I-Democracy

In the following post Matteo Martini presents a proposal for government reform. Martini’s criticisms of the electoral system are similar to those made by sortition advocates, but his proposed remedy is different.

A system-nation can be defined as “democratic” if the actions taken within such system-nation are according to the will of the people who are part of such system.

A major problem with current governments, including the so-called “democratic” ones, is that the actions of the government of a nation are not according to the will of the majority of the population of that nation: some of the laws that most of the people would like to see brought forward are not even discussed, while the government passes laws and does things that are not according to the will of the majority of the electorate.

This problem has different causes:

  1. The voting person has no way to vote in the same election for different political stances of different parties, according to his own/her own positions on different topics. In other words, the American voter has no way to vote, for example, for the Democratic Party for foreign agenda positions, the Republican Party for financial-related positions and the Green Party for other positions. The voting person has to choose one party and one candidate. Therefore, it being unlikely that the voting person agrees with absolutely all the positions of any of the candidates/parties involved in the elections, he/she will have to choose one of them, looking for the candidate/party that is most likely to be close to his/her opinions on a few main issues. This being the case, the candidates of any party will be able to easily write a more or less generic declaration of intents that will be offered as “a political program” to the electorate, without precise engagements in any political area, in order to have later free hands to do what they want once elected.
  2. Most of the times, the average voter does not even have the time nor the knowledge to become informed on the past actions of the political parties, the candidates and the political programs offered by the candidates. Therefore, most of the times the candidate elected is the one who does not necessarily have the best political program or is best fit for the job, but rather it is the candidate who is most eloquent and gives the best and TV appearance, regardless of his/her political positions.
  3. In most nations, elections take place every 4 or 5 years. Even if the voters are not satisfied with the performance or the political actions of the government, they will not be able (unless extreme things happens, like revolutions or impeachment) to change the people in the government before the next scheduled elections take place. In this way, the people in the government will not be immediately accountable for their actions to the people.
  4. Often power lobbies can influence the actions of a government quite decisively so that the government will act more in accordance with the economical and political pressure of such lobbies than according to the wishes of the people who voted.
  5. In most nations, choice is always limited to two or a few major parties. In such case it is not at all impossible that the candidates of the parties agree behind the scenes to willingly limit the possible choices of the electorate regarding specific issues. For example, in a country with two major parties at which is at war, if the elite decides that the war has to be continued, it can push both major parties to support it, presenting only minor differences between the positions of the parties on this issue. In this case, even if a large part of the voters would like to stop the war, they will not find any major party representing them. Minor parties usually have extreme positions on issues not accepted by the majority of the electorate. In many countries it is theoretically possible to create new parties at the national level, but there are many obstacles to practically becoming significant (legal hurdles for appearing on the ballots in different counties, no access to the media, etc.). In conclusion, it is easy for the leaders of the two or three major parties of one nation to avoid giving options to the electorate about major topics if they all decide to do so and agree on this behind the scenes.

I would like to propose an internet-based system (the “I-Democracy” system) which is intended to remove as much as possible the above problems and to change the way the voters can participate in the writing of a political program:

  1. by allowing each voter to delegate his/her representation to one or more people in order to work on the writing of the political program above, with some sharp differences with the current representative democratic system that the delegation above a) can be recalled at any moment, b) is meant to be given to people known personally, c) can be suspended at any moment by the voter for one or more votes, thereby by-passing the delegation given, and d) can be given to different people for different government areas (defense, economy, environment, education, research, etc.);
  2. allowing the voter to directly propose and vote on single laws or packages of laws (political programs)

Using the internet, it is possible today to create a system that allows the citizen-voter to directly participate in the creation of a political program for the government. In detail, the scope of the proposed internet system is that of a virtual environment where every voter, after getting registered, is able to propose and vote on laws or packages of laws…

Read the rest at Project iDemocracy (www.idemocrazia.it).

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49 Responses

  1. Hi Matteo,

    I fear that your system will suffer from many of the same problems that afflict a standard elections-based system.

    Could you clarify some points:

    1. How many proxies and super proxies do you expect to have?

    2. What will be the process for putting law proposals on the voting agenda?

    3. Will there be an executive bureaucracy? If so, how will it be made to respond to popular will? If not, who will take care of the day-to-day workings of the government?

    4. In general, what are the similarities and differences between the system you propose and the “initiative process” of California (or similar procedures in other U.S. states and in Switzerland)?

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  2. Hi Yoram,
    I tried to address the points below in the document you can download from the site, but I agree that the document is quite “heavy” so I will try to address the points below in a concise way, and then I invite anyone interested to download and read the document from the site or have a look at the presentation there.

    1. The number of proxies and super-proxies will not be set by law. Anyone can propose himself/herself to become a proxy or super-proxy. I the case of proxy users, and even more in the case of super-proxy users, the “status” of each delegated user (proxy or super-proxy) will be given by the number of people who delegate the delegated user.
    If a super-proxy user has 10000 normal or proxy users who delegate him/her, he/she will be quite powerful, if a super-proxy user will have only 10, then it will be a different story.
    I expect there to be a large number of proxy users, much less super-proxy users, say, proportion of super proxy users : proxy users : normal users should become something like 1 : 10 : 50, but this is just a shoot in the dark, and not meaningful to the way the system will work.

    2. Anyone will be allowed to put laws in the agenda, provided that the proposal is backed by a defined number of other users.
    This definite number of users will be set by the ID Committee

    3. The bureocracy is the ID Committee. It will be voted every year or so, by popular vote. Any member of the ID Committee will not be allowed to propose their own laws or packages of laws.
    The role of the ID committee is to organize votings and to put each proposed law in the right section.

    4. I did not know about this proposed system, while I know there are other people in the world trying to propose similar systems. I will have a look at the link you indicated and come back to you later.

    In conclusion, the advantages of the proposed system with the current system are:

    1. nornal users can overwrite their delegation vote any time (direct vote)
    2. normal users can change their delegated uers any time
    3. program will be writte mostly by super-proxy users, who are supposed to be expert in their field
    4. super-proxy users will be quite immune by lobbying pressure and by bribing as they will be too many to be all bribed and lobbied, still they will be competent enough to make laws that will be useful for the people

    I hope I have more or less clarified the points in discussion.

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  3. Matteo,

    I’ve kicked this idea around for a number of years…One concern of mine is that as the proxies work their way up, I expect to see more and more ambitious (power hungry) individuals (like candidates today), who become less and less representative of the population. For example, radio-talk show personalities might do very well. How would your system prevent the concentration of power through celebrity power.

    Even at the lowest level, most voters may not give much thought to who gets their proxy…. My mother-in-law would give me her proxy, because she knows I am smart and interested in politics, and she isn’t interested…but I may actually not agree with her views about society.

    You may want to talk and compare notes with some of the other people around the world advocating for variants of your proposal for years… called “Proxy Voting,” or “Delegate Cascades,” or “Asset Voting,” etc.

    A couple of them are:
    Thomas von der Elbe (in Germany I think)
    email ThomasvonderElbe@gmx.de
    Michael Allan in Toronto Canada, email Mike@zelea.com

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  4. I came across a similar idea from a guy called Farel Bradbury many years ago (website hydatum.com).

    If you google ‘Preferendum’ you will find what he was talking about.

