Practical solutions to practical questions:
Counterarguments to criticisms of direct democracy:
Q: In a nutshell, what is democracy 2.0?
A: Using the election procedures already in place, communities elect a leader who executes legislation based on what what the community says they want on an online forum. The whole point is to decentralize decision-making using democracy 2.0. This doesn’t mean that our existing government goes away. The legal apparatus of the democratic republic the United States uses still holds all the power technically. The only difference in democracy 2.0 is that everyone controls how this power is used, instead of solely the democratically elected representative.
Q: Why would anyone listen to an online community?
A: The only person who must obey the whims of an online community for this plan to work is the elected community leader. Proponents of democracy 2.0 must use the existing electoral system to implant a D-2.0 representative. This is the fairest, non-violent way to change who makes decisions. If the leader turns out to be a lying politician, he can be impeached and someone else can represent D-2.0. Once the decision-making power is passed from the community to the elected leader via D-2.0, it becomes indistinguishable from our existing system. The only difference is that the mayor or other leader is being manipulated by society instead of private interests, or the leader’s own whims. This allows the group decision making process infiltrate the executive and legislative branches.
Q:What about the judicial branch?
A: Although this system can be used to make decisions in the judicial branch as well, it can also be effective without even touching the judicial branch. The judicial branch is used to punish violators of laws and settle disputes. Passing legislation with D-2.0 determines what those laws are. If D-2.0 was implemented in the judicial branch, the result of court cases would be decided online and the appointed judge must be a D-2.0 representative.
Q: Isn’t this tyranny of the majority?
A: Yes. That’s what we do now, albeit only congressmen and community leaders get to vote. In democracy 2.0 the masses get to vote on whether or not to approve legislation. Individuals still come up with the individual pieces of legislation. If you really have a problem with what the majority decides (be it legalizing infant genital mutilation, criminalizing plants, or subsidizing banks) you are able to propose alternative legislation, but you cannot violate the law the rest of society agreed was reasonable to enforce with police. If you’re worried about minorities somehow being worse off using this system than before, remember that any individual willing to disclose their physical location and identity can do whatever he wants using the D-2.0 system. This is a vast improvement over the current system which requires a heavy financial investment to run for office merely for the privilege of proposing and voting on legislation. If you’re worried about racists or other groups of people you personally disagree with taking over D-2.0, you are now able to participate in the discussion and vote. But if the majority of your community votes for a law you disagree with, maybe YOU should consider moving. Keep in mind that this is how the system currently works except individuals instead of the majority of the community make decisions.
Unfortunately there is at present no better way of determining what is best for society. What about inalienable rights? You have to agree on them initially, and there’s guaranteed to always be some dissent. Also, what should be considered an inalienable right in the first place? Times change: our founding fathers couldn’t have fathomed internet or the kinds of firearms we have today, let alone anticipated them in our Bill of Rights. Democracy 2.0 is an improvement, however subtle, over the current system. Democracy 2.0 injection allows us to inject D-2.0 into representative democracy. If you don’t want tyranny of the majority, get enough popular support to legislate that. We must take gradual steps in improving society. Instantaneous paradigm shifts are always violent and always fail.
Don’t forget, our current democratic republic system claims to be a tyranny of the majority on paper anyway. The “mainstream narrative of government” is the majority of society votes who they want to represent them to congress or city council, and then the majority of congress votes on what legislation to pass. Of course, as we all know in real life this system quickly devolves into a convoluted political game, where representatives spend most of their time trying to run a campaign, smearing their opponent, and raising their own salary. The rich acquire decision-making power over society and use it to get richer. Counter-intuitive legislation is passed such as continuing endless wars and bailing out bankers. A lot of the problem is politics. Politics is high school popularity bullshit; there’s no governing actually involved in politics. When most people say they want money out of politics, they mean they want bribery out of government. I think we need to get politics out of government.
Let’s look at an example: Pretend the majority of society voted to explicitly legalize male genital mutilation. Why should any individual have any right to overturn this legislation? If they can get enough popular support to pass counter-legislation, then good for them. If they can’t, and they still disagree with most of society on what should be legal, they can leave or take the risk of violating the law with other consenting adults. No one in society is “more right” than anyone else. Especially not people who have felt the corrupting influence of power for a long time, as many current politicians have. As frustrating as it may be for Christians, we need to remember that morals and ethics are fluid and different laws work for different groups of people in different locations in space-time.
