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Government Politics

Could Crowd-Sourced Direct Democracy Work? 594

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the kicking-back-pints-of-hemlock dept.
maccallr writes "The Occupy movement is getting everyone talking about how to fix the world's economic (and social, environmental, ...) problems. It is even trialling new forms of 'open' democracy. Trouble is, it's easy to criticize the physical occupiers for being unrepresentative of the general population — and much of their debating time is spent on practical rather than policy issues. Well-meaning but naive occupiers could be susceptible to exploitation by the political establishment and vested interests. In the UK, virtual occupiers are using Google Moderator to propose and debate policy in the comfort of their homes (where, presumably, it is easier to find out stuff you didn't know). Could something like this be done on a massive scale (national or global) to reach consensus on what needs to be done? How do you maximize participation by 'normal folk' on complex issues? What level of participation could be considered quorate? How do you deal with block votes? What can we learn from electronic petitions and Iceland's crowd-sourced constitution? Is the 'Occupy' branding appropriate? What other pitfalls are there? Or are existing models of democracy and dictatorship fit for purpose?" One issue I see with a global version of something like this is all of the people in the world who haven't even heard of the Internet.
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Could Crowd-Sourced Direct Democracy Work?

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  • by nepka (2501324) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:13PM (#37979888)
    The main reason being that people in general are stupid. Everyone thinks they know better than anyone else without actually knowing anything at all. They just have a need to comment and vote about it, saying they know better. Added problem is the impulse decisions to any problem that comes along, selfish thinking and group stupidity as a whole voting out any expert that actually knows about things.

    Direct, 100% democracy also leads to huge problems for minorities. If back in the 90's older people would have been thinking that computers and machines are destroying the world, they would had just banned them from all geeks. No reasoning, majority just thinks so. Similarly, and even more noticeable, it leads to huge problems for sexual minorities, ladyboys, "rich" people (those who actually create jobs and make things happen) or anyone else the majority as a whole starts to hate. It's akin to mob justice. Full democracy is never good.

    However, and I cannot stress this enough, people in general just are incredibly stupid.
    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:18PM (#37979932)

      It's not that people are stupid, it's that people may not have a complete education in given subjects.

      Even if we posit an ideal Libertarian utopia, I don't know what to do about interstate grazing rights, do you?

      While this is true in the legislature, there's a reason why we specialize and have committee and sub committee rules.

      • by lkcl (517947)

        this is precisely what the Natural Law Party proposed. they proposed not only local governance, but that specialists be invited to advise on specific subjects.

        unfortunately, everybody thought that the Natural Law Party were coke-snorting left-wing loonies. actually, Mr Maharishi just thought that the trampoline guy was a hoot, so they didn't take him out of the Party Political Broadcasts ohh dearie me... :)

      • by Bogtha (906264) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:52PM (#37980276)

        It's not that people are stupid, it's that people may not have a complete education in given subjects.

        No, often it really is just stupidity. People are happy to clamour for something without even thinking it through. They are happy to argue to the death for something based on knee-jerk reactions. That's not a lack of domain knowledge, that's just stupidity.

        Even if we posit an ideal Libertarian utopia, I don't know what to do about interstate grazing rights, do you?

        Not a clue, and I'm happy to be quiet on such a topic. Unfortunately, many people in the same situation would not, and I dread to think what would happen if we listened to all of them. The number of people who know something about an esoteric subject is usually outnumbered by the number of people willing to interfere in things they know nothing about.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by penandpaper (2463226)

          Not a clue, and I'm happy to be quiet on such a topic. Unfortunately, many people in the same situation would not, and I dread to think what would happen if we listened to all of them. The number of people who know something about an esoteric subject is usually outnumbered by the number of people willing to interfere in things they know nothing about.

          If maybe there were a way to determine your level of expertise on various subjects that either qualify or disqualify you from voting on certain matters. Such that, in regards to interstate grazing rights you would forfeit your vote to the people that have been determined to know precedents, rulings, rights, and other determining factors for such policy. However, say a policy of voting ethics, you would be able to cast your vote with other eligible voters that have passed pre-screening for voting on that ma

          • by Fjandr (66656)

            At the end of the day, the people put in place to determine qualifications would be the ruling party.