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  5. Hi Thomas,
    thank you for your comment.
    Power hungry individuals are always a problem in any organization, but please note that being power hungry does not necessarily mean being mean.
    Any politician who becomes powerful is because he/she likes what he/she is doing and there are lots of good politicians around.
    The reason why celebrity personalities are powerful and the reason why million of people listen to them is because they are so few.
    Not more than 5 or 10 TV personalities can really become famous on TV, therefore, every TV audience would and has a very limited choice about which TV personality to endorse.
    With internet, things are very different as anyone can open their blog and propose a political program and (try to) become famous.
    Of course, this assumes that people would be smart enough (at least, proxy users), to take some time and at least look around in the internet which could be a good super-proxy to endorse, and do not endorse, say, Beyonce as their super-proxy of defence.
    But unless you have a (limited) faith on the intelligence of the people ANY system would fail.
    Same goes for who you get your endorsement to for the proxy thing.
    If you give your proxy endorsement to your cousin who is a Neo-Nazi and you have never bothered to ask his opinions, then your vote would be lost anyways..
    Again, you have to take for granted that at least the vast majority of the people would care at least a bit of what is going around, choose a proxy who looks like a reliable person and have proxies spend at least sometime to look for a reliable super-proxy and check his/her work at least from time to time.
    Again, this is not the perfect system, just a system that cuts off the worst part of today “democracy”, taht is the fact that people are not part of the law proposal and law making process.
    With the proposed system, people will have a chance to do something, it will be up to them to use this chance.

    As for the sortition system, I agree that this sytem also would be better than the current one.
    The main problem I see with sortition, in addition to the fact that it would be quite difficult to implement from scratch, is that people who have to take important decisions in the field of defence, economy, etc. can not be taken “from the street”.
    The system of sortition worked quite well in ancient Greece, where there was no sector of telecom to be regulated and no strategic depolyment of nuclear arsenal to be assessed, but today world is too complicated to be handled by amaterus.
    Even one person, the best one in one country, would not be enough to decide about all the possible thing that needs to be decided by a government.

    Matteo Martini
    http://www.idemocrazia.it

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  6. “The main problem I see with sortition, in addition to the fact that it would be quite difficult to implement from scratch, is that people who have to take important decisions in the field of defence, economy, etc. can not be taken “from the street”.”

    I’m inclined to agree with you, but argue therefore that you need to properly distinguish between the executive and legislative function. Someone “off the street” may not be capable of running a government department, but may well be able to judge (as part of an assembly of their peers) whether a legislative proposal is sensible. As Terry has pointed out, proxy representation is likely to lead to nepotism (government by mother-in-law) or caesarist populism (government by shock jock).

    “Anyone will be allowed to put laws in the agenda, provided that the proposal is backed by a defined number of other users.”

    That’s an interesting idea, but the proposals then need to be considered by an allotted deliberative chamber in which (inter alia) government ministers would be able to argue how the proposal would affect their ministry, along with the cost implications.

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  7. “I’m inclined to agree with you, but argue therefore that you need to properly distinguish between the executive and legislative function. Someone “off the street” may not be capable of running a government department, but may well be able to judge (as part of an assembly of their peers) whether a legislative proposal is sensible.”

    Mm..
    I am a bit pessimistic on this one.
    I would say that Gramma Sarah would have some problems, even after a specific training, to understand the details about a new tax system for the capital gains coming from stock option or the benefits of promoting nuclear energy over solar energy (or the other way around).
    She will require an extensive training, assistance (by who?) and therefore she may be influenced in one way or another, and even after that she will still may not be able even to grasp the basics of the decision that she has to take.

    “As Terry has pointed out, proxy representation is likely to lead to nepotism (government by mother-in-law) or caesarist populism (government by shock jock).”
    As for the possibility of nepotism, there are only a limited number of nephew each person has. So even if a person would receive the delegation of all his/her relatives and in-laws, he/she would have still the power to control 10 or maybe 20 votes, still not enough to significantly alter the decisions of a system where millions of people vote.
    As for the possibility of caesarist populism, I point out that this is what we already have today, Obama, Putin, Sarkozy and Kan are nobody other than the present day Caesars.
    With the proposed system at least people would have the opportunity to be able to change their Caesar (there will be many of them, since different people will have different super-proxies) quickly, overwrite his decision, at any moment.
    “That’s an interesting idea, but the proposals then need to be considered by an allotted deliberative chamber in which (inter alia) government ministers would be able to argue how the proposal would affect their ministry, along with the cost implications.”

    I do not think there will be necessary to have any further discussion after the law has been proposed, voted and passed.
    Any potential problem concerning the law shall be publicly discussed in internet forums like this one.
    Government ministries will have no power to criticize and change the laws, the executive branch will only be allowed to have the power to execute the program decided by the citizens.
    If they do not like it, they can resign and go home.
    The program is already supposed to be discussed by the super-proxies, which are experts in the field, so all the problems of budget and other issues should be ironed out before the law is even proposed.

    Matteo

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  8. “I would say that Gramma Sarah would have some problems, even after a specific training, to understand . . .”

    Then the onus is on legislative draftsmen to use plain language. Jim Fishkin has demonstrated very decisively that ordinary people are perfectly capable of deciding complex issues, when aided by balanced advocacy and expert advice. In a law court there is a proper place for expert witnesses, but the final decision is in the hands of ordinary people — I see no reason why the “trial” of legislative proposals should be any different.

    “As for the possibility of caesarist populism, I point out that this is what we already have today.”

    Agreed, but this is all the more reason for designing a system that inhibits this, and I don’t think super-proxy holders is the way.

    “I do not think there will be necessary to have any further discussion after the law has been proposed, voted and passed.”

    Agreed, but all the more reason for having extended stages of deliberation. And you also need to ensure that the original proposals have democratic support. Your suggestion for citizens to propose legislation is a good one, and that they should require a minimum quota of supporters. But this would provide excessive power to lobby groups and other elites who could easily garner support, so these proposals need to go through the additional filter of a general election before being considered by the legislative assembly.

    “Government ministries will have no power to criticize and change the laws.”

    That’s completely bonkers! The majority of secondary legislation arises from the day-to-day exigencies of government. I agree that ministers should not be allowed to *vote*, nevertheless they should be entitled, or even required, to outline the perspective of the ministry. What you are suggesting is akin to saying that the chief executive of a company should have no say on how the company is run, this should be left entirely in the hands of the shareholders. Super-proxies will have the prerogative of the harlot (power without responsibility), whereas ministers have to work out how to execute the policies and how to pay for them.

    I think you need to go back to the drawing board and start with some clear conceptual distinctions (interests, expert knowledge, judgment, executive competence etc.) and then work out how to incorporate them in your system, rather than assuming that individual superheros will somehow be able to combine them all.

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  9. “Then the onus is on legislative draftsmen to use plain language. Jim Fishkin has demonstrated very decisively that ordinary people are perfectly capable of deciding complex issues, when aided by balanced advocacy and expert advice. In a law court there is a proper place for expert witnesses, but the final decision is in the hands of ordinary people — I see no reason why the “trial” of legislative proposals should be any different.”

