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Am I the only one who thinks this is a terrible idea? Normal people don't have the time to vote on every single issue; we have our own jobs to do. A system like this just means he'll be voting with the loudest minority for everything that comes up.

    > Normal people don't have the time to vote on every single issue
It's really easy to have both direct democracy and the convenience of not having to vote on any given issue. You could grant the use of your vote to another citizen or a group of citizens. If you don't like how they vote you could instantly revoke their right to cast your vote on your behalf and go back to voting on every single issue.

You could also grant use of your vote to different parties depending on the subject matter, maybe you like Bob to cast votes for you on environmental issues, but prefer Susan to do it if it has to do with foreign policy. Which bucket an issue falls into could be handled similarly, a third-party you op-it to trust to categorize issues before your vote is handed off to other parties that are voting on your behalf.

Those are just some that come to mind, you could do much better. But the point is that with modern technology it would be easy for everyone to choose where they want to side on the direct democracy v.s. representative democracy spectrum, and they could do so on an issue-by-issue basis.

The problem isn't that it's infeasible, it's just that nobody's tried because it would take power away from those that are currently holding it.


People seem pretty conflicted about democracy. They want 'the people' to be in control, but not really -- because they're not very smart and somewhat irrational. Yet they're all for voting. Maybe because they knew their vote doesn't matter? It gets confusing pretty quick.


> You could grant the use of your vote to another citizen or a group of citizens.

This idea is common in a lot of new ideas about representation (eg the German Pirate Party's Liquid Democracy http://liquidfeedback.org/) yet I'd argue it is also a really bad idea.

One of the key values of any democracy, and direct democracy in particular, is that it values and promotes human autonomy. Instead of being subject to arbitrary powers, the 'people' rule themselves - we are only subject to laws that we ourselves have authored (or delegated to others to author in our current cases). But allowing everyone to vote on everything violates autonomy.

Most people recognise that autonomy requires having some/equal say in matters that materially affect them. Yet few realise that giving others a say in matters that don't affect them undermines the autonomy of those affected. So while laws apply relatively equally to all those in a jurisdiction, the distribution of effect is far from equal.

Proxy voting allows those with little skin in the game to drown out those significantly affected by proposed laws. The fact that people don't have the time to vote on every issue, and so will only likely vote on matters important to them, is one of the major strengths of direct democracy.


That's a very good point, and thanks for the link to liquidfeedback. It's very interesting, especially how it seems to do almost all of the logic needed in PostgreSQL.

    > Proxy voting allows those with little skin in the
    > game to drown out those significantly affected
    > by proposed laws.
But that's exactly what you'd get today in a representative democracy. If there's a fringe issue that 1% of the population really cares about they'll have to convince their representatives to vote their way on it. Since the representatives go for the popular vote they'll probably vote with what the 99% wants 100% of the time.

You'll only get minority issues through if the minority cares enough about it and it doesn't negatively impact everyone else, or if the negative impact from not giving the minority what they want would be greater than just giving them what they want.

I think you'd be more likely to reach a consensus like that using proxy voting than you would be in a direct democracy. With proxy voting any fringe issue will by default go to some general issues political party of your choice, which is likely to have a reasonable position on miscellaneous issues like this.

With direct democracy where 1% really cares about some issue but the 99% doesn't care either way (so much that they can't be bothered to vote either way) you might never end up passing it because you have another 1.5% population of voters that just votes "no" on everything out of general principle.


Anyone who has lived in California at some point in the past decade knows that direct democracy is a disaster. Ballot initiatives create service (and corresponding spending) increases and forbid tax hikes, leaving the elected legislature unable to balance the state budget.


Couldn't one implement some logic in the voting system based on the interdependence of bills?

"You can't vote for this service without voting for one of these bills that include a tax increase that would cover the cost of said service"?

On second thought, I can see how this would get ugly fairly quickly.


But direct democracy seems to work pretty well in Switzerland: http://post-gutenberg.com/tag/secret-of-switzerlands-success...


Switzerland is just over 2.6% the size of the U.S. and much, much more homogenous a culture. They're not remotely comparable.


I can understand how cultural homogeneity could impact the decision-making process (though Switzerland is a country of four official languages, so it's not that homogeneous), but I don't see how size matters. Care to elaborate?


Among other things, it has to do with the practical allowances for different communities of opinion, or factions within the polity. The smaller the group, the less opportunity there is for distinct subgroups to form, especially ones in opposition to others. There's also a more uniform experience of the polity that tends to shape opinion. The overall effect is that there's less variety of opinion, which makes direct democracy a closer approximation of the polity's feeling on something.