Another more extreme example: Pretend the majority of a community passes a law saying “it’s legal to kill black people.” This kind of thinking is becoming less and less prevalent as humanity connects via the internet. But let’s just pretend that it did pass. It should go without saying that society would change. It is highly likely that society would be much worse if legislation such as this is passed. Many more people in society would be unhappy, and this dissatisfaction could easily be expressed in legislation repealing the legalize genocide law. In the unlikely case that society is, for some reason, actually more pleasant with legalized genocide than what’s the problem? I believe that it’s impossible to draw a line about what should and shouldn’t be legal that is applicable to all people in all times. As long as we have a fluid system controlled by the population, we’ll always be able to efficiently deal with problems like this as they arise.
For instance, it’s quite possible that in the future, the majority of people will think it’s “moral” to euthanize old people due to the potential lack of resources in the future. California already sterilizes pedophiles, Texas already kills murderers, and we used to sterilize gays. If Egypt passed a law saying it’s okay to kill Jews, most Jews wouldn’t stay in Egypt and demand that the majority of society repeals the law the majority of society agreed on. The smart ones would just leave. This would still be better than the existing system. Gradual changes are the key. If the majority of society decides to pass a stupid law, then society will learn the hard way not to pass it in the future. This system doesn’t put a genius in charge, it decentralizes leadership. Bad decisions can still be made, but at least we make them as a community. And if you still need to “hold someone accountable” (whatever that means) the name and location of the the person who proposed the legislation will be available for all. You can’t be a citizen if you don’t have an address in the community. This is exactly how it is now in pretty much every country.
Humans are not inherently good or bad, and the system I’m proposing is not a utopia. It’s practical way to at least give most of society control over themselves (effectively giving ideas themselves power), as opposed to individuals controlling society. However, I do believe that allowing decision-making to be more fluid will allow at least a portion of society to eventually diffuse into a utopia. This utopian way of running society would begin spreading virally due to the reports of people who live there. Remember, if an individual really disagrees with a law, he could propose legislation repealing it. Also he would need to have a strong enough argument for this and enough tangible evidence to convince the majority of the population to pass his legislation. If he didn’t, he could either move to a place where they didn’t have this law, propose legislation for an existing political entity to secede, or never get caught breaking the law & criticize people for thinking the offending legislation is okay.
Every single individual will never agree with every single other individual in society on what is right and wrong. This system doesn’t address this timeless problem. What I’m proposing addresses the problem that government is not currently a conduit for the decision-making power of society, but rather wealthy individuals.
Q: Won’t demagogues and media gain even more control over society?
A: No. Demagogues will lose a lot of their power if anyone on the entire internet can call out their bullshit. Hell, it’s more difficult now for demagogues to do their thing thanks to the internet. While masses are easily influenced, good memes are far less transient among the masses because they improve the lives of individuals in tangible ways, and these tangible improvements would be made clear via the integrated feedback system of D-2.0. In any case, this isn’t any different than the existing system. It’s an improvement because the actual decision-making would be in the masses hands instead of a few.
Q: Aren’t some people less qualified to make decisions than others?
A: Definitely. Certain organizations do benefit from hierarchical structure such as military organizations and some companies. In these organizations, people need to pass tests and receive the approval of their superiors before they are granted decision-making power. However, society is not a private organization. You can choose to enter the military or a company. You sign a contract agreeing to submit to orders in the hopes that one day you will be qualified enough to give them. When you’re born into a society, you don’t sign a contract. The so-called “social contract” doesn’t actually exist. No one really knows what they’re doing in this chaotic universe. Some of the worst decisions ever made were by highly respected politicians. I firmly believe that adding more minds to a problem will make it easier, not more difficult, to solve.
Q: Isn’t D-2.0 the same thing as an citizen’s initiative?
A: Not quite. An initiative is a petition that gets enough signatures to legally force a public vote on the issue. D-2.0 is a decision making system, but it doesn’t carry any legal weight unless people change laws to allow it to. Initially the only thing turning the public’s will into reality is the elected D-2.0 representative keeping his promise to oblige the D-2.0 system.
