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A Digital Direct Democracy For the Modern Age 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the straight-from-the-digital-horse's-mouth dept.
New submitter lordofthechia writes "Last month the White House created an online petition system through which constituents can directly voice any grievances and concerns to the US government. Any petition that reaches 25,000 signatures (5,000 originally) is promised an official reply. This weekend the first petitions will be closing, and already many have far exceeded the required number of signatures. Is this the way for the voice of the electorate to gain more weight in modern politics, or is it the web version of a placebo button? Will the President's office really consider the top pleas, which include petitions to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, Forgive Student Loan Debt, and Abolish the TSA?"
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A Digital Direct Democracy For the Modern Age

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:28PM (#37796258)

    Direct democracy is where the people are in control of the decision-making process. This is a mass-petitioning system, where the people are granted by their ruler the ability to make a plea. This is functionally no different than a king saying he will grant an audience to any mob of more than 25,000 people who appear at the castle gates (how nice of him!). There is no guarantee that the ruler will act according to the will of the people. Even calling this democracy at all is a real stretch and a betrayal of the values of the founding fathers.

    Real direct democracy is possible with internet tools, but this isn't it. The options for real democracy are:

    1. Mixed democracy, where we keep the current representative system, but the representatives are legally bound to act according to the input of direct-democracy-style websites. For info on this, see the E2D initiative:
    http://www.e2d-i.org/ [e2d-i.org]
    and the many national member parties:
    http://www.participedia.net/wiki/E2D_International#Signatory_Parties [participedia.net]

    2. Collaborative governance, where actual decision-making is directly and solely controlled by a collaborative consensus process. This system also requires a break from the status quo of hierarchies of governing states: it is starting by providing tools to replace the governments of tiny organizations, and will scale upward from there, disrupting and replacing the current system bit by bit, peacefully and slowly. Because it is consensus-based, it avoids the pitfalls of mob rule.
    For info on this, see the Metagovernment project:
    http://www.metagovernment.org/ [metagovernment.org]
    and the many constituent projects which are involved in it:
    http://www.metagovernment.org/wiki/Active_projects [metagovernment.org]

    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:35PM (#37796388) Homepage
      Yup, there is also a paper I wrote a while ago on delegated voting [google.com]. Essentially you form a decision tree. Voters can delegate their vote to other people based on topic, with a "catch all" delegation of their local representative for anything that they don't take themselves or delegate to anyone else. It has the nice property that it can be implemented in a basically backwards compatible way - for people who don't care about politics nothing needs to change, but decisions have far more democratic legitimacy. Nobody can ever say their voice wasn't heard.
      • That way, we can vote to have Socrates drink hemlock tea!

      • by durrr (1316311)
        Voting should be for ideas, concept and policy change. I don't give a fuck about suited persons lying to me on TV, I care if the Change happens at the end of the day, not slogans or fancy campaigns. If I vote for infrastructure maintenance/repair and the Aryan Brotherhood goes out and patch the road for me/my community, then they should get paid with taxpayers money as according to my vote.

        Context aware voting, open 24/7 continuous to distribute the resources and fluidly change policy is what we should'v
        • by SlippyToad (240532) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:04PM (#37796814)

          Context aware voting, open 24/7 continuous to distribute the resources and fluidly change policy is what we should've had since a decade ago.

          Our democracy was explicitly designed so that in theory it could not be run away with by zealous whackaloons. The only experience the Founders had in this regard was history, the disastrous self-destructive "direct democracy" you mention earlier as having been invented two fucking thousand years ago. Maybe you skimmed that section of history -- the original Greek Democracy experiment was considered a catastrophe because the mob ran away with the government.

          This was to be avoided in our system by giving conservative tendencies greater weight than progressive ones. Thus the Senate which originally wasn't even meant to be elected by the People, and whose sole purpose is to slow-foot the ideas the hotheads in the House come up with.

          Although at the time of the ratification of the Constitution the true horrors of the French Revolution were still in the future, the Founders also had the experience of the weak central government established by the Articles of Confederation to guide it.

          Recently, zealous whackaloons came up with this idea that they'd be extra-ultra-super conservative, and use all of the built-in tendencies towards PREVENTING change as a way to lock in their ideology.