    There is a reason why every law in the world does not really use plain language, and it is because complex law issues simply can not be stated in plain language.
    Sometimes, when drafting a law, putting a comma in the wrong position can completely change the meaning of a sentence and let inside some loophole that can later on be exploited for various reasons.
    The key point here is “balanced advocacy” and “expert advice”.
    I agree that, maybe with really “balanced advocacy” and propert expert advice, the above problems may be lessened, but who will then provide “balanced advocacy”?
    And who will decide which kind of advocacy is “balanced”.
    Shall we also have sortition for the experts that have to provide balanced advocacy for the people chosen by sortition to decide on problems?
    It would be a never ending loop.
    As for the legislative proposals, I have no knowledge of how it works in the US, so I can not say

    “Agreed, but this is all the more reason for designing a system that inhibits this, and I don’t think super-proxy holders is the way.”
    Then we have two different opinions

    “Agreed, but all the more reason for having extended stages of deliberation. And you also need to ensure that the original proposals have democratic support. Your suggestion for citizens to propose legislation is a good one, and that they should require a minimum quota of supporters. But this would provide excessive power to lobby groups and other elites who could easily garner support, so these proposals need to go through the additional filter of a general election before being considered by the legislative assembly.”
    Please, note that lobbyism is not in principle bad in 100% of the cases.
    For example, Green Peace does lobbying to protect endangered species, I would not cosider this bad in principle.
    Lobbying is bad when it goes against the will of the people, and allows a minority of few people to impose their will against the will of the majority.
    Imagine that the system will work in full, when you will have extensive discussions by hundreds of super-proxies and probably tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of proxies somehow involved, and a matter will be discussed opely in public forums and a law proposed and voted, I do not see anything bad for the lobbies to also say their opinion.
    If they will be able to convince most of the people, good for them.

    “That’s completely bonkers! The majority of secondary legislation arises from the day-to-day exigencies of government. I agree that ministers should not be allowed to *vote*, nevertheless they should be entitled, or even required, to outline the perspective of the ministry. What you are suggesting is akin to saying that the chief executive of a company should have no say on how the company is run, this should be left entirely in the hands of the shareholders. Super-proxies will have the prerogative of the harlot (power without responsibility), whereas ministers have to work out how to execute the policies and how to pay for them.”
    Wait.
    There is a misundersanding here.
    The CEO of the company is NOT the government, but the people (represented by super-proxy) and the government.
    If a plan is poorly drafted and can not be executed as super-proxies do not know what they are talking about, the failure of the program will be considered as a responsibility of the super-proxies.
    Peole will have not be resposible of the program they put ahead and vote, if people vote for financing a mission to go to Mars, and this provokes the collapse of the economy, the responsible will be put on the people who voted for this program, not on the government.
    The goverment should be only the last part of the chain of governance, and they will have to execute the progam (not meddle with it) in the best way possible, and they will be evaluated for this, not for the fact that the program is pooprly drafted as this would not be their responsibility

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  10. Matteo,

    In a nutshell, in my opinion, your scheme is unable to handle to problem of scale. Like the electoral system, your proposed system can work reasonably well for small communities. However, in a large community – such as a modern country – the system would either be completely dysfunctional or would produce a power elite.

    First, regarding placing law proposals on the agenda: the barrier for placing a proposal could either (a) be set low enough so that most people would be able to put proposals on the agenda, or (b) be set high enough so that only powerful individuals and organizations would be able to put proposals on the agenda. In case (a), it is likely that there would be a blizzard of proposals – if every citizen puts only one proposal on the agenda in their entire life, then there would be, in Italy, 60 million / (80 x 365) > 2000 proposals a day. In case (b), the procedure is obviously biased toward the rich and powerful, i.e., is anti-democratic. Case (b), by the way, is exactly the situation in California in which about a million signatures are required in order to put a proposal on the ballot.

    Second, regarding voting: If indeed each super-proxy will represent about 50 people, then in a country as populous as Italy there would be no less than 1.2 million voters on each and every law proposal. With this number of voters the impact of every vote is minimal, so there is very little incentive for the voters to study the many proposals that would have to be put up for a vote. There is every reason to assume that the usual dynamics of mass-politics would be in effect: voting decisions would be made based on slogans and propaganda and so interested parties, with access to mass media, would be the ones dominating policy.

    Of course, even at a ratio of 1:50 there is a significant risk that the super-proxies would be non-representative and that the citizens would be unable to determine (at a reasonable cost) whether they are being well-represented. There is also a likely possibility that the selection of some people (or of members of certain groups) as proxies or super-proxies would be promoted by interested parties – essentially turning those people into elected politicians (and the groups into electoral parties).

    Last, regarding the executive bureaucracy: in any modern country, there exists a very large body of people who carry out the day-to-day activities of the government: building roads and public buildings, monitoring air-quality, teaching children, putting out fires, etc. All these people are managed in a hierarchical structure, so that those who are close to the top of those structures wield great power. Unless there is a representative body controlling those top officials, there is every reason to expect that the top officials would use their great power in ways that do not serve the public. You have not explained who will control the top executives and how.

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  11. “First, regarding placing law proposals on the agenda[..] order to put a proposal on the ballot.”

    Let` take Italy as example. With the system in full implementation, and, say, 10 millions of users in the system (say, most of the voters being simple users, not super-proxy), I would assume a decent threshold for proposing laws would be at, say, around 100000 votes, so it would be your case (b). In the US, with 50~100 million users, the threshold would be around half a million~ one million votes. I can not understand why you deem case (b) as anti-democratic, and why it should be biased torward the rich and powerful.

    “Second, regarding voting: If indeed each super-proxy will represent about 50 people, then in a country as populous as Italy there would be no less than 1.2 million voters on each and every law proposal. With this number of voters the impact of every vote is minimal, so there is very little incentive for the voters to study the many proposals that would have to be put up for a vote. There is every reason to assume that the usual dynamics of mass-politics would be in effect: voting decisions would be made based on slogans and propaganda and so interested parties, with access to mass media, would be the ones dominating policy.”

    Please wait, I wrote that the number 50 would be a shoot in the dark and it is referred to the average number of voters a super-proxy should have, but, I expect that, with the system in full implementation, there would be a large range of super-proxies, with some of them having no user delegating them (voting power almost zero) with few of them with much more voting power than 50. Of course, with the system fully implemented, the top super-proxies would have tens to hundreds of thousands of delegations. You can imagine that super-proxies would be like important personalities, you can identify them as Paul Krugman for the economy section, Noam Chomsky for foreign policy (maybe he is too old). Such top super-proxies in coutries like the US will have millions of users delegating them.

    “Of course, even at a ratio of 1:50 there is a significant risk that the super-proxies would be non-representative and that the citizens would be unable to determine (at a reasonable cost) whether they are being well-represented. There is also a likely possibility that the selection of some people (or of members of certain groups) as proxies or super-proxies would be promoted by interested parties – essentially turning those people into elected politicians (and the groups into electoral parties).”

    But this is what they are!! Super-proxies are nothing else and nothing more than the politicians we have today. You can assume they will go in television, have a regular blog very well done to explain their positions, maybe their own televisio channel, have thousands of direct supporters giving money to them and probably becoming somehow rich. They will have the real power of steering the wheel in one way or the other. The big difference with today system, however, is that the will not be elected every four years and they will have to follow the will of the users who delegate them, as for them losing the delegation will be as quick as a click of mouse.

