transportation systems will never be as punctual, or as functional but there's no reason that our governance system can't be. And you don't even have to get rid of the politicians but they will be marginalized..........and that's a good thing!!
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    Apr 19 2011: Hello Julian

    This is what Citizen ME is about. We are approaching the idea of getting everyone involved by working with very young children (and up) to inculcate a culture of participation: to get across the tenets of democracy as concepts and then add the complications.

    I think what we see now in our society is people who enter the conversation midway, ie, without the foundation that would help them think about the ramifications of actions and inactions - to themselves and others. Why the greater good is good for all.

    Please check out CitizenME.org - look at our videos.

    Tell us what do you think.
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      Apr 20 2011: Hi DK!

      Great initiative!

      Scary comparison between Public and Private schools… (I know this is anecdotal, but is it the same from a statistical perspective?)

      Questions for you:

      Is the content you mention open and available for everyone? Where?
      If we had a direct democracy, how would your current content work? Would it need to be updated?

      I’m adding your link to the main subject and the education need to the “how to” list.


  • Apr 17 2011: I hate to rain on everyone's idealism but as great as this idea is that technology can enable a "truer" form of democracy I must council that before actually trying to implement it one needs to wander the various chat thread, or real world sim's like 2nd Life, first. An attempt to engender this technological "wunderland" of political nirvana will simply be a chaotic morass out of which very little will actually get done.

    People argue that technology (read here communications and internet tech) will somehow enable more to "get done" by empowering more people. I would argue it matters little how much technology webs us together, ultimately it will be a few (hopefully) good people and organizations that will move the collective human animal/herd along. Most of said herd wouldn't know what to do with empowerment even if it was possible. The herd is too unruly as a group entity. Indeed, this may be heretical to say amongst this group but consider that a good majority of humanity could care less so long as their lives are not disturbed by events unrelated to their particular self-interest.

    But, having said that let me also say this. Technology, as the great enabler, does at its very least, allow for the "herd" to keep closer track of those who would lead it. And so by this a self-correcting (reading here "herd satisfying") set of feedback loops are established. The herd will always be lead by some sort of sub-group, but with technology and time it is a more informed and educated herd, and so mannered can contain any rogue elements in itself or its leadership. Current happenings in areas like the Middle East are proof of this....

    As for that leadership sub-group. Perhaps they subsume themselves within the collective? They lead by enhancing the opinion that it's the herd that has the control and leadership? Kind'a sort'a like the old adage about the Devils greatest trick was in convincing Humanity he didn't exist?

    Just thinking out loud.
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      Apr 17 2011: My first reaction was this is a jaundiced view of society. In the past certain groups of people have been marginalized and restricted from engaging in politics or even allowed a vote. My second reaction was time will tell. In the end good sense prevails over restricting people from directly participating in the world that affects them and their families and barriers are removed. The argument that humanity would not participate if given a chance is a weak one since most people participate in voting, despite often feeling that their votes don't count. Your other argument stating it would be chaotic should be challenged. Very often many voices can arrive at a consensus, look at controlled questions through census as a good example. If I look at the current US system where lobbyists with $$$ are the voice I think technology offers a better, more inclusive possibility.
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    Apr 17 2011: I'm sure all the technical issues about security and validation of votes can be addressed, and a lot of people have commented on the other problem - the one sitting in front of the computer. While I share the concern that most of US (not just THEM) are not qualified to make informed judgements, does that mean that we shouldn't be allowed to?

    For example, most motor accidents are caused by a failure of "the nut behind the wheel." Most people are not really competent to take control of a turbo-charged one-tonne killing machine, but it happens all the time. Every time I ride my motorbike across town, I suffer at the hands of selfish thoughtless morons (I'm being polite about them) intent on putting their own interests before mine. These are also the people who vote for politicians who promise more spending on roads, or cheaper fuel.

    But nobody is proposing that we take away these people's power to kill, maim, pollute, consume, etc. Why should we deny them the chance to participate directly in the legislative process? Does anyone really think they (WE) can really screw things up more than our elected representatives have already?

    Let's be honest, politicians are mostly unimaginative, selfish and not particulary intelligent people. They are paid to be short-sighted and overly-simplistic in their understanding. That's OK, because we can blame them when we don't like the results and even replace them with someone else. But what if everything that went wrong was OUR fault? If there were nobody else to blame, would we become more thoughtful?
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    Apr 15 2011: Mostly due to the amount of time needed to spend researching whether or not a bill is actually a good idea or not. See Colorado's bark beetle problem, this is most likely (but not "scientifically proven") due to strict regulation on thinning the pine tree population, or more publicly "deregulation of the forest industry." Bush passed the bill in the early 2000s to thin out the pine tree so this problem would be prevented, but the public saw it as an outrage, and just another blindly signed bill, as he did with so many others (he only vetoed one bill in his first 4 yrs in office). Well due to protesting the population reversed the legislature and within 4 yrs the pine tree took off, with that the bark beetle did as well, and today most mountain sides in Colorado and throughout the west are covered with drying dead pine trees (very sad sight) which as you might be aware is an extreme fire hazard. I know this is an isolated incident but I think it shows exactly why the population, while it intent is honorable, may me more of a detriment to itself, if it blindly made decisions without a team of experts to weigh the pros and cons of every decision concerning them. In summery my short answer is because.... Who has the time?
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      Apr 16 2011: Hi Alex!

      You reminded me of the film Dogville 2, the part where the girl cuts all the trees to have fire during winter… (nice movie, a bit depressing, but less depressing than the first one)
      What you are saying can and will happened, and even happens when you only have the experts and it is worst if there is anything for them to gain. I think a large part of the environmental crisis worldwide is related to this type of decision, and in most cases the population did not directly influence the bills.
      Regarding the time issue, I don’t mean you have to vote every single bill, just the ones you are interested in, and we could prioritize as well.
      You have the time to write that long post, and read my answer :)
      Also having the chance to make your own choices, would you ask someone else to make them for you?
      There are many challenges to this, but I think it’s an interesting topic.


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        Apr 16 2011: Don't get me wrong I think this is a great idea, I mean early democracy was idealistic in that every one really had a voice and voted on every topic, so much so that the first empire to adopt it pretty much took over the known world. The problem with democracy is that the more populated the nation gets, the more corrupt its government gets. I am sickened every time I hear about a senator taking... well lets just call it what it is, a bribe. Hillary Clinton rallied for affordable health care for 6 years, but when it came time for her to try and get elected she took almost a million from health care lobbies, and as if over night her attitude changed about it, and called her past "ancient history." so yes I agree something has to be done about this type of legal / hard to prove corruption. That being said I still find myself playing devils advocate if nothing else to provide a compelling argument to get people thinking.
        I don't believe we can successfully "prioritize" because fundamentally this is just as bad as govt corruption. (currently who ever has more money wins the vote) as the new game would be who can spend the most money on persuading the population to vote their way. Truthfully if you would like to end corruption then end Americas addiction to corporations. People believe they want a Utopia until they get it.
        Yes I have the time, but don't look at me as an example for Americans, I'm blessed with a job that allows for a lot of "free time."

        Thanks for the great conversation... I just hate it when people take conversations into arguments but you don't seem like the type from what I've read.
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    Mar 30 2011: Dear Colleagues

    I trained as an accountant about 50 years ago. Now the technology to manage data is about 20 billion times more powerful than when I started my career, but the utility of information is back in the stone age. Useless media stories and misinformation are more prevalent that metrics that matter. Big people with wealth and power are in the news, not the average person going about their lives ... but in the end it has been youth with education and aspirations but with no jobs and no hope that are changing things ... and it has been AlJazeera English that has helped me understand.

