L7 Direct Democracy

Tools For A New Political Economy

Implementing Direct Democracy and Democratic Reforms at All Levels of Government

In conjunction with the proposed
Information Clearinghouse, there is no reason to delay implementing direct democracy in several different ways. The technology and proof-of-concept exist - all that is required is the will, and likely Constitutional Amendments regarding the following proposals that empower The People to govern themselves. The Swiss model of semi-direct democracy, which operates in parallel with representative democracy, has some proven mechanisms and characteristics that can inform a U.S. version, and should be consulted in detail - all the way down to the municipal level. In such a context, the existing mechanisms and traditions of representative democracy could run in parallel with new, direct democracy provisions; elected representatives all the way up to POTUS would, however, have much less power. In addition, I would propose the following elements to enhance such a system:

  • Two-Stage Voting — A preliminary vote and a final vote, separated by as much as six months, for all major direct voting (public office elections, recalls, initiatives, referenda, censures, etc.). This is to allow a cool-down period over controversial initiatives or legislation; additional time to research and fact-check legislation, initiatives and candidates; and allows for a reversal of certain decisions that may have been too hastily considered (i.e. “cold feet” reversals). In between each stage of the vote, Citizens Councils at the appropriate level will review and make their recommendations on the issues as well.
  • Daily Direct Democracy — Internet voting on a daily basis - from a secure app on a smartphone, public library terminals, or a home computing device — on all legislation, executive actions and policy changes at all levels of government, for all branches of government, and for all governmental organizations, as well as to express public preferences for in-process legislation and government agency decisions. In some cases this would operate similarly to a “public comment” period, in some cases an advise and consent mechanism, and in the most impactful decision-making as a binding authorization. These differences would be the result of both pubic preference (i.e. established public priorities), and a result of the number of votes on a given issue - the higher the vote count, the more binding the vote becomes. In all such instances, a 90 day lead time should be provided for any proposals before the preliminary vote. And of course voting for local issues would be restricted to algorithmically defined districts within each region.
  • Public Priority Database — As a participatory mechanism, anyone can propose a topic for public consideration, and the topics that are either a) voted into priority, or b) aggregated into an overarching topic whose sub-topics have been voted into priority will be formalized into policy initiatives, research initiatives, executive actions and/or legislation which will also be voted upon in their final form.
  • Unique Digital Identifier — A strongly encrypted identifier assigned to all citizens of voting age, which is used to access voting sites, the Public Priority Database, the social credits system and other governmental and communal systems. It is likely also essential that two-stage verification and biometric verification also be implemented, along with secure systems for both rapid re-issue and immediate retirement upon death. This UDI (in physical, non-replicable form) will also be used to access different levels of Infrastructure and Essential Services.
  • Algorithmic Redistricting — Using one consistent, objective, transparent algorithm across all regions of the U.S. to apportion districts to voters. As one example, see Warren D. Smith’s Splitline method.
  • Technocratic/Administrative Corps — In some cases elected directly by the public, in some cases appointed by citizen’s councils, in some cases selected by a civic lottery restricted to a pool of individuals with specialized skill sets and experience, there will need to be career technocrats and administrators in government positions who run government itself and its often highly technical or specialized programs.
  • Accountability for Elected and Appointed Officials — Whether via direct referenda, temporary censure, and regular feedback and approval ratings, or as guided by citizen’s councils and assemblies — or other governmental checks-and-balances — all elected or appointed officials will be subject to immediate and actionable evaluations from the electorate. As always, the Fourth Estate will have a critical role in this accountability.
  • Campaign Reform — Public funding of all campaigns (elected officials, initiatives, referenda, etc.) via equal gifted media time, strict source-branding and PIC fact-checking disclosures of all media and propaganda created by third-party special interests that is embedded in the media itself (a simple summation segment at the end of a given multimedia segment, or printed on physically distributed media, should suffice).
  • Citizens Councils & Citizens Assemblies — Appointed by civic lottery, a series of nested citizens councils — starting at the community level and progressing all the way up to the national level — would help shape strategic policy and assist with tactical management at all levels. In addition, regular citizens assemblies (also selected via civic lottery) would convene at community, regional and national levels to deliberate over recurring planning and policy issues, make recommendations, and — in situations where other democratic mechanisms are not bearing fruit — enact legislation as well.

As background, here is what I discussed in Political Economy and the Unitive Principle:

“As for institutional reforms, why not implement direct democracy at the community level? Using existing technologies, direct democracy could be regularly realized on a vast scale. Imagine a societal expectation that, every day, citizens would vote on any number of decisions with real-world consequences in their community, and do so from the comfort and convenience of their homes; we might call this "daily direct democracy." This could shape the prioritization of infrastructure funding, or zoning for certain business activities, or the number of regular police patrols in local neighborhoods, and so on. Whatever strategic or tactical concerns could easily incorporate direct democratic decision-making would be reviewed each day, and revised and adjusted as citizens observed the impact of their decisions over time. Regarding decisions where specialized knowledge is needed, votes could be organized, solicited and even weighted based on a combination of self-reported interests, expertise and experience. Imagine further that such expectations are tied to certain social privileges - that participation in governance and planning affords benefits that would otherwise be limited or unavailable.

For community issues that require more advanced, rare or specialized knowledge - and perhaps coordination across multiple tiers of government or longer decision-making cycles - community members selected through automated lotteries could participate regularly as part of citizen commissions and community development teams, each with a clearly defined scope of responsibility, interagency liaising, preparatory training, and expectation of wider public input and reporting. Such teams and commissions could work in conjunction with elected officials and established government agencies for a limited period of time, then relinquish their position to the next group of lottery appointees. As alluded to earlier, some percentage of government agency positions would be selected via lottery as well. All of this is intended to mitigate the dangers of entrenched government bureaucracies, special interest influence, and career politicians who serve their own interests above those of their constituents. Here, however, citizen participation is mandatory and regular, demanding a high baseline level of education and ongoing awareness about community concerns and governance.”

But really, shouldn’t the participatory process and its mechanisms be decided by the electorate itself? And shouldn’t these remain malleable to consensus adjustments in response to new technologies or conditions? It seems obvious that this be the case. And, as I continue in Political Economy and the Unitive Principle:

“All of these ideas highlight an important consideration: in order to participate effectively in their own governance, community members will require extensive knowledge in the principles of community resource management, economic development and consensus building, as well as a more rigorous continuation of that education moving forward. To this end, the lessons of past successes should inform the proposed dynamics between government agencies, citizen commissions, grass-roots organizations and direct democracy. These would include empowered community organizing, awareness and development efforts, worker/consumer-owned cooperatives that have worked well, and effective partnerships between CDCs, CLTs and the communities in which they reside. Replicating the checks and balances of the overall political economy, communities would need to integrate the technocratic proficiencies of elected positions, the efficiencies of central planning and coordination, a will of the people that is both informed and compassionate, and many of the risks and benefits of free markets.

Under the same umbrella, the labor and resources that actualize community decision-making would, to whatever degree possible, be sourced from the community itself. How can self-sufficiency in decision-making be fostered if the cost of those decisions isn't borne by the community? As already mentioned, I like the idea of incentivized public funding and participation, where those who contribute the most in terms time, resources or ideas are rewarded with a certain level of benefit from outcomes, such as a certain quality of service, or guaranteed utilization. The valuation of contributions should of course be multidimensional, so than everyone who desires to do so can contribute in some way. But those who refuse to contribute - who consistently demonstrate that they do not value civic participation - should be afforded either fewer benefits, or benefits of lower quality.

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