Democracy chat

    hey guys i just started


    i think since we now live in the internet age we should leverage tech to maximize power to the people.


    i introduced one idea, feel free to add or tweak anything on there.


    i think if we come up with a good system it could be used in small 200 person communities or with the world.


    thoughts comments

  • 12 Comments sorted by

  • 0

    November 2011


    I would avoid any community with a direct democracy like the plague.


    The idea that majority rules and people are all equal is just as dehumanizing as brutal dictatorships. Although you're more likely to be left alone in a brutal dictatorship than you are in a mob rule society. A dictator only has so much reach to harm the populace while mob rule gives every participant the power and encourages them to dehumanize and devalue their fellow neighbor.


    Any society premised on the idea that all people are equal and *must* be given equal opportunities has and will end in suffering.

  • 0

    November 2011


    are there some examples of this? ive never heard of it being tried.

  • 0

    November 2011


    I live in New England and there is a lot of this going on here.


    To give you an example, a few years ago our trash compactor at the town dump was on its last leg. The folks at the dump put in a warrant article (that's direct democracy for you) to purchase a new trash compactor (if I remember correctly it's roughly ~$20k). The town people voted it down, a few months later the trash compactor failed. The selectmen, who can circumvent the direct democracy in a tight situation, went ahead and ordered a new one. The town dump was closed for about a week and then people complained why it was down.


    To give you more details, the warrant article did say that the trash compactor was in bad shape and *needs* to be replaced. That warrant article was also endorsed by both the selectmen and the budget committee (that fact is printed underneath the paragraph when people are voting on it). There was really no reason for it to fail. The town had voted to approve spending on other stupid stuff that cost more than the compactor.


    Do you know why it didn't get approved? Because of grudges, feuds and personal agendas. I live in a town with gen. pop. ~1,000 and around 400 voters so most people know each other or at least have heard of one another. The way it works is that if your friend was at the dump and was given a hard time throwing something away that should have been recycled instead then you didn't vote for the new trash compactor.


    There are two extremes in the world either people just don't give a crap because it's out of their control, for example the federal government and all of those problems, or they live in a small town and can actually affect things and become entrenched in politics. Most people aren't saints that can hold a grudge back from affecting their decision making in order to benefit themselves or the community.


    A direct democracy gives everyone, regardless of emotional, intellectual or visionary ability to make difficult decisions and in many cases the voters have little or nothing invested in what they are voting on. Bridges and roads are good ones, we vote on which bridge needs to be rebuilt and which road needs to be rebuilt, in all cases the people that are affected by those roads and bridges vote yes and most of the people that aren't vote no. Go figure.


    In many cases the selectmen can and end up doing things counter to what the voters say such as replacing the trash compactor or a bridge.


    In a direct democracy only things that benefit (sometimes just placate emotionally) get yes votes and everything else goes to the way side.



    In a slightly unrelated train of thought, here are some other problems with one vote per person regardless of ability or investment or anything else:


    1. Do conjoined twins get two votes or one vote? How do you determine this? I think it can be argued very well either way.

    2. What about people with multiple personality disorders? Does each personality get a vote? Or just the one that happens to be active while they are in the voting booth? Or should people like that not be able to vote (even though they may actually be very productive members of society)?

    3. What is the truly proper age at which someone should be able to vote? Furthermore, how can you set an arbitrary age? I know 12 year olds that are smarter than some 22 year olds. Why should some arbitrary number prevent perfectly capable people from voting?


    The reason you have to come up with all of these special rules is that direct democracy is unnatural. You get to infringe on the lives of your neighbors simple because you exist - that's total crap to put it bluntly.


    A better system would allow productive people who are actually invested in their community to have more say than a drifter who just happens to have stayed long enough to get "permanent residence" status and suddenly the ability to have as much say in the town as anyone else (on the internets they are called trolls but in voting booths they are treated like long term productive members). Maybe the drifter has good ideas, etc, but they need to contribute and show that they are actually productive members before affecting change.