          • by wierd_w (1375923)

            This proposal does not have any safeguards against the formation of intellectual aristocracies, (it does not enable permeability of social strata. Specific fields of study could be controlled to prevent the rest of the public becoming informed, and thus eligable to vote on the issues. Eg, concerning medicine, if med schools are run by doctors seeking self interest politically, and actively refuse admission to otherwise perfectly brilliant students, do this simply to intensify the power of their own votes.),

        • by grcumb (781340)

          It's not that people are stupid, it's that people may not have a complete education in given subjects.

          No, often it really is just stupidity. People are happy to clamour for something without even thinking it through. They are happy to argue to the death for something based on knee-jerk reactions. That's not a lack of domain knowledge, that's just stupidity.

          Indeed. I live in a developing country that's about to accede to the WTO, against significant opposition from the grass roots. In today's paper was an article about how the WTO is bad for the US because jobs suddenly become globalised. Yeah, they move into developing countries like ours.

          In effect, the editorial was stating that we should oppose the WTO because it creates local employment.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          No, often it really is just stupidity. People are happy to clamour for something without even thinking it through. They are happy to argue to the death for something based on knee-jerk reactions. That's not a lack of domain knowledge, that's just stupidity.

          Actually quite often it is the person making the accusation who is an idiot for failing to understand why people act the way they do. A classic example was the story about Italy voting not to build new nuclear power stations a few months back. Several commentators launched into tirade about how stupid all the sheeple are with their knee-jerk reaction to Fukushima and unjustified fear of nuclear power. That completely missed the real reason they rejected it: the guy proposing it was a crook and they didn't w

      • by Idbar (1034346)

        It's not that people are stupid, it's that people may not have a complete education in given subjects.

        That, and the fact that many believe they know the subject without knowing makes the perfect reason for the "wouldn't work".

        This reasoning, however, doesn't imply that the opinions of many shouldn't be listened and taken into account for legislation (based on some quorum that is). Overall, I'd assume that respecting the X% of the population (where X is a fairly low number) should be a goal for the government.

        Then again, I don't know about the topic and I'm talking about it, so most likely I'm making s

        • Overall, I'd assume that respecting the X% of the population (where X is a fairly low number) should be a goal for the government.

          Well, they've accomplished that. And it's a wonderfully low X, too.

      • Specialization and education are important for the reasons you point out.

        But it's also true that most people are really, really stupid.

        One could easily imagine a "direct democracy" that supplements the legislature - similar to the referendum procedure used in most states.
        The OP's point is that a majority of people, being stupid pricks, will often tyrannize minorities and institute really stupid policies.
        This is true with or without a legislature. See, e.g., California's constitutional amendment banning gay

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        It's not that people are stupid, it's that people may not have a complete education in given subjects.

        No.
        "Not having a complete education" != stupid.
        "Not having a complete education but still thinking you know more than somebody that did have a complete education" == stupid.
        "Not having a complete education and using the knowledge of somebody that did have a complete education" == smart.
        (Obviously talking about specific subjects of education, not general education).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ladyboys

      While I agree with your point... ugh. Please use a more civil term, such as "transgendered". Not only is that somewhat offensive to male-to-female transgendered people, it basically disregards the existence of female-to-male transfolk.

      But, yeah, most people are stupid and really shouldn't be making decisions that impact an entire country. Wanna know what should be done? Put the country in the hands of intelligent, altruistic, understanding people.

      Of course, good luck selecting people that actually fit those

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Not only is that somewhat offensive to male-to-female transgendered people, it basically disregards the existence of female-to-male transfolk.

        I notice you didn't mention the robot-to-vehicle and robot-to-consumer-product transfolk. Bigot.
        (I didn't mention the robot-to-dinosaur or robot-to-city transfolk because they are sparkless abominations.)

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      The main reason being that people in general are stupid.

      You could have stopped right there.

      Personnally, I have nothing against people and wouldn't call them stupid to their face, but there's a staggering number of people who really, really liked what a certain few former governors had to say, so they were elected. These would prove to be very regretable choices for the electorate as their state governments lost oppotrunity while times were relatively good and set them up for greater difficulty down the road.

