Democracy 2.0

A simple, legal way to put power in the hands of the people.

Month: February, 2013

Why art alone is not enough to fix the broken system

As always here’s three examples:
Occupy Poetry
A particularly poorly written piece on why society is bad, man.
OWS Graffiti

This is the kind of bullshit that makes your movement lose credibility. Art (or whatever this is) does not appeal to many people. Check out this quote from this Army of Artist’s facebook page:

“Occupy Wallstreet” didn’t work, but AOA can!!! AOA is an “Army of Artists” working to bring the next Renaissance, which our world is in desperate need for. What past revolutions/calls for movement in the past have lacked is the true empowerment of each individual. Everyone who has lived and can express those experiences is an artist. Our very nature is creative. This is the true liberation, and we live in a society that is currently dominated by consumption, materialism and superficiality. We must begin to create again and to love.

Not only are there no real ideas here, the Army of Artists is claiming that everyone who isn’t an artist doesn’t count. The leader assumes that everyone thinks like her, and that anyone who enjoys consumption, materialism, and superficiality is incorrect about what makes them happy. This movement uses phrases such as “true empowerment” and “true liberation” without once explaining what the “truth” is. I actually went to this meeting last week and it had the same problems that OWS had: as soon as people start listening, leaders grow power-hungry. It’s not their fault, we’re all human and this is a natural response. At the meeting the person who created it referred to AOA as her baby. Any criticism of her idea, was considered an insult to her baby. While claiming that the purpose of this movement was to eliminate hierarchy, she chose to stand up, unlike everyone else attending the meeting who were sitting down. She wanted to be in control. She wanted the glory of being a revolutionary. Most of the discussion (just like at OWS) was people taking turns saying vaguely inspirational things.

A successful movement energizes the disenfranchised, while simultaneously not spooking the middle and convincing the rich. Democracy 2.0 does all three of these.

Energize the disenfranchised: Anyone would have the ability to change society however they want. Obviously the people suffering the most in society are the disenfranchised. D-2.0 should give them hope, and a practical plan to be the change they want to see in the world. None of them can enter politics, but all of them can obtain internet access. They have the most to gain from D-2.0. This is typically the group people try to cater to when developing their movement. Unfortunately, most other movements try to encourage these suffering people to empower themselves with their ability to inflict chaos, not come up with ideas.

Not spook the middle: Democracy 2.0 can also be used to maintain the status quo indefinitely. Initially nothing changes until the people begin to realize the power they have over society. It’s all about gradual change, instead of a violent shift. The middle class is comfortable, but they can see the problems in society clearly. It’s not that they are too lazy or evil to fix the world, but that they are frightened of losing their comfortable position. If they have some say in where society heads next, that fear is at least diminished.

Convince the rich: Rich people aren’t afraid of what’s going to happen next, and they have tons of energy because they have wealth. Like everyone else, they think they know good ideas when they see them but they also have the ability to act on them. They certainly won’t follow a movement that wants them to give all their money to the less wealthy. They won’t follow a movement that brings them down. Why would anyone? Democracy 2.0 is all about giving everyone the ability to control society. Rich people think they have good ideas. With democracy 2.0 they don’t have to play politics in order to see them executed. They don’t even have to give up any of their money.

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Explaining Hacking Democracy to Libertarians

If you believe the power of the federal government should be severely limited, you should be a proponent of democracy 2.0. For some reason this is difficult to explain to people: democracy 2.0 is not a new form of government, and it’s not merely direct democracy. It can be eventually but as of right now, it’s a technique, a strategy, to decentralize decision making power.

Let’s look at an example: when legislation was passed in the 1800s strengthening the power of the federal government, those decisions, or legislation, were drafted and voted into law by the elected leaders at the time. These changes in how the government worked were proposed and voted for by citizens, albeit elected citizens. Democracy 2.0 would just give even more citizens a say.

I personally agree that federal government should be toned down, if not entirely eliminated. I think enough other people would agree that legislation could be proposed and voted on using democracy 2.0 & executed by injecting democracy 2.0 that reduced the power of national government. But then again, real democracy has never really been tried at the national level. It would certainly work for some legislation, such as funding a national army or making murder illegal. But more nuanced topics such gun rights or abortion probably are best left to different states.