    I want to see better metrics about the performance of society ... not just corporate profit, stock market prices and GDP growth ... but progress and performance of society in improving quality of life. I call the system TrueValueMetrics ... a system that goes beyond money to value, and looks at performance from the perspective of society or community rather than simply through the perspective of business performance. As in money accounting, the balance sheet is important. Progress is the change in the value balance sheet over time. People and quality of life are represented in the balance sheet ... as well as all other resources and all constraints and lack of resources! .

    With modern technology this sort of data processing is possible ... even easy. With good system design this can be made to work while reducing data overload from extraneous misinformation!

    Peter Burgess
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      Apr 6 2011: Hi Peter!!!

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      I agree with your statement about the need of better metrics defining what a successful society is.
      Those metrics will be by definition built upon values, (thus not universal, though we can agree on them as standards).
      Democracy (any form) is also a proposition based on values, do you think they are universal? And within western countries do you think the value/ideal of direct democracy is universal as well?

      Would like to hear your ideas on this.


  • Mar 30 2011: Ok so I've studied a little on how technology can improve democracy and most of the arguments focus on improving the deliberating process. Consider that Democracy is essentially a consensus building process through open communication. If so then the more people deliberate the more consensus is built and thus the more efficient the system of consensus becomes.

    The first sort of mass communication technology was the book, newspaper, radio, television, internet etc. etc. With each advance democracies have communicated more and more. Other bloggers are right to comment that direct democracy, like the ancient athenians using black and white shards, or our using cell phones have one problem - they represent feeling more than reasons. Direct democracies are more reactionary, less deliberative, than representative democracies. The inherent flaw with direct democracy is a lack of judgments and rationale. In terms of decision making process direct dems make less sense for long term planning.

    So whatever tool - tv, internet, radio - we have for deliberation, our outcome depends on how we use it. If the technology allows for greater consensus building - arguing out differences, coming to agreements, or even creating new arguments - this is good. If for instance people could en masse vote for bills and laws etc. on their cell phones or any personal electronic devices the problems of long term planning begin to crop up. Users, citizens, people, whatever we call ourselves - participants of a system have to have a more logical, bigger, long term picture before correct decisions can be made. Regardless, there is a tendency within any media, democracy or system for power and control to get concentrated in fewer hands - e.g. diminishing returns. Internet tools could go the way of tv and get owned by a few companies or newspaper and get wiped out with some new tech.

    I suppose the argument boils down to one question - what kind of democracy and government do we want?
  • Mar 23 2011: I have often thought about this idea, and it has become increasingly obvious to me, that it can only work if we decentralize states as much as possible. Direct democracy cannot be successful in a world where a growing number of desisions occur on a country wide, or world wide level.

    The closer to home, the more personal the desisions people make, the more likely they are to take advance of and appreciate their freedom to make desisions in the first place. Rational ignorance, deliberate ignorance about important issues, because a person feels disconnected from the issue, is a huge problem in representative democracy, and theres no reason to think it won't be a problem in direct democracy. If your vote is only one in a 300 million, your not likely to see much value in voting in the first place. And you're far less likely still, to see value in investing an adequte amount of time to really understand an issue, inorder to be prepared to make an "informed" desision.

    Further, there are a great many issues goverment deal with, that are extremely complex issues. That require a great deal of background information inorder to fully grasp. And in these situations, I think direct democracy might just be a terrible approach. I definetly think theres some value in having informed, well educated representatives, that are forced to make some effort to compromise the conflicting desires of its citizens. Rather than just leting the majority have its way.

    So I think theres wisdom in advocating a, " hybrid model". Where authority on most social issues is localized, and under direct democracy. And issues that require you to make a day job out of getting a proper handle on them, or require you to look at things from the bigger picture, are continued to be addressed by elected leaders.
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      Mar 25 2011: Hi Kevin!!!

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      My comments on your points are:

      Centralization Vs local: I really liked the idea of a “local impact” that can be preserved and empower the population as well as encourage participation. On the other hand I think mayor issues, country or may be one day word wide can and should have direct participation.
      Ignorance: you are probably right and that’s why we should counter balance the majority vote with some strict rules in order to protect the right of minorities of any sort. And that would still be a problem.
      Voters paradox (I’m only one in 300 million): I don’t think that would be the case, if you break down the decision process from today, where you have one big vote for a representative to make all decisions (I’m simplifying I know), to hundreds of smaller decision you can have participation only from people that are interested and will actually have a impact because they care about a matter that most people don’t. this group of “interested” people will likely know more and have a better idea on the topic (even if it’s not simple).
      Extreme direct: agree with you on this, running a government or let’s say the central bank, requires very specific knowledge, the question would be where is the line 
      I also agree that we would still need elected leaders.


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      Mar 27 2011: yes, exactly right..we can't all be on top of every issue and we have a natural tendency to focus most on what affects us directly. universal access to the legislative process, such as the LegBook I proposed here and at my blog would allow people to engage directly from where they live and work in identifying the laws under consideration which most effect them and particpating in the deliberative process..even testitifying at public hearings and participating in public hearings from where they live and work. we have no choice in large pluraistic modern democracies but to transfer our daily represntation to our elected officials but a system that allows us to stay on top of issues we most care about would keep our elected officials more accountable to local and community concerns.The idea and experience of community would be expanded as well. For example, the fisherman here on my island would have the experience of being part of a national communuty of fisherman and would be able to speak at a national level on what national priorities should be for american fisheries.
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      Apr 17 2011: I think you are correct, like others on this topic, in pointing out that the masses of ordinary people in any given country simply do not have the time or the expertise to weigh in on important legislation.

      Unfortunately, I don't think that your suggestion of leaving social issues in the hands of the people and direct democracy while the other issues remain in the purview of elected representatives in a 'hybrid' model is going to make sense: there is too much potential overlap between issues which are considered social ones and issues that are considered to be economic ones, for instance. Even something as seemingly straightforward as gay marriage can have economic consequences, so would that be something for direct democracy to handle, or representatives?
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    Jul 1 2011: Because we cannot control it. The people who want to cheat employ it to get their way leaving the honest to be run over by the corruption. Watch the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy.
  • Jun 28 2011: The basic flaws with the idea of direct democracy stem from old warnings. Democracy in and of itself a beautiful concept, much as Communism as written. Neither are truly practiced, democratic republics, representative democracies etc... abound but very few true direct democracies exist. When you ask why is when you arrive at the answer.
    1. Direct Democracy is a true mob rule. The most popular idea, regardless of the harm it may impart to the under represented, will become the policy.
    2. Most people in society do not have the passion or drive to be truly active on all the issues that they will be asked to form an opinion and vote. For a direct democracy to be effective the onus would be on the population to have as high a representative vote as possible for equality. Currently in the US we have voter turn out in the 35% range and consider that a good turn out. The problem is that the 35% figure is of registered voters, not total population. In the last presidential election, President Obama was elected by 20% of the population.
    3. The average voter is too ignorant (not stupid, there is a distinction) on the issues to make an informed decision and will be very easily swayed by the "American Idol" style of lobbying that would become standard. An uninformed voter would be more dangerous than a truly malicious voter. The uninformed voting block would be very easily manipulated by the best lobbying, regardless of the impact of the legislation.
    • Jul 19 2011: Majority Rule is the concept behind every democracy, so there will always be a minority. If sanity is a majority opinion, does that make the minority insane :-)? If only 35% of the population is sufficiently educated on the issues then that should be good enough for the other 65% that didn't take advantage of their right to determine their own future. Too many "unqualified" people voted for Obama just because he is black and not because he is an experienced Constitutional Law Professor/Attorney. I would rather have 35% that knows what they are doing instead of the ignorant masses voting for bogus reasons.
  • Jun 24 2011: in my view, the only reasons why we have parlamentarians, who are sometimes beraucratic, corrupt and overpayed is because most democracies today were founded in a pre-informatical age. We vote people in to congresses and parlaments to speak in our name, which, in the worst cases, dont do, using their power for their own good . Today, in the era of the Internet, people can speak fo themselves. Lets thing of a democratic model in which congressman and parlamentarians are´nt exist anymore´and the only known legislative are the people itself, everyday-joes like US.
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    Jun 14 2011: This is definitely the way forward, But I don't believe the political bureaucracy would willingly accept such a change which would limit their power.

