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Delegative Democracy – a scalable voting model (andrewbadr.com)
137 points by bdr on Nov 5, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

Sortition[0] (selection of decision makers by lottery to get a group that is representative the population as whole) seems to me to be a much more interesting model. That was how the original Athenian democracy worked, and there has been several proposals to do this in a modern version.

I can recommend reading this proposal: http://www.context.org/iclib/ic11/calnbach/

The clear benefit of this approach is that it would be a much simpler and more transparent process, with far less opportunity for the emergence of career politicians and corruption. People would also feel that they were far closer to the democratic process, when they were represented by others just like themselves, and the actual decision makers may be enticed to make better decisions when they are ordinary people that will have to live with the result of their choices afterwards.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition

The big problem with Sortition is that the voters are necessarily uninformed. It means you need to teach your randomly selected group a huge amount of background information, even before explaining the specifics of the case. It falls into the same trap as a trial-by-jury: if you need to educate people to make a decision, you're putting the power in the hands of the teachers instead of the people.

In France, there was a law passed recently, about fighting terrorism. As all "think of the terrorists" laws, it passed without a hitch ("after all, we have to be seen as doing something about these people going to Iraq and Syria, regardless of whether it is effective"). In particular, this law contained provisions letting the executive branch shut down websites without any input from the judicial branch. Reading an article about the debates among the lawmakers made abundantly clear that people who still call the Internet "the new technologies" have absolutely no inkling about how it works and what consequences their votes may have. It is also clear that many of them barely read (or don't read at all) the texts they are voting on. What makes you say that random members of the population, not beholden to particular interest groups or current political parties, would do worse?

The problem is not that they would do worse. The problem is that they would be entirely dependent on the information they were provided. Anybody who gives them that information has their own opinion, and whether they want to or not, that opinion informs the way they dispense information. This means the random members of the population aren't deciding based on objective evidence. They can't really form their own opinions if every bit of information is biased one way or another.

That is why I said it was similar to a trial-by-jury. The jury isn't versed in law or in the details of the case, so they get all the information they need to make a decision from the lawyers presenting the case. That leads to situations like one we had in my home country: A woman was sentenced to life in prison for a murder without any evidence. None at all. She had motive and was 'an asshole', and that was enough for the jury to be sure she did it.

If there was a way to objectively give them the facts of the case and the knowledge they need, the system would be perfect, but unfortunately that's not possible. And until it is, i would rather have people making decisions based on their own badly informed opinions than people making decisions based on others' opinions with a veneer of legitimacy.

Sure, but in the current system, how many of these facts come to the lawmakers via deep-pocketed special interest groups? How many lawmakers know what war looks like, when they vote for military action? How many have any idea of how to regulate the banking sector? How many vote only based on what their party has decided?

There is the question of writing laws in the appropriate legalese. In practice, at least in France, most laws come from the executive branch, and the Parliament examines them in a commission, "patches" them by adding amendments, and votes. I'm sure the legalese part could be taught or handled by specialists. Apart from that, I don't see why it would function in a worse fashion that what we currently have.

Sure, many of the decisions in the current system are 'impure' in some way. Everybody has a price, everybody makes mistakes, everybody is uninformed about things. The big difference is the decisions still come from the elected lawmakers. They're often wrong, and even more often just guessing, but in the very least the system is transparent, we know where the power resides.

In the case of a randomized group, that power isn't with the group, it's with the people who educate them on the matters and who frame the issue. There are a million ways to present any matter, and none of them are objective. You're putting the power to influence and even determine a nation's decisions in the hands of the experts that inform them, rather than the randomly selected people. It would become very efficient to buy those people instead of the voters.

The problem of the matter isn't whether it would function worse. The problem is that it would function less transparently. It would ostensibly be a fair and completely unbiased system, but that could be manipulated behind the scenes in far more insidious ways. That's very dangerous. Personally, I would rather have a more unfair but more transparent system.

How is the current system transparent in this regard? How do you know where your MP/Congressperson got their information from (since we apparently agree that representatives are often not expert in the subject matter)?

I don't know, but at least I know it's them making the decision. I know they're corruptible, and I know their information can be manipulated and can be incomplete. It's transparent because everybody knows this, that's why we can complain about it. In some cases, we can call out lawmakers for it and get things changed. We know which ones tend to decide badly, and we can vote against them. It's an important balance in the system. If I have no control over who votes, and the whole system is made to look objective, that balance and that transparency is lost.

