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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Electronic Democracy Means

Local Democracy Necessary for Democratic Republics

Key principles:

For our system to be more democratic we need 5 mandatory things at all levels of public deliberation:

  1. Trouble Reporting and tracking of issues, complaints and commentary with follow up at periodic milestones
  2. Officer vetting Before Selection/Election
  3. Accounting for Performance at End of Term
  4. Top down, bottom up systematic deliberation
  5. Appropriate power with necessary resources in each part of Government

This post focuses on the electronic portions of these ideas.

We need Electronic Democracy

We need Electronic Democracy, to redo our Federal System and better two way feedback and representation. We can start the process by making the Democratic party more democratic. In the process we can strengthen our candidates by better vetting, trouble reporting and tracking of issues so they can better respond to constituents and by using our national organization to network together people across the country.

Not Waiting for the Federal Government

We don't have to wait til the Democrats are in the majority for the reforms I have in mind and am talking about.

We can use systems analysis methods to improve the function of our democracy. It is rocket Science (Systems Analysis) but it is not new stuff. I started looking at this when I was still working as a systems tester years ago, and later as a Requirements Analyst. There is no reason we can't systematically breaking down the structures and attributes of our democratic system, look at them as processes, look at the issues and gaps in performance and then develop a political system that embodies the best processes and attributes of democracy, commonwealth, republicanism, federalism and just plain good government. This involves embodying those principles into our communications, vetting and party processes. If we implement some systematic improvements to our Democratic Party, we can do the same for the country. We can also counter the systematic propaganda and authoritarian structures of those trying to dismantle our democratic republic.

I call much of this "electronic democracy" but the principles are nothing new. The ancient Greeks vetted candidates before they could take office using Jury Like Structures. They also made all officers account for their performance at the end of their term. Officers who failed such vetting would be exiled from Athens! I may have been working on and developing these ideas for 10-20 years, but they've been around for thousands.

For electronic democracy to be successful, the electronic part is simply a vehicle for better communications and decision making. Any system can't substitute for the humans using it. Indeed the electronic part can be optional, but the principles are not.

but allows it to have wider scope geographically and to bridge what would otherwise be hierarchy and distance barriers. We already now how to have a successful democratic republic at a local level, how to federate such structures. What we have had trouble doing, is implementing such structures over wide distances, in large populations, and optimized over long periods. Our current system is subject to attacks from noise and abusive optimization threatening the function of the system as a whole.

Electronic Democracy=
Democracy="rule by the people"/Δημοκρατία demos (Δημοs) ="people" kratia (κρατία) ="rule", when we are involved that is democracy.
Social Media participation in local and national decision making
Subsidizing an independent media
More & Easier participation in the party through Bottom up Two Way communication
A Better Candidate Vetting System allowing better decision making during Elections.
A Review Process for the end of each Term for better feedback on performance and way forward decisions
More Local Involvement and shared, well led Autonomy

In my previous post: Vetting and Accounting for Candidates and Officers This post picks up from there.

The Electronic Accounting Part

First every citizen should have:

  1. An absolute right to report issue, suggestions, problem or suggestion for improvements
  2. That all issues reported should be published in local news, with independent reporters having access and permission to ask questions.
  3. A mandate that all such reported issues be listed publicly and reviewed publicly by the officials they are reported to
  4. The right for officials to report such issues, or their own, to officials at geographically superior levels of government with the same rule that they be reviewed publicly
  5. The right to keep issues open until they are resolved by the person reporting them.

Democratic Subsidiarity

When conservatives talk about Subsidiarity it is always in a bureaucratic or aristocratic POV. But democratic subsidiarity means that we should be enabling, protecting and regulating *effective* local government! Local governments should be integrated with and collaborative with County, Metropolitan and State Governments. We have neglected the distinction between neighborhood self rule, between local government and general government. Where-ever people live they should have a right to be represented in the nearest general government. At the same time local government can more effectively police, manage and self govern than general governments that:

  • Don't effectively represent the local community
  • May be hostile to majorities or minorities of the communities that form them.