Democracy 2.0 would even allow states to secede peacefully. As uncomfortable as it might make me to admit, the only thing preventing any state from seceding is the threat of violence brought on by the armed forces of the federal government. Any law that was written against secession can be repealed or amended. There’s nothing inherently special about those particular pieces of legislation. Hypothetically, let’s say a D-2.0 representative was elected to the office of President. If some citizen proposed and received enough support for secession legislation, the hacking democracy representative/commander in chief would have the authority to tell the US armed forces to stand down. Nothing would be preventing states from seceding other than the will of the people.

What do politicians physically do that influences the course of society? They write and vote for laws that dictate the flow of societal funds and energy. They could write legislation banning plants that grow naturally (and they did). They could write legislation that puts taxpayers money in the hands of bankers to gamble with (and they did). They could write legislation strengthening the power of the federal government (and they did). They could write legislation criminalizing alcohol (and they did). They could write legislation undoing the criminalization of alcohol (and they did).

There’s no reason why they couldn’t also write and pass legislation that does the opposite of any of these things. Or why they couldn’t write and pass legislation that does anything else. The point of democracy 2.0 is to give this ability to everyone in society, instead of just the upper echelons with enough money and connections to run for office. Most other movements want you to sign petitions to influence politicians. Signing your name and providing evidence for your claims unfortunately cannot compete with cold hard cash or the allure of acquiring even more power. Instead of trying to alter the minds of existing politicians, we need to start electing a confederate of D-2.0 to office.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little government we have. The people being governed and funding government just need to have the ability to control their lives and where their money is going. This is something every libertarian can agree on. And this is what democracy 2.0 is all about.

Impending Collapse

A lot of people online seem to believe that society will collapse from either:

a) There is a terrorist like Chris Dorner who gets a little too powerful, martial law is declared, and the United States becomes completely occupied by it’s own military. Food is rationed and life is harsh in a vicious Civil War 2.0 of attrition.

b) North Korea or Japan or China or America or Russia or Israel or Iran or Pakistan or India or South Africa or Brazil or South Korea or Saudi Arabia or Germany officially declares war on another member of that list and WWIII ignites. This is even worse than a because now the entire planet is embroiled in a nuclear, mostly terrorizing civilians, World War 3 of attrition. Also A occurs.

c) The economy collapses from either a natural energy crisis, an engineered economic crisis, or no reason at all, and no one can buy bread anymore. A and B also occur.

d) An engineered virus with a corporately manufactured vaccine is unleashed upon the world, simultaneously causing A, B, C and the end of the human race.

Shouldn’t we at least try to implement a novel system before any of the above happen? The people making these decisions now are not gods, they are power-hungry men. Throughout most of human history the decision making ability of individual leaders has been proven time and time again to be mediocre at best.

The direction society takes depends on those who make the decisions. D-2.0 aims to take that decision-making power and divide it up evenly among accountable members of the community. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. No one has absolute power in this system. With society instead of politicians manipulated by corporate interests making decisions, it is likely that society will choose common sense decisions. For instance: don’t attack other countries. Remember, the US military has to obey the commander-in-chief. If the majority of the country can vote in a D-2.0 representative, any war can be ended as soon as a majority of the population wants it to end.

D-2.0 allows society the agreed upon legal flexibility necessary to adapt to problems such as these. Even if society does completely collapse, we can implement an on-paper emulation of the D-2.0 system. We can even integrate the paper emulation into the online system help old people. Disaster will always eventually happen, but a flexible infrastructure, not an “unbreakable” one, will allow the community to bounce back.

Legal precedent for the police state

This is pretty old news, but last month a New York congressman proposed a bill abolishing term limits for the government position of president. It might be a little hard to believe, so here’s the bill itself. This is a reintroduction of a bill proposed two years ago that did the same exact thing. Throughout the 90s this happened several other times. One of these bills will go through eventually.

Obama is passing (I guess the correct term here though would be forcing?) executive orders left and right that effectively strengthen the dictatorial powers granted to him by his predecessors (mainly JFK). Now his buddy in congress is trying to give him to power to remain president indefinitely, clearly because Obama himself could not propose a bill like this without being impeached. The reason for all these executive orders is preparation for war. This includes World War III as well as Civil War 2.0. The people with power want to have the legal precedent to prevent any group from taking their power. This is (one of the many reasons) why violent revolution would fail. Having legal precedent makes actions morally right in the eyes of many, regardless of what those actions are.