Ok, so your main beef with the lottery system is the anonymity of the randomly selected lawmakers? Well, if you don't know who they are, neither do the lobbyists. You still have Berlusconi/Putin-style influence-by-media, but that's not any different from what you have now.

My beef isn't with the anonymity, my beef is with the supposed objectiveness of the educators they use to give the randomly selected lawmakers the knowledge they need to decide. Those are the people to lobby, those are the people to buy, but they are hidden from the rest of the population. The only way to keep them honest would be to make every bit of information they give to the lawmakers public and freely available, so we can be sure the lawmakers aren't being manipulated. That runs into the same problems the delegate democracy has too: you can't make everything public in a state that still has foreign affairs.

My understanding is that only few representatives get close to state secrets, and they get them all from the executive branch (eg, the Intelligence Committee is relying on whatever the country's intelligence services deigns to tell them). Don't see why it should be different with randomly-selected lawmakers.

And asking a random group of people to select a problem from an infinite set of issues that might be addressed and then draft a majority-approved solution (which is what representative democratic governments actually do) is asking a lot more from them than simply based only on what you have been provided in a controlled environment, are you completely certain that $RandomStranger is guilty?

Whilst theoretically not having any inclination towards achieving a particular outcome is a distinct advantage in the latter situation, I can't see how that's the case when it comes to actually governing.

I guess Randomized solutions seem very attractive for us. I have thought about it, but the problem I see is that once selected the citizens can be bribed and they may be uniformed about complex issues.

An alternative idea is to follow the jury duty model. At every district, you randomly select a small group of citizens(the electors). They are brought together and isolated. Every candidate presents their proposals, background, arguments, counter arguments, etc. The electors listen, and each of them casts a secret vote. You eliminate the candidate with the least number of votes and do another round. You do that until you have a winner. At that moment you have elected a member of congress and the electors are dismissed.

Edit: The advantages:

- It is very inexpensive. Easy to set up.

- Campaigns are short and you don't need donors.

- Lesser-known candidates would have better odds of winning.

- Campaigns will not be based on simple slogans that can be said in less than 30 seconds.

- Democratic.

- Transparent. The process can be televised. Like a trial.

- The electors can choose their preferred candidate without throwing their votes away.

- It would make third parties viable.

The drawback is that people may feel like they are not participating.

"Elector selection" would be immediately subject to strong pressure from monied interests. The electors would need to be chosen from a pool (who gets in the pool?) and steps would need to be taken to prevent bribery (sequestration?).

They would be selected from the pool of all the citizens in the district. And it should be obligatory. Sort of like Jury Duty.

yes. sequestration.

David Chaum has a recent paper on random-sample elections. http://rs-elections.com/Random-Sample%20Elections.pdf

(I thought I'd seen one from this year, but it didn't come up.)

Right now, the problem of "Representative democracy simply doesn't scale" worries me a whole lot less than "the politicization [and polarization] of absolutely everything": http://www.vox.com/2014/11/1/7136343/gamergate-and-the-polit...

I worry that letting people delegate their vote to their favorite outspoken political ideologue would make things even worse, because it would give those people real and direct power. Imagine Rush Limbaugh having the power to vote on behalf of millions of people.

Here's what i say: Good. Bring it. I want our collective ignorance to shine, so we can confront it head-on as the destructive force that it is.

Representative democracy was put in place when regular people were presumably MUCH more ignorant. And giving citizens power through proxy likely spurred us to become more aware as citizenry. But I imagine it was pretty jarring at first.

Delegative democracy puts us in uncomfortable territory yet again, and I think that's a good thing.

> I want our collective ignorance to shine

Ok, I present to you:

Anti-vax: http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/21/4767530/vaccine-deniers-i...

Climate change denial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_denial

Anti-GMO: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...

Creation Science: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_science

> so we can confront it head-on as the destructive force that it is.

That hasn't been working so well...

I find none of those overly concerning in practice, at least not to the degree that they reflect poorly on delegative democracy.

- http://www.gallup.com/poll/168620/one-four-solidly-skeptical...

- http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/...

- http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intel...