    I believe facebook and similar platforms are already showing the polling of opinions and influencing trends. Though they may be limited to unorganized social pockets.

    It is more so required, as it can add a new paradigm of giving much needed priority to our choices and decisions. Atleast the constraint of technology being a limitation doesn't exists any more.
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    May 16 2011: The problem of electronic voting extends beyond the tool or website that is implementing the poll; we also need to worry about voter coercion. Today we vote in private booths with proctors available to make sure that one person is not influencing the vote of another. When voting goes online we will have to worry about coercion from spouses, employers and other bullies. "if you want to keep your job, vote blue!" etc.

    Think of how easy it is to game current online polls!

    To remedy this there is research being undertaken (that I participated in) at the MIT/Caltech voting technology project. Can we detect voter coercion, influence and general unsatisfactory voting conditions electronically?

    As was stated in an earlier post, it's all about trust.
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    May 12 2011: Actually when you see it this way, all we need is a Voting app for your country on Facebook. Its as simple as that, if you want to make it simple and participative.

    But when the question of reliability comes, would you trust facebook? Now if you dont trust facebook, whic evidently is the biggest social networking site, how do you trust a state owned portal for voting?
    You make one and suddenly you'l have the chinese (pardon me pointing fingers :P) hackers hacking and suddenly you'l have Sarah Palin for president, now how disastrous is that? :P My sad humour aside, i hope you get the point that just having the resources doesnt make it worth using them. When its a nation's future at stake, reliability and security and reach are way more important.
  • May 9 2011: What would you vote on? Federal issues? State? Global? The ability to vote really isnt the issue (in my humble opinion). The issue is awareness. Lets say the issue is a proposed tax hike by the state of X. All residents of X have the opportunity to vote to either pass or decline this proposed tax hike via their smart phones, tweets, etc. How do you inform the public of the details of said tax hike in a manner that someone other than an accountant can understand? I am not politically minded at all. The whole mess gives me a headache. If you asked me on the spot to vote for/against this proposed tax hike, I would have about 50 questions that would need answering before I could cast my vote. Every person has the ability to vote now without using their smart phones or the internet. It is a matter of getting to the polls and filling out your ballot. Some cant make it you say. Some dont have the time, the energy, the passion. Good. If you cant make the time, find the energy, generate the passion....I`d rather you not vote. The last thing I want is some citizen spamming "yes" to everything because his friends are doin it on facebook. I dont support enableing the ignorant any more than I have to via the Constitution.As to the mob mentality, your vote is your own. If you are the only person who voted yes against a million that voted no, noone will be the wiser unless you say so.The concept is wonderful, thought up by a man of average or higher intelligence and I applaude it. Were we living in a society that was predominantly full of proactive citizens that actually cared, I would support this 1000%. Unfortunately we are not, and for that reason I am casting my e-vote for no.@ Sarah Caldwell - Also why they tend to not make pink assault rifles. "This is serious buisness."

    Also, I cant speel to save my lyfe. Sorry for the typos.
  • May 6 2011: American Idol. McLuhon was right--the medium is the message. Make voting for issues as easy as liking someone on Facebook and the idiocy level will increase dramatically. Something about going to the polls and the people who check to see that you're registered says, "This is serious business."
  • Apr 29 2011: There is a project that started in January 2010 called Cyber Democracy which really is all about what you say: Why don't we use technology to have a real Direct Democracy?, and even going further, voting on-line wherever you are, through your smartphone. Here's the website: http://cyberdem.wordpress.com/
  • Apr 29 2011: We should reject the idea of direct participation in democracy. Sadly the population is too emotional to make sound unbiased considered judgements, we know it as the lynch mob mentality. One day maybe, but not for a few more centuries.
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      Apr 29 2011: Hi Shaune,

      That applies to indirect democracy as well (“mob mentality” also impacts current elections), so you propose a dictatorship, monarchy? by who?
      If we want non emotional non unbiased decisions, maybe we should have artificial intelligence.
      (by definition, no political decision can be “right” or “unbiased”, you need a value judgment which will hardly be universal)


  • Apr 22 2011: Actually, I'd be strongly opposed to direct democracy. It's not the ideal democracy. Far from it.

    Direct democracy is essentially mob rule. It is the version of democracy best described as "two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch". It suffers from the tyranny of the majority. This is exactly what happened with Proposition 8 in California in terms of the rights of homosexuals to marry. Rights or treatment of minorities is not something that should be left to the majority to decide. It must be instilled in the fundamental principles of the governing constitutions.

    It also suffers from the ignorance of the majority. That is to say, the more specific an area of knowledge or specialty, the smaller the minority who hold it. "The people" are great at identifying problems. They are the best people to decide who to hire to solve these problems. They are not the best people to ask how to solve the problems. The majority are not economists. They are not criminologist. They are not diplomats. They are not defense experts, or intelligence experts. They don't know what the best scientific data says about many health issues, or about environmental impacts. People in general shouldn't be expected to be experts.

    That is why we hire representatives. We hire them, via our votes, to bring their expertise at seeking out and aggregating relevant information, and to turn those into relevant policies. We hire them to recognize the pitfalls of proposed policies and bills, and to point them out.

    It's far from perfect, but representational democracy far exceeds that of direct democracy in terms of ideal operating conditions.
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      Apr 22 2011: couldn't agree less..i have more respect for "we the people" than that..more faith in the wisdom in each of us...a small post script..do you think the average freshman legislator is that much brighter and better informed than the average citizen? Have you been listening to what some of those folk have been saying??? Those are better more informed leaders than the average citizen???? And doesn't discourse elevate all of us? I know I have learned so much and grwon so much ove the few weeks I have been engaging in the e-Salon here at TED.
      • Jul 12 2011: If you could give some examples of why you think that the average legislator isn't more informed than the average citizen, if you could cite your source(s), then perhaps I would be more inclined to agree with you. There are people who make their living by supplying policy-makers with information. Through lobbying, legislators are able to gain knowledge of all sides of an issue from the viewpoints of the people who are directly affected, indirectly affected, and effecting the issue.
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      Jul 12 2011: Hello Andrew,

      I was really responding to the assumption that somehow the people we elect to represent us whether at the national or local level are somehow "more expert" than the average citizen.

      That comes from first hand experience.over more than a decade of being the "policy wonk" behind the scenes who actually makes elected officials look smart by writing their NY Times OP ED pieces for them, writing their testimony on important issues writing their public comments on pending legislation etc. etc. Most elected officials are :talking heads" whose talk is provided by others.