      Watching the economic events in Greece and Italy, ther

    • by qpqp (1969898)
      http://www.public-software-group.org/liquid_feedback [public-sof...-group.org] The pirate party's direct democracy tool of choice, afaik.
    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Which is why a better system is a meritocracy. But now combine that with Google's Pagerank, where people who are voted by other people generally have more 'weight' to a policy's outcome, even if anyone can influence it. There'd be no government, but the public isn't treated equally. It'd be like the perfect balance between a "the public make the choices" system, and "government knows best".

      That would be the basic premise, although you could expand upon this by voting for someone's particular 'skill area' ra

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The main reason being that people in general are stupid.

      Generally people are stupid, and well meaning. I'll take my chances with stupid and well meaning over devious and self-serving any day.

      Direct, 100% democracy also leads to huge problems for minorities.

      There's nothing about representation that protects minorities. That's constitutional limitations, which we need to get back to respecting.

      Representation can actually make things worse for minorities. For example, if you have a racist party and a modera

    • "People are stupid" always strikes me as a stupid rationale for why the world doesn't work like the stupid speaker wants it to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      Even if everyone were geniuses, it's also a time-sink. Would everyone really want to vote on the minutiae that local state and federal governments deal with hourly? Heck, I find it a pain when /. Gives me another bundle of mod points just after I spent my last one ("oh jeez, now I have to judge").
      • by Kjella (173770)

        Even if everyone were geniuses, it's also a time-sink.

        Which is why a direct democracy that depends on you voting in every vote is fairly flawed. That doesn't lead to mob rule, it leads to flash mob rule and victory by attrition. A good direct democracy should let you take stances, that yes I'm opposed to his now just like the last ten times we voted on something like that. It should also let you choose representatives, like I trust $person or $party to be an expert in this area and I'll let him/them represent me. But unlike now that you can withdraw that suppo

    • The main reason being that people in general are stupid

      Exactly right. Here in British Columbia, Canada, we recently had a referendum on changes to our consumption tax. Every economics expert under the sun, from all political spectrums, argued that the new tax was better for the economy. Yet the referendum was defeated as the electorate flocked to a charismatic ex-politician who opposed it for grandstanding reasons - Others voted no because they were angry at a different (ex) politician who brought in th

      • Every economics expert under the sun, from all political spectrums, argued that the new tax was better for the economy.

        Right because the news media equally represented the opinions of every economics expert under the sun, and they all agreed...
        Firstly, there is no policy upon which all economists agree. If the news gave you the impression that there was, then you are guillible. Especially in the case of consumption tax, there are many experts who view it as an unfair tax as it is a (relatively) flat tax meaning that the wealthier pay comparatively less of their income than lower income citizens, and corporations pay almost

    • by cdrnet (1582149) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:43PM (#37980170)

      The majority of people, in general, are not as stupid as you may think (usually only about a third of them).

      Looking at currently established direct 100% democracies, most of them:
      * agree (democratically) to limit their own rights to put human rights on top (other than say the US that doesn't really care about them)
      * often priorize education very highly (as opposed to e.g. military expenses)
      * are politically very stable (middle ground, instead of back and forth between extreme positions)
      * are economically very stable (even these days)
      * have almost no strikes
      * sometimes even agree to increase taxes (yes, they can essentially vote on how much taxes they want to pay)
      * have low unemployment rates
      * do not start any wars or threat other countries (seek diplomatic solutions and cooperation instead)

      • Please show your data.

      • by Motard (1553251)

        Could you do the discussion a favor and enumerate these direct democracies?

      • The majority of people, in general, are not as stupid as you may think (usually only about a third of them).

        Let me introduce you to our friend, the IQ gaussian. It's a very interesting concept. A very large, statistically speaking, pool of individuals take a test designed, as best we can, to quantify intelligence as a single number called IQ, or "Intelligence Quotient."