It seems however that informing is generally slower than populismusm, so there might be an increased probability that things go wild. That might actually be an advantage of the slowness of current democracies. Maybe one could add some sort of artificial deceleration and decentralization mechanism to a Liquid Democracy to counteract this problem.

> Imagine Rush Limbaugh having the power to vote on behalf of millions of people.

If his vote is identical to what they'd vote on their own, what difference does it make?

I think that vesting direct power in him would likely lead to personality-driven polarization, where people who can't stomach him would be inclined to give their vote to whoever sticks it to him most forcefully. Or other sensationalistic and dramatic storylines, amplified by the media.

> I think that vesting direct power in him would likely lead to personality-driven polarization

That sounds exactly like the current system. A lot of people voted for/against Obama/Bush for similar reasons.

Sure but Rush Limbaugh is far more extreme and polarizing than Bush. He could never actually win a primary. But under the proposed system you don't need to.

There's also not the barrier of having to actually be a politician. Someone could make a YouTube video arguing why everyone else is an idiot and they are the only person you should trust with your vote, and the next day have incredible amounts of political power.

For example, if this system were in place right now, how many pro/anti-GamerGate ideologues would overnight go from nothing to having thousands or millions of votes?

The problem is we (actually you, since I'm not a US citizen) elect one set of people to vote on our behaves for everything. If we can delegate to different people on different issues, then it'll be very different. The whole notion of party politics may even break down.

This. At least in a representative democracy the ideologues with the huge media reach are generally not the same people who are actually making the laws.

I don't get it. Right now, an ostensibly fair and educated person could tweet his or her vote recommendations, and people could choose to vote according to those recommendations. Presumably a lot of voting is already motivated by trusted recommendations (even if it's just party lines).

Agreed. As described, it has the worst aspects of both systems; all the coordination problems of direct democracy, because anyone that feels inclined to vote on any particular issue has the right to do so, and most of the problems with representative democracy because a huge proportion of people will feel inclined to delegate [most of] their voting to well-funded and persuasive people or groups that may or may not be sincere about what they actually represent.

If those casting the delegated votes get secret ballots too, you can throw in a new problem: undetectable and potentially indefinite subterfuge...

This is exactly what we are doing over at PlaceAVote.com [0].

We are running 50 congressmen in 2016 on this platform.

Often times, it's called Liquid Democracy.

[0] http://placeavote.com

How would this work with a case like foreign policy? Since everybody needs to able to participate, all the information related to a matter at hand needs to be made public. This is not always a good idea, especially when relating to diplomacy with other nations that don't follow this model, or to military intervention. It would essentially become impossible to hide anything from your enemies.

You could defer decisions involving sensitive information to the top N delegates (i.e. those with the most voting power.) They'd be a sort of ad-hoc congress.

You may face problems with those delegates still leaking sensitive information, but then again, Congressional staff is already notorious for doing that both willfully and accidentally.

That would default back to a representative democracy then, since if my opinion differs from the top N, I have no way to influence the decision.

Not necessarily. The composition of this "congress" might vary depending on the topic under discussion. The group trusted on "trade with china" might differ from that trusted on "military action in Syria". And entry is derived from trust networks theoretically involving all people, not some electoral process where only career politicians are realistically candidates.

But it does mean I can't decide to delegate it to my friend who knows a lot about the trade situation with China. All the power would become consolidated in a few people again, and giving your vote to anybody else would be a waste of it unless they pass it on to one of those. Sure, the group could be different for each issue, but in practice it won't be. You'll need to campaign long and hard to be in that top N, and try to get a lot of people to trust you. That leads right back to career politicians and popularity contests.

> Someone with power, like an employer, could pressure people into handing over their votes.

This is absolutely what's going to happen if such system is implemented.

Appearing to delegate one way, but having their votes counted another way? Seriously? It is way too complicated for an average voter. Even if you implement some sort of plausible deniability scheme (so that aforesaid someone can't just login with your credentials and set it up the way they want) - imagine explaining plausible deniability to a 90-years-old grandma or some uneducated farm worker, or a drug addict...

Elections are rigged this way even in countries with supposedly secret votes: bad guys might ask you to prove your vote by, say, snapping a picture of "correctly" filled ballot alongside your ID, but even that is not necessary - enough people will do what someone with power tells them to on a vague threat "if you try to fool us we will find out", or because it's a "patriotic" thing to do, or simply because they are told to and don't know better.