The principle of subsidiarity is why people should have property rights, why those living or working in a place should have representation and why we need both a Centralized National Government and local input and involvement in managing local resources. When such management is collaborative it can be deconflicted. Ultimately folks have an interest in sharing resources and managing those resources in a sustained manner; if those resources aren't usurped by pirates or local barons. Pirates are usually grifters who will loot a resource and move on. As we've seen with other resources in the past, the best way forward is also good government.

General Government Versus Local Government

In Modern Greek δήμος = municipality or township. Direct Democracy is only possible locally. Locally can mean within councils, where laws like "Roberts Rule of Order" can help guide deliberations and protect the rights of everyone involved. Locally also implies a right to local government for neighborhoods, villages or anywhere there is a settlement or people work.

At the Local level, even the most tyrannical governments have some features of Democracy. Eventually the people get tired of a despot, kill him or her, and replace the previous despot with a new one. Oligarchs usually act democratically at times among themselves. When the people are divided or only some have power, then those who assemble often look more like a mob than a democratic assembly.

Federal or Republican Democracy is a a General Government that employs democratic principles in its governance and empowers, represents and respects local democracy. It is also governments that use democratic processes within their organs. It is a government with the features/attributes of democracy. General Government cannot be direct democracy by definition because it involves representatives and/or too many people to be ordered in a way where all the people are actually ruling directly.

General Government is hierarchical, representative, Federated and requires collaboration among it's parts. Local Government also has to be collaborative, has to operate as a commonwealth for the folks living there, and has the role of both adjudicating local issues and representing those issues and needs to higher levels of government. Local government is very specific and transactional. Folks need sidewalks, roads, communications and adjudication of their issues. If they have to go to a general government to settle those issues, then that puts them at risk of outside interference or intrusion. Stripping local government of power also increases the risk of corruption.

For more on this subject see my post on Elinore Ostrom [Elinore Ostrom & 8 principles]

Advantage of Collaboration

The difference between a mob (όχλος) and the demos (Δημοs) is that demos is ordered, respects basic rules of behavior and is "crying for true representation" while a mob is disordered, anarchic and usually looking for a strong leader, tyrant, to dictate the consensus they otherwise lack. If we want real democracy we have to create processes that empower local communities, towns, neighborhoods to be part of their own decision making. Not on an ad-hoc abusive basis but a regular and inclusive one. Electronic democracy can facilitate this, but not replace it.

To make the Democratic party more democratic we need to enable democratic clubs, factions, and give them local power and expression but limit the power of factions to dominate or over-rule others unjustly. Electronic democracy can set up a system so that people can do their own thing when they need to and are empowered to participate in general decision making at the same time. But within the party this needs to be done with reporting, disclosure and record keeping rules. When people act as private citizens they can do their plots, discussions and debates however they want. But when they act within the party they need to follow certain rules of order and reporting. That electronic democracy can formalize.

Applying principles of local democratic Subsidiarity to Our Party

As Democrats we need to have maximum representation. Sometimes that means getting folks together who have potential conflicts over resources. This is why any electronic democracy or government system needs both neighborhood government of some sort and "general Government."

Democrats can leverage this distinction by encouraging local clubs and creating a system that allows sub-chaptering at will.

Local Democracy Needed

In the end we need to change our system to mandate that neighborhoods participate in their governance and have a place at the table on local government. But in the meantime we can setup a Democratic party where people can setup locals and subdivide as small as necessary --> and still come together for collective action. That is a challenge of politics that a well designed Electronic Democracy can address.