    “Last, regarding the executive bureaucracy: in any modern country, [..] You have not explained who will control the top executives and how”

    As I said, the functions of the goverrnment should remain as such. The proposed system is only about preparing the political program, that is, deciding where to build the road, with which budget, going to Mars or not, how much the budget of defence, if the country needs to build more planes and what. When the plan will be written in detail, the people that took part in writing it (all the users) will commit to vote one political party or candidate that completely agrees with the plan. If the candidate will not agree with the plan he will not be voted by the people who took part in writing the program. If the party who win the “real” elections is a party that commit to the implementation of the plan, then they will implement and supervise all the structures you have listed in accord with the plan, already having promised before being elected that they accept the plan in full.

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  12. > I can not understand why you deem case (b) as anti-democratic, and why it should be biased toward the rich and powerful.

    Because only the rich and powerful can tackle the logistical operation of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures. This means that only the rich and powerful will get to write legislation proposals. This is exactly what is happening in California.

    > The big difference with today system, however, is that the will not be elected every four years and they will have to follow the will of the users who delegate them, as for them losing the delegation will be as quick as a click of mouse.

    If this is the only real change you are offering then your expectations for real reform seem exaggerated. How will people become aware that their super-proxy has not been representing them? Will they constantly monitor their voting record? If so, why bother appointing the proxy? More likely, they will be swayed by campaign ads that will be run by powerful interests. In essence, nothing will change – power will remain concentrated.

    By the way, if you think recall is so effective, you can suggest implementing such internet based recall within the current system. This is a much more realistic (and reasonable) proposal, I think. I don’t think, however, that it will make much of a difference.

    > If the candidate will not agree with the plan he will not be voted by the people who took part in writing the program.

    How will the people know what a candidate really believes in? Any candidate can say he or she agrees with the approved program and then proceed to “interpret” the program in any way he or she wants.

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  13. Hi Yoram,
    I understand that we may have a different degree of confidence i the good will and intelligence of most people, but I still believe that most people can have at least the common sense to delegate their vote to a proxy or super-proxy that is not an incompetent or a person who will sc**w them.
    In case we assume that most people will not even be able to delegate their vote properly, then there will be no system that may work.
    As for your points:
    “Because only the rich and powerful can tackle the logistical operation of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures. This means that only the rich and powerful will get to write legislation proposals. This is exactly what is happening in California.”

    I do not believe that a operation of collecting votes would be so difficult. It would be all done on-line. anyone can open a site, propose a law in the discussion forums and ask for support. The point in question is if the law will be good enough to be supported by many, not who proposes the law. If you propose a law say, for asking marijuana legal, or for cutting the defense budget, corporations will only be able to buy advertisement space to ask people to vote for/against a law, but they will not be able to force people support a law.

    “If this is the only real change you are offering then your expectations for real reform seem exaggerated. How will people become aware that their super-proxy has not been representing them? Will they constantly monitor their voting record? If so, why bother appointing the proxy? More likely, they will be swayed by campaign ads that will be run by powerful interests. In essence, nothing will change – power will remain concentrated.”

    The proxy is the between between super-proxy and the normal user. this is because users should have at least the time to check from time to time what their proxy is doing (looking at their blog, for example). If they do not have time to do even this, they should delegate this to a proxy. As said before, I have always assumed that most people will be either enough informed to check what a super-rpoxy is doing or intelligent enough to delegate their vote to a proxy who is. If this is not the case, then no hope, I guess. With any system. And yes, power will be concentrated, but it will be very “soft” power, as users will be able to change their delegation quickly and will require their proxies, super-proxies to inform them of everything in a language they understand. Which is a big change for me. Again, if you assume that most people will be fooled by ads, then no hope.

    “How will the people know what a candidate really believes in? Any candidate can say he or she agrees with the approved program and then proceed to “interpret” the program in any way he or she wants.”

    People in the government will be forced to follow the program as they will promise to do so. A big difference from today, when basically parties do not even debate their positions on most subjects. We can also have a system of recall of government ministries who are not doing well, always done by the users

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  14. Yoram Gat said: “How will the people know what a candidate really believes in? Any candidate can say he or she agrees with the approved program and then proceed to “interpret” the program in any way he or she wants.”

    This is the case in the US and other FPTP countries, where parties are highly dependent on their leaders’ personal charisma, more so than the leaders are dependent on the parties. It can also happen in PR systems – Ariel Sharon defecting from Likud to start his own party is a case in point – but only if they for some reason get exceptionally person-oriented (as I recall, Israel was experimenting with direct person-elections of PM at the time), but it is much more rare.

    While party hacks are not representative of the people, or even the people voting for the party, they have the advantage that they can and do hold political leaders accountable to the program. They pay much more attention to the politician’s actual behavior (as opposed to propaganda) compared no non-party members. If parties are strong compared to their leaders, this “works” – at least as designed. Politicians are not allowed to interpret or twist the program as they like.

    (I know how little political programs and manifestos matter in the US, but this just isn’t the case for instance in my country, Norway).

    Matteo said: “In case we assume that most people will not even be able to delegate their vote properly, then there will be no system that may work.”

    Matteo, you do know what this blog is advocating, right? If people aren’t able to use a direct vote to get the system they want, there’s little reason to think a vote with the option of adding layers of indirection will help much. Only the recall feature is a possible improvement, and even that I find doubtful. But there is a democratic system that does not rely on popular voting, namely sortition, equality by lot.

    Like

  15. @Harald
    Hi,
    the feature of adding layers is needed as usual people will not be able to understand complex issues of politics (I would not).
    Sortition supporters claim that they may understand them if properly guided and trained, but the problem then becomes who will train the people chosen?
    Who will guarantee that whoever will be the head of the training system of Gramma Sarah will just throw at hear a bunch of far-right or far-left propaganda and push her to vote in one way or the other?
    As for the advantages of the proposed system on the current one, there are mainly four:
    1) everyone will be able to open a blog a propose himself/herself as a super-proxy, skipping the control of the parties
    2) people will be able to choose different super-proxies for different areas of government
    3) people will be able to overwrite their delegation vote any time
    4) people will be able to change their delegation any time.
    This said, I do think sortition is a good idea, I just happen to prefer more delegation.

    Like

  16. Matteo: who will decide which kind of advocacy is “balanced”.

    The best approximation we have is the adversarial joust. This isn’t perfect, but works reasonably well for the legal process and is the method the media use when trying to be impartial. The proponent of the law would argue for it and (in the system that I outline in my book, A People’s Parliament), “opposition” expertise would come from an independent house of advocacy. Government ministers would also have something to say on the matter, and the media and lobbyists would also try hard to swing the debate one way or the other. But the final judgment would be in the hands of the ordinary folk in an AC (allotted house).

    Matteo: Please, note that lobbyism is not in principle bad in 100% of the cases. For example, Green Peace does lobbying to protect endangered species, I would not cosider this bad in principle.

    Agreed, but in a democracy it’s not up to you or me to decide what is “good” lobbying, and there are many elites other than the military-industrial complex. That’s why it’s important that policy proposals go through TWO democratic filters — the unconsidered public choice (in a general election) and the deliberative debate in the AC. I’m struck by how those who are critical of elites usually just want to replace them with another elite that is more amenable to their personal taste.