          At any rate, one must plan and design a government very carefully. Just shouting a bunch of ill-concieved libertarian principles into the air is not going to cut it.

          • by Toe, The (545098) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:24PM (#37797132)

            The Greeks did not have computers, an internet, nor collaborative Web 2.0 technologies and concepts. These change things, and Greek direct democracy cannot be compared to the new forms being developed today.

            The principle behind Metagovernment is that decisions are only made when there is a consensus. This means that mob rule and tyranny of the majority is impossible. Just because 80% of the people want it at that moment doesn't mean it's right... wait until almost everyone is on board, and you know you have found something good.

            Now consensus might sound like an impossible goal, but it really isn't. The reason it is so hard to achieve these days is because we have a two-party system where each side benefits from distinguishing themselves from the others: in other words, they abhor a consensus. They thrive on conflict, and play up stupid issues to keep us divided.

            When we mature beyond political parties, a consensus system will not be that hard to deal with. This is because collaborative governance tools are designed to push people toward consensus by helping them to find common ground. Without the interruption of politicians, this is not only possible, but truly wonderful. Synthesis is a much, much better form of decision-making than compromise.

            You may ask what do we do if we can't find consensus? The answer is obvious: nothing! There is no reason to make a law if society isn't in consensus on it. That is the road to tyranny, suppression, and everything else bad in government. Real government of, by, and for the people must be about all of the people. If something is so urgent that it must be dealt with, then people will find a way to come to consensus... or else they don't really even agree on the urgency, do they?

            The projects in Metagovernment have put a lot of thought into their systems, and some of them are extremely sophisticated. As they mature and gain adoption, they will mature. The fact that there are many different projects means that the real-world marketplace of ideas will pick the best solution going forward, providing yet another check on their potential to fail.

            Now I am sure you can find some imperfections in all of this, but compare it to the status quo before you judge. Can a collaborative governance system really be worse than the plutocratic, authoritarian, tyrannic demagoguery we have now?

            • by jythie (914043)
              Having seen this in action at small scales,.. it really does not work very well. You end up with that 80% bulliying, resenting, or otherwise pressuring the remaining 20% into doing whatever they want anyway, which usually comes down to whatever their charismatic leader tells them they want. It becomes indistinguishable from dictatorships very quickly.
            • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:57PM (#37797726)

              To answer your last question first: Yes, absolutely, and even more than that it certainly would be.

              Consensus is not a good thing.

              Go outside. Ask 1,000 people for directions to somewhere that they don't have a firm grasp exactly where is located. You'll get a bunch of answers. A few of them may be right, many of them will not be.

              There's only one, or at most very few, right answers. There's innumerable wrong answers. Consensus would be mixing the right answers with the wrong answers. That leaves you with a wrong answer.

              I imagine that an overwhelming majority of people would agree that Fred Phelps should shut up. That's already a consensus. They're also wrong. He shouldn't shut up. Some states have passed laws so that the ways in which he was exercising his free speech are prohibited, but he's still allowed that free speech -- just not at the time and in the place he'd prefer, because how he was doing things was getting him the most attention. Even if the majority decides and agrees to a thing, it still may be a violation of someone's rights.

              Direct democracy is 3 wolves and 1 sheep voting on who gets eaten for dinner. Compromise is 3 wolves and 1 sheep agreeing to only eat half the sheep.

              We've got a system that was designed to be democratic while also eternally preserving the rights of that sheep. It's not ideal, but compromise, consensus, direct democracy? Good fucking lord those ideas are so much worse

              • by Toe, The (545098) on Friday October 21, 2011 @04:25PM (#37798176)

                Go outside. Ask 1,000 people for directions to somewhere that they don't have a firm grasp exactly where is located. You'll get a bunch of answers. A few of them may be right, many of them will not be.

                Your analysis assumes a static system, where you ask people a question and get an answer. Collaborative governance is a continuous process: consensus is never achieved at the outset: it is attained by debate, collaboration, and synthesis. All original proposals get rejected, and most subsequent ones do, until some genius comes up with something that actually works for everyone. That is something actually worthy of consensus.

                Direct democracy is 3 wolves and 1 sheep voting on who gets eaten for dinner.

                No, what you are describing is majority rule. It has nothing to do with consensus governance.

