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Is open-source governance a viable model?

Open-source governance, direct democracy, e-participation... there are several concepts that tackle the need for citizens to take charge of their own destiny. Is this what we should all aim for?

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    Jul 7 2011: .
    For your information: as a citizen from Belgium, I can testify to the fact that modern societies don't need governments.

    We've been doing very well without one for more than an entire year now (only Somalia has been without a government for a longer period of time).

    To everybody's amazement, the country keeps working very well.

    We've been the best performing economy of Western Europe, during this crisis. All this, without a government.

    This shows that a good bureaucracy, working without directives from the very top, can work, as long as it applies its own internal rules and as long as its managers listen to what the lower echelon of employees think.
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      Jul 7 2011: thats awesome! i blame all the good beer. really, good beer.
    • Jul 9 2011: I am sorry to say, I'm not current in World Politics Laurens, I'm much too busy trying to figure out what the hell is going here in the U.S.. This is really good news to me. That's more or less how I envision the world should operate. Governments being replaced by administrators who's only job is to make sure things are running well not as moral instructors with militias. I will look into Belgium and continue to drink the beer.
    • Jul 11 2011: Laurens, thanks for highlighting this case that to my knowledge is rather unique in recent Histrory (is it?). I am not on top of the subject however my understanding of the situation was not that there is no government, but rather that the country is left with the previous government, which cannot make any major decison. Close but different in my view, since there is a government to rule current affairs. The biggest issue I see being the impossibility to make policy changes (where I think the citizens should play a bigger, more direct role). The fact that the country runs with a government with limited power sounds appealing, but how sustainable is it? Policy stability seems good for some time, which I relate to the economic performance you refer to. But can the country adapt to external changes or take part to the European or further international scene without the ability to update/upgrade/renovate policy? I will be interested to see how this situation evolves. In the mean time, I will make sure I get more information on this - again - rather unique situation! Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted!
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    • Jul 8 2011: Hi Richard,

      Thank you for such great examples of new ideas and actions to improve our democratic systems. I will be reading your links as soon as I can.

      Meanwhile I wonder how does this system ensure people make well informed decisions and vote based on good information and long term vision rather than misleading or incorrect "facts" and short term selfish goals?

      Also, in the examples that you listed do people vote on ethical and moral issues like gay rights? My fear is that majority might not vote for what is right and fair but rather vote based on what traditions/customs tell us, or based on our cultural and personal beliefs?

      I hope Sweden will come up with working system that the rest of the world can adopt. We need something better in North America =)

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        • Jul 10 2011: It is good to hear that it seems to work. I agree that people could become more involved in the community and learn more about issues involved thou we would still need some experts or a good forum to discuss pros and cons of each topic.

          I think we can evaluate how well this new idea works by comparing its impact on the society and economy when compared to a traditional model of people voting politicians that make decisions on their behalf. =)
        • Jul 11 2011: Richard, would you mind translating your second comment for the rest of us? Thank you.
  • Jul 5 2011: Keep in mind that even open source initiatives (ie, wikipedia, firefox) have governing bodies that regulate who contributes and provide vision to the movement, otherwise there would be total chaos.

    I do agree that with the tools we have today, there can be much greater interaction between the government and the average person.
  • Jul 5 2011: The first step to running a governmental experiment is scoring empty land and some breathing room from existing governments. Sometimes that means a political revolution and overthrow. Other times, that means moving out to the boonies with a bunch of like-minded people and giving it a try.