    If you want ideas look at the thousands of open source projects out there that have equally as many decision making processes, some ideas:



    Meritocracy is used by the Apache Software Foundation:


    Mozilla organization has a more structured top-down approach:


    Btw, if you want more examples of "pure direct democracy" go to any main stream news website and read comments to an article about some important piece of news. Those comments should give you a pretty good idea why direct democracy doesn't work. Not all people are able to think critically or take into consideration all variables.


    Also, if you want to read a book about the ideas of democracy, I highly recommend: Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. It was written almost 200 years ago but is frighteningly accurate of where America would end up, the irony is that de Tocqueville came to America to study our democracy so he could bring it back to France and ended up doing a very thorough and intellectual review of it instead. It's a classic book and required reading at many universities preparing the next politician.

  • 0

    November 2011


    could you add some ideas to the wiki about meritocracy, like how it might be implemented at the farm. should there be a point system? or like maybe categories of what kind and how much work a person has done?

  • 0

    November 2011


    Points!  Points!  I've always wanted to make a point or even have a point. 

    - Mark

  • 0

    November 2011


    There is no way to prescribe a governing framework from afar. The folks at FeF have to come up with one on their own organically based on strengths and weaknesses. If there was a general purpose solution that worked in all cases, Apache, Mozilla, Linux would have the same system and yet they don't.


    In this particular case I think FeF is closer to how Linux is run than anything else. Linus is the benevolent dictator of the whole thing but he has multiple filters so that most decisions can be made lower down. This specifically applies to patches and such, before a patch can make it into the linux kernel it goes through several other people before ending up in front of Linus and the assumption is that by that time it's actually worthy of having Linus look at it and make a final decision


    I guess what I'm getting at is what problem are you trying to solve? And shouldn't you be working with the folks at FeF instead of asking for the structure to be created externally and then foisted upon the group?


    I think the structure would have to be based on who is there now and as people cycle through the structure will likely change.


    How about this suggestion for a system: Let the person that has enough initiative to get something going be the person in charge of whatever it is they are doing. If it's something totally wasteful and destructive than Marcin can veto it.

  • 0

    November 2011


    do you think the u.s.a. government representative system is effective? personally im really more interested in changing that than fef.


    just thought it might be interesting to experiment with different decision making ideas.

  • 0

    November 2011


    Personally I am interested in anarcho capitalism:

    And an agorism:


    Those are the kinds of societies I would want to live in.


    There are several examples of such societies existing in the past:

  • 0

    November 2011



    Medieval Iceland and the Absence of Government

    Privatization, Viking Style: Model or Misfortune?

    by David Friedman
    University of Chicago Law School

  • 0

    November 2011



    The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts


    The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been neglected by historians until very recently. And this was also a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but where they operated within a purely state-less and libertarian society. This was ancient Ireland—an Ireland which persisted in this libertarian path for roughly a thousand years until its brutal conquest by England in the seventeenth century. And, in contrast to many similarly functioning primitive tribes (such as the Ibos in West Africa, and many European tribes), preconquest Ireland was not in any sense a "primitive" society: it was a highly complex society that was, for centuries, the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized in all of Western Europe.

    For a thousand years, then, ancient Celtic Ireland had no State or anything like it. As the leading authority on ancient Irish law has writ­ten: "There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforce­ment of justice…. There was no trace of State-administered justice."9

    How then was justice secured? The basic political unit of ancient Ireland was the tuath. All "freemen" who owned land, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were entitled to become members of a tuath. Each tuath's members formed an annual assembly which decided all common policies, declared war or peace on other tuatha, and elected or deposed their "kings." An important point is that, in contrast to primitive tribes, no one was stuck or bound to a given tuath, either because of kinship or of geographical location. Individual members were free to, and often did, secede from a tuath and join a competing tuath. Often, two or more tuatha decided to merge into a single, more efficient unit. As Professor Peden states, "the tuath is thus a body of persons voluntarily united for socially beneficial purposes and the sum total of the landed properties of its members constituted its territorial dimension."10 In short, they did not have the modern State with its claim to sovereignty over a given (usually expanding) territorial area, divorced from the landed prop­erty rights of its subjects; on the contrary, tuatha were voluntary associa­tions which only comprised the landed properties of its voluntary mem­bers. Historically, about 80 to 100 tuatha coexisted at any time throughout Ireland.