      When I wrote the post to which you replied many months ago, the freshman mid term legislators were just beginning to speak publicly. Michele Bachman for instance who seems to be even less well informed that Sarah Palin and on the strength of that is soraing to leadership and possible position at the highest level.

      Lobbying is a very poor way for a newly elected legislator to "learn" on the job. That information is biased and serves interests that not only are not the public interest but often contray to the public interest..

      I believe very deeply, as the founding fathers did, in the wisdom of the common man. I have profound respect for that. If each of us were actively involved in goverance and " we the people" made decisions on our own governance I know I would be a lot prouder of my country than I am now. Wisdm has nothing to do with education and I must say it is not taugt in law school from which many of our new legislators are launched.

      A few months ago when I first joined TED I posted a discussion on my proposoal for "Legbook" a way to reunite "we the peope" with our own governance. Also see the post I made here recently on Icelands expereiment in dircet democracy. It can work, it will come to pass. It is what we need.
      • Jul 14 2011: Lindsay, I wholeheartedly agree that the Founding Fathers had it right. Unfortunately you have gotten their position reversed. They specifically chose a republic to avoid mob rule and wrote about this in Federalist Paper #10.. To quote the Economist:

        "America’s Founding Fathers, especially James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, backed the Romans. Indeed, in their guise of “Publius” in the “Federalist Papers”, Madison and Hamilton warn against the dangerous “passions” of the mob and the threat of “minority factions” (ie, special interests) seizing the democratic process. Proper democracy is far more than a perpetual ballot process. It must include deliberation, mature institutions and checks and balances such as those in the American constitution."

        You can read more about real problems of direct democracy and government by referendum in the rest of the article: http://www.economist.com/node/18586520?story_id=18586520&fsrc=rss

        The details of Federalist Paper #10 are here: http://www.southsearepublic.org/article/17/read/short_essay_on_federalist_paper_no10

        You might also find relevant Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and John Stuart Mills' On Liberty that spend much time on the problems of the "tyranny of the majority" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority).

        Finally, the perspective from which I've come to the conclusion that direct democracy is a bad idea is via game theory, specifically the Prisoners Dilemma, which demonstrates that individual self-interest produces unstable and poor outcomes in areas where common agreement is required (as in legislation). This is discussed at length in (political scientist) Robert Axelrod's The Complexity of Cooperation (http://www.amazon.com/Complexity-Cooperation-Agent-Based-Competition-Collaboration/dp/0691015678).

        I hope that clarifies some of the problems and why it has generally be avoided.
    • Jul 19 2011: Does your representative serve you or the Corporation that paid for his/her election? Exactly how many of the governed take an actual interest in the elective process? The U.S. Constitution is one of the finest definitions of how to govern, but it takes an education and experience to properly implement it. We forget that from time to time and elect the idiots currently inhabiting Congress. Vote when the time comes, but know who you are voting for!
      • Jul 20 2011: Upvoted. Of course your rep, on average, gets corrupted by Corporate interests. That is a problem. But it is, in a sense the wrong question. The question is which alternative is in your best interest. Of course representational democracy has problems, but so do all forms of government. The question is, do the public on aggregate have better tendency towards expertise and evidence based policies rather than candidates for parties who have an interest in re-election and therefore want to perform well.

        The majority is not directly held responsible for their bad decisions. The majority of Easter Islanders who thought that cutting down trees would help save their dying culture didn't work. People in general are prone to a multitude of bad reasoning, from dogmatic beliefs to irrational economics, to susceptibility to "advertisement", popularity, rhetoric, propaganda, and confirmation bias. There are whole fields of psychology and behavioral economics dedicated to the poor decision making process of people.

        When it comes to running things, there are people who do know better. You take your car to a mechanic because they know mechanics. You get your hair cut at a hairdressers because that is their specialty, and you hire good managers to manage things, including the use of evidence for policies. If they perform poorly, they get replaced. Who do you replace when the majority fails to follow the evidence?

        The answer to corrupt representation is to demand more checks and balances. It's slow, and takes time, but if you are diligent and enough people care (and they will if it is bad enough), then corporate influence gets handled better.

        I agree wholeheartedly that it takes education and intelligence, and you should know who you are voting for. Don't accept mindless rhetoric. Demand understanding, explanation, and evidence. And hold them accountable to performance. That's how you make good government.
  • Apr 21 2011: Many of the cons spoken about in this comment thread are consequences of data overload. These problems are solved with the innovative application of Artificial Intelligence. Searching the web has been mitigated through Google's PageRank algorithm, finding new music has been mitigated through recommendation engines, etc.

    AI Agents developed as personalized representatives for each user will mitigate the data overload problems, as well as improve the ability for the system to deal with passionate minorities. These agents do not make decisions, but are simply assistants for each citizen to improve and streamline their ability to participate.

    The ideal system is that of a Dynamic Direct Democracy, where citizens determine their individual level of representation. This allows each citizen to choose whether they will defer to a proxy vote, or assume the responsibility to vote for each decision on their own. Representatives can be allowed to proxy vote on a single topic, multiple topics, or even all topics.

    We are making our framework available at http://code.google.com/p/pirate-politics/ In the future the functionality will be validated in peer-reviewed AI and eDemocracy literature.
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      Apr 21 2011: Frank..brilliant..how exciting..i had trouble following the start up...is there a demo up somewhere that shows how infomation is captured and presented?
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    Apr 21 2011: Good idea. I suggest adding to your proposal: self-chosen classes to encourage active participation and serve as a check on government: http://www.ted.com/conversations/453/a_self_chosen_class_system_of.html
  • Apr 18 2011: well there s no real trobles aginst that but the lack of the will whether it was by the people or the goverments and also the economic factor rpresented by greedy bisnese men or companies and loobies in short alot of sides benfits from the ubsent of real democrasy to solve this we need the puplic awarniese its all comes own to the people mind and what they think this why who ever ownes the media these days got the right to do what ever he want or the want
    excue my english
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    Apr 18 2011: Most modern governments have institutional structures designed to protect against the possible negative aspects of direct democracy. Among them:
    . representative government
    . bicameral legislatures
    . separate judiciary

    Would/could a Demoex type system incorporate any such protective measures?
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      Apr 20 2011: In our own governmnent these features were not to guard against "we the people"..but to guard against those we delegate to represent us from becoming corrupted by power and forgetting us..to keep the government accountable to "we the people" Might be fun to sart a TED project that is about building a modern democracy..iI have always assumed that in a large pluralistic modern democratic nation there would be no way around creating a legislature..that has been so from the beginning..but now I am questioning that and wondering whether through the internet communities of interest would emerge nationwide..and leadership with a depth of understanding and experience to legislate and regulate wisely. The judiciary has been part of democracy from Solon's first democracy but again I am beginning to question that...and for the same reason..that through the internet we would have access to the brightest and best legal scholars all the time and they would be interacting with the rest of "we the people" all the time. "We the people" would have the brightest, the best, the most articulate, the most eloquent to represent us issue by issue, Maybe our society has grown too complex and too pluralistic to be adequately governed by fixed institutions-by 12 judges and 500 elected leaders in two houses.Clearl modern society is too global, too complex, too pluraliustic to be represented by a two party system. I think it is worth opening up the idea of a throroughly modern democracy right to the foundation..from scratch...consitution and everything..( I love our consitution but no harm in revisting it line by line iand thinking about whether it is universal..whether it is all that needs to be said to serve large modern democracies. I am surpised t hear mysellf proposing such a radical idea but actually all this disvussion and serach and all this thinking we have done together here and in other " e-salons". seems to point in that direction.
  • Apr 18 2011: There a way to have Democracy using new technology. In the past a representative government was used because of the lack of technology either transportation and communications. Now we can have a representative govt if we have the ability to have a different elected official vote for on my behalf. An example might be that in order to become a Congressman(I am from the US so I will use my govt) one must gather support form at least 1,000 voters from your state and meet the requirements of a congressman( Citizen and form that area of the country age etc). When that is met one would be able to solicit voters to represent. Your track record can be maintained on how you voted for what issue and a voter can change and pick a different representative periodically if you are not voting the way that the citizen would like. Changes to your representative would occur only periodically so that continuity and stability of government is maintained. The percentage of citizens one represents from your area will equal the percentage of the vote you carry for you area. It is more flexible and able to adjust to the desires of the people. This would also solve the issue with transition that concerns many people. The government is there like it always was, just changed slightly to be more responsive.