                By comparison, I would describe our current system as three wolves charged with the safety of a thousand sheep. Guess what the wolves have for dinner every night??

                • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Friday October 21, 2011 @04:52PM (#37798538)

                  My point was that there are some answers, some solutions, which are *simply right*. Maybe that's to do nothing, even, but they are just.. exactly.. right. And, sometimes, a majority of people would disagree.

                  That doesn't mean it's not right. That means that a majority of people are wrong.

                  When you have something which is simply right, you can't compromise, you can't try and reach consensus. That would only dilute the right solution and make it wrong. Wanna invade Canada? Wanna strip-search 8 year old girls who try to fly on a plane? Wanna demand that people answer their location of origin and destination when stopped by police?

                  There's only one single right answer to all those issues: No. Even if 99% of the population disagrees, the right answer is still no. You can't compromise. You can't plead and make concessions. There's only one right answer.

                  Direct democracy fucks up those sorts of things. Constantly. Continually. If you think knee-jerk reactionaryism is rampant in our government now, just gander over to public opinion polls. There's your direct democracy. Holy mother of shit god, THAT is knee-jerk reactionaryism -- damn the facts, full emotional appeal ahead! Let's all do something so we feel like we've done something and to hell with the consequences! We're all in agreement, consensus has been reached, WE'RE FUCKING BANNING GRAPEFRUIT!

                  • by Toe, The (545098)

                    The whole concept of consensus decision-making works against demagoguery and reactionism. As long as there are still enough reasonable people around, then they can prevent hysteria from ruling the day. That is nothing like the stupid forms of direct democracy we have today, such as the referendum system in California. Nothing. Here's the long form [metagovernment.org].

                    Now as for there being a right answer that 99% of the people can't see... let's just say for the sake of argument that you are right. How is the status quo not mu

                    • by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday October 21, 2011 @06:03PM (#37799356) Homepage

                      Policitians are the least likely to know what is right: the only thing they care about is what keeps them in power.

                      Actually, I think it may be even worse than that. With 540 elected officials in the Federal government alone (one president, one vice-president, one hundred elected senators, and 338 [thisnation.com] congressmen and women), I would wager that someone has the right answer to every problem our nation faces. It's just that most of them are more interested in being popular than in being right.

          • by durrr (1316311)
            The extended version of the democracy experiment is about to be considered a catastrophe too.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Remember, direct democracy didn't work very well even in Athens. They weren't effective in the endâ"they lost the war against Spartan oligarchy. Most of their problems came down to demagogueryâ"guys like Pericles and Alcibiades misled the voters into doing stupid things. Not all that different from Glenn Beck and Kalle Lasn getting tea partiers and OWSers to rally against the concepts of government or corporations.

          When the Athenians reorganized the democracy later, it devolved into demagoguery

      • by Toe, The (545098)

        What you have described is being developed and while it is still in alpha, it is at a high level of sophistication already. It is one of the key members of the Metagovernment project (mentioned in the OP), and it is called Votorola:
        http://zelea.com/project/votorola/home.xht [zelea.com]

        However, there are a couple of differences. First, Votorola is not anonymous. It is completely open and public. That gives participants 100% validation of their voting: nobody can steal or corrupt or hack or usurp your vote, because you c

    • "Direct democracy" schemes help to better display how it actually works, the fact that real power is with whoever has the money, and the elections are to lead the public into accepting, rubber stamping and whitewashing the whole fraud. In fact whoever gets elected hardly has that much freedom themselves, they just each perform their acts, right, left, center, indignant, arrogant, etc, and get a share of the money according to the profitability of their performance.

    • Direct democracy is where the people are in control of the decision-making process.

      Right. This isn't that. What this really provides is a way to level the playing field (a bit) with regard to issues that have wide public support but not necessarily moneyed interests and paid lobbyists behind them, vs. those that do have paid lobbyists behind them.

      One of the advantages that moneyed interests have is that politicians want access to the money for campaign purposes (either directly, or want the moneyed interest

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The biggest problem with most of these approaches are in effect rule by those who can easily access a computer with Internet access. That excludes somewhere around 40% of Americans from governance. I grant you, it's far better than the current system of government which effectively excludes 99% of Americans, but it's still a problem.

      • by Toe, The (545098)

        It's a barrier but not a disenfranchisement.