Not to mention that a huge number of people just couldn't care less. Half of population simply don't show up at the polls. How many of them will simply sell their right to vote for a token sum of money?

The current system is bad in many ways [1], but this proposal is even worse - way too much potential for abuse.

[1] Some reasons why - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-past-the-post_voting

You should watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_bismark_e_voting_without_frau...

There are established ways around the percieved problem, even before you start thinking on cryptographic solutions

EDIT: sorry, voting digitally isnt addressed in those links :/

I couldn't agree more. In certain states in India, the so-called "buying" of votes is pretty rampant. Politicians offer food, alcohol, TV, money, you name it. Whatever is at their disposal is distributed to the community to instigate people to vote for them.

And of course, a lot of people are still falling for the "if you try to fool us we will find out" nonsense. The election commission has curbed it to a huge extent. Yet the scale at which such a scam is happening is simply mind boggling.

When I see "delegative democracy", all I see are holes.

Well said. One of the pitfalls that election-system designers forget about is that for a 'general public' system, it has to be easy to understand. Cryptographically signing something... is already too hard. Requiring a computer (or computer skills) to vote in the first place, that's a no-go. Those things work for particular groups, but not the general public. Particularly for the poor or people with certain disabilities.

How is the abuse potential substantially different than vote-by-mail? "Hi, like your job? Please bring your ballot in in and fill in the oval for the legislator that's gonna give my business a tax break. Thank you."

I think Delegative Democracy has lots of promise, and if done right may the the ideal form.

But it is very much still pervertable, and the devil is in the details as always.

It would be nice to see a thorough analysis of the ways DD can fail, and mitigations. Andrew hinted as some (including privacy and coercion) but most discussions are this are light on critique.


Sampled democracy is a much better solution. Replace Congress with 1,000 randomly sampled citizens. That's the only way to get true representation.

I think you need some degree of self-selection. To be a good representative, you need to dive in pretty deep, and it will take a couple years to be useful at all. You also need to have the mindset to draft good legislation -- it's too easy to leave a mess of laws, which the judiciary will need to try to piece together.

If you dismiss these concerns, what you'll get are a bunch of people easily manipulated by aides, staffers, lobbyists, etc. And those people certainly are self-selected and ready to work.

But the idea to do away with traditional elections isn't so bad. A bunch of people throw their hat into the ring with a fairly low barrier to entry (some number of signatures, say), and you choose randomly among them. It would be difficult to pick a term length, though.

I think self-selection is a huge part of the current problem. People who are drawn to political power, are likely also drawn to military power. I think this contributes to the never-ending war-mongering the U.S. does.

Lobbyists, special interest groups, etc. would have no power, since they can't help you win an election. People are most easily manipulated for casual decisions with low value. If they had the responsibility, I think most people would rise to the challenge. If they can't, we need to end juries immediately.

Representatives don't draft legislation. They almost never even read the legislation they vote on. That's what they have staff for.

I've thought about this myself. You would probably need a larger sample though. And if the difference is not statistically significant, a full referendum may be called for. The random selection also does away with a lot of lobbying-related problems.

Would probably work as long as the sampled citizens are truly random ;)

I think this is pretty much the German Pirate Party's "Liquid Democracy" internal voting model.


My friend has been working on Mesh Democracy with Retroshare - a trust graph and social graph with cryptographic credentials are handy. http://www.chozabu.net/blog/?p=94

There is discussion on Reddit.

Yep, that's one of the examples Wikipedia gives. I'd be curious to hear about how it's worked in practice.

Does anyone know of any software products that use this model at their core?

I believe agora voting platform does this: https://agoravoting.com/

They're focusing on getting the cryptographic underpinnings going correctly, whixh is awesome. They are also extremely interested in decentralizing the system via blockchain tech, which is a really good sign.

I try to follow their mailing lists, but unfortunately much of it is still in Spanish.

It's so funny, I just saw some TED talk on that yesterday.

I came across it because for the past couple of months I've been thinking and writing down some thoughts on building an application that applied "Delegative Democracy" towards the goal of allowing large groups of people to make important decisions. I didn't realize there was even a term for this concept until this blog post.