Q: What does drafting legislation entail?
A: Anything from writing a single sentence to as many pages as you need to explain your plan. There are several examples listed here. There are several necessary fields in this system as of now: name, physical location, proposed voting day, proposed voting threshold, the plan itself, details, money required, and a feedback mechanism.
Your name and physical location you must give if you wish to be a part of the community. This is what we do already. While the legislation can be updated at any time, it must be locked at least 3 days before the voting day. If the community thinks your voting threshold is bullshit, no one will respect your legislation. The plan itself can be either laws that can now hold up in court if passed, or something more detailed like the construction of infrastructure. The legislation that is currently being passed in your government can be found in the minutes of government meetings. In the example I provided it consists of requests for funds and recommending people to government positions.
Any legislation a citizen drafts must clearly explain what he or she wants done and where any money acquired will go. All necessary money collected is immediately distributed directly to the vendor or contractor that is providing the good or service outlined in the legislation. The citizen writing the legislation never gets to hold any of the money. Any additional details such as graphs, letters, or more thorough details for executing the plan are also uploaded. Most importantly however is the money required field, letting people know how much needs to be donated or collected via taxes to execute the plan. This may require taking the initiative to call contractors for the project you want to complete in order to have an estimated cost. The feedback mechanism is optional, but I would want that in most legislation to evaluate effectiveness of said legislation personally. Our government already does this sometimes.
Q: That sounds like a lot of work! What if I’m lazy and don’t want to participate?
A: You don’t have to participate, but you do have to live by the rules participating members of society make and enforce. Just like now. Nothing will really change for you, except you now get one vote for every piece of legislation passed if you choose to make your identity public. Like you do for Angry Birds. Or you know, for the existing government.
Q: What if no one wants to participate in this system?
A: First of all, it would be strange that no one wants to participate in a system the majority elected to put into office. But if this indeed happens, the puppet leader elected to office must take it upon himself to do the tasks of a mayor. If they fail to do this, he needs to be removed and someone else should be put into place. The previous leader could even be put back or he could use D-2.0 to propose the legislation he wanted to pass in the first place. We simply default to exactly how it is now. This defaulting to whatever the existing system is initially is a key feature of democracy 2.0 to remember.
Q: I don’t want anyone tracking my data! Why do I have to provide my physical location for this system to work?
A: First of all, you already allow the existing government to at least know your address of residence for the purpose of taxation. This means affiliates of the US government will come to that address in the event you don’t give them enough money and threaten or punish you. Nothing like this will happen with D-2.0. The reason physical location needs to be tracked is twofold. One: this prevents individuals from making multiple accounts and voting multiple times. Two: this prevents foreigners and people who have nothing to do with your community from making decisions. When D-2.0 becomes popular, there is a good chance someone will propose legislation to account for citizens living abroad temporarily.
Q: Who enforces these laws?
A: Other than society itself? The same people who enforce existing laws, the police. Although legislation is passed through the D-2.0 system, it is simultaneously passed through the existing governmental system. Ideally D-2.0 gets so powerful, that the existing governmental system is no longer necessary. Furthermore, this system allows anyone to express dissatisfaction with their community police force and actually hire a new, private, organization. Under the existing system, this type of flexibility is impossible, leading to the law enforcement problems we have today.
Q: You mean there will be laws made by society that are enforced by police? Won’t that give cops additional power over the rest of us?
A: If you disagree with the laws made by society, you are always free to move to a different society or change them yourself using this system. Everyone used to think it was okay to beat black people and sell cigarettes to kids. The world changes and so do morals. There are no inalienable rights, because we should always have the freedom to change our rights. Yes, a police force will initially have the right to enforce laws via violence. Citizens are also legally allowed to use force to enforce the law and protect their rights, but they will likely use police as a physical manifestation of community will.
The police will still answer to the state, which means under democracy 2.0 they will answer directly to the people. They won’t be able to abuse minorities because now those minorities can vocalize their problems much more easily than the existing system allows. By the way, are you okay with this now? If you’re not okay with giving the state a monopoly on violence, then using D-2.0 you would have the ability to legislate a removal of the police force, something impossible for any citizen to propose under the current system.
