Friday, 29 May 2009

Choosing to be a Politician

There is a notion that anyone can become a politician if they want to and that the party system selects and promotes the best candidates. Interactive Democracy doesn't undermine this system, however, it does counter balance it.
Not anyone can become a political candidate. For a start it is expensive to launch an election campaign as an independent, so the usual route is to become a party member to garner support and funding. However, if you are a party member you must tow the party line from time to time, so this very system can undermine an individuals freedom to act in line with their own conscience.
Interactive Democracy hands more power to those with an interest in politics who don't want to become party members or serving MPs. Some of these people are extraordinarily bright, with in depth experience in specific fields. Just think of all those doctors, judges, lawyers, professors, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs and directors out there.

IQ and Power

On the face of it, Interactive Democracy provides equal voting power to all, whether your IQ is 50 or 150. However, this isn't the full story.
  1. If your IQ is high you are far better able to persuade others of your case because you are likely to be more eloquent and coherent. So you can have a greater effect on far more votes.
  2. People with a higher IQ may feel less intimidated about votes on complex issues and are likely to want to be more involved in politics. It's likely that fewer votes will be cast by below average IQ people than those with above average IQ.
  3. People who vote randomly, without consideration of the debate, balance out each others votes, for and against, and the best arguments can still win a referendum.
It's also worth remembering that those people with low IQs may have more experience of certain social issues than your "average" genius, they may have greater empathy and may be more moral, so their votes should be valued all the same.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The West Lothian Question

First posed by Tam Dalyell in 1977, The West Lothian Question, as it came to be known, asked about the imperfect and unfair voting rights of Scottish and Welsh MPs over laws meant for England when English MPs had no equivalent in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.
Interactive Democracy provides a system that partly solves this problem as votes are linked to a postcode and therefore, a region. However, it does not separate the voting rights of English, Scottish and Welsh MPs in the House of Commons when they vote on the development of viable bills. In my view this would be easy to fix, if there was the will to do so, simply by defining which MPs could vote on regional or national issues.

Abuse of Liquid Leadership

Could coercion, bullying, bribery or other types of manipulation allow "leaders" to seize votes using the Liquid Leadership model?
The full weight of the law may not prevent such abuse: People may be too intimidated to call the police. However, one idea to safeguard the process could involve an automatic email connection between everyone syndicated to any one leader: the more supporters they garnered the bigger the syndicate would become, forming a mutual support network that may build sufficient courage to bring charges against a corrupt leader.

Liquid Leadership by Subject

It would be possible to develop the Interactive Democracy (ID) idea to provide a system which would allow each voter to choose a different "Leader" for each of a number of subjects: Liquid Leadership, Liquid Democracy or delegated voting. For example, you may choose a trusted medical professional for votes about health care, an economist for votes about finance, a policeman for votes on law and order and a scientist for votes on the environment.

You should be able to terminate your delegated vote at any time and the system must have a secure way of recording how your vote was cast by registering a receipt to your ID account.

Increasing the Value of Your Vote

Interactive Democracy allows you to increase your political power in a number of ways: either become a member of parliament so that you can directly influence legislation and perhaps even become a member of the government; or persuade others, through argument and debate, to vote like you. The latter may involve you speaking at conferences, writing newsletters, blogging, campaigning on the high street or chatting with friends at the pub.

Liquid Democracy adds another way of increasing your voting power. It allows you to persuade others to link their vote to yours, automatically voting as you do. (They can rescind their link at any time.)

Saving Democracy with Web 2.0

This article, from Wired, describes how data can be tagged so that it can be easily cross-referenced in Web 2.0. The likely improvements in the presentation of information on the Internet will help anyone who wants to track government metrics, reports or political funding, to give just a few examples.

Friday, 22 May 2009


Filibustering seems to me to be one of the absurdities of Parliament; the very antithesis of free and fair debate. Interactive Democracy provides a disincentive to this time wasting because voters have the power to deselect any MP at any time.

Green Papers, White Papers

Government consultation documents may still be valid, but the petition stage of Interactive Democracy (ID) can also be employed to measure the support for a proposal. ID may change the way that Government Papers are published.

Government Disassociation

The government sometimes likes to disassociate itself from contentious issues by backing Private Members' Bills. For example changes to the age of consent for homosexuals in 1994.
In the proposed Interactive Democracy system, government would always separate its self from new laws as the majority could always be blamed. Instead the government would be judged on their implementation, on economic stewardship and international diplomacy. In fact ID doesn't let the government escape judgment, it allows them to be sacked at any time, should the majority feel that they have blundered significantly.