    Matteo: If a plan is poorly drafted and can not be executed as super-proxies do not know what they are talking about, the failure of the program will be considered as a responsibility of the super-proxies.

    So in the end no-one is held to account, as I’m sure the superheroes could just go off and do something else. At least in a democracy we can kick out the government and get a new one.

    Matteo: “The goverment should be only the last part of the chain of governance, and they will have to execute the progam (not meddle with it) in the best way possible, and they will be evaluated for this, not for the fact that the program is pooprly drafted as this would not be their responsibility.”

    Much better to get the policy right in the first place, using a judicious balance of expertise, professionalism, advocacy and judgment.

    Like

  17. Sorry, anonymous was me (on a borrowed computer).

    Keith

    Like

  18. Keith: The best approximation we have is the adversarial joust. This isn’t perfect, but works reasonably well for the legal process and is the method the media use when trying to be impartial.

    It may work well in legal processes, but does not seem to work well in politics.
    What I suspect is that lobbies and corporations will be able to have two “suggesting” parties holding the same position and just cosmetic differences between the two.
    Sorted people may think they are given different advices, but they are given the same one.
    If you look at it, it is the same that happens in the US today, both Democrats and Republicans favor the rich, but with some cosmetic differences, and people think they have choice

    “Agreed, but in a democracy it’s not up to you or me to decide what is “good” lobbying, and there are many elites other than the military-industrial complex.”

    I did not say that it is up to me (or you) to decide what is good lobbyism or bad.
    I said that lobbies will be able to have their voice heard and if they are able to convince the people that, say, you still need in the US a 700B$ defence budget, then OK, people will be responsible of their choices.

    “I’m struck by how those who are critical of elites usually just want to replace them with another elite that is more amenable to their personal taste.”

    There will always be in this world some kind of elites.
    And it is maybe a good thing.
    What I am advocating is not going against the elites, but have people decide for themselves.

    “So in the end no-one is held to account, as I’m sure the superheroes could just go off and do something else. At least in a democracy we can kick out the government and get a new one.”

    Not really.
    If a super-proxy who supported a poorly drafted law gets criticized, he will lose most of his power.
    Becoming an important super-proxy will be very competitive, and time consuming, like becoming a renowned scientist, who will be happy to get booted out?

    “Much better to get the policy right in the first place, using a judicious balance of expertise, professionalism, advocacy and judgment.”

    We have different opinions

    Like

  19. Matteo,

    > anyone can open a site, propose a law in the discussion forums and ask for support.

    How will people become aware of the website? How will they become aware of the 2000 new websites that would be created each and every day if every Italian wanted to propose only a single law in their entire lifetime? Again – there is a fundamental problem of scale here that you are not addressing.

    > Again, if you assume that most people will be fooled by ads, then no hope.

    This is not a matter of being fooled. I have as much trust in the average citizen as you do, and quite possibly more (since I advocate putting average citizens – “Gramma Sarah” – in positions of real power and you are not). It is simply a matter of a cost/benefit ratio. You are expecting people to put a significant amount of effort into gathering information, making various political judgments and monitoring the performance of various proxies and elected officials, all for the tiny benefit of making a more informed decision when they decide who they will entrust with their vote – one vote out of millions. This is not a reasonable expectation, and it is not met in reality.

    > Sortition supporters claim that they may understand them if properly guided and trained, but the problem then becomes who will train the people chosen?

    Please note that Keith’s views are unique to himself, and his proposals do not enjoy wide support here. I completely agree with you that his claims about the impartiality of “balanced” and “adversarial advocacy” are not convincing.

    Harald and I (and most sortition advocates, I believe) support a system in which there is no formal advocacy or “education” mechanism for the allotted delegates. The allotted delegates simply get the resources and the motivation to educate themselves.

    The delegates get the time, the authority, the staff, the budget, and, just as importantly, the significant decision-making power needed in order to allow them and to motivate them to make informed decisions. All of these conditions are lacking in the mass-politics setting in which the the average voter finds himself or herself under an electoral system and in which they would find themselves under the system you propose.

    Like

  20. “How will people become aware of the website? How will they become aware of the 2000 new websites that would be created each and every day if every Italian wanted to propose only a single law in their entire lifetime? Again – there is a fundamental problem of scale here that you are not addressing.”

    How did Noam Chomsky became the most famous intellectual (as from the NYT) while being virtually ignored by the media and with the elites against?
    Grass-root movement, conferences, public discussions, word of mouth, books, etc.

    “[..] You are expecting people to put a significant amount of effort into gathering information, making various political judgments and monitoring the performance of various proxies and elected officials, all for the tiny benefit of making a more informed decision when they decide who they will entrust with their vote – one vote out of millions. This is not a reasonable expectation, and it is not met in reality.”

    Yes, we can say I have the faith that most people will entrust their vote to a reliable proxy and/or super-proxy and that most proxies and super-proxies will act sensibly in the interests of the ones who delegated them.
    I can not say if this is met by reality or not, since we do not have this system working (not even close) anywhere on Earth.
    What we have now is the choice between two or three parties who do not even discuss their political program in details before the elections, let alone be chosen for that program.

    “Harald and I (and most sortition advocates, I believe) support a system in which there is no formal advocacy or “education” mechanism for the allotted delegates. The allotted delegates simply get the resources and the motivation to educate themselves.”
    We have different views here, and it is good thing to discuss.
    Again, I am not unconvinced of the good faith of sorted people to have the proper will to address a law, I am doubtful of their technical capacity of doing this, especially in decisions where even experts do not agree on.
    I am doubtful even if the candidate does his self-study or supported-study.
    Many topics are only understandable by experts with a proper University degree and years of experience, and even in such cases, even experts make possible mistakes.

    “The delegates get the time, the authority, the staff, the budget, and, just as importantly, the significant decision-making power needed in order to allow them and to motivate them to make informed decisions. ”
    I am not saying the solution you propose is bad, it is a good one, certainly better than the current system.
    Maybe you guys are right, we are simply trying to reach the same goal (getting a more fair) using two different roads.
    I am now working with these guys: http://zelea.com/project/votorola/home.xht, but I definitely want to help you to propose your system, just in case it proves better.

    Matteo

    Like

  21. > How did Noam Chomsky became the most famous intellectual

    First, I would guess that most US citizens have never heard of Chomsky. He very likely reaches many fewer people than NYT column writer and world class cockalorum Thomas Friedman, whose only true qualification is the fact that he was selected by the powers that be to scribe nonsense that they like. Even Friedman’s reach is probably tiny compared to that of radio and TV personalities whose qualifications are, if possible, even more non-existent than those of Friedman.

    Second, even if we do assume that Chomsky can be considered a victory of alternative communication channels – this is one victory in a sea of defeats. It is the exception that proves the rule. Somehow one bit of suppressed truth has managed to break through the smokescreen – most of reality is still obscured by the smokescreen. (Chomsky, by the way, would probably be the first to stress the power of mass media in determining mass opinion.)

    > What we have now is the choice between two or three parties who do not even discuss their political program in details before the elections, let alone be chosen for that program.