Unfortunately, police are only human and will still have lapses in judgement. But society would at least be able to hold them more accountable than any of our existing political leaders do. Cops would be informed of any new laws passed, as they are today. The only people who would have to know the law inside and out however, would remain lawyers and the court system.
Q: Who keeps society safe?
A: Either the same groups that already do, or we as a society fire them and hire a private organization to protect us. The US government already does this with private military contractors. Hell, society could even decide to hire an ex-US general for its private military consultant.
Q: When a puppet mayor is elected what will happen with regards to existing laws and public facilities?
A: They are all still valid. The whole point of hacking democracy is that it’s compatible with existing societal structure. It simply is a mechanism to decentralize leadership. Try to imagine that all throughout history people have been using this system. Imagine all these laws were passed fairly. The only difference now is that citizens who participate in the direct digital democracy can literally be the change they want to see in their own community, and the people elect to office take orders from the majority.
Q: People need a strong leader! Wouldn’t society collapse without someone to be held accountable for poor decisions?
A: D-2.0 allows for better accountability than the existing government system. Instead of merely knowing the name of people who propose legislation, you know their physical location the last time they signed in to the D-2.0 system. In any case, what do you mean by “accountable?” Does anyone really punish leaders for making bad decisions? Furthermore, D-2.0 injects group decision making into the existing system. This makes leadership harder to corrupt if individuals hold less power. We should only judge our leaders based on the plans they produce and execute anyway. The charismatic politicians we have today are oftentimes not elected for their ability to execute plans, but rather their skill at demagoguery.
Q: Who collects taxes?
A: The same people who collect taxes under existing laws. D-2.0 can be used to change this and by no means requires taxation. A more elegant solution to the problem of fairly aggregating community funds for community projects is citizens using the crowdfunding option for any project they can think of. For those unfamiliar with the concept, crowdfunding is a riskless investment system where every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Instead of collecting taxes from everyone under threat of prison to fund the military industrial banking complex as existing law does, people can pool their money to improve society in ways they care about enough to spend money on.
Q: What happens if we are invaded by another country?
A: Again, remember *all existing laws and systems are still in effect initially.* Our military doesn’t get rolled back if society doesn’t want it to.
Q: What happens to public education, healthcare, disaster relief, and other actually useful government programs?
A: Initially nothing changes. But if people want to, they can vote to begin privatizing the whole thing. They can vote to expand it. The only thing stopping anything from happening in society before, were the decisions made by people in the government. Now we can make these decisions as a society.
Q: Wouldn’t allowing anyone to write any law cause anarchy?
A: No. While anyone can write a law, everyone votes on it. If the majority decides that something should happen, then everyone in that community must respect the community’s decision. The way it works today is several representatives of the population are elected to independently make decisions for the entire community. The only difference in D-2.0 is that this decision making ability is decentralized to communities instead of individuals. In your day to day life you take votes to make group decisions. Why would this change at a higher scale? It doesn’t. We have a simple vote in the senate, the electoral college; many cities even have council-weak mayor systems where the mayor is just a figurehead and a board of alderman make city decisions. The only reason we have the existing system is due to the infeasibility of communicating with millions of people at the speed of light. But we can now. But I digress, if anyone in the community disagrees with what the community voted for, he can write his own legislation or ultimately secede and start his own community if his idea is popular enough. He can even just stay in his own house and do whatever he wants as it is unlikely we’ll pass legislation to put cameras or guards in individual’s homes.
Q: Who will take care of the weak? The poor?
A: Please try to remember, this system can also be used to maintain the status quo indefinitely. I think you’re hearing “decentralized leadership” and confusing this system with anarchy. Yes, it will be possible for a community to become anarchic using this system, but only if a majority of the community wants it to. Things only change from our current situation as long as the majority of the group decides it wants to. If they don’t, existing programs continue what they are doing.
Q: What do you mean by “community?”
A: A political entity, such as a city, a state, or a nation. This system allows for the dissolution or unification of any border at any time. It may be necessary to obtain more votes to pass a secession bill though. If people don’t want to be part of your system, you should let them leave. You can also legislate the ability to use force to keep people in, but I can’t imagine that being a popular idea with anyone. Obviously it will not be possible to secede or redraw county borders until a D-2.0 representative is elected to a high position of power.