But let’s get real: these executive orders are nowhere close to the scariest legislation passed. NDAA 2013 is worse than many of these executive orders for the simple fact that it gives the government the freedom to kill or imprison people without trial. Obama didn’t even need to pass an executive order for that: it got through congress no problem. It’s generally accepted that US citizens no longer have their first, second, fourth, eighth, ninth, and tenth amendment rights. It seems that the people with decision-making power right now do not have the best interests of the people they claim to represent at heart. It’s time to do something. It’s time to hack democracy and take back what should have been ours to begin with.

PS: A while back there was a list of “tyrannical executive orders” Obama had passed circulating the internet. Type “obamas worst executive orders” into google to see what I mean. While still scary, these were not signed by Obama but rather JFK, Ford, and Johnson during the Cold War. Get your facts straight people, otherwise no one will take you seriously. There’s enough real scary shit going on right now that no one should have to embellish the truth to get people’s attention anyway.

Why Hacking Democracy has mass appeal

People are clearly frustrated with the existing system. Sure, many are placated with smartphones, a non-stop stream of addictive media, and freely available drugs but the number of people who are starting to question societal structure is increasing exponentially as existing governments consolidate their power. Just look at your facebook feed. Anyone who followed the 2012 election period is well aware that the existing system is pretty much a farce at this point. Republicans were claiming women couldn’t be raped and democrats are defending the Obama administration selling guns to Mexican drug cartels.

The economic crash of 2008, and the subsequent bailout of “too big to fail” banks is what set off many people questioning the status quo. Obama’s first presidential term proved to the world that it was possible to have a president worse than Bush. This shook up the few paying attention even more. The technology motivated, Arab Spring was the first clear expression of this growing tide of dissent. Then Occupy Wall Street. Now there’s riots in Egypt again. It’s gotten to the point where many die-hard liberals have started questioning societal structure. Die-hard conservatives aren’t even really taken seriously anymore. The congressional approval rating is at an all-time low, and for good reason. Congress keeps putting off resolving the budget crisis due to partisan politics, while bills that strip US citizens of our rights get passed unanimously. All news media and many top government officials worldwide seem pretty certain World War III is imminent. No wants a war though other than power-hungry politicians and corporations that are part of the military industrial complex.

People want a solution to the cancerous system taking over the planet but don’t know how to direct their energy, or their votes. Most rational people think that public servants should serve the public, not the other way around. Democracy 2.0 is an elegant solution anyone can wrap their head around. There’s little risk, as nothing about democracy 2.0 is illegal, difficult, or dangerous. It’s just a more efficient version of the system we claim to have that utilizes a ubiquitous technology roughly a third of the entire world (including children and tribal societies) have access to.

Probably the best part about democracy 2.0, is that other than the elected representative, no one has to even leave their house to participate in this plan. Posting links, drafting legislation, and upvoting good ideas can all be done from the safety of your own home. This is even easier than peaceful protest, let alone violent protest. Democracy 2.0 is the first revolution that actually appeals to people’s laziness. For the first time, “liking this post” will actually have a tangible effect on society.

Another revolutionary component of democracy 2.0 is that it integrates completely with the existing system. For instance, a strategy that can be implemented for the acquisition of mainstream support is getting the D-2.0 representative to run as a democrat or republican. Many people don’t vote for a third party out of fear that the “enemy party” will win the election. There’s no reason why a D-2.0 representative shouldn’t run as a member of the two-party system. People who can’t see past the two-party system will vote for the D-2.0 rep so the other “team” doesn’t win the election and because they think it will maintain the status quo. Hopefully they will also see the D-2.0 rep, accurately, as a democrat/republican who has a closer tie to his constituents than any preceding politician. Why would anyone in their right mind not want that? Every politician in history claims to know what his constituents want. For the D-2.0 rep this would be literally true. Unlike the failed direct democracy party of Australia, any citizen can participate in this system, not merely members of an obscure minor party. Democracy 2.0 is the first revolution your complacent parents can get behind.