    Nothing stops you from wading through the platforms of a plethora of minor parties and voting for one of them. In the US you can even “write-in” the name of a candidate who is not on the ballot, so if you like your neighbor’s political program you can vote for her. You can also set up a website advertising your neighbor and her political program trying to convince others to vote for her as well. If all this sounds unrealistic to you, then I have to agree. I think your hopes that the system you propose would represent the average person is just as unrealistic.

    > I am doubtful even if the candidate does his self-study or supported-study. Many topics are only understandable by experts with a proper University degree and years of experience, and even in such cases, even experts make possible mistakes.

    You could say the same about politicians. That is what advisers are for, of course. I don’t see any reason that the average person would be any less competent than the current crop of politicians. (And, of course, unlike politicians, the allotted delegates would not represent elite interests.)

    Like

  22. “First, I would guess that most US citizens have never heard of Chomsky. [..]Even Friedman’s reach is probably tiny compared to that of radio and TV personalities whose qualifications are, if possible, even more non-existent than those of Friedman.”
    I may be over-optimistic, but I guess things are changing in the media world.
    Internet television is becoming a reality with the slow but steady growth of broadband bandwidth.
    Youtube, a channel that would have been impossible ten years ago, is here and grows.
    Many non-conventional news outlet are emerging (Al Jazeera anyone?) and challenging the status quo.
    Many paper newspaper are almost dead as many people move to read he news online, this will happen with traditional TV channels.
    I foresee that in five years, we will have a much more open media environment.
    But even at the present moment, I refuse to believe that the majority of the people with knowledge – the super-proxies (journalists, economists, ..) have never heard of Chomsky. Maybe the average teenager or the housewife have not, this is why they should not be chosen to propose and make laws.

    “Second, even if we do assume that Chomsky can be considered a victory of alternative communication channels – this is one victory in a sea of defeats. [..]”
    Chomsky did his work when internet was not there.
    Things are rapidly changing.
    Me and you talking in this website would have been impossible ten years ago.

    “Nothing stops you from wading through the platforms of a plethora of minor parties and voting for one of them. [..] I think your hopes that the system you propose would represent the average person is just as unrealistic.”
    But I can not propose and vote single laws, can not change the person I have voted for if he/she behaves bad.
    Letting alone that it is very very difficult to set up a party in the USA is allowed, but there are thousands of loopholes in the law that make it very difficult.

    “You could say the same about politicians. That is what advisers are for, of course. I don’t see any reason that the average person would be any less competent than the current crop of politicians. (And, of course, unlike politicians, the allotted delegates would not represent elite interests.)”

    Let alone the fact that this is a reason NOT to have the average Joe in charge if the average Joe allotted is, for example G.W. Bush or Sarah Palin (I am just picking up two names I know, there are other incompetent politicians in Italy, but most people here they would not know them).
    The system I propose would have competent people making law, probably more competent as the average US politician.
    This said, the point that we do not seem to agree upon is the question of “advisors”.
    If we agree that advisors have the power of influencing the politician or the allotted delegate in a way or the other as they both are not competent enough, what would prevent the elite to influence their way the allotted delegates?

    In my opinion, a system need to involve all the people in the decision making process, every person should have his voice heard and should be allowed to propose and amend laws, not only few ones, otherwise the great part of the people who will not be chosen for role will see politics as not their thing..

    Like

  23. Matteo: [The adversarial joust] may work well in legal processes, but does not seem to work well in politics.

    That’s because in politics the judges and the advocates are the same people, and their interests corrupt their judgment (Federalist, 10:8). In a trial, the judgment function is by a randomly-selected jury, and this is how it should be in politics.

    Yoram: Please note that Keith’s views are unique to himself, and his proposals do not enjoy wide support here.

    I’m sorry that Yoram still continues to portray me as being a minority of one. It’s true that I don’t view sortition as the *only* answer to our political malaise and this puts me out of line with some of the more active posters on this blog (“wide support” being a number that you can count on one hand). But my argument for a judicious balance of election, sortition, independent advocacy and professional expertise has been better received elsewhere by those of a more moderate perspective.

    Like

  24. @Keith
    “That’s because in politics the judges and the advocates are the same people, and their interests corrupt their judgment (Federalist, 10:8). In a trial, the judgment function is by a randomly-selected jury, and this is how it should be in politics.”

    Please note that most decision to be taken in politics are also fairly more complicated than the decision you have to take in a tribunal (guilty/innocent)

    “I’m sorry that Yoram still continues to portray me as being a minority of one. It’s true that I don’t view sortition as the *only* answer to our political malaise and this puts me out of line with some of the more active posters on this blog [..]”

    Keith, Yoram,
    please note that it is normal at any stage of discussion that people see things differently.
    Direct democracy by internet has never tried before, and it is natural that many different solutions can be proposed.
    I would suggest the main effort should be done in analyzing each different proposal and to try to involve as many people as possible in the discussion.
    Moreover, the solution for putting direct democracy into working does not have to be unique and alternative systems can be tried along the way

    Mattei

    Like

  25. Matteo: Please note that most decision to be taken in politics are also fairly more complicated than the decision you have to take in a tribunal (guilty/innocent)

    True, but at the end of the day it’s still a binary decision (yea or nay) and at least the political “jurors” would have to turn up and listen to the debate before voting. If the legislative process is as complicated as you claim then all the more reason for instituting a functional division of labour — between proponents, interests/parties, expert advocacy, executive competence and political judgment, rather than expecting a single breed of superheroes to be able to combine all these functions.

    Your singling out of Noam Chomsky as an example of an intellectual who achieved prominent public recognition without the aid of elites indicates how out of touch the elites who spend their time on internet forums (ie you and me) is with the broader public. No doubt your e-Democracy will be composed primarily of people like us, and perhaps you think that would be a good thing. Real democrats would be more concerned to empower the silent majority who, for the most part — as Yoram has pointed out — have never heard of Chomsky (and would most likely disagree with most of his political views).

    As for your scepticism over the ability of ordinary people to make (in aggregate) sensible political judgments I suggest your read (in addition to Aristotle and Condorcet) the two main texts:

    Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment
    Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

    Keith

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  26. “True, but at the end of the day it’s still a binary decision (yea or nay)”

    Not necessarily.
    Most political decisions require drafting a detailed plan for, say, energy policy, tax policy and so on..
    I question the ability of the average Joe to do so, even if properly assisted.

    “Your singling out of Noam Chomsky as an example of an intellectual who achieved prominent public recognition without the aid of elites indicates how out of touch the elites who spend their time on internet forums (ie you and me) is with the broader public. No doubt your e-Democracy will be composed primarily of people like us, and perhaps you think that would be a good thing. Real democrats would be more concerned to empower the silent majority who, for the most part — as Yoram has pointed out — have never heard of Chomsky (and would most likely disagree with most of his political views).”

    I am not sure I understand what you are saying but I am saying that it is a good thing to empower the majority who has never heard of Chomsky.
    If any member of the majority believes he has the knowledge to directly vote, he/she can go ahead and vote on every and single issue.
    If he/she believe he has not, he can delegate his/her vote.
    Knowledge of Chomsky books will not be a prerequisite for voting.

    Matteo

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  27. Just to finish this interesting dialogue.
    My point was not to show that one system is better than the other, just to point out any idea of a system (which I guess is not only mine) and compare it with others.
    As I have privately wrote to Yoram, I will also try to publicize this blog.