    Regards Jamie
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    Apr 18 2011: I love the idea, in principle, of a full and open democracy. But in reality it can create problems. It simply isn't possible for everyone to know every parameter than can affect a decision. Even in our small volunteer fire department we have seen this happen. Any member can vote on any decision, so because of fear of spending too many donated dollars, ordering new safety equipment for our firefighters was voted down. This is a health and a safety issue, yet those who do not participate in actual fire fighting were able to kill the motion. There is a fine line between full democracy and allowing those who are wisest and most informed about a particular issue to make the final decision. And that fine line is different for every single situation.
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    Apr 18 2011: Great idea. No more central government with one-size fits all attempts to fix what isn't broken..
  • MR T

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    Apr 17 2011: Realistically I don't think any political system can be Ideal. As far as my interpretation goes, democracy in practice doesn't live up to the ideals that many advocates of it would so like it to. I think its in peoples nature do do what best concerns them and others in their immediate proximity. In this respect we haven't quite caught up with the worldview that adapting to globalisation needs if we are going to survive. If a majority have a more localised view of the world then voters will vote for whatever suits them personally (often choosing smaller short term gains than larger ones over a longer period). This means that democracy has the capability to produce outcomes that may not be in be in the interests of the population in the future. I would love to think that It could work however, I think your point about using technology to vote would perpetuate this problem.
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    Apr 17 2011: I offered this comment to another question 'Reinenting government - what would it look like'?

    My idea for government might look like this. The subject areas, defense, law and order, environment, employment, welfare, health, education etc., would all be required to create a list of reforms. The creation of this list would come from the input (through social media) from the public. The public would cast votes on priority of these reforms. Civil servants would research each reform for cost, environmental and social consequence. This information would be returned (without spin) to the public to vote for priority based upon the information provided. Civil servants would review this import and make implementation proposals based upon the prioritized input. The public would then vote on the implementation proposal that they preferred.

    Maybe this is a wild idea and maybe has limitations but I believe there are some merits with this approach.
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    Apr 17 2011: I've pondered the feasibility of a direct democracy which would utilize the internet before, but it was always just a playful and non-serious reverie for me. I never really imagined that any group would actually make an attempt to realize this form of representation! I checked out the links you provided, and Demoex seems like it's not only a brilliant idea, but a brilliant idea that's actually working right now. It's pretty exciting.

    The program seems basically sound to me. It would be easy to enfranchise all people since only a computer would be required to take part in this system. These could be provided at online centers throughout the country, where people could go in and vote for free--it might get expensive, but it seems viable. Literacy could be a problem, but there could be people at these centers to assist those who didn't know how to use pcs or read/write. The system could prove to be a tempting target for cyber-attack or hackers, so there would need to be some precautions taken in that area, but all in all I think that there is no reason a well-educated and technologically savvy country couldn't adopt the Demoex system.

    The management issues of the system is the thing that concerns me most. Conversations on some controversial issues could become absolutely massive, and therefore difficult to moderate, while other important but abstruse topics could possibly be ignored altogether....in order to properly use internet-based direct democracy, citizens would need to be incredibly well-informed about all sorts of diverse subjects, and I'm not sure everyone would take the effort, or be able to stay abreast of all the topics of the day.

    I'm glad to see that the Demoex initiative is growing, but I'm sure they will run into unforeseen difficulties along the way, as all experimental things do, and I can't predict them either. I think in the end that we would have to still allow reps some autonomy and initiative, especially at the national level.
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    Apr 17 2011: First of all Julian, great idea for a conversation.

    Now, about the Direct Democracy, I believe that the Demoex parties, which have been mentioned by Lucas and Taciano, are an example to be followed and a source of consultance in matters of logistics and tecnology related to the possbilities.

    The anonimity of voters must be protected, as there's still a lot of political intolerance in every country in the world. Being anonymous allows the people to feel more confortable while giving their opinions.

    The decisions submitted to public vote is also a great matter to be discussed. In my opinion, the Executive power should be exercised by representatives, the same it is today, since the number of decisions made every day is inconceivable with direct voting of the entire population.

    The direct decions would then be restricted to Lesgislative matters, such as approving or modifying laws. Even those couldn't be all directly voted, in my opinion, because the population would have very little time to discuss and get to the bottom of the proposals. The discussions wolud end up being shallow, and the votes, flatly thought over.We would need to select the most important issues, and get them to be deeply analysed by the population. Only with long and in-depth parsing of the subjects discussed we'll be able to make balanced decisions and making proper use of our right to vote.

    Yes, deciding which proposals to be subjected to the public vote is another situation. It's quite a banquet for
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    Apr 16 2011: Wonderful articles! I have also thought about this concept before. I am frustrated and disappointed by what tools we utilize to restrict ourselves based on "tradition". The government should meet the people....where they are. Not the other way around. So the next question is how do we implement it?
  • Apr 16 2011: YES! I have been arguing this for years!

    I've discussed this topic 100 times, I'm just too tired to write anything useful at the moment, might update later on.


    Oh, and as for the WHY, because those in power want to stay in power, and enabling a large part of the younger population to vote would threaten that power (and money).

    Online voting, with ample security, open source, online validation.

    Another suggestion would be to use it for many of the issues that would normally pass in front of state/federal congress.

    The goal is to eliminate corporate corruption and refocus the US on educational and develop a method of ensure everyone has a job which is well suited for them.

    Would anybody be opposed to a Government profile for people? It would be private and feature this kind of voting system and allow you to maintain your taxes/voting/insurance/anything else in one easy to find location. And devote enough money to it where it is secure, useful, and innovative.
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    Apr 16 2011: My big question here is how do you acquire transparency while using the technology? How do the masses still know 100 percent that their votes are being processed correctly? Direct Democracy. I still like it but wouldn't this also require an education that involves classes and/or lessons for understanding what it takes to be a citizen instead (like in America) of assuming every average hard worker can understand politics to it's full extent and potential?

    Technology altogether can and does improve the world as long as it is used in a positive manner, by positive i mean for the benefit of everyone within a nation, ideally the world, but let's start nationally.
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      Apr 16 2011: Very nicely put. A great example of your reference is all the unsubstantiated laws on the book today. When people vote without being educated, things pass that are not well thought out. This is exactly the avenue we need to pursue, I will do some research and come back to post!
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    Apr 16 2011: Definitely!