        First, the number of internet users is skyrocketing, especially now that tablets and smartphones are becoming so popular. Yes, that still excludes the poorest and most remote, but that margin is getting smaller all the time.

        Second, the issue can be simply worked around by holding community meetings [metagovernment.org], with the direct purpose of enfranchising people. These meetings and related concepts are a core aspect of the movement for collaborative governance.

        Third with delegati

    • by transami (202700) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:44PM (#37797492) Homepage
    • by Kjella (173770)

      2. Collaborative governance, where actual decision-making is directly and solely controlled by a collaborative consensus process. (...) Because it is consensus-based, it avoids the pitfalls of mob rule.

      You can talk and talk, but if people fundamentally disagree there's never going to be consensus. It's like putting a Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist in the same room and tell them to reach religious consensus. Beyond a certain point it just becomes pointless and futile, a war of attrition whose only purpose is to see who'll abandon their position first to at least get some decision made. Either then you have to push what 60% want, or you're going to let the 40% block it. In many decisions like decidin

  • Writing to your representative and being ignored.

    • by Abstrackt (609015) *

      At least now they'll look at what you've written before ignoring it.

    • by batquux (323697) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:37PM (#37796420)

      Now they "have to" give an official reply. Which will always be, "No."

      • by sohmc (595388)

        I would have at least given him props if he would have said, "Any item that has more than 25K votes will be presented as a bill on the floor of the house/senate."

        At least then he could have said he tried.

        • There's something like that in Latvia. The constitution explicitly gives legislative power to both the parliament and the people. There's a provision that states that the people may prepare a proposed law or constitutional amendment, and if it's signed by 10% of the voters, the parliament is obliged to vote on the proposed law/amendment. If the parliament votes against it, then it must go on a nationwide referendum where the people can override the parliament's vote and have the law passed.
      • That means more than you're giving credit for. Actively responding to voters in the negative is taking a clear position that, come election time, can be claimed by opponents to be the wrong one. Dismissively sending a form letter to constituents with opinions gives only generic "X doesn't have time for voters outside of campaign season" fodder, which has considerably less sway. I like a clear opinion that's different from mine far more than none at all. It helps me as a voter if nothing else.

      • by haystor (102186)

        Good luck getting a "no" out of a politician. You'll get an answer about how there is ongoing study in something vaguely related to the topic of the question. How they know that it is important to you and your fellow Americans and that they would like to see your freedoms to fruition but need to remain concerned that these freedoms do not infringe upon others when some mysterious, unnamed group exploits these freedoms.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        But it will be a very politely worded "No," to make it look like the administration actually read it and gave it serious consideration. That way the petitioner can tell himself "Wow, the President really cares what I have to say," completely oblivious to the fact that the response was actually written by a low-level staffer who skimmed over the petition for less than a minute before writing a canned response.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      It helps not to open your letter to your congressman with "Hey! Asshole!"

  • Not likely (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:32PM (#37796332) Journal

    Obama has done this before. The number one question submitted was whether legalizing marijuana would contribute positively to the economy, in terms of providing jobs, tax revenue, and freeing up resources spent on law enforcement.

    Obama laughed and said no [telegraph.co.uk]. There was no discussion of any of the issues. I see no reason to believe he will take this any more seriously than he did before.

    How long does he think he can keep up this charade of openness?

    • Exactly. Obama at least shows no signs of taking this seriously if he thinks it's OK to just laugh off the top suggestion.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Exactly. Obama at least shows no signs of taking this seriously if he thinks it's OK to just laugh off the top suggestion.

        So that's a dead subject. Doesn't mean they all will be. I'll be starting up one on Monosodium Glutamate this evening - use in restaurants, labelling, etc. I suffer migranes and know there are others who suffer side effects from this cheat to make food more appetizing.

        • The correct thing to do is to add asprin to the MSG.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Did you know that no double-blind test has ever reproduced the MSG headache?

          Maybe it's something else in the food...

          • by tycoex (1832784)

            Exactly this. No one has been able to yet prove that MSG has any negative side-effects, and it can be used as an alternative to salt, which may or may not be bad for you also (depending on whatever the latest study claims).

            I do think that some people might be allergic to MSG and get headaches from it, but people can be allergic to anything. My mother-in-law is allergic to lemons, but I don't think that lemons are bad because of it.

