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Ask HN: As an MP, how would you use the net to scale political participation?
8 points by zehnfischer 1081 days ago | 5 comments
The pirate party is running for election 2013, chances are we gonna break the 5% barrier and get some seats in the national parliament of Germany. Whilst it is pretty easy to nominate yourself right now (login into a wiki, announce nomination), I haven´t seen much conceptwise. The pirates stand for a massive extension of political participation, exploiting the net to make decisions, develop position and so forth. Yet, the software we use is a UX nightmare and lacks formal power. Liquid feedback, our tool, is more therometer about the party´s current status, than an proper tool of political influence. Plus there is a big opposition against any virtual committee (mainly driven by security and fraud concerns). Nevertheless as a MP you are formally binded only to your conscience, and have much freedom to organize yourself, build platforms and so on. One idea would be to have the MP as proxy or megaphone, not making any political submissions him/herself, but only announcing the will of the virtual assemblies. So my questions is, if you would be a MP and your goal would be to allow a huge amount of people to influence political decision making via modern information technology, how would you do it? What problems to do see? Which processes need to be tackled and so forth.

I'm working on a project with ideas expressed at YSenate.org

We are trying to tackle exactly this type of problem in an open source way.

The big problem with open politics is the entropy of 'too many people talking at the same time.' To reduce the entropy the approach is to break the group into pieces and then put them back together. The fundamental postulate of YSenate.org is derived from Huffman Coding with the additional criterion that each individual is given equal weight. This results in a binary tree political organization.

We are also looking to integrate Git for legislative drafting and primary color votes to address the "Curse of Dimensionality."


The biggest problem I see is about engagement. If you use any form of issue based voting for the public, most citizens can't be bothered to engage. Thus you end up with a bunch of issue-driven interest groups, that will ultimately decide on that question.

In my opinion political engagement is very hard to sustain if the candidate is not on a clear cut "mission". The only candidate that seemed to be able to achieve an engagement that went beyond a single momentum is probably Ron Paul, but it is going to be interesting to see if his son is able to sustain this movement while having (relatively) more moderate views.


Yes, maybe. But first of all, personally I find, it is ok, to not be interested in all political questions. The chance here is to at least borden political influence, so maybe there are just some people, groups involved, why is that not ok? At the same time I believe people will learn over time, that if they don´t take their chances, they will end up living under laws, they don´t agree with. And since the system I imagine allows constant iteration, there will be ways to change laws to the better, all the time.


The main issue is going to be, that when decisions are made based on popularity and only those the most engaged are participating, the decision is going to be decided by extremists. This somewhat sabotages democracy, as the representative democracy counterbalances those on the fringes with the lethargic majority.

Issue based politics is leading to a lot of problems, i.e. if you would put it to a popular vote, I am quite confident that the death penalty would be back at least in some European countries for child molesters, etc. Popular opinion seems very volatile and if you are able to time your issue driven vote with some incidents of public outrage, you can pretty much able to pass highly questionable ideas. Of cause there is the hope that bad decisions will "teach" voters to do better next time, but (at least in my opinion) there are not many signs that this learning effect takes place with the current party/election system.


I think, you see it to theoretical. As a matter of fact, we don´t have valid data about a case just as this. Yes sure, there are examples for this, people being populistic, following the loudest speaker and so forth. But first of all, we are talking about one seat in the national parliament, one of 620, not about being the president of the US or the german chancellorship. The influencing towards the law making process will be pretty limited, if existent. At the same time, I see a chance to get some actual situations about how this works, and quite controlled conditions. I dunno, maybe I am underestimating the stress and such, but could be fun to play with thought around.


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