In addition to those mentioned already:

* http://liquidfeedback.org (used by Pirate Parties in several countries as well as the M5S movement in Italy)

* https://adhocracy.de

* https://www.loomio.org

A related US-based project is https://makeyourlaws.org

Will there be video of the event online? I won't be able to manage a trip but would hate to miss it.

We will be recording the software implementation presentations, but probably not the more informal workshops on the second day.

I contributed to a Rails app a few years ago through RMU that was trying to get Spain to use this model... https://github.com/PartidoDeInternet/AgoraOnRails and http://agoraonrails.com/

So much work has already been done on this and here I thought I was alone and breaking some new ground.

I have lots of reading material for tonight it seems.

I've been thinking something along the lines of "legislature by jury" might be a better way of tackling propositions. Currently, I'm asked to make decisions about a bunch of issues that I don't know very much about. I can spend a lot of time researching them (and I usually do), or I can not vote (I do often triage a couple), or I can vote no if I don't understand it (or don't understand why the full time legislators can't just do it)... but regardless, it's a lot of time and effort and I imagine my vote is more or less lost in the sea of people who have paid less attention, and so much comes down to how effective the advertising, and I'm not confident that "stronger arguments in the set of arguments that can be understood in 5 minutes by the average voter" is a very good proxy for truth.

On the other hand, I do have some faith my my fellow citizen. Ask a group of us to set aside some time, do some research, sit down with some others, and make the best decision we can... and it wouldn't surprise me if we did a better job than either the legislature (not having to constantly think about how X will play with Y in the next election) or the broader mass of voters (having the time to focus on one particular issue, and knowing we have the responsibility of having our voice matter).

Oh, and pay us a high rate for our time. It would still be cheaper than running a campaign.

This looks like an interesting mechanism for fixing the moderator problem on Reddit. It would take a couple of cycles to get working rules in place, but it looks promising.

I had long decided that this was what I would focus on if I were going to be someone who did the start-up thing (I'm not. Mental illness is not compatible with doing a start up).

Rather Than governmental Democracy. Have a system where people can communicate information and ideas to large non-governmental entities.

Run a tree of delegates who feed information based upon its quality up to a higher level. Anyone may listen to anyone and speak to anyone but you can also choose to ignore anyone. You choose delegates for each individual case by picking someone receptive to your comment. People higher up the tree will generally only listen to people they know and trust.

This system would provide a useful middle ground to the current situation that people find themselves in when they need to communicate. Their main point of contact are automated systems or de-facto automated humans following processes. To get action on some significant issues, you need to win the publicity lottery and have you case become virally popular to the point where someone who can actually help makes contact.

It isn't as ambitious as running a government, but would serve a real need. As an example of the sort of thing where this may help, there have been numerous instances of Obvious Malware on the Google Play store that have managed to acquire a significant number of downloads. When these instances have been noticed and appear on reddit /r/android, they are swiftly removed from the store. I'm sure similar instances have happened where a company has taken the action they needed to take only after the problem has reached the front page of HN. Rather than having to make a big public noise (which only really works for a few), people should have an avenue to get information where it is needed.

As a business model I would aim to have companies pay to have their top tiers of the tree managed by full-time staff.

Isn't this basically the way the electoral college works, at least on paper?

Wouldn't it be subject to the same limitations of the electoral college, that future laws could restrict how delegates vote based on popular election results, etc.?

Indeed, our system was originally a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" sort, where if you didn't know him, you'd likely know someone who'd vouch for a House candidate or Elector (who was vouching for the President); the Senate back then was elected by state legislatures to protect their interests.

It had obvious scaling problems, and the total number of districts was fixed at 435 in 1910 ... yeah, in the period where the GooGoos (Good Government) types were smashing most everything in sight about our system, like Senate elections. They sure improved things :-(.

"the Senate back then was elected by state legislatures"

I actually think this change was a large part of what led to consolidation of power at the federal level.

If a citizen wanting X is deciding between Senate candidate A promising X, and B not promising X, why wouldn't they just pick candidate A?

If a legislator is trying to decide between A and B, why wouldn't they just do X and keep the credit?

I came up with almost exactly this idea several years ago -- I called it augmented representative democracy.

I figured that software programmers would immediately latch onto the concept, because they are familiar with the concept of inheritance. You elect a legislator to vote on your behalf, and in many situations that legislator's vote is the same as your own, yet you retain the right to cast your own vote on any given issue.