And don’t forget that anyone can use the D-2.0 system. Once democracy 2..0 gains enough momentum, citizens can begin publicly pressuring politicians to use this system in conjunction with traditional legislation methods. Instead of interns in the Obama administration providing “official” responses to some petitions, Obama himself could propose legislation using this system and connect more directly with the people who elected him. Why shouldn’t our leaders have some accountability? Why should our government be hiding the legislation they want to pass from the people? Why should it refuse input from any citizen? If our existing leaders have any credibility and good ideas, the D-2.0 system would actually give them more power. Keep in mind that the D-2.0 system gives power to popular, useful ideas, not individuals. There’s no reason why our existing representatives couldn’t be full of good ideas. But the truth is, they probably don’t have many more good ideas for improving society than the average citizen. Wearing a suit doesn’t make you smarter, it just makes you look smarter.

Democracy 2.0 will also appeal to the many individuals who think they know the best way to run society. D-2.0 gives everyone the freedom to change the existing system to something better. Don’t like taxation? It can be removed and a crowdfunding system can be used in it’s place to fund specific government projects. Don’t like being part of the United States? Now you can secede if you get enough support. Want to ban all weapons or give every man, woman, and child mandatory firearm training? Either way, it’s quite possible using D-2.0, unlike the current system that has so much red-tape and bureaucracy many politicians have difficulty navigating it.

Everyone gets a little power instead of a few having all of it. Decentralized systems work. Decentralized leadership will happen. And it all starts with posting links from the comfort of your office chair.

nulpunt

As with all good ideas, someone else is already working on a similar system to what I’m proposing called NulPunt. The primary difference with NulPunt is that citizens cannot propose legislation, only comment on it. It implements a mechanism to tie all activity in NulPunt to a social network. Here’s a well made video describing their idea more eloquently than I could.

…and some quotes of interest from the video:

“In the past years, we have witnessed the development of an international democratization movement. The demand for transparent government and political self-organization has become evident.”

Regarding a transparency law from 1980:
“But the law is seriously outdated, a product of the pre-digital era and embodying a traditional authoritarian bureaucratic culture in which access to information is seen as a favor to citizens and not as their right. Responses to requests for information are seriously delayed and habitually negative, forcing the requesting party to enter expensive legal battles. Access is easily denied, as grounds for refusal are broad and lend themselves to abuse.”

“…the time invested daily by politically-aware citizens—using social media, online forums, and newspapers—indicates there’s no lack of willingness for political participation. We just need a tool to enable us to do so directly.”

“It is a dashboard – a digital parliament where we control and shape our politics.”

“This is our contribution to the only concept of democracy we deem right: a democracy without secrets.”

Democracy 2.0 injection and the D-2.0 system takes this one step further: instead of having a transparent government controlled by a few wealthy individuals, it’s a transparent government controlled by the people being governed.

You say you want a (violent) revolution…

You’re thinking about revolution all wrong. Its too impractical to eradicate the current system and replace it with a completely different one. This has been tried in the past hundreds if not thousands of times and all that happens is the new regime becomes corrupt. A new system needs to be implanted gradually.

The real problem all of us have with the system is that the people with power, the ones making decisions controlling the flow of community money and resources, are making decisions not necessarily in the best interest of the majority. It’s not entirely their fault. We’re all human and the power that comes with leadership positions can corrupt any of us to make counter-intuitive decisions.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have leaders or that we should live in anarchy. Most people don’t want to live in isolated anarcho-communes. If we wait until society collapses, order will just reform naturally via violence instead of rational discussion. Communities that pool their resources and solve problems as a group will always have the advantage. We just need to elect leaders that actually do what the people want. We need to decentralize leadership.

Democracy 2.0 isn’t a traditional revolution. Revolutions are traditionally bloody. There is a violent ousting of an unpopular system and the subsequent forceful replacement with another one. Democracy 2.0 is another way of thinking about democracy. Why shouldn’t every individual in a community be instantaneously connected? D-2.0 is all about using technology to bypass prior limitations. We already do this with travel, medicine, even socialization, why wouldn’t we use technology to improve the way we’re governed? The only thing stopping us now is the fact that the people with power don’t want to relinquish it. Democracy 2.0 injection is all about using a loophole in the existing system to begin installing D-2.0.