    Matteo

    Like

  28. “Most political decisions require drafting a detailed plan for, say, energy policy, tax policy and so on.”

    If so, then the obvious people to do this are the ministers themselves, the one group of people that you have explicitly excluded from having any say in policy making. It’s also the case that one of the functions of political parties is to aggregate individual policies into an overall scheme, especially considering the need to design a fiscal policy to pay for it all. The prime benefit of ministers and political parties is that they stand or fall (collectively) depending on how successful the overall package is.

    “Knowledge of Chomsky books will not be a prerequisite for voting.”

    That’s a relief!

    Like

  29. By the way, Matteo, you may be interested in having a look at Danilo Zolo’s Complessità e democrazia which handles some of the issues we are discussing here.

    Like

  30. […] Armando Vieira offers a reform program with some of the high-tech participative characteristics offered by Matteo Martini: […]

    Like

  31. @Keith
    “If so, then the obvious people to do this are the ministers themselves, the one group of people that you have explicitly excluded from having any say in policy making. It’s also the case that one of the functions of political parties is to aggregate individual policies into an overall scheme, especially considering the need to design a fiscal policy to pay for it all. The prime benefit of ministers and political parties is that they stand or fall (collectively) depending on how successful the overall package is.”

    I think I have replied on this one, the burden of the policy making process will be taken by the super-proxies who will have the role of creating and voting proposals of laws in the most detailed way possible.
    Parties have historically had the function to aggregate people as single persons could not intervene directly in the law making process. With the propose system this will change, parties may still exist in some form, but they will not be so much needed.
    Fiscal policy to pay for all will be part of the law making process, once you discuss about a project, you also discuss the cost of that project.
    As for the benefit of parties, this is only in part true, look at the dramatic cost in dollars and real lives of the War in Iraq, now very unpopular even in the US. The Republican Party did not fall because of this, and most Democrats who supported the war are now in top positions.

    @Yoram
    I am in contact with Mr. Vieira since a week ago, and we are talking about this.
    Also, I would like to let you know that other people are already in the design phase:
    http://zelea.com/project/votorola/home.xht

    Like

  32. “As for the benefit of parties, this is only in part true, look at the dramatic cost in dollars and real lives of the War in Iraq, now very unpopular even in the US.”

    I think we’re a little quick to blame parties for all our ills; for example Blair at first had something like 65% public support over Iraq (until everything started to go wrong). I think we also underestimate the importance of the aggregate fiscal issue — it takes a little more than “discussing the the cost of the project” to ensure fiscal responsibility. I’m not claiming that parties do this particularly well (witness the current fiscal mess of Western democracies), that’s why I give a much higher importance to the role of government ministers (especially the Chancellor/Treasury Secretary). In my proposal these government officers are ultimately responsible for ensuring a balanced budget, whereas you have reduced them to the role of delegated functionaries. At the end of the day the buck has to stop somewhere, and I can’t see a multiplicity of individual superheroes filling the void (or transient members of an allotted chamber)

    Like

  33. Hi Keith,
    I agree that there may be different visions of the problem, and we are talking very much about opinions here, as neither system as been tested and made it work.
    However, there are few things I beg you to notice.
    The fact that the war in Iraq had a high public support was essentially due to the fact that the media did not represent the situation in its entirety and to the fact that the Government (and Blair) lied to some point on the extent by which Saddam had WMDs.
    The problem is again few channels and few newspapers have still the monopoly of information.
    This hopefully may change in the future, when there will be a more liberalized market with Internet TV.
    But please take note that, had the sortition process be used to decide whether going or not to war in Iraq, you would have then had 65% of the sorted lot in favor of going.
    Then, it would be up to the people providing counseling to the allotted lot to provide clear information, had such people been Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Dick Cheney (Republican) for example, if would find hard to believe that the sorted lot would decide about not going to Iraq.
    It is quite easy to influence a group of people in one way or another if they do not have a good knowledge of the facts on the ground, and it takes many years to understand the politics of the Middle East.
    With the proposed system, super-proxies are assumed to be experts in the field, and each super-proxy would have to put his name and reputation on each decision.
    Had a super-proxy voted for going to war in Iraq, he would have been then politically “killed” by the other super-proxies who voted against.
    Since people would have thousands of super-proxies to vote for, the super-proxies who voted in the wrong way would fall in the rankings and lose popular support forever.

    As for the issue of the balanced budget, I am not sure if any issue could not be settled by the super-proxies, in case there should be some inconsistency with the program that can not be ironed out with discussions between super-proxies, the role of the ID committee is also to highlight some inconsistencies within the program of different areas of the government, we may consider the possibility of having them to propose solutions when conflicts arise from different parts of the program, with all settlement proposed to undergo popular vote as well, of course.
    but this fix process should be done after all the program has been proposed and voted, and should be limited to the (hopefully) few areas where there are evident problems.

    Like

  34. “The problem is again few channels and few newspapers have still the monopoly of information.”

    Agreed. A diverse and pluralistic media (new and old) is an essential component of a successful democracy — elective, sortive or e-Democracy.

    “But please take note that, had the sortition process be used to decide whether going or not to war in Iraq, you would have then had 65% of the sorted lot in favor of going.”

    Agreed. I don’t share the view of many on this forum that the public (a.k.a. the masses) are essentially more virtuous, unbiased or intelligent than the elite political class.

    “With the proposed system, super-proxies are assumed to be experts in the field, and each super-proxy would have to put his name and reputation on each decision.”

    Once again I agree with you. Where we differ is in the role that such people should take. To my mind such people are advocates, who’s task is to persuade the allotted chamber how best to use their vote. I also argue that the appointment mechanism of advocates/superproxies should not be a democratic one, because public opinion is not the best way of determining who the experts are. I also argue that government officers (ministers) should be appointed on merit and (although ulimately accountable to the sovereign assembly) should have much more independent power than your vision of entirely delegated functions.

    In short my model is a pluralist one, with elections, allotment, advocacy, expertise and executive competence all having independent functions; as opposed to your proposal which appears to be 100% democratic (direct and proxy). The classical view of the mixed constitution has a lot to be said for it.

    But I’m glad to see that our perspectives have more in common that was initially apparent.

    Keith

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  35. Keith,

    I am not sure which is the best system, I think the risk we are facing now is to have no system.

    We are only few people writing in this board, and still very much divided.

    I would suggest to try to create a community, discuss between all of us, and then finalize a system.

    If the majority decides to go with sortition, I would go too, as I believe that we have all to have to make a compromise and try to understand other positions.

    The risk is that otherwise we will only do talking

    Matteo

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  36. Matteo,

    > But please take note that, had the sortition process be used to decide whether going or not to war in Iraq, you would have then had 65% of the sorted lot in favor of going.

    This assertion shows that you are missing a very important aspect of sorttion. Sortition is not the same as government by opinion survey. The allotted representatives will not simply reflect the population’s uninformed and unconsidered opinion. Due to their special position (availability of resources and existence of motivation) there is every reason to think that the decisions of the representatives would be better informed and better considered than those of the population at large.

    Like

  37. “I would suggest to try to create a community, discuss between all of us, and then finalize a system.”

    OK, but first we all need to study the literature, including the below:

    1) Fishkin, When the People Speak
    Jim has the advantage of having put sortition into practice, rather than just theorising about it.

