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Internet Based Political "Meta-Party" For Massachusetts 227

Posted by timothy
from the thought-you-said-mega-party dept.
sophiachou writes "The Free Government Party, a non-profit, open source political 'meta-party' focused on providing citizens with more direct control of Congress through online polling and user-drafted bills, seems to be looking for a candidate to endorse for US Representative of Massachusetts' 8th Congressional District. If you're from the Boston area, you might have seen this already on Craigslist. The chosen candidate will be bound by contract to vote in Congress only as do his or her constituents online. However, they don't seem to be going for direct democracy. To make voting convenient, you can select advisers to cast your votes for you, unless you do so yourself. Supposedly, interviews for the candidate position are already underway. Anyone from MA's 8th Congressional District on Slashdot already apply?"
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Internet Based Political "Meta-Party" For Massachusetts

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:09AM (#24148437)

    I can't remember my password, so screw Karma.

    The pay for this job in MA is 31k.

    Anyone intelligent at all is making 60k+.

    Anyone unintelligent is making 40k at Mcdonalds if they actually fucking worked at it.

    In other words: the pay doesn't just suck, a teenage dropout can make more.

    I live in this district. I'd apply, and mean it, in a second if the job payed -anything- livable. 55k maybe.

    For all of you who go "But 31k is fine in hickland" this is less than .01 miles from Boston! The cost of living here is crazy. I don't know anyone who can live on 31k a year, pay rent, own a car, and possibly even -dream- of owning a condo, let alone a house. 31k here means you live with roomates- forever. You do not get to support anyone. Ever. Feeding children? No way, that's just dreams.

    The simple fact is, unless you are suicidal, 50+ (and so close to retiring you can afford the pay cut, because you already saved up your retirement fund and the pay is just icing), or so dumb you can't succeed at a damned mcdonalds.

    Good people aren't cheap. And Reps are very cheap. Do you even wonder why reps are so easy to buy?

    -They aren't paid to care about you, and never will be.-

    Discloser: I am 25, and a software engineer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:19AM (#24148515)

    I don't think that will be an issue.

    Right now, theres a general feeling that one person can't do much about the state of things, people are generally disillusioned with politics in general, we've stopped viewing it as a system of representation like it should be and see it as a system of control we have little influence over.

    If we get to the point where individuals really can work to shape policy I think we'll see a lot more people involved, and unwilling to give up their vote, even for money. Why accept cash when you can change the system to better suit you? I know I sure as hell wouldn't, not unless somebody offered me a outrageous sum of money, large enough to set me up for life. And that kind of cash nobody can afford to spend for one vote.

    Imagine the power to get the folks in your area together, and form up behind a bill (in my area I do believe we'd be all over the current road repair system and why its failed miserably, get it replaced, and get our roads fixed.)

    At the same time, it would completely cripple the ability of rich interest groups to dictate policy, people like the RIAA and disney get away with forcing stupid copyright on us because after they are in office we have no control over our representatives, and big corporations basically bribe them to get what they want. Instead a corporation would exactly as much pull as its board of directors, because thats how many votes they get. Telco immunity would have died a grizzly death before the ink on the bill was dry.

    We'd be better off with this I think, if for no other reason than sheer scale.

    I can go out to lunch with 5 buddies and end up with 7 desired toppings on the pizza, you think as a population that isn't being payed off by business interests that we could agree on a new law that runs to a few hundred pages?

    Hell no, laws would get shorter, laws would get easier to understand, laws would become more narrow, pushing only one point at a time, because in a world where you can ask 6 people what they want on their pizza and get 7 answers back you'll have a hard enough time passing laws one point at time, never mind anything else. Write a law with 100 words in it, and give it up to the people for review, I bet you a fiver that you get back 150 things wrong with it.

  • by Scr3wFace (1200541) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:22AM (#24148531)
    Even if the election fairy manages to get this person in office, the existing system on the hill will surely keep him/her out of any and all comities until they do the bidding of the majority. Without being involved in special comities, it's a sure bet this person will be so isolated come next election they will be eaten alive.
  • Re:Politics as Usual (Score:3, Interesting)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:23AM (#24148535)
    Perhaps I'm getting jaded as I get older, but the longer I'm around, the more I wonder how on earth democracy works at all... and how it's managed to stay around so long. I'm almost a skeptic, but it truly is the least worst option, at least so far, that we've been able to come up with. (I wouldn't mind being ruled by an all powerful benevolent AI, should one become available).

    (To paraphrase Carlin) Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize 50% are DUMBER THAN THAT...
  • Re:doomed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Krishnoid (984597) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:04AM (#24148769) Journal

    People selfishly look for their representative to represent them best personally, when people instead should have the maturity to look for someone who represents them collectively.

    I can't remember where I heard this (NPR?) but there were studies done that showed that people vote for who and what that they identify with, not who and what benefits them most or represents them most closely.