    There is so much unused potential in this. I'm thinking that a mix between these two would be amazing:


    With the opportunities inherent in the internet today for making people connect and collaborate, such a mix would be incredibly powerful - especially if the whole process was completely transparent and open.
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    Apr 15 2011: My first question is who is managing the technology? Which maybe prompts another question, how democratic is social media? My impression, I say this because I am not a technology expert, is that the social platforms do encourage discussion but I do get a sense that it is a controlled discussion.

    In old tech democracy people gathered in small groups and shared opinions, often times with some passion. If the passion was shared the group would get bigger and often mobilize to exert this opinion on the decision makers. Hi tech does the same but I would argue that right now it is efficiently coalescing groups. A good example is the U.S. political scene where The Tea Party Group (Republican) and the Democrats are both efficiently and effectively using technology to press opinion.

    What is interesting using these modern examples is that new technology is being used to get out a message that is fed to the supporters of each group. With this conclusion I wonder, which system was more democratic.
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    Apr 15 2011: This is a really interesting idea and I'm so happy to know that somehow it is already happening here in Brazil (as seen on the link sent by Lucas Avelleda: http://demoex.ning.com/).
    And just putting my two cents in the security question of the system, a great way to ensure it is just providing the code as Open Source.
    This way, everybody can check if it is safe and propose (voting) something better if not.
  • Apr 15 2011: I'd agree with you that a hybrid model is the best way to go, because it is clear we need representation to some extent. Considering corruption has destroyed the ideal representative democracy, it is in society's best interest to utilize technology to directly involve the general public in at least making some key decisions.
  • Apr 15 2011: This topic is super interesting, but as the thread become longer, a lot of petty problems arise that demotivate efforts.
    The human factor is critical in any form of government, be it socialist, democracy or dictatorship (one thing i remember from my Public Economy lessons is the most efficient form of government is actually dictatorship, i might get that wrong; arrow's theorem or something). Therefore the human factor must be addressed first! and it takes GENERATIONS to do so!

    Every human is different in one way or another, but some socially related principles or values remain firm and timeless. eg Lying is bad, stealing is bad etc. But what has changed? in my opinion, individual's conviction towards these principles/values/beliefs has deteriorated. We became (including myself) different person at different times and circumstances (there's thousand of reasons why we did it, but i do not want to dwell on it) and so does our conviction to principles/values/beliefs. These inconsistencies throughout society, domestic and globally, creates opportunity for moral hazards, thus we see all the evil doings of man worldwide.

    To sum up, we need to be the perfect society first, then the perfect government.

    (I might have been slightly off topic. Apologies)
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    Apr 15 2011: good question

    i think its because of fear and idleness (to change or do something)
    and I know that its because we generally think that we dont need it

    : ( many has to change before it will be even discussed publicly for real :(
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      Apr 15 2011: Hi Jen!!

      As with the user generated content, there is a small percentage of very active and committed people out there, they won’t be idle by any means (my guess).



      PS I always prefer to make my own decisions when I can, I’m sure many people agree with me on that.
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        Apr 15 2011: Hi Julian
        so you would sign your name under this statement (i bellieve) :

        " I will rather be sorry for what I said.
        Then, be sorry that I didn't said anything"


        (I hope I express it properly, despite my English :) )
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          Apr 16 2011: Absolutely :)

          (I'm not a native english speaker either)
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      Apr 15 2011: Hello.I think democracy is determined by many kinds of items.Such as political system,the power of the civilization,and different parties just consider the benefits of themselves.SO,i mean it is a hard nut to crack.
  • Apr 8 2011: I think this is truly exciting time now watching the people make greater change with the use of these technologies. Democracy is not for the lazy,you need to be steadfast and determined. Nothing will work without compassion, empathy and the desire to help are brothers and sisters for humanity's sake not wealth or power. But we now have the tools to communicate in seconds not weeks or years. We can now see in real time how most the people in power are self motivated, few work for the people that put them in these positions but now there is a bit of quicker accountability.
  • Mar 30 2011: Julian - I am extremely curious and conscience of and about this subject. This is an extremely powerful and dangerous idea to those in power. I have scanned most of the discussion and while I agree with many of the views I think they are missing the real solution to the problem. People cannot rely on government to facilitate their needs and dreams for a more efficient and earth friendly world.
    WE as voters in a our republic of the Unites State and other voters in their communities, need new technology and/or the use of existing technology to organize our many wonderful thoughts and compile them into a useful group of ideas and "agreements" to connect us towards a common goal. It is possible through the internet and computing but politicians will NEVER change politics. This cooperative communication could unite people and organize them to vote for leaders though a researched, organized and agreed upon route to the achievement of set forth goals. We could bring new non partisan leaders to power hold them ACCOUNTABLE to make change that we as a large group can then demand and remove them if they do not. Partisan politics is for powerful, the politicians and the corporations. Politics based on issues would be for the people. Julian - lets organize and begin this mission!

    all responses appreciated,
    Lewis May
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      Apr 6 2011: Hi Lewis!

      I agree that this will reshape politics and make the representatives closer to diligent and smart executors of their mandate.
      I’m glad that you are excited about the idea, there are still many things to discuss and refine.
      Open questions to you:
      In the scenario of this happening globally, don’t you think that the notion of country will be deeply affected?
      How do you think we can protect minorities?
      Who should design the system?
      I agree that letting someone else guide you to happiness is a bad idea, but if you can’t get there on your own either? (wouldn’t people get frustrated at some point, what would happen then?)
      This should impact the legislative and executive powers, should it also impact the judicial system?
      Can we collectively set up a long term strategy (with many and complex components) and stick to it?
      Should we start local (city level) or global (UN), both?
      Is mass media weak enough that won’t be able to steer the public? Is that a issue?
      Should someone be able to veto and irrational decision if it were to happen?
      How should questions be asked to make the tradeoffs evident and who chooses the trade off positioning? (example, should we raise the salary of the teachers? Should we raise the pension of the elder? Etc, when asked alone people would tend to answer “yes”, when in fact the budget is the same and may be that the case is one or the other.
      In a crisis situation when is necessary to cut costs, increase taxes, lower pensions, etc, will the public be willingly agree with that?

      Regards and thanks for posting!

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        Apr 17 2011: You asked a lot of provocative questions so I hope you don't mind if I try and answer some too =p

        I don't think that this will necessarily change the notion of nationalism all that much, and the reason is that these online democratic systems would potentially generate a ton of discussion within any given country, so there is no reason that they would want to invite global participation into their discussions as well. It's going to be seriously hard to moderate all of that traffic and absorb all that info, so I think they will want to keep their systems closed. If we ever get to a global stage, then that would absolutely change the view of nationalism, but I don't think that will happen any time soon.

        I am very against this system being used to increase participation in the judicial process. A randomly selected jury of 12 is still best for trials, and ordinary citizens aren't qualified to have any influence over the business of judges.

        I think starting the system out at the local level and then building up gradually to a national one makes the most sense; this will give administrators the opportunity to fix any kinks that pop up in the process, and it will allow citizens to get used to the system and see its affects locally.

        I think that people will be completely unable to formulate or follow any long-term program, and that is a big drawback to the idea.

        The question about the mass media steering public opinion is a really important one; I think this would happen all the time and is yet another reason that the masses can't really govern themselves effectively.