    But what of the elected "king"? Did he constitute a form of State ruler? Chiefly, the king functioned as a religious high priest, presiding over the worship rites of the tuath, which functioned as a voluntary religious, as well as a social and political, organization. As in pagan, pre-Christian, priesthoods, the kingly function was hereditary, this prac­tice carrying over to Christian times. The king was elected by the tuath from within a royal kin-group (the derbfine), which carried the hereditary priestly function. Politically, however, the king had strictly limited functions: he was the military leader of the tuath, and he presided over the tuath assemblies. But he could only conduct war or peace negotiations as agent of the assemblies; and he was in no sense sovereign and had no rights of administering justice over tuath members. He could not legislate, and when he himself was party to a lawsuit, he had to submit his case to an independent judicial arbiter.

    Again, how, then, was law developed and justice maintained? In the first place, the law itself was based on a body of ancient and immemorial custom, passed down as oral and then written tradition through a class of professional jurists called the brehons. The brehons were in no sense public, or governmental, officials; they were simply selected by parties to disputes on the basis of their reputations for wisdom, knowledge of the customary law, and the integrity of their decisions. As Professor Peden states:

    … the professional jurists were consulted by parties to disputes for advice as to what the law was in particular cases, and these same men often acted as arbitrators between suitors. They remained at all times private persons, not public officials; their functioning depended upon their knowledge of the law and the integrity of their judicial reputations.11

    Furthermore, the brehons had no connection whatsoever with the individ­ual tuatha or with their kings. They were completely private, national in scope, and were used by disputants throughout Ireland. Moreover, and this is a vital point, in contrast to the system of private Roman lawyers, the brehon was all there was; there were no other judges, no "public" judges of any kind, in ancient Ireland.

    It was the brehons who were schooled in the law, and who added glosses and applications to the law to fit changing conditions. Furthermore, there was no monopoly, in any sense, of the brehon jurists; instead, several competing schools of jurisprudence existed and competed for the custom of the Irish people.

    How were the decisions of the brehons enforced? Through an elabo­rate, voluntarily developed system of "insurance," or sureties. Men were linked together by a variety of surety relationships by which they guaran­teed one another for the righting of wrongs, and for the enforcement of justice and the decisions of the brehons. In short, the brehons them­selves were not involved in the enforcement of decisions, which rested again with private individuals linked through sureties. There were vari­ous types of surety. For example, the surety would guarantee with his own property the payment of a debt, and then join the plaintiff in enforcing a debt judgment if the debtor refused to pay. In that case, the debtor would have to pay double damages: one to the original cred­itor, and another as compensation to his surety. And this system applied to all offences, aggressions and assaults as well as commercial contracts; in short, it applied to all cases of what we would call "civil" and "crimi­nal" law. All criminals were considered to be "debtors" who owed restitution and compensation to their victims, who thus became their "creditors." The victim would gather his sureties around him and pro­ceed to apprehend the criminal or to proclaim his suit publicly and demand that the defendant submit to adjudication of their dispute with the brehons. The criminal might then send his own sureties to negotiate a settlement or agree to submit the dispute to the brehons. If he did not do so, he was considered an "outlaw" by the entire community; he could no longer enforce any claim of his own in the courts, and he was treated to the opprobrium of the entire community.12

    There were occasional "wars," to be sure, in the thousand years of Celtic Ireland, but they were minor brawls, negligible compared to the devastating wars that racked the rest of Europe. As Professor Peden points out, "without the coercive apparatus of the State which can through taxation and conscription mobilize large amounts of arms and manpower, the Irish were unable to sustain any large scale military force in the field for any length of time. Irish wars… were pitiful brawls and cattle raids by European standards."13

    Thus, we have indicated that it is perfectly possible, in theory and historically, to have efficient and courteous police, competent and learned judges, and a body of systematic and socially accepted law—and none of these things being furnished by a coercive government. Government— claiming a compulsory monopoly of protection over a geographical area, and extracting its revenues by force—can be separated from the entire field of protection. Government is no more necessary for providing vital protection service than it is necessary for providing anything else. And we have not stressed a crucial fact about government: that its compulsory monopoly over the weapons of coercion has led it, over the centuries, to infinitely more butcheries and infinitely greater tyranny and oppres­sion than any decentralized, private agencies could possibly have done. If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and… try freedom.

