Techdirt Podcast Episode 80: Can Direct Democracy Work?

from the good-vote-bad-vote dept

Technology has made “direct democracy” — letting citizens vote on specific, granular issues instead of just electing representatives — more viable than ever, but does that mean it’s a good idea? This week, we discuss the ins and outs of direct democracy, including a special addendum on the surprising results of the Brexit referendum.

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 80: Can Direct Democracy Work?”

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Anonymous Coward says:


Can’t work, never will work.

No one WANTS it to work. If we cannot even keep an indirect Democracy, which is a Republic working how in the fuck sticks do you expect a direct democracy to work.

There is a fundamental problem with people in general. The majority cannot and will not effectively rule itself.

A democracy is two wolves and 1 lamb deciding what is for lunch.

A democracy will stand until they citizens learn that they can vote themselves largess through the government.

Groaker (profile) says:

Two issues:

Electronic voting machines are as good as encryption with multiple back doors. Voting on the web is less secure.

The average person has basically no knowledge on which to make decisions. Look at the recent string of elected officials/candidates.

Democracy/Republic may be better than anything else, but they devolve to oligarchy backed by police states.

shanen (profile) says:

Problems of democracy?

Problems of democracy? Whoa, lad, you’re going too fast there. There are SO many problems of democracy that it’s probably crazy even to try to pick #1.

However, I can take a shot at why technology is making things worse, and it comes down to bad economic models. Consider the google, for example. On the surface, it looks great and extremely profitable, but in their never-ending quest for more of your time and attention because they NEVER have a “big enough” profit, they are now focused on stuffing your eyeballs and earholes with exactly what you want to hear for fear of losing your attention.

Per my sig, freedom (as a justification for democracy) is about meaningful and unconstrained choice. Choice is NOT meaningful when all of the information has been slanted in favor of not offending you. Even worse, choice is NOT unconstrained when your personal information is being collected and used to manipulate you.

Not just the google, but I think they are probably the worst corporation on these lines. The ‘no evil’ thing is dead. The google’s current motto must be “All your attention are belong to us, the google.”

Weirdly enough, I think there is a solution, and it could begin on websites such as TechDirt. It would involve a different economic model focused on SOLVING the problems that the website’s articles (or videos etc.) are telling us about.

My new motto is “Details available upon (polite) request, or even better if maybe you have a better idea.”

Anonymous Coward says:

the biggest problem with democracy, or rather the lack of it is that governments dont want it! they are all full of how they will uphold democracy, fight to keep privacy and freedom and as soon as they get into power, there is a complete reversal! and all because those in government and the powerful/wealthy who backed them and got them into government, want to make sure they stay wealthy and powerful and that cant happen when everything they do is known by the masses! they must keep everything they do secret or they lose their wealth and their power and the ordinary persons then can use the knowledge they gain on those people to back them into corners, getting things that make them more wealthy and that mustn’t happen! ever!!

Any Mouse says:

Direct democracy fails due to the tyranny of the masses.

Our current system is broken due to First Past the Post voting.

They way to fix things is a truly representative government, which requires a change to the voting method. STV voting is the minimum fairly simple to explain. It focuses on making as many voters happy as possible and is a good topic for one of those famous California propositions.

CGP Grey recently did several videos on STV elections. for the first one.

Evan Ravitz (user link) says:

24 States already have direct democracy and it works pretty well

You covered theory, but missed that 24 states have had direct democracy for a century, using ballot initiatives. That is how everything from women’s suffrage to Sunshine laws to minimum wages to renewable energy mandates to medical and legal marijuana got started!

Ballot initiatives are initiated by voters, so WE get to set the agenda. Referendums are referred by legislatures to voters. It’s fair to say that the Brexit vote was an overreaction caused by the inability of the *citizens* of the European Union to set the agenda, with corporations in charge thru “Representatives.”

This is an example of what 4-term New York Governor Al Smith said: “If there’s a problem with democracy, the solution is more democracy.” European voters need to set the agenda with ballot initiatives like voters in 24 US states.

Commenters are correct that internet is not secure for voting -because ballots are anonymous, unlike credit card or other financial transactions. While Flux, Liquid Voting, etc are very convenient, they are not necessary.

I’ve beenorking formore and better direct democracy for 27 years, including directly with Senator Mike Gravel. Here’s my latest article:

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Don't replace, improve

Democracy would be better if money, political parties, and professional lobbying were removed from the equation. The representative form could be more representative if the representatives actually represented their constituents, not contributors, not some party ideology, or the loudest voice in their ears. Corporations should not be considered people for the purpose of politics or free speech.

Our current election technology allows for much error and potential corruption. If an effort was made in the electronic voting arena that was wholly open source, software, hardware, firmware, wares I haven’t thought of, and vetted for a long time on the Internets that it might become at least as reliable as our current technology, and maybe even better.

Will-INI (profile) says:


You guys missed a huge issue here, rational ignorance. It’s rational not to have knowledge on every subject. I have only so many hours in the day. Those hours can be spent on family, or work or school. The last thing I want to do is come home and spend my time on government.

Also, government is a complex system. How it chooses between two outcomes is almost always irrelevant to my life. How does anyone know which is the right answer? There might not even be a right answer. Why should I invest any more time on it?

Many economists think voting is a waste of time.

And finally, is democracy important or the appearance of democracy? Does it actually matter if all we have is democracy theater?

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