Government Bills

"Governing" may be far more difficult than "promising", but this shouldn't be an excuse for rescinding manifesto pledges. During general elections Interactive Democracy places more weight on the skills and character of politicians as every element of a manifesto would require a separate vote. The government agenda would no longer dominate parliament without the explicit support of the people. The majority party would form a government in the same way as today and their policies would be enacted only in so far as they could garner continued support from the majority, issue by issue. Government would more directly be influenced by the people and would work for the people.

Private Members' Bills

Out of 2067 Private Members' Bills between 1983 and 2002 only 256 were successful! This was largely because Government Bills took up the vast majority of the time available in Parliament.
Interactive Democracy treats Private Members' Bills and Government Bills in the same way, in that they both require support from voters to go forward. However, Party Politics would also come into play, as those parties with the ability to mobilise support from their membership, would likely carry the day. The real difference in the balance of power would be because the whips would have far less influence than they do today. They would have little power over party members and none over the rest of us. The result would be that ideas with popular support could emerge from anywhere, with equal opportunity.

Cyberterrorism and Interactive Democracy

Could a cyberterrorist unleash devastation on Interactive Democracy. Well, where there's a will there's a way!
One defence against an attack on the ID infrastructure is to build a discrete local cell structure so that the entire national ID system can't be attacked through a single gateway. An effective assault may damage one cell but the rest of the system would be unaffected.
My preferred design would allow voters to monitor their voting account history in the same way that we can monitor our online bank balance. Voting is analogous to spending money and the ID system would be as secure as the online banks which now have many years experience of secure operation. Corruption of an ID ballot could be reported by any user monitoring their "vote account" and reports of a distorted ballot would simply lead to it being recast at a later date when the IT defences have been repaired. In this way Interactive Democracy appears to be an illusive and resilient target for terrorists when compared to the banks, airlines or the Ministry of Defence IT systems, where attack could have immediate and catastrophic consequences.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Professional Politicians

What skills/attributes should politicians possess in the Interactive Democracy system?
  1. Integrity
  2. Intelligence
  3. Ability to study and comprehend a wide range of difficult subjects
  4. Ability to absorb a large amount of information and many points of view
  5. Analytical ability
  6. Statistical analysis
  7. Effective communication
  8. Dignity
  9. Respect for individuals
  10. Awareness that the democratic system, the group belief, is more important than individual belief

This is very different to the primary qualities of old style politicians, as noted by Max Weber (1864-1920):

  1. Passion
  2. Judgment
  3. Responsibility

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Westminster Village

Interactive Democracy may help to draw attention away from the insular Westminster Village and root politics in real world issues. A shift of balance that may effect politicians and reporters alike.

Debates in Print and Pixel

It takes a rare ability to stay focused on listening to every point in a debate without being side tracked by your own thoughts and opinions. So perhaps the print media (paper or web) have an especially important role to play in itemising the points of debate for the general public.
I think it is also important for Plus, Minus and Interesting points to be listed by Parliament on the ID system, immediately accessible to anyone casting their vote on the Internet.

Avoiding Extremists

It ought to be a concern to the major parties that protest votes against them may lead voters towards more extreme political groups. Interactive Democracy offers the sort of pressure release valve that could actually help the major parties to avoid suffering losses due to protest votes.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Friday, 15 May 2009

Parliamentary Expenses

How would you express your opinion about MPs expenses using Interactive Democracy? Would you be demanding a general election, de-selecting parliamentarians, suggesting they all use hotels or offering them a pay rise?
The point is that Interactive Democracy offers a better balance of power between the electors and the elected with fewer opportunities for self serving policies. For example, could the Cabinet fairly debate the housing bubble when members are flipping second homes and MPs are making from it? There must be some balancing power, but the House of Lords doesn't do it. I note that certain Lords may be about to be expelled for their own, separate corruption. A plague on both your houses!
However, this debacle highlights that transparency and truth are just as important to democracy as our rights to vote! Without truth, what are we voting on?

Friday, 1 May 2009

Reticense to Vote

An important principle of Interactive Democracy is that people should only vote if they have a strong opinion. This may seem like a strange principle for a system that encourages people to become involved in politics, especially when considered in light of the arguments for voting to be made compulsory in general elections, as is the case in Australia and Belgium among many other countries. Put simply, if you don't have an opinion why vote?
By not voting more influence is conferred to those who do hold an opinion, perhaps because the issues impact them directly or they have studied the issues closely. This amplifies the effectiveness of the system.
But what of careless votes, cast for the hell of it? These by their very nature are likely to be randomly scattered on each side of the argument and will cancel each other out. They won't be a problem if there is a clear majority.