Just as you have economies of scale, there are diseconomies of scale, many of which result from combinatorial explosion in communication channels, and are as applicable to political as to industrial process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diseconomies_of_scale


Exactly. We have representatives for good reasons. Almost no one cares about most bills (which means they also won't know all the intricacies that often make the difference between a good bill and a bad bill). Even with the high-profile ones that we do care about, people will often vote for what they want now instead of what they need in the longterm (though our legislators aren't much better since they constantly are looking to the next election, especially in the House). California's ballot proposition system has shown that people will vote for flawed bills that sound good and be very reluctant to ever approve tax increases.

If this were implemented, for probably 90% of votes that he casts, we would see very low turnouts with voters coming from two groups: special interests--the small group of citizens who are deeply affected by the outcome of the vote and thus find it worthwhile to vote; and political junkies who get satisfaction out of voting on every issue, but who probably don't actually have time to really be informed about every single bill, especially as they evolve.

Implementation would also be extremely challenging. How do you ensure that Oregon residents (and which residents?--those who are eligible to vote? Those who are registered to vote? All, even children, felons, etc?) can vote once, and all others cannot vote? How do you handle people whose credentials for voting (whatever they may be) are compromised? What happens when a bill is amended--do people who have already voted on it have their votes stand by default? Are they able to change them? If they're able to change them, is that at the expense of anonymity? Do you actually have anonymity anyway? How does the Senator vote if someone DoS's the voting system? And obviously if there are any security vulnerabilities in the system, lots of problems could arise. These are very hard problems; there's been quite a bit of research into evoting, yet it is still very much an unsolved problem. If someone wins on a direct democracy platform, these problems will become very apparently very fast.


Assuming successful election, a large number of people would have shown interest in this, and those people could be engaged through a variety of outlets to vote. Senators also have a sizeable budget to send mail for free to voters.

Senators have access to a list of registered voters, which could help curb fraud.


It's not ideal (what is?!) but I'd take that over deciding based on what their richest donors want - which is how most people in Congress vote these days.

Besides, voting based on what most vocal/active constituents want is usually a pretty good idea, because they are the ones who usually research the topic the most, and have good solutions, and want their voices heard. And a senator would still have to make a judgement call and think about the whole population he's representing.


On the contrary the loudest are usually the ones with the most to loose or gain.


This is true, but with an actual 1 vote to 1 person ratio you can't really be "louder" than anyone else.

Until you get voting rings going, in which case it's up to raising awareness about an issue and that's out of the domain of such a system, is it not?


voting based on what most vocal/active constituents want is usually a pretty good idea, because they are the ones who usually research the topic the most, and have good solutions, and want their voices heard

Faulty syllogism there, in my view. The most vocal/active constituents can also be the most easily manipulated or the most extremist ones. Consider that there have been several Congressional attempts at immigration reform in the last decade or so, all of which have been derailed by a hardline nativist lobby which insists on deportation of all illegal aliens, which nobody in their right mind considers sensible, ethical, or practical.

Frankly, I think there's an inverse correlation between political passion and expert knowledge.


It is a terrible idea. Too many decisions would be based upon an over-reacting emotional response to the latest disaster. The Patriot Act is one such stupid response that happened right after 9-11.

Direct democracy permits the majority to trounce the rights of the minority.

A better answer would be that candidates for public office could only accept campaign contributions from registered voters in the candidate's district. This would beholden the candidate to his voters.


I think you've got this backwards.

The patriot act wasn't a result of direct democracy, but getting rid of it would be much easier under direct democracy. Government involves both the creation and ammendment/removal of statutes.

Direct democracy is no more likely to lead to tyranny of the majority than representational democracy (slavery and segregation was an act of representational democracy if you recall). You are confusing two dimensions: direct <--> representative with majoritarianism <--> constitutionalism. Direct democracy is perfectly compatible with all the checks and balances of liberalism and a constitution.


In the Senate for 2012, their were about 150 votes on things other than nominations or Senate procedural matters. See: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_m...


Ideally that wouldn't matter. People who care about an issue would vote on it.

That opens another can of worms, though - not enough people know or care about issues that will directly or indirectly affect them. People who do usually have some vested interest at stake.

The key to success IMO for a system like this is preventing the real-world equivalent of bots and voting rings. Bots are one thing, but I'd imagine voting rings would be very difficult to mitigate in a system like this. I guess it depends on the parties involved raising awareness effectively.


> People who care about an issue would vote on it.

That's a bad idea too:



This is already a problem with the current voting system, is it not...?

There are problems with this person's idea, but it's a step in the right direction IMO.


It seems to me that this may already be the case?


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