    That said, our freedom of communication has far outstripped our freedom of movement. While this means that information and education can flow freely, the basis of authority is ultimately physical. Disseminated governance could have benefits, such as faster response time to issues, but has its own weaknesses - such as amplifying local bias and dissolving forces of authority that keep some people from doing really stupid things.
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    Jul 18 2011: I don't believe this, few years ago, I came up with an idea, to eliminatiing governments, and to have a random, citizen for each meeting, the contact is via SMSs-like device we invent (I don't think this is big deall)
    meetings' time will be known, every citizen will vote at the time of the meeting
    no need for presidency at all, and transparency is at its maximum
    • Jul 18 2011: I believe what you describe is largely covered by the concept of "direct democracy", where citizens are given the means (through Internet or other technologic solutions) to get directly involved in the decision-making processes impacting their lives, for policy-making or referendum-type engagements for instance. Still, when all is agreed and defined, someone needs to do something with it, execute it, organize it, coordinate it, ensure compliance, etc. Whith no government, would would do that?
  • Jul 6 2011: Open government may sound very pleasing to citizens, however, it is not viable. First off, the government must control its subjects/citizens in order to protect them from harm. As seen through recent media about wikileaks, many diplomatic ties were severed, and trust between nations, citizens and governments, was destroyed. The consequences of these actions may and most probably went beyond what an average citizen could comprehend. The actions of Julius Assange could have lead to delay of peace in the war, another conflict to arise, etc.

    However, i'm not saying government should keeps its people in the dark; they must find the correct amount of transparency in the system. It wouldn't exactly be safe if people knew where our nuclear missile sites were!
    • Jul 6 2011: "First off, the government must control its subjects/citizens in order to protect them from harm."

      I do agree that his actions have done a certain amount of damage, but I believe he would not have felt compelled to shed light on these documents if the actions of the governments were on the up and up. I do not subscribe to your belief that people must be controlled in order to protect them. Someone brought up Chairman Mao and how he traded grain for missiles, letting 100 million of his people starve. I'm sure his intention was not to starve his people but it was a means to an end and I'm sure that end was to be competitive against other nation's that already had nukes enabling China to defend itself and protect his culture . I do not want that type of protection. That's like protection from the mob and doesn't make me feel protected at all. You are on both sides of the fence here. You say " government must control it's citizen's", yet it must also be somewhat transparent. Which parts should not be transparent and what is actually going on in these hidden portions of the government? I have to tell you, I do not trust any group of people with that much power and the ability to keep things secret. Secrets are untold truths, omissions of facts are lies and lies at that scale are deadly. Don't you think?
    • Jul 6 2011: The definitions behind the various concepts in the introduction do not all necessarily express the same idea. Also, the words "the need for citizens to take charge of their own destiny" may have expressed a different idea than intended. I did not make a case to throw away the concept of a government in charge of implementing policies, but rather to make sure the citizens voice is expressed, heard and taken into account in policy making. Maybe open-source policy describes it a bit better.

      My ideal governance concept is one where the government serves its citizen. In reality though, soon after taking charge, too many government officials focus (around the world) tends to shift towards enjoying power and securing long term personal gain (often in the form of re-election and/or direct earnings). They can't just do "what they want" though... I tend to believe that everyone has a "boss", that "there is always a bigger fish", that they do serve someone. In my mental model, they serve those who put them in charge (because that tends to achieve re-election). In an ideal world that would be us, the citizen. In our current reality, in too many places around the world, things are a little less ideal. Private interests come into play, be it in the form of private fortunes or corporations, other governments, etc. which all have their own agenda.

      Long story short, the case here is for a greater (electronic?) participation of all citizens in policy making (not policy implementation), for transparent (electronic?) elections, leading to governments answering to their citizens, rather than others. Is this where we should all go? Is this a viable form of democracy?
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      Jul 10 2011: dewal, aside from the first eight words of your post, I couldn't disagree more with the rest. I challenge you to provide any valid evidence that "diplomatic ties" or any other useless clothing accessories were harmed by the WikiLeaks disclosures. For the most part, the few citizens of the U.S. who pay enough attention discovered that their government was not nearly as evil and underhanded as they might have suspected. That their diplomats at least had the appearance of actually working in the interest of mankind in many cases came as a shock to many.

      Imagine how truly tragic it would be if they had to remove a nuclear missile because it's location was discovered by the general populace. How awful it would be that you could not burn millions of distant people from that particular hiding place.
  • Jul 6 2011: Some system where power is not left in the hands of the few or where power is not even part of the equation would be nice. So open-source governance should definitely be on the table for discussion.

    "I do agree that with the tools we have today, there can be much greater interaction between the government and the average person."

    I agree completely, it just strikes me as odd. I thought " We the People, For the People, By the People". Did we fall asleep and allow a separate government to come in and rule the people? Again?