Winston Churchill famously said something like “Democracy is the worst political system – except for all the others”
The simple idea of everyone in a society getting an equal say in how that society should be governed is a relatively new, and still fragile, concept.
Even the early Democracies of ancient Greece and the United States of America only included male, slave-owning landowners. Universal Suffrage is a very new phenomenon, little more than 100 years or 3-4 generations old.
Democracy provides a say (a “vote”) in who governs at regular intervals called elections. These are typically every 3-4 years and usually represent the sole chance to have your voice heard because, sadly, the ability to meaningfully affect things between elections is almost non-existent.
Consequently, Politicians know they have to go to great lengths to convince the people to vote for them, but are confident, once they are “over the line”, they can relax and not necessarily carry out all, or any, of the promises they made. People might be angry at the flagrant deceit that purchased their vote but nothing can be done until the next election, by which time many injustices have been forgotten.
Things have moved on for our societies since the original concept of a vote, especially in the increased ability, thanks to technology, to freely, easily interact with each other and with those who Govern us.
Democracy over the Internet
Let us contemplate, therefore, the potential impacts to our current democratic process that the Internet represents: a ubiquitous, freely-available interactive communications network linking all the members of the democracy together and with their leaders and potential leaders. The current tools that effect this communication across the network are Social Media services such as Twitter and Facebook, Instagram etc but, at its base, a secure, web-connected, bi-directional network could be constructed relatively easily using freely-available open-source tools without the need to register with and be controlled by, large US Corporations, especially when those same Corporations are demonstrating their willingness to host manipulative content.
Further, technology allows us to build robust networks without centres or key points of failure that survive parts of the network being compromised or lost. Anything can effectively be anywhere, and people can freely communicate with each other. Technologies, such as BlockChain, are available to ensure the system cannot easily be corrupted.
The Basic Concept of Web Democracy
In order to link the social internet to the democratic process, we introduce the basic concept of one person, one vote. For trialling and development purposes, the people might be members of any small group, but it would eventually be all members of a society eligible to vote. They would log in and be authenticated (correctly identified), and could then vote by clicking a button on the application or web page they are logged onto, to represent their position on an issue. Your votes could be requested on many different issues and as part of the many steps that might be taken in developing a policy. Rather than place one mark on a ballot once in three or four years, the technology would allow us to both indicate and change our preferences as often as desired and on a wide variety of issues with a click of a button.
The same technology would support the policy development process by providing downloadable background documentation. Chat facilities, blogs and social media would allow people to freely interact and discuss issues, while tools such as Calendars and Event Management could coordinate members in coming together in dates and time and in locations.
Well, while this enhanced ability to vote would be a wonderful improvement on the current system, unfortunately, it’s just not very practical. You might, for instance, like to read up on all sides of a particular argument – say Public vs Private Hospitals – but there are lots of people saying lots of things on the topic. You will inevitably find it increasingly difficult to be across all the arguments and information. To solve this problem, we introduce the additional concept of vote delegation
When you vote for someone in a normal election, you are effectively ceding them the power to make decisions on your behalf. Vote Delegation acts the same way but, thanks to the underlying technology, we can improve the process somewhat.
For example, you might provide your vote to one person for anything to do with, say, the environment, but to another person whose ideas on finance you prefer for any decisions about the economy. Those people use the votes that have been given to them to influence decisions with every vote they have been provided counting towards the outcome of votes taken.
Every time your vote is used by the person to whom you delegated it, you can, if you opt to do so, automatically receive a message, email, SMS, tweet or whatever informing you about what happened – “Richard Smith, your delegate on the Environment used your vote today in favour of this specific proposed policy.
When you delegate your vote to someone, you can also indicate whether the vote can be further delegated. In other words, you can either allow that person to use you vote but not be able to further delegate it to someone else, or allow that person to further delegate his or her pool of votes to another delegate, and so on.
Vote Rescinding and Reallocation
You can take back your vote at any time and give it to someone else, use it yourself or choose not to participate in a particular debate. In that case, you vote is not counted at all.
You have one vote that can be used anywhere. However, you can also divide your vote into fractions – for argument’s sake, say 100 pieces. For example, you might equally like the positions of two people in an Environmental debate. Rather than having to make a choice where one gets our full vote and the other nothing, you could, instead, give them each 50% of your vote. You might actually prefer one a little more so give them 75% of your vote and the other 25%. Because the underlying tech can manage all the intricacies of counting up the votes and ensuring no one is able to express more than one vote in total, we can provide voters the subtlety of casting a nuanced vote and more-accurately representing their backing and their wishes.
The net effect of this ability for your vote to be constantly involved in representing your interests should provide much more effective feedback into the political process. Currently, a politician can and does say anything to convince people to vote for them, understanding that once elected, they can change their mind, not act on their promises etc. When this occurs, in the Web Democracy, the voter can simply take their vote away from that politician, give it to someone else or withdraw it entirely. If sufficient people act similarly, that politician will find they have less voting power and consequently become less powerful and influential. Conversely, a politician who is seen as doing great work will find a increased flow of votes to them and thus be better-able to make effective changes.
Comments are welcome but I have had such problems with Spam accounts hitting the subscriber system (100’s a day) I no longer allow logins. Instead, you’re welcome to use Twitter where I am @peterbayley.