        • Re:Not likely (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:12PM (#37796938) Journal

          Are you really going to write off the unjust imprisonment of thousands of harmless Americans as "a dead subject"? Anyone who doesn't see this as a travesty of justice is sick. Your dietary issues are quite frankly pathetic next to the harm marijuana prohibition causes.

          • Actually, pot can cause the same kind of headaches (as well as can red wine). I personally am all for freeing the pot heads and pot sellers, but I won't be a customer due to my "dietary issues". But yeah, free 'em all. We should be locking the drunks up instead. Much more dangerous.
          • It's a dead subject as a proposal to the president, such as this petitions.

            It's called "context [wikipedia.org]."

            • by Hatta (162192)

              It's only a dead subject if you let it die. Thankfully, millions of Americans won't.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      He had a similar thing happen when he ran a widget on barackobama.com that allowed people to ask questions and vote for questions they'd like answered (alas, I cannot for the life of me remember its name). The marijuana question, near the top of the list by votes, was quickly and quietly deleted, along with other questions along the same grounds.

      I wouldn't be surprised if we see the same thing happen here.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        It won't vanish, they'll just parrot the standard line about MJ causing paranoia/memory loss in some people.

        At which point you can mutter about peanuts killing some people but they're not banned are they, and things will go on as before.

        MJ prohibition is good for government - it creates government jobs and politicians can always use it show voters how tough they are.

        Who are they going to piss off anyway, a bunch of stoners....? Woooo scary!

    • by gknoy (899301)

      The question shouldn't be one with a Yes or a No answer. The petition says, "If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?". It would be nice (ha ha I dream) to get a decent answer to that.

    • One of his openness promises was that he "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days."

      He signed the non-emergency SCHIP program extension on Feb 4, 2009, only hours after it passed Congress.

  • That's always the question. WHO sees the petitions, the signature counts, the comments, etc. and evaluates them.

    I once read a story which said that experienced people in Washington, when they're told "White House calling," know to ask "WHO at the White House is calling?"

    This is inverse of the same question, on a MUCH bigger scale.

  • They've had mixed results on the state level. The major problem is that the majority has little use, apparently, for constitutional protections. I'm afraid we'll just see more-of-the same on a National level.

  • It's not direct democracy (Switzerland has that, and people actually vote on things like immigration policy), but it's not a bad idea.

    I wish that Obama had the guts to implement a few of the top ones.

    • by Bucky24 (1943328)
      The president actually has very little authority to enact bills. He can of course sign the bill once congress has passed it. He can propose bills to congress. He cannot force congress to consider a bill.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Sure he can. He can veto every bill that comes to his desk until they consider that one.

  • Campaign (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:40PM (#37796480)

    If I recall, Obama had something similar around the last time he wanted to get elected. My money is on this being a craven hollow gesture in order to recapture those whom he excited in his first Presidential campaign.

    The problem is not that he's ignorant of what many citizens want (return of habeus corpus to those accused of terrorism; prosecution of CIA torturers; cessation of free trade deals and IP legislation that favor corporations over regular citizens; cessation (or reversal) of crony capitalism by Bernanke and Geithner; etc.) The problem is that he won't actually execute those ideas.

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      The problem is that he won't actually execute those ideas.

      Things like this are what you make of them. If these questions come up and the President takes no action, in theory this would cause some sort of public awareness of the problem, and people would change their votes.

      This doesn't happen though, because despite the fact they've set up the website very few people pay attention or care. I don't think Americans really want the sort of democracy where everything is petitioned and then they can follow up on the implementation themselves through transparent govern

  • by Mitreya (579078) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ayertim>> on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:42PM (#37796510)
    Since a petition to force government to disclose all extra-terrestrial communications gathered over 5K votes, the serious requests will probably be treated the same way.
    • by sohmc (595388)

      I kind of wonder how many sockpuppets are behind some of these causes.

      I wouldn't surprise me if we requested the IP addresses of all who registered and find that they belong to a few pet individuals.

  • I imagine the vast majority of the petitions submitted will be silly and drown out real ones.

    I'm sure things like "Make Jedi the official religion of the US" will get more signatures than any serious issue.