  • 0

    November 2011


    down twinkles!

  • 0

    November 2011


    Lol, a while ago I posted on this forum about the occupy movement, before it got widely known.  Now it is so widely known and appreciated it sneaks in everywhere.

    However, re direct democracy, you have to start by realizing that people do in fact have different levels of skill and knowledge and ability, and that this is the starting point.  That says nothing, btw about how those differences came into being and there is no sense or morality whatsoever in saying that just because someone has this type of wealth in the first place that they somehow "deserve" more, especially in the form of influence over other people.

    Still, this is the hardware so to speak.  The government is the software.  The software can certainly make a huge difference in the efficacy of the system in terms of making us all happier and so that is why we need to understand and improve it, but remember it cannot overcome certain underlying truths by itself over the short term. Over the long term, well there is obviously a feedback system going on here so it's certainly possible to shape society over the longer run - an encouraging thought but also you should be aware that any system with a feedback loop like that must be very carefully thought out, or it can destroy itself in short order. 

    Frankly this sort of societal feedback loop is, IMO, the greatest threat by far to the long term survival of the human species.  As the capacity for self-modification increases due to technology at a rate too fast for evolution to keep up...

    In your trash compactor example, you find that certain people had a form of wealth that took the shape of influence over the politics.  Well guess what, it's no better, indeed much worse, in the present system, in which people with excess monetary wealth have all the power - but much more than your direct democracy friends as the system is unchecked, and at least in a democracy you have to acquire your power by persuasion.  And frankly if Bob persuades others to vote with him, that is not really undue influence at all, that is just discussion, as long as he has only a reasonable and normal level of volume in the conversation.

    It's not for you to whine about other people following bob.  If you don't like it, go to them and explain yourself, and they will explain back to you how you are wrong (probably).  It never ceases to amaze me how people use the "tyranny of the masses" as a way of arguing for rule by the few.  The bottom line is that we know from science that people are selfish entities.  So an organization is run *for* whoever it is run *by*.  Somebody has to run things:

    You can have the world ruled by a "wise and honest man"- that's called a dictatorship
    You can have things run by the wealthy, that's called a plutocracy, which is what the world and the countries in it mostly are now.
    You can have the world ruled by a few, and that's called an oligarchy, if they are ruling things through monetary wealth and the social norms associated with ownership, it is a plutarchy.
    You can have the world ruled by a large fraction of the people, but not others.  That's what leads to genocide, the holocaust, mass internment of the Japanese during world war II, segregation, slavery and other egregious abuses of the few by the many.
    Or you can have a democracy, rule by the people who are affected by the decisions, in which everyone can be happy, except for the immoral sort of people that want to be slave owners, massacre other people for their jollies etc.

    Notice that democracy is rule by the people, yes, but there is the implication that it is only the people who are affected by the decisions.   If people have influence in decisions that are also commensurate to the degree to which they are affected, that could be even better.  Also note that it has to be up to the people to decide how much something affects them.  So I think a "politibucks" type system might be something that could be interesting to try, on a small scale obviously like fef.  Everyone gets 50 votes per meeting and they can spend them however they wish or something.   But there are fundamental problems with voting to begin with, though.

    The thing is that the stuff going on in the occupations is not about multiple choice decision making, but collective thinking, throwing out the whole voting thing altogether almost, which is the really interesting part...  and there are fundamental problems with voting, too, as you can have a group of people voting in a certain way take control of things

    Really, when you get right down to it, this is about navigating the problem-space of all possible ways to do things.  Certain paths are better than others, and the exploration process is way more important than steering (voting).  The thing is that sometimes you do run into zero-sum situations where you have to steer.  If big finance or pharma or Agriculture or whatever wants free money (subsidies), period, to put in their execs pockets as bonuses, and we have to pay for them, there is only so much you can do there besides saying no, as far as I can tell (although maybe discussion would prove me wrong... never assume!).