But there are several objections that I could not overcome:

1) In our free, open, representative-style government, each legislator's voting record is a matter of public record, but each individual citizen's voting record is confidential. If we were to switch to augmented representative democracy, the question arises: Do we make each citizen's voting record public or private? Both options come with potential problems. For instance, if all votes are private, we lose out on transparency, and anonymity tends to embolden people to make some pretty nasty choices. (Exhibit A: Any online forum.) But if all votes are public, it could invite retribution that the average citizen is not equipped to handle.

2) It's hard enough to monitor roughly 535 federal legislators, to make sure they're not taking bribes or kickbacks in exchange for their votes on particular pieces of legislation. Could you imagine if you had to instead monitor all 207.6 million eligible voters? True, it also becomes more difficult to influence a significant number of them through nefarious means. (Suppose you need to bribe five senators to tip the scale in your favor on a particular piece of legislation. So you offer them each $1 million. Now suppose every eligible voter got to weigh in. You'd need to bribe more than 10 million of them, assuming they all voted. And a $1 bribe isn't nearly as attractive as a $1 million bribe.) But on bills where the vote is really, really close ... there is really no viable way to keep everybody honest.

3) A legislator's workload is (or should be) a full-time job. It takes a lot of time to read through bills and understand them. It takes even more time to fully consider its broader implications and its potential unintended consequences. As part of that process, you'll likely have to engage in discourse with fellow legislators; evaluate expert testimony; listen to the concerns of constituents, trade groups, lobbyists, and other organizations; and weigh the potential for the law to be challenged as unconstitutional. All of that takes time, and it's unrealistic to expect every eligible voter to assume that responsibility for the purpose of voting on policy directly.

4) In practice, the cases in which this augmented representative democracy would result in a vote different from the legislator's would be relatively few -- and yet there would be a whole lot of extra effort required to support the system. Basically, you would need an issue where the legislator's vote is different than what the people who elected him would expect (and the legislator, if he wants to be re-elected, is only going to do that sparingly), and you would need a substantial turnout of people willing to overrule him. Considering how few people vote in general elections, that's a tall order.

5) When you break it down, augmented representative democracy is really direct democracy, and not true representative democracy. And one objection to direct democracy -- take it for what it's worth -- is that there's a danger of mob-mentality policy decisions. If you look at some historic decisions, at least here in the U.S., the legislature was a bit ahead of the curve, compared with the population at large. So ... I guess the question is ... could direct democracy have derailed or delayed something like the civil rights legislation of the mid-20th century?

For many of these criticisms, can't we strike the balance by designing rules based on an individual's proxy-power (ie the #people for which they proxy). For example:

re:1) For any individual exercising a proxy-power <10, all votes are explicitly private. For any individual exercising proxy-power >=10, all votes are explicitly public.

re:2) Monitoring, transparency, ethics rules, etc increase in proportion with proxy-power.

re:3) Budget and staffing increase in proportion with proxy-power.

Additionally: Proxy-power is capped (e.g. 0.5% of national population). If you try to assign proxy-power to someone who has met the cap, then the assignment is rejected.

1. How about a compromise? You can choose to be available for delegation; if available for delegation, your votes are public.

2. Nope, but there are ways of analyzing voting patterns for fraud / tampering after the fact. Especially if some algorithms are used - I'm thinking specifically a form of collaborative filtering. 'For citizens who have a similar voting record..'

3. Definitely. It's a tough nut to crack. A tool like github could actually be part of the answer. What happens when industry trade groups and lobbyists have a closer ear to an individual representative than their constituents do (and they almost always do)? What happens when those groups' interest conflicts with their constituents (see also: the environment; the internet)? You'd hope that the representative/senator would vote in the interest of their constituents, keeping in mind the input of the special interests... But how often is that actually the case? Seeing a commit log laid out with the reasoning behind each change could lead not only to smaller & more comprehensive bills, but to better and more effective citizen input as well.

4. How much do people look into the voting history of their elected official now? Not very often, I'd wager. Something like this might actually be prophylactic to legislators voting in a different manner than people would expect though, if you're alerted when your delegate votes and you have the chance to cast a different one.