        The scores of everyone, graphed, always, and I mean always, come out as a bell curve, or Gaussian curve [wikipedia.org]; then the scores are adjusted so th

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:45PM (#37980196) Homepage Journal

      "rich" people (those who actually create jobs and make things happen)

      PfffhahaHAWHAWheohoohoohaaHAAAAAAA! You had me until there, bro!

      At least your first paragraph is right, though. You can expect to see real mob justice after all those disgruntled soldiers and Marines come back from the sandbox with PTSD and no jobs to support themselves.

      • by Bucky24 (1943328)
        AFAIK it's against the law to fire someone while they're on active duty. So those soldiers have jobs waiting for them.
    • by chispito (1870390)

      The main reason being that people in general are stupid.

      So why should I listen to anything you have to say?

      • Because, you see, everyone *else* is stupid... except him and anyone who agrees with whatever his 31 ideological flavors are.

        Welcome to Slashdot!

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Another problem is that a certain percentage of people will always vote for a certain thing or issue. There are Democrats who will never not vote Democratic, Republicans that will never not vote Republican, and special interest people who will always vote on abortion, gay rights, environmentalism, racism, etc. (either way). You could have the perfectly seasoned and educated candidate, but if a female non-white/Jewish & had a stance on abortion (either way), gay rights (either way), and had strong op

    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      The main reason being that people in general are stupid.

      And yet, somehow, Wikipedia works.

    • by bcrowell (177657)

      The main reason being that people in general are stupid.

      You left out selfish and shortsighted.

      I live in California, which has lots of direct democracy: initiative, recall, etc. If you want a perfect demonstration of what's wrong with too much direct democracy, California is it.

      We have one of the longest constitutions in the world, and one of the reasons is that initiatives are often written as constitutional amendments. A particular problem is all the constitutional stuff that requires that a certain amount of tax revenue be given to certain purposes, combined w

    • No, it would not work
      The main reason being that people in general are stupid

      This is your main reason? With intelligence being controlled by numerous genes and being normally distributed? You have evidence that there is some special intelligence cutoff that we need to move to direct democracy? I doubt you have even bothered to think about it.

      In any case, you're argument is absolutely insufficient. You also need to show that:
      1) Politicians as a class are less stupid than the general population. Many would agr

    • Direct, 100% democracy also leads to huge problems for minorities.

      I believe the term you are looking for is "the tyranny of the majority". I like the direct democracy idea, but have no idea how to "fix" this issue. Its not like representative democracy doesn't also have this problem either.

  • No, it won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dragon Bait (997809) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:19PM (#37979944)

    People who actually have jobs and a life will be under represented as the people who have nothing better to do besides sit around and watch TV would be over represented.

    Over time democracies degenerate into mob rule. A constitutional republic -- the constitution to protect individual rights, republic to pick someone to represent you -- is much preferred.

    • by openfrog (897716)

      I had mod points, but....
      How can you say it won't work when we have not even scratched the surface of what crowd-sourced democracy could look like.

      Just to suggest an idea that keeps coming popping up in my mind recently: here on Slashdot, we constantly survey what threatens the Internet as we invented it and we see that much power is exercised covertly through the actual writing of legislation, a process which often find our representatives complaining that they don't have the occasion or actual time to inf

      • by fyngyrz (762201)

        How can you say it won't work when we have not even scratched the surface of what crowd-sourced democracy could look like.

        You really want to know? Ok, you have a brand new house. You need to wire it. You have two choices. You can hire some random person to do it, let's say a cook from McDonald's who knows absolutely nothing about electricity except that the light comes on when he flicks a switch, or you can hire an electrician, familiar with electricity, insulation, keeping wires away from the sides of wal

    • People who actually have jobs and a life will be under represented as the people who have nothing better to do besides sit around and watch TV would be over represented.

      Yup. I've always been in favor of moving elections from Tuesdays to all weekend. Think a few election returns would be different if the playing field weren't blatantly slanted against the employed?*

      *For the pedantic, yes, I know some people work at other times, but the majority of working people work during working hours.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:19PM (#37979950)
    How is the issue of mob rule addressed? I agree that our system in the US is not the most efficient, there are valid arguments that inefficiency and designed in different perspectives are there to provide a moderating effect. To create a little time for thought and debate.