    2) Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds
    3) Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment
    The two best arguments for sortition that I’ve come across (even though Surowiecki rejects it and Tetlock doesn’t mention it)

    4) Pitkin, The Concept of Representation
    Why sortition will not work on its own.

    There are a dozen or so books (including my own) proposing practical sortition models, but the most important thing is to clear up the conceptual issues first, before moving into any sort of implementation model.

    Keith

    Like

  38. Matteo,

    When you say that “the risk is that otherwise we will only do talking”, what other action, besides talking, are you considering?

    Like

  39. Hi Keith, Yoram,
    I am afraid that, if we wait for people to read literature about internet democracy before starting to create a community, we will wait forever.
    What I suggest is to work together with other people with different ideas in order to create a large community of people discussing the matter of internet democracy, while keeping each other opinion.
    The main effort should not be to decide which system is better, but to enlarge the community and to invite people to join and discuss.
    It would be possible to have several initiatives in parallel (that is, sortition people may build their own system while delegation people buld theirs).
    The boal should be to create a group (or several groups) of people who share similar ideas, to accept compromise with each other in order to finalize one or few specification documents and then try to build the system.
    When the system will be up and running, if sortition works well enough, I would definitely support sortition, if delegation gets a wide support between people, we will go with delegation, and so on..
    But while we are only 4 or 5 people discussing, I am afraid we would go nowhere.
    In practice, I am in contact with some other people already creating a program to make the delegation system work (which is a different flavor of the delegation system I would propose, by the way).
    We could propose them to have a discussion forum together.
    we could open a Facebook page, invite more people to join the discussion.
    We can let people know each other projects and let people join the project they feel more comfortable to.
    There is no problem to have a single forum with two or three sections, one in general, one for Sortition, one for Delegation, etc.
    What about a Twitter page?
    What about contacting other democracy movement and do some banner exchange?

    Matteo

    Like

  40. Matteo,

    Unfortunately, as I wrote to David Swanson, I see grass-root activity that does not accept the democratic method of sortition as being misguided and futile. It therefore makes little sense (for me) to join such activity.

    > We could […]

    All this is still within the “talking” category – which is a reasonable and productive activity, I think, and very much the only possible activity at this point.

    We should, I agree, try to talk to as many people as possible. At the same time, not any proposal will do. The fact that two people agree that reform needs to be pursued doesn’t necessarily mean that they can be allies. A pre-condition for that is that the reforms they are proposing are compatible.

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  41. I agree that mere talking is insufficient. We need to a) clarify the conceptual issues (for which some serious reading and writing is needed) and b) do the social science experiments.

    Unfortunately this will take a long time. In the meantime we should continue to talk to and make sure that we learn from each other, rather than simply retaining entrenched views. This has nothing to do with compromise (horse trading in smoke-filled rooms) and everything to do with listening to arguments and changing one’s views as a result. My own position has moved a huge way from when I started off working in this field nearly ten years ago, simply as a result of the sort of conversations that we are having on this forum, but I don’t view that as a compromise, more a genuine change in my perspective. For example my first book (The Party’s Over) had no place for electoral politics, but then I was persuaded by reading Pitkin and by conversations at a seminar that elections (although distasteful for the reasons that we are all aware of) are the only way of ensuring active representation, and so I changed my model to suit.

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  42. P.S. I would be happy to change my mind again, as soon as someone refutes my argument that elections are an essential part of the democratic mix:

    https://equalitybylot.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/what-sortition-can-and-cannot-do/

    Unfortunately no one has done this yet — Peter Stone misunderstood the argument, 90% of Terry Bouricius’s rejoinder was lost into the ether and everyone else has just ignored it.

    Actually, ‘everyone else’ is not strictly true: John Burnheim changed the subject; Martin Davies addressed the argument but ended up resorting to alchemy (sprinkling cybernetic magic dust); and I had a long offline exchange with iGregor (who refuses to use this forum on account of the intransigence of some of the members), but in the end he had to throw in the towel. Apart from that, I’m still waiting.

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  43. Mm..
    Well, apparently we have two different approaches to the problem.

    I have mentioned your blog here:

    Gli amici di Beppe Grillo di Milano

    Milano, MI
    2,619 Grilli Milanesi

    Benvenuto sul Meetup degli Amici di Beppe Grillo di Milano. Questo Meetup svolge due compiti, di sui il primo è di presentarci: se vuoi saperne di più su di noi, potrai trovar…

    Next Meetup

    CONSIGLIO COMUNALE DI MILANO

    Monday, Sep 1, 2014, 4:30 PM
    1 Attending

    Check out this Meetup Group →

    There are about 2000 people reading this board, possibly someone will join.

    My opinio is that the only key to success is to enlarge the base of interested people, but again, different people have different opinions.

    Matteo

    Like

  44. Sorry to be late in this, but I did have to chime in on one topic:

    “I think we’re a little quick to blame parties for all our ills; for example Blair at first had something like 65% public support over Iraq (until everything started to go wrong).”

    Ummm…no, sorry, but that’s just wrong. The public in Britain, like that in every other country in Europe (and the word, apart from the U.S. and Israel), opposed the war, and opposed it by a large margin if it lacked UN authorization. A representative poll–

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-02-14-eu-survey.htm

    This is why Blair had to beg Bush to try and get a legal fig leaf for his war from the UN. But that turned out to be impossible, and Blair had to make plain that when forced to choose between representing the British people or representing George W. Bush, his choice was pretty clear.

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  45. Unfortunately I don’t have the copy to hand but my source was Andrew Sullivan in last week’s Sunday Times. UK public support peaked at 65% at the time of the fall of Baghdad but fell away quickly. So I guess it depends exactly when the poll was taken.

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  46. > Unfortunately I don’t have the copy to hand

    As usual, Keith, you cannot be trusted on matters of simple fact. Up until the Iraq invasion commenced, it was opposed by large margins in the UK. Post-invasion opinion has nothing to do with your original argument.

    No wonder you are still waiting for anyone to take up your arguments about elections. Even I finally figured out that trying to reason with you is a waste of time.

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  47. I was simply reporting what I read in the newspaper: “Blair at first had something like 65% public support over Iraq (until everything started to go wrong)”. “At first” in this sentence was intended to refer to public opinion immediately after the decision was taken to invade.

    None of this has any bearing on my arguments over elections, or my willingness to listen to reason — Terry was kind enough to offer a careful reasoned response, to which I responded in a similar manner. By contrast, the only response I ever get from you are attacks on my trustworthiness.

    Like

  48. I wasn’t impugning your trustworthiness, just correcting a factual error. If all you meant was that the British public supported the war after it appeared that the victory was won, then I’m sure you’re correct. Very few wars are unpopular right when it appears they have been won. My point was only that the relevant question, from a democratic theory standpoint, is what did the public think of the decision to join the invasion when it was made. And at that point, Blair was following, not the opinion of the people who elected him, but his boss in Washington. But as you say–all of this is a bit of a sideshow as far as your main argument goes.

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  49. The trustworthiness issue was a response to Yoram’s ad hominem. I agree with you on the political theory point and I’m sorry I even raised the issue (the fickleness of uninformed public opinion) in the first place, as it’s something that we probably all agree on.

    Keith

    Like

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