5. It's representative democracy except when representative democracy would vote against a person's interest. The more people against whose interest the prevailing representative vote consensus is, the more direct it is. Things that have a wide consensus would be delegated - and things that don't would probably be hammered out more. This isn't about what system would have been best for the 1960s or the 1850s, though, so I'm uncomfortable talking about it in context of the civil rights movements. What new systems of government are enabled by the availability of technology today? Which of those would be better equipped for the digital era than the ones we have available to us now? Which ones would lead to more freedom instead of less?

I'd like to think a distributed workload model would help take the pressure off of needing to have the bottlenecks that come from #3. I imagine a valve like bazaar system - with groups forming spontaneously as the need for leadership arises - might work out.

The trouble then becomes figuring out who's qualified to chime in on certain issues - a free-for-all could mean anyone with a vested interest could form these groups and we lose the ability to put in checks and balances to help stop feedback loops due to mob mentality. Proving you even read the article in question could be difficult.

The number of people who were spouting outright mis-information over the obamacare documents was mindblowing.

Perhaps the first step is to reduce the scope of these laws and stop bundling everything together.

Yes. All decisions should be separated into subject focused groups. Then individuals must qualify themselves for voting into those groups by participating in discussions, doing research and having articles they've written or submitted upvoted by other people who have already graduated to decision makers within that group.

So any representative wouldn't have a single "score" that represents how many followers they have but a number of individual scores as they pertain to the focus that individual has chosen for themselves.

SO, do this to vote for full-time legislators. There could be a tree of proxy voting, where some folks proxy with a trusted relative, their minister or a local politico. They could vote their bloc on up the food chain, until somebody wins say 1M votes - they become a legislator?

Isn't this more or less how the current system works? At least in the UK, it is allowed to nominate someone to vote on your behalf in a general election. The only difference is that candidates have to choose to stand for election under the current system and it seems unfair to vote someone into a political office if they don't want it!

Unfair perhaps, but I have a hunch that such people would make much better politicians than those who seek power. I'd even suggest that this could be the definition of citizenship: if you want to be a citizen (and vote), then you need to be willing to accept that you might be elected to serve.

One counterobjection to #1: Most ballot initiatives and referenda these days are done by secret ballot, and it doesn't seem to be a big deal; what matters is the result, right? Transparency with elected officials is key, because you want to make sure the guy you voted for is actually voting the way you want him to vote (so you can vote him out if he goes rogue), but maybe transparency isn't so big an issue with direct democracy, since each of us knows what our own vote is.

There other side of the coin is that transparency with elected officials makes them susceptible to concessions, bribes and coercion.

In the most benign way it creates a legislative environment of favors. "If you promise to allocate more funds to my district's naval base, I promise to vote on your education bill".

2) But to some degree it is similar now - people as well can try to bribe others to vote for a particular person. The only difference is it is not as formal as delegating your vote.

private citizens should never have their votes revealed, we do this for the simple reason that intimidation is a long practiced activity by those in power.

It is the reason why unionization drives are wholly secret on votes. However if you really really want proof, revealing those who supported a recent prop in California that revealed people's support when it was previously guaranteed private is all we need.

Take away privacy of vote is the same as taking away the right to vote.

To address (1): Make it possible for voters to voluntarily release their voting records, verifiable and atomically.

When I read the title my first thought was that it would be a majoritarian system without districts: everyone votes for one candidate from the list and the top N candidates get elected to parliament. This would solve two main problems:

* The problem of the majority "choking" the minority in each district in the ordinary majoritarian system

* The problem of partisanship tending towards mergers and eventually a dual-party equilibrium in the proportional electoral system

I'm pretty sure this idea is not new and even has a name. And I'm wondering what potential drawbacks such a system could have.

One of the biggest issues with this system would be that a rich company or individual could buy large blocks of votes on a particular issue.

Another might be that a delegate could present a popular set of views in public for the purposes of gaining a large number of delegate votes but then they could privately vote for their real beliefs which might be much more fringe, or perhaps they might change their mind close to the election.

> One of the biggest issues with this system would be that a rich company or individual could buy large blocks of votes on a particular issue.

Whereas now a rich company/individual can just buy a politician.

At least in the case of a politician you can usually look at their voting record and see if that matches what you expected them to do.

Pretty much how representative government works. Also the Electoral College. At some point you have to trust people.