    None of the above should be interpreted to be support for the current dysfunctional behavior of the US Congress. I'm just questioning the wisdom of just going with whatever the majority thinks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One method of addressing mob rule is to make legislation enacted as now, by representation. Make veto power and removal of laws a democratic function. All bills that make it through the house and the senate must be approved by a majority of the population. Any law can be brought before the public for review at any time. If it does not receive the majority it is removed from the books.

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        One method of addressing mob rule is to make legislation enacted as now, by representation. Make veto power and removal of laws a democratic function. All bills that make it through the house and the senate must be approved by a majority of the population. Any law can be brought before the public for review at any time. If it does not receive the majority it is removed from the books.

        Given such a process I am not sure the voting rights act of 1965 would have survived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_Rights_Act [wikipedia.org]

    • by lkcl (517947)

      going with the majority teaches both the majority and the minority not to ever go with the majority, ever again. "the majority" is, by definition, "the median". i.e. *lower* than the "max". whoops.... john major's "classless society" and destroying the polytechnic system... he should have been strung up for that, but whoops, you can't do that either because he was... yep, voted in by a "majority"... *shakes head*...

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:28PM (#37980034) Homepage Journal

    It confuses technological means with good governance. As others have mentioned upthread, the major consideration of mob rule is no different than without technology. Read your Federalist Papers, then get back to me.

  • Look at California (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark_reh (2015546) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:29PM (#37980052) Journal

    California is almost a "direct-democracy" due to the large number of ballot measures voted on by the public. California is a disaster. Direct democracy doesn't work because people are not fully educated on all the issues and to become fully educated would take away from their time spent doing other, more interesting activities.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:30PM (#37980054)

    Pollster: Hey, you!
    Guy: Huh?
    P: What do you do?
    G: I have a Master's degree in puppetry.
    P: Wow! That's... a thing!
    G: Thanks!
    P: So how do you think the Global Economic Steering Committee should plan for the next 5 years? Should they continue to implement the existing computable general equilibrium models or switch over to the new Klein-Mobius models that have arisen from the joint econometric project at MIT and Oxford?
    G: Um. Wait, what was that about a joint?
    P: Do you feel the current IS/LM techniques are effectively pushing both the local and global economic realities toward the general equilibrium point, or is the locus of points generated by the algorithms simply not reflecting actual market trends?
    G: Did you say lotus? I can do the lotus position.
    P: Is there someone else here we can talk to?

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:48PM (#37980234) Homepage Journal

      Pollster: Hey, you!
      Guy: Huh?
      P: What do you do?
      G: I have a Master's degree in puppetry.
      P: Wow! That's... a thing!
      G: Thanks!
      P: So how do you think the Global Economic Steering Committee should plan for the next 5 years? Should they continue to implement the existing computable general equilibrium models or switch over to the new Klein-Mobius models that have arisen from the joint econometric project at MIT and Oxford?
      G: Um. Wait, what was that about a joint?
      P: Do you feel the current IS/LM techniques are effectively pushing both the local and global economic realities toward the general equilibrium point, or is the locus of points generated by the algorithms simply not reflecting actual market trends?
      G: Did you say lotus? I can do the lotus position.
      P: Is there someone else here we can talk to?

      Amusing, but more likely scenario:

      Pollster: Hey you!

      Guy: Me?

      P: Yes, what you you think about cutting spending?

      G: It's great, I'm all for it!

      P: Where should we cut? Arts, Medicine, Defence, Research, Social Programs or Education?

      G: Anything which doesn't directly affect me.

  • It could work, as long as sunset clauses are built into all resulting legislation in case something doesn't work out as well as planned. There's nothing worse than a bad law that can't easily be repealed, and this difficulty also prevents good laws from having a chance at being passed.

  • Trouble is, it's easy to criticize the physical occupiers for being unrepresentative of the general population

    Yeah, well, that's going to happen when you claim to represent 99% of the population. It's easy because it's true.

    • by Bucky24 (1943328)
      I heard a speaker the other day saying that the 99% is misleading, and they represent more like 80-85% of the people. Still high though.
  • Constitution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by agm (467017) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:43PM (#37980180)

    This would only work if there were a constitution that specifically sets out to protect people so that the majority cannot vote in laws that initiate harm against someone else. One man should not be allowed to vote away the freedoms of another.