        I answered what I felt were the most essential questions that you posed....the more I think about it, the more the idea of a pure direct democracy seems unwieldy and counterproductive. There simply aren't enough intelligent, responsible, informed, or serious people out there to make it work well.
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        Apr 17 2011: I do not see this as difficult. You might be surprised how well thought through the human population is on subjects that they really care about. If you want to get people more involved in citizenry then empower them to have more voice. Giving them more access through technology to add their voice to big subjects might end up being a good thing. Contrast this with most current systems is that they tend to be two or three groups who are whipped into following a party line. What you end up with is insufficient testing of crazy ideas and, on that basis, more crazy ideas are adopted.
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    Mar 30 2011: Well guys... if you're truly interested, as I know most of you are, I'll let you in on a bit of what's already been done:






    and the list goes on...

    Current positives:
    As of now, the government is becoming more and more transparent!

    Current negatives:
    It lacks complete "elegant organization" and to much control of the government over the citizens, this causes corruption. We must address these issues immediately and that's my aim. These talks have inspired my motivation, along with the stupidity of my beloved family and peers :/

    I've got a business concept for advertising... I was shocked to find out Ted has already begun to implement this concept on a short scale. Also, my newest logic is America for president... This is why I'm posting here.

    (fyi, website is not functional yet. I was suppose to take website design classes at my university but they switched my minor program to game development. I was the only person to get totally screwed by that, just my luck I guess ha!)

    I think we can all say, it's time America runs for president. If anyone's working on this, I want to help! If anyone would like to help me start, please do!

    P.S. Anyone read "Cognitive Surplus" yet?
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      Mar 31 2011: Dear Colleagues

      Good ... but these initiatives are all 'parallel' flows of information that help but also add to the problem of data overload. What is needed more than anything else is an elegant way of doing value accounting so that there can be easy and believable accountability that links decision making with results. In the corporate world this is what money accounting and management information does, and does very well. In society there is nothing like it, and accordingly decision makers are able to spin the decisions and spin the outcomes and nobody is every any wiser. Once in a while there is a whistle blower, but usually too little and too late. The need is for something that is independent, professional, objective and believable.

      Peter Burgess
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      Mar 31 2011: And yes ... I have spent some time understanding Cognitive Surplus and the other thinking of Clay Shirky. Very good!
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    Mar 27 2011: Laurence,

    When exactly did our government work better? During slavery, Jim Crow, blacklining, prior to woman's suffrage, during internment of Japanese...?

    Why is it a fact that "the vast majority" are so poorly informed? Could that be attributed to "savage inequalities" within our educational and economic systems?

    "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." -Thomas Jefferson

    Less than six months ago, I was not a TED person. I think I was just as curious prior to its discovery. Admittedly, I am a changed curious person after.
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    Mar 27 2011: Yes, exactly..it seems impossible to believe that with almost 100% literacy in Facebook and Skype we have not moved our political system to the same basis. Transparency is key to electoral reform and to portecting against manipulation of our legilative system to further the interests of the plutonomy. See my idea, LegBook, up here at Ted and also further up at my blog on modernizing democracy..www.lindsaynewlandbowker.posterous.com. LegBook proposes that from the outset the drafting of all laws be internet based and that all laws be written in plain english facilitating citizen investigation and comment even remote particpation in public hearings..
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      Mar 30 2011: We also need an easy system of accountability. Government money gets budgeted and disbursed under a cash basis system of accounting that systemically loses track of things from one year to the next. An accrual system of accounting with a set of balance sheet accounts round programmatic and budget decisions would help to have todays decisions followed up into the future ... and todays problems associated with the decision making in the past.

      The situation with public employee pensions is a perfect example. The contract terms were negotiated and agreed years ago by people who have moved on, but the contracts are valid, and if you believe in 'rule of law', these contracts should be respected! I say the old decision makers are accountable and should be put under pressure to explain themselves!
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      Apr 17 2011: I'm starting to feel like a bit of a buzz kill on this topic, because although I agree that, superficially, increasing the public's direct role in drafting legislation and performing representative tasks sounds like a great idea, I ultimately think that this will lead to more harm than good. This is simply because no country is simply made up entirely of intelligent and well-informed people, or even people who take civic responsibility seriously. I don't think it's practical to draft laws online; however, it would be helpful perhaps if laws that had already been drafted were posted online for civilian comment, in the same way that regulatory agencies post their regulations online for a period of public comment.
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    Mar 26 2011: Wouldn't it be an interesting angle in the existing system if a representative could or would run on the platform that they would make their decision, item by item, based on their constituents voting on each issue? I wonder if it would be feasible and how much the technology to assemble and record votes (like American Idol system) would cost?
    While it would probably be a novelty at first, people who had concerns about the issues would continue to vote throughout the rep's term of office and the rep would not have to spend as much time defending decisions. The work for the rep would be in clearly communicating the issues and the ramifications involved.
    This hybrid system would be a great and effective start to accomplishing your ideas Julian.
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      Mar 27 2011: hello again Debra..yes exactly..that's wht my LegBook proposal would accomplish..bill sponsors could get "stats" on each bill..the way we het stats on our blogs and websites..I even like the idea of using the "like" system which would give instant polling. By the way, very iteresting issues in democracy up your way..could be an imporant test of how a pluralistic multi party system might govern..(www.lindsaynewlandbowker.posterous.com)
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    Mar 25 2011: Two new ideas on the topic after reading the comments:
    1 how can we protect the anonymity of the voters? Is that still necessary?
    2 if we submit decisions to the public, which ones should we submit? A government (executive and legislative branch) generate thousands of decisions every year, should people participate in all? If not what should be the criteria to choose then?


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      Mar 25 2011: The first thing I think should be submitted to the public is a prioritization list of what we want to spend money on. 'Do we want to build more prisons or do we want to give health care to all children?" would be an example of a pairing. People are being taxed and have little control over the ways that money is spent by governments. I resent having my tax dollars spend on court proceeding for refusing to send criminals back to their country of orign while children who have never committed a crime need better schools for example. So I am suggesting that just as the World Econonic forum prioritized the order in which we should tackle the problems faced by humanity so should countries prioritize what that people want their money spent on within a country.
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    Mar 25 2011: becuase there is not one single goverment that cares what you have to say unless its what they want to say
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      Apr 6 2011: Hi Tim!!

      I respectfully disagree with you, at some point governments always need peoples support (thru action or inaction) to stay in power or make decisions.
      In the case of democracies I think that is evident, in other models I would guess they need it too but the expression of that support is different.


  • Mar 22 2011: Julian, thanks for starting this thread. This movie (released publicly on the web, FYI) "Us Now" really summed it up. A leaderless society where everybody is a part of the decision making process, and one where the best decisions can emerge out of seeming chaos, is possible.
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      Mar 22 2011: Hi Nikhil, This was a wonderful contribution to the discussion. Thanks for posting this link.
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      Apr 6 2011: Hi Nikhil!

      Great film!!
      I particularly loved the football (soccer) team from the UK.

      Thanks for sharing!

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    Mar 21 2011: Hi Julian,

    We are - Every meme goes as far as it's design, power and truth carry it. The nation states are being dissipated in a bath of truth from your fingers, Bettys eyes and my ears;-)


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      Mar 25 2011: Hi Peter!!

      The meme you refer to is direct democracy?


  • Mar 19 2011: Our government actually worked better before technology made it possible for voters to be so intimately involved in it.

    The fact is that the vast majority are not well informed about issues, nor do they possess a particularly high capacity for critical thinking. Far too many base their positions on ideological beliefs even when real world data contradicts those beliefs.

