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The Relationship Between FOSS and Democracy 239

An anonymous reader writes "Free software is about freedom. So it shouldn't be any surprise that the ideals behind the free software movement have spread to the place where freedom is most affected: government. The old definition of e-democracy is, basically, 'using computers in politics and governance.' So a politician sending out a batch e-mail is e-democracy. The new movement is about removing the power from politicians and making governance collaborative. The analogy to FOSS is remarkable: think of the current governments as the old guard computing companies, and the collaborative governance movement as the geeks with crazy notions of a different way of organizing things. FOSS looked like an impossible pipe-dream when it started. Tell that to the Apache group today."
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The Relationship Between FOSS and Democracy

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  • Why invent words that have a perfect substitute?
    • What's next, front page coverage of Michael "Your mom's face" Kristlepeet?

      • Most likely. 70 : 30 odds in favor of Kristalpete troll over Godwin's law.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


        Power of the Majority (i.e. white or German) to squash and exterminate the minority (i.e. black, Japanese, or jew). Is anyone thinks this "remove power from laws" is a good idea, then they truly don't understand what they are endorsing. Tyranny of the majority destroys human rights; it does not protect them.

        See Athens. See what happened to Socrates (sentenced to death simply because the majority did not like him).

        • by spun ( 1352 )

          The majority can also use the free market to enforce tyranny:'_Council []

        • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:51PM (#35144158)

          The alternative, our status quo, is to surrender all power to the corporate and political aristocracies. If there's sufficient money to keep the powerful in place, then those wielding those funds form the laws out of whole cloth.

          In what way is this better?

        • Democracy is a concept of governance by "We The People."

          Democracy can never be tyranny. Democracy enfranchises and protects all citizens equally, by the disenfranchisement and defense against all forms of institutional corporate, political, racial, religious demagoguery, dogma, genocide. Democracy empowers the welfare of "We The People." Democracy governs the unthinking dogmatic institutions of business, politics, religion... in order to prevent the usurpation of governing power from "We The People."

          We Th

        • "remove power from laws" is a good idea, then they truly don't understand what they are endorsing. "

          Does the law work now with the ability to buy and sell it like a commodity and oh lets not forget the bail out? The law is mostly a fiction today... Money buys laws and politicians which makes the whole concept farcical, those with the most money get to ignore the law and avoid taxes, the law has limited reach against powerful people in a high tech age.


  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:01PM (#35143542)

    Are we going to use Twitter and Facebook to arrange a schedule when we're going to all take turns guarding the prisoners, patching the roads, cleaning the sewers, and all that stuff that government does through that old-fashioned bureaucracy? I mean, we're "making governance collaborative," overthrowing the old-guy system of doing things, right? So from now on, we'll just send out a tweet when someone robs a bank, and handle the police work on it *collaboratively*.

    Surely everyone is willing to do some actual *WORK*, right, instead of just lazily shooting your digital mouth off on a blackberry or iPad keyboard? Surely we all realize that *REAL* governance takes actual time and effort, no?

    Wait, what is that? that crickets I hear?

    • ...not to mention the requirement of some semblance of intelligence on the part of those governing (the masses in this case), otherwise we end up with either some sort of oligarchy (like FOSS) or a complete welfare state... er... oh crap.
    • Surely everyone is willing to do some actual *WORK*, right, instead of just lazily shooting your digital mouth off on a blackberry or iPad keyboard?

      Right.. because we don't want it to be easy to participate in democracy...

      It's precisely those folks sitting at home shooting off their mouths that makes democracy work. The ability for *anyone* to participate in the process is what makes the system great. Sure, there will be crackpots. There will be trolls. There will be people exploiting the system. But what

      • It's precisely those folks sitting at home shooting off their mouths that makes democracy work. The ability for *anyone* to participate in the process is what makes the system great.


        The ability for anyone to participate is what makes it fail. It leads to results based on sound-bites and emotions instead of reality and serious consideration of the issues.

        The perfect example of this is the Oregon initiative process. Anybody can get an initiative on the ballot to do almost anything (legal and constitutional, and sometimes that's not a limit either). Just get enough people to sign a petition, it gets on the ballot.

        Then the people who can make the most warm-fuzzy happy feelings about

        • No.
          Your post proves it.

          Without this forum your voice might as well be silenced. It's a perfect microcosm of the democratic process here. The readers vote on what they think is insightful or a troll or interesting. If an idea resonates with the people then it will be amplified by the teeming millions. Sure, if you can motivate people, incite people, then your voice is amplified. Others start listening. Others start perfecting the idea. Now some ideas are flawed, but the mere fact that it resonates with h

    • You seem to have confused public sector employment with governance. They're completely different concepts.
    • The parent post's analogy between FOSS and government is especially apt if one substitutes "clean toilets" with "write documentation" and "guarding the prisoners" with "usability testing".