    • The problem is that over time charismatic leaders will convince people to water down the meaning of that constitution, as demonstrated by the current state of U.S. politics. The U.S. federal government has undertaken tasks which the Framers of the Constitution clearly thought they had denied the federal government the authority to do.
  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:44PM (#37980184) Homepage

    there's a risk that this subject line will automatically have people going "-1" automatically. this will demonstrate, graphically, how democracy is the weakest form of government.

    if on the other hand, this message gets moderated up, then you know that slashdot's moderation system works as a "democracy".

    i think it's worthwhile looking up the "Jefferson Mk 7" which you'll find in an arthur c clarke sci-fi novel. it's the one about remote interplanetary colonisation. it's called the "Mk 7" for obvious reasons, and its strongest point was cryptographically-secure random number generation to select the president... for an office duration of ONE (1) year. all persons ever expressing an interest in becoming president were automatically disqualified.

    the point that the sci-fi writer was making, indirectly, is that modern democracy gets people the leaders that they DESERVE.

    i much prefer the original greek system. you get everyone into an arena, and they ask each other questions about the population of the city (athens: 30,000). if they get the answer wrong, they're disqualified.

    the last person left becomes the leader.

    now that's democracy.

    but best of all, i prefer the system where the leader has absolutely no power but to make "proclamations". very much like the debian so-called "leader", who is there merely to satisfy the "idiots" who go "what the fuck does this group of 1,000 developers think they're doing by _not_ having a leader??" so now they have one, all the remaining 999 developers can get some peace and get their heads down, get on with the job of packaging.

    "democracy" - the means by which knee-jerk reactionary politics can result in decisions that are jolted back into complete reverse gear after 4 years. greaat.

    so - if you define crowd-sourced direct democracy as being the "voice of the people", then yeah, it works. it tells you quite how scarey crowds can be. the "collective consciousness" of crowds shines through, loud and clear. maybe that's a good thing, when the mob shows itself to be an ass instead of being sensible.

    me, i live in a remote area of scotland, away from crowds. maybe that tells you something, maybe it doesn't...

  • Regardless of of what everyone thinks would work or not work, we must not forget one fact: the status quo is not good enough and by a lot of measures a failure.
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:51PM (#37980268)

    No, it wouldn't work, and I'll tell you why, based on the very source of the debate: the "occupy" movement. First off, what do they stand for? Go to one of these protests and start asking people why they're there and what they want, most of them will give you different answers. Of the answers that are similar, most of them will be so vague and generic as to be almost useless. The rest will cover so wide a range as to make it almost impossible to find some sort of middle ground or consensus. The issue of consensus-making is hard enough in a representative system (needs either party-line voting or coalition voting to happen). And this is in the rather limited population of elected representatives. The problem is greatly compounded when the number of voters goes from a couple hundred to a couple thousand; while direct democracy would involve millions. At the same time, elected representatives are supposed to be specialists; theoretically they should have the time to research and evaluate issues up for vote before they cast their votes. Currently they have huge staffs and are still overwhelmed when it comes to knowledge of what they are voting for. How do you expect a person who is working 40 hours a week, raising a family, etc going to find the time to do his due diligence and research and think about the issues, ethics, and ramifications around one potential vote, much less all the others he would have to do? It would lead to massively irresponsible voting, simply because people would be overwhelmed.

    Another problem with this is that everyone can tell you what the problem is, and how they think it should be fixed, but none of them can give a practical way to obtain that fix. Ask them if they want free healthcare, or free college tuition, and they will say yes. Ask them if they would be willing to pay 30-40-50% or higher taxes for this, and they will probably say "no, I don't make enough money. The people who make over $250,000 should pay for most of that." Ask them, and they will say "the people who make over $1,000,000 a year should pay for it". And really, when you are getting into tax rates of 50-60-70%, it actually becomes cheaper for you to pay for those things yourself. What they suggest either doesn't fix the problem, or causes far more problems than it fixes. There is also the inherent need to "stick it" to someone, or to come out ahead over someone. People are perfectly happy to have stuff given to them, but they are far less willing to give things up for others. They all want to pass the buck to someone better off than them.