A Social Media for Democrats

Facebook has proved a sometimes effective medium for bringing politically active people together and hashing out issues. But it has both imposed and built in limits. It almost builds in division and faction. And it's echo chamber tends to make consensus difficult, require trolls to either be allowed to take over a discussion or be blocked out of participation, which disrupts communication. The rules for a Democratic social media should be:

Formal and Informal discussions
The rules for Informal discussions should mandate that they be un-moderated by a central authority, except when enforcement of legal issues is concerned (porno, abuse/bullying & misuse). In informal discussions participants should be able to report, mute or block people trolling their discussions, posting while drunk or otherwise annoying them within a particular thread.
Rule of Law requires separation of powers
Unlike facebook any moderation should require separation of powers. Judge should not have executive power. Jury like structures should hear complaints using formal discussion procedures. The presiding judge should not be allowed to directly participate in debates or discussions except as a moderator or fact checker. Disputes should be settled by Jury style panels selected at random from disinterested but qualified parties. No one person should combine moderator roles. Once the moderators decide then someone, separate, can act as executor of moderation rules. Or the judge & jury can override the moderator on appeal. An appeals process has to allow for appeals to general court-like bodies. A similar approach can be used to judge debates.

Formal Discussions
If You are a democrat no one can lock you out of formal discussion without the equivalent of a jury trial. But the rules of formal debate, rules of order, should be built into the design of the thread.
For example a one comment to a post or sub-post rule can be imposed so that no one person can troll a thread even if they want to.
Off topic rules can be imposed via a keyword requirement for posts and comments.
Voting on subjects should be built into the application so that opinions can be voted on by all participants.
For leadership discussions, reporters should be able to participate so long as they obey basic rules (see Transparency)
Reporters and principles should be able to respond to key points in general formal debates or leadership ones.
Verbal formal discussions should be digitized as they proceed.
Private discussions
Even private discussions should have reporters monitoring testimony, deliberations and proceedings. However, such discussions should embody two kinds of secrecy. Respect for privacy and embargoes of information that might harm the party or participants.(see Finessing Transparency)

Two Way communications

Communications in a Republic is an iterative process. It requires Transparency, Reporting, Educative, Inclusive and Just processes. Just politics is win/win. Unjust politics is winner/loser politics and less violent warfare. All politics is the art of getting policies in place and things done. Some politics requires people to lose who didn't deserve to win in the first place. Politics is a moral field of battle.

Finessing Transparency Versus Strategy

Respecting both privacy and transparency. Personally I believe that people shouldn't say anything in private that they wouldn't want someone else to hear unless they are plotting a legitimate struggle. When someone is involved in a legitimate struggle, broadcasting certain information to an enemy or frenemy is dangerous. In a functional republic it actually helps to broadcast intentions, meeting locations, rally dates, times and places, etc.... If someone is going to embargo such information this needs to be done gingerly and for limited periods. Loose lips only sink ships when someone is firing missiles and bombs at them anyway.

Reporting as a Vital Right, Duty and Necessity

Bloggers, reporters, and activists need to be both encouraged and channeled into useful activities. Channeling them into productive directions without dictating to them or restricting them is a challenge for electronic democracy. Currently bloggers who try to do their job usually lose money, as the current system rewards click-bait or kissing up to advertisers. I'm not yet sure what to do about that.

Educative and Inclusive Processes

The Union movement, first taught folks civics. You don't fight city hall unless you run folks for the City Council, petition councilmen and get the ear of politicians. Education is part of activism.

Topic List

Further discussion. This post is still raw. I want so much to get the DNC and others to support the basic ideas.

  • Democratic Subsidiarity: Local control and decision making for local issues
  • Flexible bottom up, top down, decision making for immediate issues.
  • Common oversight of use of commons
  • Top down approvals and review of laws and requirements
  • Federated support to use financial resources to mobilize resources.
  • Public reporting of Issues, Questions and Suggestions

  • Bottom up development of proposed solutions, laws and requirements,
  • Systematic review and deliberation as part of decision making
  • Mandatory reporting of issues raised by anyone
  • Use of trouble reports and Issue tracking to deal with raised issues until resolved.
  • Issues prioritization at all levels
  • Executive deliberative councils
  • Legislative deliberative councils
  • Legislative review of executive issues
  • Systematic questioning of executive decision making
  • Dokimasia and Euthenia principles


  • Systematic vetting of all executive and legislative candidates using jury like structures
  • Systematic vetting of all executive and legislative officer performance using jury like structures
  • Systematic review of Judicial decision making
  • Systematic review and definition of common legal language

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