AFAIK electoral college delegates are selected by secret ballot so they can't directly buy votes. A similar system could be adopted in theory, but you might want to know whether you are casting 1 vote or 1000. For example what happens if 10% of the vote is delegated to one person who doesn't turn out to vote?

1. could make vote enticements illegal?

2. make any aggregate votes with greater than block size x (e.g. 100) public?

1. Maybe, but that could prove difficult in practice.

2. The ballot is no longer secret and subject to the problems of bribery etc.

Regarding 1, if you're directly attempting to intimidate/coerce/bribe enough people that it will make a difference, that's a lot of chances for something to go wrong.

This sounds like it will create a marketplace for votes. But I might be OK with that, as long as bureaucracies can't buy themselves more power, which happens from time to time with the current system via campaign contributions.

Besides, people already vote with their dollars in the private sector, which should be the first place to attempt to solve problems.

Seems completely corruptible by intimidation, bribery... I guess our current system is too, but not as easily.

Who writes the legislation? Do we still have representatives for that? What does the Senate do? Seems to require a massive re-write of the constitiution. A non-starter.

Any system that isn't a very narrow form of representative democracy requires a massive re-write of the constitution. That is not a reason to not consider them.

In a delegative democracy, decision making is a lot more fluid than in the current system. You can buy or coerce someone for one specific issue, but the impact of that will be lower than buying a Senator. That makes intimidation and bribery less effective from the onset, and it can be mitigated further depending on the exact implementation. Either way, just like in the current system, there can be checks and balances to reduce the likelihood of it happening.

I suggest http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_election should be simple/swift/inexpensive.

We should use http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fmri to select best politicians/representatives

How about Qualitative Democracy?


In this model, what would stop a politician from paying voters to delegate their votes to his supporters and thus directly buying the election?

There is a tension between needing to know who has votes, and needing to hide who an individual voted for.

A technical solution might help. Andrew describes one. I think modern cryptography may have better solutions for this problem.

That was my first thought too, but as long as your actual votes are somehow kept private, there's no more risk of vote-buying than in a representative democracy, is there?

How about putting a cap on the maximum number of people one delegate can represent. It probably wouldn't entirely prevent it but it might discourage it by at least making it a less productive venture.

"No one person can represent more than 20% of the total voters" or something like that. That way you have at least 5 big fish in the pond.

From first principles, what would be bad about that? If a voter judges that the value they can get from selling their vote is larger than the value they can get from their vote's influence on the election, it seems very reasonable for them to sell their vote.

Because the net effect is that it makes your influence proportional to your amount of money, which is already an issue nowadays. You may as well call for census suffrage.

Wouldnt you have to buy at least 50% of the votes sounds expensive

Not unless you were trying to pass something so wildly unpopular that literally everyone would've voted against it otherwise. Most issues have at least a few people voting for each side, so you just need to add enough to get tip it in your favor. Sometimes just 20k votes would do it - that much would've probably swung the Colorado gubernatorial election this week.

Significantly less, and experience from my country shows that it is unfortunately a profitable business model. Basically, by buying national media for dimes (as there is crisis of print), you can get enough power to direct sums of money two orders of magnitude larger.

Buy newspapers and TVs for hundreds of millions, control tens of billions...

Being able to give your vote means you're able to sell it. I'm OK with this, but I'm pretty sure most people aren't.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"--Abraham Lincoln

Winston Churchill said: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

It's almost-pagerank applied to democracy

It could. Look for Eigendemocracy

I'd love to see something like this explored on a blockchain.

I opened this thread and immediately started scanning through to see who brought up the blockchain.

While I agree, it would be interesting, in practice the only country you might be able to convince to adopt it would be Iceland (because they're awesome) and yet, they have probably the least disfunctional democracy in the world so have no need to adopt it.

Might be worth exploring for steering open source projects, or prioritising objectives within a company.

I think that may accurately describe the field today. But the game board is changing.

Some version of this idea pops up every few months on HN. It's a recurring trope of techno-utopianism.

Here's what I said previously. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2936365

I'd say something approximately as arrogantly today.

Paper is a technology that revolutionized the way we practice politics and law. It didn't lead to a utopia but made the system scalable beyond a tribe or village. Technology is meant to solve problems of scale here, not of human nature.

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