Q: What will happen to country unity if the nation splits up and cities begin seceding from states?
A: Let me preface this by stating, I believe we didn’t really have country unity in the first place if an overwhelming majority of individuals voted for secession. In any case, as long as trade is still occurring between these areas, the economy will remain healthy and things will probably not be as scary as some think. Some places will just have different laws, and more importantly, police won’t be able to enforce laws in places that aren’t their jurisdiction.
Imagine New York City seceded from America. This means NYC can no longer receive any benefit from federal or state government programs, but it also means no citizen of NYC has to pay taxes to NY or USA. However, dissenting citizens of NYC can individually remain citizens of New York state and America. But the laws they live by won’t apply to the people they live with, because now only the NYCPD can enforce laws in that area. Any state or national police forces enforcing national law, state law, or collecting taxes will be legally viewed as instigating violence, threatening, or robbing any citizen in NYC. Of course, any national or police forces enforcing NYC law or enforcing their own laws on only American and NY state citizens will be viewed as doing nothing legally wrong.
Nations are simply large groups of people who have a set of values they impose on reality by using laws. Nations have the most general laws that everyone can agree on. Smaller and smaller political entities will have laws more specific to the people who wish to live there, sort of like it is already. For example, at present an NYC cop cannot enforce NYC soda law in Chicago, but every citizen of NYC must abide by it. Conversely, it is illegal anywhere to intentionally shoot a person with a gun for no reason.
Q: Will government still be able to unify the community?
A: Democracy 2.0 connects us directly via the internet. Every one of us can be a leader in this system. Every one of us can be part of the decision-making process. It’s true that not everyone will participate. These people simply won’t have a voice, but I believe that if you won’t put in the effort of posting something on the internet, you actually don’t deserve to have a voice. Besides, if these voiceless people begin suffering enough, I guarantee you they’ll find the energy to put in the effort required to be a contributing member of society. In D-2.0 we are unified by participation. Anyone can comment, have live video chats, or meet in person. It should be evident using common sense that a decision-making system connected via the internet would unify the community better than our existing system of representatives and constituents primarily connected through news media.
Q: Couldn’t a corporation buy the vote of enough people in society to get a majority for their vote?
A: Yes. If they want to, let them. Keep in mind though that everyone in society will be able to comment on legislation and propose edits. Comments will elucidate any problems if they have the ability to be upvoted. Edits can be commented on and upvoted as well. The edits to legislation proposed by individuals are then either approved or not by the the corporate representative. If the edits are worthless they are not approved and people vote on the original legislation as normal. If the corporate representative thinks they’re good, the edit will become the new canon legislation that is to be voted on. If society thinks the edits are good but the corporate representative does not, a new vote can be held using the edited legislation on the same day as the vote for corporate legislation. If society prefers the edited legislation they will vote for it, and either no one will participate in the corporate legislation or they will vote against it.
Q: What about the economy? How will we have money if the government doesn’t make it?
A: Actually as of now the government doesn’t make it, but rather a private organization called the Federal Reserve. States are even creating their own money. A decentralized currency known as Bitcoin already exists. Society can even decide with D-2.0 to no longer use force to ensure the value of money. And besides, everyone know the bankers currently control the economy anyway, not the government.
Q: What about the environment?
A: If you care about it, you will write legislation protecting it and get people to vote for it. If the majority of your community doesn’t care about the environment you don’t have the right to impose your beliefs on everyone else. You can always leave. And by the way, the Earth will be fine. Life finds a way to adapt to whatever we do. The only problem with destroying the environment is losing a place for humans to live.
Q: What about infrastructure?
A: It’s already privatized so nothing would really change. In democracy 2.0 this would not only continue but be more flexible and responsive. Especially if you remember that every piece of legislation must have a mechanism for providing public feedback. D-2.0 would also make the infrastructure of the government much more stable as every piece of legislation is neatly in a uniform database searchable by anyone. Existing government legislation signs contracts with third party contractors and they build and occasionally maintain the roads, phone lines, water systems, etc. Unfortunately many politicians in our existing system make these contracts with their buddies for a kickback of the profits. There are also government run infrastructure builders in some locations, but they are not really competitive with the private contractors.
Q: Couldn’t hackers abuse this system?