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      I don't know why the mention of 'FOSS government' brings you to comment on 'everybody shooting their mouth on iPad'. Surely you can think better ways to use FOSS concepts in government. The first thing to come to my mind would be SVN for law: how did a specific law change, who did the changes, when, who first suggested it (list lobbyists), list all cases where it was applied, etc... Another would be data publication and visualization: any branch or office must publish some data on its work, and tools to loo
    • Don't be such a party pooper, it'll work! I think we should do it! Oh, except I'm going to pay someone $1 to perform my 10 minutes of guard duty every year. I've got a great idea too, why don't like a few thousand of us pay $1 to one guy to take all of our turns and then he can just do that all year and we don't have to find a ton of people to fill in for out 10 minutes. We should really think about setting up an organization to handle paying him too so that they can make sure he actually signs in for ou

  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:11PM (#35143668) Homepage

    You cannot fork government, you are not free to change to your liking; You cannot use a different government than your neighbor does, you are not free to pick.

    The form of democracy used in most countries is everything but freedom. Sure, you are free to vote on some guy that might share opinions/thoughts/ideals, based on the propaganda they put out. But after that, the person you voted on has free play till the next elections. At that point, you handed over part of your freedom.

    • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:19PM (#35143778)
      Sure you can. Some of the southern states tried to fork the USA a while back. Main project said balls to that, and burned a lot of the "rebel" developers' houses and brought them back in line.
      • Yes, tried to fork, but where not free to fork, which is obvious by the civil war that resulted from the attempt.
        In FOSS everybody is free to fork without repercussions from the trunk (given a set of rules like not claiming ownership or changing the set of rules).

    • I am free to fork laws, I just can't get the changes merged upstream without going through an approval process, just like any other project.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:12PM (#35143674) Homepage Journal

    I know I had Politics turned off on my front page.
    Did that get broken as well as the checking comments?

  • by MarkRose ( 820682 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:14PM (#35143696) Homepage

    And in other ways, FOSS and democracy are opposites. The biggest aspect that pops into mind is force: nobody is forced to use FOSS against their wishes. FOSS is almost always compatible with proprietary implementations (that is, a proprietary implementation can re-implement whatever FOSS does). With democracy, there is always the tyranny of the majority: if 50% + 1 want something, everyone must go along by force. That strikes me much more like proprietary software than FOSS, where a single implementation is the only implementation (such as needing perfect MS Office compatibility).

    FOSS is much more like liberty or anarchy than democracy. No one forces you to use FOSS, but you are free to do so.

    • From the linked article []:

      Collaborative governance is not directly comparable to traditional direct democracy, which is usually a majority rule system used on only a few major issues. By comparison, collaborative governance is a consensus system intended to be used on all issues affecting a community, with the implicit understanding that anyone not participating on a particular issue consents to allow others to decide the issue.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        By comparison, collaborative governance is a consensus system intended to be used on all issues affecting a community, with the implicit understanding that anyone not participating on a particular issue consents to allow others to decide the issue.

        So three of my neighbours get together at two o'clock one morning and decide to steal my stuff and rape my dog, and it's all legal because I didn't participate in deciding the issue.

      • What? The author of that paragraph is a loony if they think renaming "direct democracy" to "collaborative governance" is anything other than a rename.

        Direct democracy is *exactly* what this metagovernment thing is. Consensus will never be attained; instead we will have majority rule among those choosing to participate on a singular item. To believe consensus is achievable among groups with directly opposed interests is nonsense idealism.

        The metagovernment concept literally is direct democracy, except i
      • I don't think you are quite understanding the full meaning of "Tyrany of the Majority" []

        From the summary: "decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that the individual would be actively oppressed, just like the oppression by tyrants and despots"

        Examples from America, both past and present:
        - Enslavement/Racial Segregation - the majority (anglo-saxons/whites) imposing their will upon a minority (african-americans/b
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      With democracy, there is always the tyranny of the majority: if 50% + 1 want something, everyone must go along by force.

      Absolutely no need to make that arbitrary cutoff 50%. Plenty of things in "the system" right now require 2/3 majority, or even consensus such as certain criminal jury trials.

      For a quick education, look at the relationship between the legislative branch and the executive branch as regards vetos. Or the strange relationship inside and outside the supreme court w/ regards to constitutionality of laws.