  • Simple rewriting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Caerdwyn (829058) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:46PM (#37796576) Journal

    Allow me to summarize how this works:

    • VOTE: Shall the US Government give you free money, taken from anybody except yourself without consideration for law, fairness, effort, contribution, or the damage done to the economy and future generations?
      • [ ] Yes
        [ ] Gimme!
        [ ] I'm entitled!
        [ ] Anybody who earns more money than me must have cheated, so yeah
        [ ] Hanging chad

    I think that sums it up nicely. Or, to quote someone a hell of a lot smarter than most people:

    • A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
      --Alexander Tytler
    • I hate to point this out to you, but in spite of having a dictator in addition, England has had a representative government for hundreds of years, and the collapses of major civilizations with one notable exception have not occurred under any such democratic condition. And Athens lost their democracy through foreign invasion, not internal corruption. This nonsense is by stupid professor trying to generate a secular justification for absolute monarchy.

      It's sad that you'd prefer the ideas of a discredited m

      • by blair1q (305137)

        England's "representative government" has not been a democracy for the entire time it's been a parliament.

    • by tirerim (1108567)
      Bullshit. If this were actually true, we'd have a working socialist system by now, like much of Europe. As it is, most Americans are too invested in the possibility that they could win the lottery and then the government might take some of their "hard-earned" money away from them to actually do anything like this. Self-interest is only effective if people are smart enough to figure out what is actually in their interest.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:48PM (#37796604)
    Direct Democracy does not fix the problem that is caused by the majority of voters being poorly informed on the issues. The reason that the "voice of the electorate" does not have sufficient weight in modern politics is that too many of the voters do not put enough effort into understanding the issues and the actions taken by politicians. Laws which make it easier to register to vote were passed in order to make it so that the "voice of the electorate" would carry more weight, yet they had the opposite effect. Making it easier to register meant that people who could not even be bothered to go to the designated location to register some time before the election (length of time varied by state) were now voting in elections that they could not be bothered to pay attention to until a few days or weeks before the election. Campaign finance reform laws were passed to reduce the impact of corporate money on elections. They, also, had the opposite effect. Campaign finance reform laws resulted in making it harder for a challenger to unseat an incumbent, meaning that a company had to put more effort into cultivating those holding political office (since they would be there long enough to make life miserable for along time for any company that did not do so).
  • I'm profoundly unconvinced.

    While heeding the "will of the people" is one of the fundamentals of any "democratic" (all variations) government, I think we have plenty of examples where groups of people aren't necessarily smarter or more moral than individuals. For example, consider California's initiative system, which has created a mess of conflicting and impossible mandates.

    Additional influences like the Dunning-Kruger effect [wikipedia.org] only muddy the waters further. Everybody seems to think that direct democracy woul

    • Direct democracy can be a good thing, but only if combined with decentralization. It works great in small communities where all people (or households) know each other, but the further you go above that, the more it breaks down. There's no way it could work well in a 300 million country for deciding mundane things.

      Of course, the obvious solution to that is that mundane things should be decided locally - ideally as close to the people as possible - and the only things even considered on the highest level are

  • Many states have initiative, referendum, and recall, and they have real effect. Not necessary good effect, but effective. In California we got Proposition 13 (extreme tax limits) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as Governor) that way.

    As for the White House site, it's too broken to use. I'm getting a 404 error on login attempts. Somebody didn't test the error handling. There's no obvious way to send a bug report. "Contact" just sends you to the "write the President" page.

    • I think California is as good an example as to how bad direct democracy can become. Simply put, I don't really think you can run anything beyond a small city on direct democracy before it starts to have serious, deleterious effects.

  • Sign the petition to reinstate Glass-Steagall here. [whitehouse.gov]

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:58PM (#37796730) Homepage

    I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, so I have very few meaningful ways of participating in the US political process. My congressman is a social-conservative Republican in a safe Republican district, so there is essentially no chance of ever getting rid of him. I did recently re-register Republican so that I could vote against him twice, once in the primary and once in the general election -- not that it will accomplish anything. Another benefit of being registered Republican is that I can vote against Rick Perry in the primary. And that's about it -- that's all I can do in electoral politics, and it ain't much. I'd love to have a chance to vote for a politician who was against the USA-PATRIOT Act, but I can't, because it has essentially 100% support in both of the major parties. Ditto for ending the disastrous War on Drugs, or for kicking America's habit of getting involved in multiple simultaneous wars thousands of miles away from home; all of these issues have zero traction in either of the two major parties.