    I know what I am about to say will get me modded down, but I'm going to (mis)quote Heinlein anyway: "when you vote the impossible, the disastrous possible happens instead." The few times that any majoritarian consensus is achieved, it will slightly benefit those it favors, and substantially damage those it doesn't.

    tl;dr: It won't work because the numbers are simply too big, and ignoring that hurdle what policies could pass would themselves be either so impossible to fulfill or so unequal (due to the naivete/ignorance of governance or selfishness of the voters) that they would have consequences much worse than what we are facing today.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Un pobre guey (593801)
      Here is a very practical way to obtain the fix: repeal the following legislation in their entirety:

      The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (Gramm-Leach-Bliley) [wikipedia.org],
      The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 [wikipedia.org], and
      The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 [wikipedia.org]
      If there is a single thing that would prevent another economic collapse in the future, it is the immediate repeal of those three acts.

      You can start by signing a petition [signon.org].

  • by Maltheus (248271) on Monday November 07, 2011 @08:51PM (#37980272)

    "Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms."

  • Voters who are baffled or bamboozled can't effectively run a country. The best they can do is hold beauty pageants and popularity contests.

    • Voters who are baffled or bamboozled can't effectively run a country.

      Can they elect representatives who can effectively run a country, though? Our actual track record is not exactly stellar on that count.

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:29PM (#37980668)

    No, direct democracy cannot work, and the Occupy movement is a perfect example of why not. The occupiers aren't even able to govern themselves. Witness the unsanitary conditions and crime in any of the camps.

    • If they tried to dig proper latrines, incinerate waste, and punish criminals the shock troops would pounce. Protests always tend to look pitiful because all authority has been invested in government. Even those fighting that goofball Gaddafi came across themselves as clowns.
      • They couldn't even get enough dough from Soros for porta-potty and dumpster service? Pitiful indeed.

        • by ukemike (956477)
          Odd, there were dozens or porta-potties at Occupy Oakland when I was there last week. They are serviced daily, and none of the money comes from any billionaires. Where do you get these weird ideas?
  • by jcdr (178250) on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:40PM (#37980768)

    Part of many country problem is to give too much power to a very small group of people. I live in Switzerland, where proportional representation, direct democracy, constitutional initiative and referendum are in place since a long time. Those "politic tools" tends to give back some government controls to the citizens, effectively making harder for a small but powerful entity to impose his view alone. Citizens are more concerned and informed about the politic process and get very often the responsibility to vote on almost any changes of the constitution. That way, the citizen tend to think as a part of the nation, not as a supporter or opponent to an elected majority.

    This is very observable in the media. Most country new is only about what the citizens will face after government decisions or about election of the next government (if not only the president). Here, the citizen actions are more visible. It's usual to vote to choose between constitution changes proposed by the government or by a group of citizens. This bring some pressure to the politics to present acceptable changes.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craig@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday November 07, 2011 @10:07PM (#37980996)

    Just because you use the latest buzz-phrases in an attempt to reframe it doesn't change the picture: it's still what Jefferson and others described as the tyranny of the majority and went to considerable lengths to restrain when they devised our form of government. A rose is still a rose by any other name and all that. There are certain things that should be inalienable rights, that not even a majority should be able to take away from minorities with a vote. Your "crowd-sourced democracy" would allow that to happen.

    Read up on tyranny of the majority, and then you'll understand why your re-branded crowd-sourced democracy is the same thing and just as un-egalitarian.

  • by Prune (557140) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @12:16AM (#37981884)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theorem [wikipedia.org]
    The short of it: individual preferences cannot be aggregated in a meaningful way without paradoxes. Most reasonable people would find unacceptable that any of the listed criteria should be violated, yet there is no way around this. And so, democracy can't work even in theory, let alone in practice.
    From what's left, I figure non-dictatorship is the criterium I'm most willing to let go, assuming we can (in the future) specially breed and raise a group from which to choose reliably benevolent dictators who will exercise the minimum influence needed to make the system work..

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