  • The union (as in set theory, not politically) between FOSS and government (at any level) is not as large as some would like to think or have us believe, due largely that software's relationship to government is simply that it's just another tool. Ideally, while government can advocate for a particular tool set, the reality of government's obligation as an influencer of commerce (directly and indirectly) combined with its role as a regulator of commerce (again, directly and indirectly) leads to the conclus
    • by Temposs ( 787432 )

      I'm pretty sure you mean the intersection, not the union. Your notion of union is actually more the political one than the set theory one.

      • by prgrmr ( 568806 )
        You are right, I did. Then I got distracted trying to write a clever headline and botched it. Does that mean I'm now qualified to be a slashdot editor?
  • Problems with out government? Besides peeps can hold positions for a lifetime, is that that too many people have power they shouldn't.

    If everyone worked for the governement (say 20 hours a week), and our basics of life (electricty, housing, healthcare, etc) where covered by that, then we'd have less crime because everyone's basics are met.

    Also, don't let peeps hold the same positions for life. 1 Senate Term, 1 Congress term, etc.

    Give candinates taht are running the same amount of TV time, and the same am

  • Call me a pessimist, but how come my visions of e-democracy involve getting an RFID chip implanted in my butt, getting finger-printed and having my picture taken every time I travel more than a few kilometers from home, and surveillance of every financial transaction that I have ever made in my life. Cash will be banned; only electronic cards issued by the government will be valid for payments. And: "Sorry, our e-Scans of your brain show that you do not 'conform to the norm' and must be executed. But don

  • Only a few governments who have large commercial backing will ever get out of beta. Most of the rest will languish due to petty squabbles between project leaders and the voices of the community will lately be ignored. When the community members aren't blown off they will be told to submit a path. Or quit bitching.

    There will be fragmentation, personality cults and holy wars all the time.

    Actually, that sounds about like how the world at large works now, anyway.

  • by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @06:31PM (#35143918)

    A lot of Open Source is bankrolled by big corporations. IBM and Novell, for example, have put a lot of investement into FOSS.

  • with most modern democracies, the most successful ones will be puppetized. While the developers will praise their newfound freedom from on high, corporations from motorolas draconian hardware to oracles draconian leadership will ensure the freedom rebranded slowly is never questioned, the fighters and pioneers merely enshrined and marginalized, and the product continues to be consumed. as thomas jefferson is to richard stallman, so will the patriot act be found in the models of the cloud. You are free in
  • "FOSS looked like an impossible pipe-dream when it started. Did you know that?"

    Wow, they took it quite well.

  • IMO, there's only one branch of government suitable for pure FOSS types.

    I could see elements of FOSS working in the congressional setting, if you could get the lawyers to agree. After all, making law is somewhat like coding, and could be made a lot more like it if the legal community would accept the formulation of standard legal clauses that could be automatically reasoned about, a la automata and compilers.

    OTOH, driving ambulances and paving roads is more like what Redhat and kin do, analogically. T
  • Democracy is not a form of government, but is instead a more universal idea about how decisions should be made.

    If you look at the actual implementations of the movement-without-a-name that circulates at places like Crisis Camp and City Camp and whatever Camp, it is not about dumping one government in favor of another, but instead about creating little pockets of opportunity for transparent, opt-in and inclusive decision making to create policy. No revolution! Just little tweaks, here and there. Better over

  • quickly send an email to the Athenians... oh, wait, those have been dead for a few thousand years... and they died thinking THEY invented it, poor souls.

  • a match made in heaven. both are obtuse things dominated by assholes who think very highly of themselves and never had to live with the crap they're making.

  • Call it e-government or whatever, but I want to see which public entities are paying for what, and meeting with whom.

    Without transparency, any e-gov initiative is DOA... a "collaborative" movement with no transparency? Isn't that just like American Idol?

  • The public election system is suboptimal and should be eliminated. Firstly it self-selects power hungry individuals who have more incentive in their political careers than public good, this drives them to such stupidities as pursuing dumb actions just to "look busy" including security theaters. Overspending to look good then passing the bill to the next major, etc. And there are, of course, the lobbies.

    I propose a system of random selection instead of popular election. Randomly select a group of able citize

  • ...In Soviet Russia, social network unfriends you!

    Seriously, the political climate could be deduced by examining who's image disappeared from May Day parade shots at the Kremlin

  • FOSS != Democracy, Collaboration, etc. and are not mutually exclusive. A government that worked like open-source software would be an absolute disaster, and I don't think I need to say why considering the large number of comments that explain it pretty well.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?