    So this petition thing may not be much, but I'll take what I can get. It might make it harder for politicians to claim that absolutely nobody cares about certain issues, and that would be a good thing.

    • by Vaphell (1489021) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:22PM (#37797098)

      what about Ron Paul?
      against the USA-PATRIOT Act - check
      ending the disastrous War on Drugs - check
      kicking America's habit of getting involved in multiple simultaneous wars thousands of miles away from home - check

  • by gewalker (57809) <Gary,Walker&AstraDigital,com> on Friday October 21, 2011 @02:58PM (#37796740)

    A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, if you can get 51% to vote for taking you life, your liberty, or your property -- you lost under mob rule. What I want is a rule of law, wherein government is limited by law and in practice to the domains in which it is permitted to act. You know, like a constitutional republic for example.

    Neither the Democrats or the Republicans seem to be interested in this form of governance though.

  • "Lawl, no, gtfo" counts as a reply, right?
  • I loved the one asking the USA to help overthrow the tyrannical rule of Princess Celestia. Got taken down, sadly.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-V6NUom7FyQU/Tn56zgOhiyI/AAAAAAAAAr4/-7dAR6bjsvY/s1600/ohuguize.png [blogspot.com]

    It's time for an Equestrian Spring. Winter Wrap Up is coming...

  • A true democracy where everyone gets a vote is a bad thing. Most people are not competent enough to understand what they are voting on ( sometimes that is by design, but the reality is not everyone understands everything, and some understand nothing ) so the theory is that you elect liked minded people that do understand a lot, and have the time and resources to work thru the details and learn what they do not.

    If we went that route, it would be total chaos, and the country would be controlled by the people

    • the country would be controlled by the people that had the better marketing team to manipulate the populace.

      How is it any different from what we have today?

  • Of the 25 stories on the default main page right now,

    6 are U.S. politics.
    11 are politics in general.

    Enough is enough!!!
  • Rather than electing by majority rule, I believe a representative system where each voter / citizen elects their own federal representative without regard for geographic boundaries would be more effective. Representatives would carry the weight of their backers in voting and at any time they can gain or lose backers. More engaged voters could even back different representatives for different issues or vote directly on issues (if they do so during mandatory 24 hour voting times). A representative would th

  • by Old Wolf (56093) on Friday October 21, 2011 @03:20PM (#37797072)

    Interesting how the second-highest petition appears to be to free a guy who was jailed for ripping off millions of dollars and abused hundreds of illegal workers, including child laborers; and was caught trying to skip the country when he was charged. (if Wikipedia is accurate) He has more votes than the petition to recognize the 99% !

    • by Animats (122034)

      The New York Daily News has an article [nydailynews.com] on the PR operation behind that. It's a fairly standard white collar fraud story - initial success, overexpansion, arrogance, losses, fraud to cover up the losses, collapse, prosecution, jail. Enron and Worldcom come to mind.

      Plus general ineptitude. The business (a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa) managed to get in trouble with PETA, EPA, OSHA, DOL, and INS, and that was before the fraud. A professor of food science: "If you can figure out a law to break, they broke it

  • We have a saying in France, rougly translated :

    In a dictatorship, it's "SHUT UP"

    In a democray, it's "yeah yeah, keep talking"

  • https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/%21/petition/develop-system-which-we-people-petitions-can-become-law-directly/PPvS53y2?utm_source=wh.gov&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=shorturl

  • by robot256 (1635039) on Friday October 21, 2011 @04:22PM (#37798132)
    Completely ignoring the political consequences of this effort, I'd like to comment on the technological implementation of the site. It's very pretty and all that, but it makes it almost impossible to browse through all the petitions. Every time to click on one to view and sign it, when you go back the list has reset itself to the beginning (and cleared any search terms you entered) so you have to click through to where you were all over again. And it will only show 8 results per page. Seems like it's designed to make things get lost in the shuffle and its users frustrated.
  • by Thyrsus (13292) on Friday October 21, 2011 @05:48PM (#37799186) Homepage

    The currently #13 petition is to end software patents. Sign it now!

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