I propose we make a system similar to reddit to propose and vote on legislation as citizens. This is democracy 2.0. Then we elect a leader in our democratic republic who makes his sole campaign promise be to use this digital democratic system to make decisions. It would be similar to what the US government already does, it would basically combine public congressional website with the whitehouse petition website. This elected representative wouldn’t need millions of dollars of campaign money if he got a youtube video to go viral. Hell the mainstream media would have to cover it if he got big enough on Twitter.

We know what doesn’t work: the existing system, violent revolution, occupying, protest, petition, etc. Let’s try something that’s never been done before. All we have to do is make a transparent democracy 2.0 system and let society determine what its laws should be, instead of individuals who tell us “what the american people want.” Once this system is made, anyone will be able to spread the meme simply by upvoting or posting the candidates video on Facebook

Judging from news reports from all over the world, humanity is ready for a paradigm shift in how we’re governed. You say you want a revolution. Here’s a real solution. I’m not talking about destruction. I don’t want money for people with minds that hate. I’m giving you a plan. I’m not proposing we change the constitution. I’m not carrying pictures of chairman Mao. We all want to change the world. Well, brother, you don’t have to wait any longer.

2013 State of the Union

It looks like Obama is already a proponent of democracy 2.0:

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few, that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can, for they know that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget, decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery. Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances. Now we need to finish the job. And the question is: How?

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. So what are we waiting for? Take a vote and send me that bill. Why are — why would we be against that? Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process and help our economy grow.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all of the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can — to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.”

The Obama administration is pretending to practice digital direct democracy with recent events like the Obama AMA, the fireside hangouts, and the whitehouse petition webpage. The current system is pretending to be D-2.0 because the people running it know that’s what people really want: a leader that actually does what his constituents want.

It Works for Valve

Valve is a wildly successful PC game company. They use a version of the democracy 2.0 system in their business model. Here’s a paraphrased excerpt from the Valve employee handbook:

Welcome to Flatland

Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.

But when you’re an organization that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.

That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products.

A flat structure removes every organizational barrier between your plan and the customer enjoying that plan.Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping you from figuring out for yourself what our customers want, and then giving it to them.

Below is a set of graphs demonstrating how Valve and the direct democracy system work. You can read the full text of the Valve employee handbook here. If this sounds reasonable to you, join the movement. We want to implement Valve’s system in society. It works extremely well for Valve, and almost anything is better than the bloated, stagnant, immature system we have today. Hacking democracy is the first non-violent way to actually alter the course of society. Hunger strikes and occupation might have worked in the past, but no longer.

Flatland map

Problems

1) As silly as it is to type this out, the biggest problem with digital direct democracy would be that old people don’t trust the internet. We want everyone to have a say in society, but they won’t know how to use this technology and will use their current control over society to suppress this system. Even worse, the people with a lot of power may try more violent tactics to suppress this system if it grows too powerful. This is the point where we must hope the police and military stand down. It’s not like anyone can suppress a truly good idea anyway.

2) The second biggest problem is probably people not quite understanding how the system works. Everyone fears what they don’t understand. Hopefully the FAQ will answer any questions people have. If there are any others, please leave them in the comments. The most important concept to remember is that D-2.0 is a tool to decentralize decision-making power to entire communities, not a new government in and of itself.

3) As for people gaming the system, that’s always going to happen. Fortunately D-2.0 counteracts this by firmly giving control of each piece of legislation to its creator while still allowing others to edit and comment on edits. Then it firmly gives control over whether or not to pass the legislation to everyone who cares enough about the issue at hand to vote. There are no middlemen, no wealthy lobbyists. Just people and their ideas. I think it will be pretty difficult to game a transparent system where emotion can be completely removed from the conversation.

4) It’s sad, but another possibility is that no one steps up to the plate. No one fixes society’s problems and entropy transforms our place into a wasteland. I doubt this will happen, especially if you can do it in the comfort of your own home, but it’s still a possibility. Then I guess we really deserve whatever fate we are given by stronger people, or whatever the puppet leader decides to do. It’s important to remember that D-2.0 is flexible. It can be used by anyone alive who claims to be a citizen of a given place, including current leaders. In fact, it could help them do their job more efficiently. Or it can be used by small, tight-knit communities. When it is demonstrated to work in small communities, D-2.0 can be used with larger and larger states until the world is unified, and divided, in the manner most people so chooses.

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