A: While it’s theoretically possible, this is true for any system you use today, and democracy 2.0 is WAY more hacker-proof than a democratic republic. To minimize this already low risk, when logging in to the D-2.0 system one must provide their name, their physical location, and a complete a CAPTCHA to prove one is human. Only one physical location is allowed to be tied to a machine. The few without computers can use public computers, but they must provide an additional form of identification in order to be a part of the system. Otherwise anyone could make infinite accounts using a single computer. Other techniques used to minimize risk are open-source programming of the application used to take votes, making all logs public, putting a 24/7 webcam at the physical location of the server, and allowing any citizen to tally votes themselves.
Q: What happens if no one votes?
A: Nothing. Each piece of legislation has a voter threshold of 3% of the population of the community. This is an arbitrary value chosen by averaging the voter thresholds for communities worldwide. If this low threshold is accepted by virtually the entire world now, I see no reason why this would change. Everyone would still have the freedom to vote, but only 3% must vote in order for the plan someone came up with to impact society. This fact might even encourage people to vote more. As it stands most people don’t vote; not because they don’t know what to vote on, but because they know that politicians have autonomy and won’t necessarily listen to their ideas unless they are accompanied by money. In hacking democracy, people vote for legislation, the real changes that government is supposed to be all about, they don’t vote for people. Voting for people turns democracy into a popularity contest. This 3% value can be changed.
Q: If anyone can participate in this system through the internet, what is preventing rampant voter fraud from occurring?
A: The same mechanisms we already have in place to prevent voter fraud, plus several more which I’ll detail in a moment. First of all, do you know how the US government attempts to prevent voter fraud? The answer is that you fill out a “Voter Registration Application.” This official looking document requires that you provide your full name, birthday, address, gender, political party, and whether or not you’re a US citizen over the age of 18. While it is a felony to lie on this document, you have the option to verify your identity through your driver’s license number, the last four digits of your social security number, any valid photo ID, a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or some other government document that shows your name and address. So theoretically, you could easily lie on this voter registration application with a fake name on a utility bill and no one would be the wiser.
The only thing stopping more people from doing this is fear of being charged with a felony. Some states don’t even verify your identity. The citizens running the voting booths rarely check your identity in the first place. And even if you thought there was something fishy with the results of an election, you would never be able to check who voted for what. This is not public information. The way voting works right now is you make your selection anonymously, your vote goes into a magic box, and you’re informed of the results later on the television. The democracy 2.0 system will show the voting history of every citizen, as well as tie account information to every piece of legislation. Anyone who feels the need can not only count the votes but personally contact each and every person who voted online via an integrated messaging system. If you have the power to impact society, you should be held accountable. This is why even if your vote is anonymous to the other people in the voting booth, the US government knows exactly who each citizen votes for.
Signing up for the D-2.0 system is actually more secure than filling out a voter registration form because, while you can lie about your address, the D-2.0 system records your IP data, providing anyone who wants to look you up with your location in the world. In order to verify accounts, the voter look-up system the US government uses is implemented to confirm each citizen’s identity. After inputting your full name, birthday, state, and county of registration, the D-2.0 system automatically confirms that you are a registered voter in the state you claim to be in. The D-2.0 system literally uses the exact voter fraud prevention system the US government already uses. Maybe the D-2.0 system isn’t perfect, but it is by definition more secure than what is being used now. After being confirmed with the US government’s records, your D-2.0 account is given a unique voter ID number and you may change your public name to whatever you wish, or even remain publicly anonymous. However, your location data will still be available for anyone who wants to look it up. If you truly fear letting your location data be public knowledge, you technically have the option to connect to the D-2.0 system with public wifi as well.
Q: Why call this process called “hacking democracy?”
A: Hacking in this sense refers to exploiting a feature of a system to make that system do something it was never intended to do. Hacking a representative democracy would mean that we exploit the feature of electing our leaders to force a representative democracy to mutate into a direct democracy. “Hacking democracy” just rolls off the tongue better than “hacking representative democracy.” I also considered calling this movement sociocracy as that is Latin for “rule by society” but I quickly realized that people might begin to assume hacking democracy is in itself a new form of government, or political party. I also realized it looked like a portmanteau of “sociopath” and “bureaucracy.”