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:32AM (#24148911)
    Why not try it and see what happens? What could possibly go wrong? Seriously, this is definitely something worth persuing. Maybe some variation of it in the future will prove better than what we're doing now. I'm sure there were people who didn't believe American democracy would work when our forefathers started this country.
  • by synaptic (4599) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:33AM (#24148913) Homepage

    Everywhere is
    Freaks and hairies
    Dykes and fairies
    Tell me where is sanity

    Tax the rich
    Feed the poor
    Till there are no
    Rich no more

    I'd love to change the world
    But I don't know what to do
    So I'll leave it up to you

    Population
    Keeps on breeding
    Nation bleeding
    Still more feeding economy

    Life is funny
    Skies are sunny
    Bees make honey
    Who needs money, monopoly

    I'd love to change the world
    But I don't know what to do
    So I'll leave it up to you

    Oh yeah

    World pollution
    There's no solution
    Institution
    Electrocution
    Just black or white
    Rich or poor
    Them and us
    Stop the war

    I'd love to change the world
    But I don't know what to do
    So I'll leave it up to you

    - "I'd Love To Change The World" by Ten Years After, 1967

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:35AM (#24148927) Journal

    Sounds a lot like a monarchy

    Nope, it sounds like a committee. The electors were supposed to be performing an occasional, temporary public duty, like serving on a jury.

    -jcr

  • by MenThal (646459) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:53AM (#24149017)
    ...but it was started by two comedians, mostly as an elaborate joke I hink. They called it "The Political Party" and almost all the representatives were known Norwegian comedians. http://www.dpp.no/ [www.dpp.no]
  • by SlovakWakko (1025878) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:58AM (#24149049)
    Where I come from, any contract binding an elected representative to vote in a certain manner would violate the constitution, and thus be invalid from the start. Once a person is elected into the office, he/she can vote however he/she sees fit, and nobody can influence the vote (except $$$ of course ;). Also, it doesn't matter WHY the person has been elected, whether there was an invalid "contract" in the play - the person becomes a legally elected representative for full 4 years.
  • Online influence! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Friday July 11, 2008 @03:31AM (#24149215) Homepage
    I was just thinking of a solution like this in the wake of the Telecoms debacle. What if some reasonably intelligent, semi organised group was to set up a shadow government of sorts, with its own structure to debate and vote on issues on a public website?

    You could set it up like Slashdot, with the explicit goal of influencing government policy and officials to move in a suitable direction.

    Such a group could have policies on health, education, technology, science, military, the whole gamut, all debated by people who know what they are talking about, with a moderation system like slashdot. Once the debate was finalised, you could hold a poll for the final direction of that piece of legislation or whatever, and set that as the policy for the year. The debate could perhaps be re-opened by popular demand as situations change.

    And then you give it teeth. All members donate a hundred bucks a year to it (also a handy way to ensure that there are not too many duplicate accounts) for lobbying or funding the political group, and representatives are appointed to push the agenda on the hill. Its just the bare bones of an idea, it needs a hell of a lot of fleshing out, but damn me if I wouldn't set it up myself if I had the time.
  • by Alibaba10100 (1296289) on Friday July 11, 2008 @04:54AM (#24149627) Journal
    We have some existing data. Online voting is used in referendum voting at many college campuses. I've been impressed with what I've seen. When voting on issues online, college students can be quite moderate. But when you put everyone in the same room and have them vote publicly on issues, the results are not pretty.
  • by damburger (981828) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:07AM (#24150243)

    Why not have artificially intelligent avatars represent you?

    You know what your overall objectives in voting are, but don't have time to pursue them on every single issue. You can't trust a human representative (who certainly has his own agenda) so you program an AI with parameters reflecting your personal preferences and it tries to emulate your vote on every issue that comes up, and if it comes across something it can't handle, alerts you so you can vote in person.

  • Re:Online influence! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:28AM (#24150775) Homepage
    To expand on the idea a bit, from reading the Telecoms debate, it would appear that the going rate for a politician is around $40,000. So lets say you get 100,000 people on board with this idea, thats $10 million or 200-odd politicians you are buying after expenses.

    If you can even get a quarter of a percent of the population on board, you can utterly dwarf any other special interests group out there, the corporations would have no notion of competing, although it would have some hair raising debates with a million people participating. One thing I like about Slashdot however is that it almost always acts as a superb bullshit filter, and the true facts of most matters come out in the end. The same effect would apply for such a system, and contrary to common wisdom, the average person knows a line when its pointed out to them.

    It would remove the power from the politicians, and only those who were voting off message would need to be targeted. You want additional funds going to NASA, or a complete reorganisation of NASA, you got it. You want more spending on education, it will be pushed through. You want the Telecoms bill revoked, congratulations and here's your receipt. You'd need to be careful that you weren't overwhelmed by special interest groups in the early stages (NRA or theological cults for example).

    The idea might leave a bad taste in the mouths of many, but in a warped, roundabout way it sort of is the mercantile American way. And it would without a doubt get things done.
  • Re:doomed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Friday July 11, 2008 @08:56AM (#24151009)

    weighing the good of ALL the people they represent against the good of the commonwealth, against the good of the planet...

    and what subjective means are used to identify this? This is why meta-parties are such a good thing.

    Enlightenment groups like the freemasons were vilified and persecuted as the bane of civil society by royalty and the pope because they recognized the tyranny and provided points of organization against....get this.. royalty and the pope.

    Sound like certain technologies to me.

  • Re:Online influence! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cgenman (325138) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:41AM (#24152261) Homepage

    Why not setup a system that mirror's the house of representative's docket for the following day, allowing people to vote on the issues that matter to them. Break this down by region and district, so that politicians can see their people swinging one way or another on individual issues.

    Create a dynamic system where any one user can lend their vote to another user unless they choose to override it. Setup a discussion for each item with moderation, slashdot style.

    Basically, make it really easy for a congressman to see how people in their district would vote on a very specific piece of legislation. Don't give generalized mush like "we want a smaller government" so much as "87% of your voters say 'vote yes on the bill coming up at 11 am this morning'"

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.

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