    The vast majority of people are not TED people, they're people whose understanding of issues comes from network news (some with a lot of bias to it), radio personalities with no credentials, and viral e-mails. They don't know history, geography, economics, or anything needed to make informed policy decisions and most of their arguments are based on logical fallacies such as post hoc, false dilemmas and ad hominem arguments.

    In the 2006 National Geographic/Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy, which surveyed people ages 18-24, a full 48% thought India is a predominantly Muslim country. 63% could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East. 12% couldn't locate Mexico on a world map and 21% couldn't correctly identify the Pacific Ocean. 57% couldn't find Ohio.

    Every survey done to assess what people know shows they know remarkably little. I frequently see people state "facts" that have no truth to them at all, because much of what people "know" is simply not true. The idea that people who have spent no time studying complex issues should influence policy seems naive at best and insane at worst. Our elected representatives study issues and have full time staffs that study issues, while the average American spends no time studying them. Whatever its flaws, a republic is a far better form of government than a true democracy.

    "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." — Thomas Jefferson

    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." — Winston Churchill
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      Mar 21 2011: Laurence, you make an excellent and staggeringly frightening comment. I am forced to agree with your thoughts regarding the average voter, however, I think it would be quite prudent to put the same test to our esteemed elected officials. Are they really any better, smarter, or ethical??
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        Mar 25 2011: Hi Greg:

        I agree with your comments, I think Laurence is implying “qualified voting” example: My vote is worth more than yours because I have a college degree, or even more because I have a PHD. On a different approach: is worth more because I have a masters in economy and this particular decision has to do with my general field of expertise. Even if that may sound interesting it’s very complex, in some cases unfair.
        Laurence, If I take your comment literally: I would love to have your confidence that the governing elected elite of the different democracies in the world has the best interest of the citizen in mind (if that actually exists).


    • Mar 22 2011: Laurence, I disagree with you. Please don't think every human on the planet is an American.
      Upon deep conversation, I've seen true wisdom and real solutions come from average on-the-street people in my country, India. The dumb ones are the people sitting in air-conditioned homes and offices, unfortunately they're the ones making the decisions.

      If we REALLY used technology, ex: extended internet access to every citizen, then I'm sure we'd have a much better managed society. A billion interconnected heads are always better than a small coterie.
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        Mar 27 2011: that's exactly right Nihil wisdom has nothing to do with education..fluency with current events is not wisdom it's a luxury that a few of usTed chatters and bloggers have..wisdom arises when "the whole tribe" considers ..when each voice and heart counts..the more voices the more wisdom..the closer we move to truth.You might enjoy exploring the work of the Co-Intelligence Institute and its founder, Tom Atlee who has written some very powerful essays on this subject. www.lindsaynewlandbowker.posterous.com
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      Apr 17 2011: Although it's tempting to think that a democracy which put power directly into the hands of the people to run their legislatures, I have to agree with you that it isn't the wisest idea. The argument that you made against it makes me think of what Alexander Hamilton used to his opponents who argued for more popular participation than the US Republican model provided--elites are needed to run governments and legislatures because the mob is basically too uneducated and/or disinterested. Most of the people who use this site would be able to make some use of the privilege of direct democracy of the Demoex sort, but it has to remembered that not everyone in the country is equally well-informed or thoughtful or serious.

      I still think that there is room in our democracy for more direct participation via the internet, I just don't think that the answer should be leaving everything in the hands of the masses.
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        Apr 17 2011: I think a great alternative that can be implemented with very little startup costs and disturbance, would be to make a web site that connects the people to the senator. If we used a gallop poll type voting system we could get a popular decision on certain legislature. this would be one of the many tools used by the senator to help make decisions.
        This system would be very open to fraud so you could limit the amount of votes to the number of registered voters in a geographical area, if the amount of votes for a geographical area goes over its limit then a point value is added per extraneous vote giving you a margin of fraud which can be taken into consideration... the smaller the geographical area you set the more accurate the poll will be.
        I know its not an accurate method but its the best you can do short of making people go to polling stations every week.
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    Mar 18 2011: One benefit of representative democracy is that the representative applies judgment. Self-interest is a major factor in individual opinions, sometimes in opposition of the 'greater good' (which is itself subject to opinion). An elected representative is expected to weigh the issue in its broadest context.

    This benefit is, perhaps, only theoretical. The elected representative also has certain self-interests.

    One implication of a change to direct democracy would be a greater effort by special interest groups to influence individual opinion. (Presumably, a redirection of campaign contributions to individual voters would be prohibited.)

    Also within a direct democracy, the news media would regain importance as arbiter of the debates that have been conducted in representative legislatures. This would require greater awareness of the credentials and quality (and objectivity) of media outlets.
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      Mar 19 2011: Tom how much more influence on a system can there be than the Supreme court authorizing corporations to be considered 'persons' and now to be allowed to support candidates themselves through advertising? At least with direct democracy we might reduce corporations to one vote.
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        Mar 19 2011: Debra, I agree that the problem of corporate influence is significant. I believe corporations should have a voice in the public debate, just as various advocacy groups do, and this should not be silenced.

        The fundamental problem is not with corporations per se; it's that larger businesses or industry groups have a louder voice and disproportionate influence. The majority view can be (and often is) ignored in favor of those special interests. The question is how to attenuate those louder voices.

        As I noted, direct democracy doesn't entirely solve the problem; but it does at least make the influence of special interests (of all kinds) a bit more transparent.
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          Mar 25 2011: Hi Tom, Debra!!!!

          Here are my comments on your posts.
          Tom, regarding the special interest groups, I agree 100%, and as they can’t do direct influence they would try to influence the main opinion leaders, which sounds better to me that campaign contributions.
          About the news media, I don’t know, today the traditional media is very influential, but with more specific decisions to be taken, that may increase the speed in which nontraditional media (social, blogs, etc) takes over in a more decentralized way and that also makes influence harder to implement.
          Debra: corporations would have to be very creative and involved to influence the decisions in this scenario, it’s easier to write a check and have a few meetings than chasing the top 10 bloggers, influencers on a toppic and get them to buy your story.


  • Mar 17 2011: Any computerized democracy will not give chance for political intervention favouring a preplanned result, if we are sure of information security. No doubt such technology will be very economic in all aspects, but unfortunately in all democracies things go by plans and never by voting results.
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      Mar 25 2011: Dear qanbaz:

      Thanks for your comment, but I don’t think things have to be always the same (nor can), people change, new ideas rise and technologies can have a huge impact on our lives and systems.


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    Mar 15 2011: I am all for this, Julian and yet I can see some potential problems with it. Technology fails and can be hijacked. People can be in accord in dangerous ways. For example, many people can have the same misconceptions and may not really understand the underlying issues.

    Still, I think we went to a system of elected representatives because time and distance necessitated it. We no longer have thoses issues so perhaps it is time for everyone to take responsibility for the governing of our countries.
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      Mar 15 2011: Hi Debra!!!

      My thoughts on your comments:

      yes, technology fails but we do our taxes on line among many other critical tasks. In most cases it’s good enough, so, even if not perfect, the result would probably be better than the current representation system in terms of citizen participation in the decision making process.

      Regarding the misconceptions I share your discomfort with giving difficult choices to the average citizen, but at the end of the day that is what democracy means, and the people that will participate in those debates/ choices is likely to be particularly interested and thus informed. The only thing that should be taken care of in this scenario is the protection of minorities and rights.

      Thanks for your thoughts!