Brave New Politics

Posted by – January 3, 2009

Ordinary Politicians

This idea of political reform occasionally comes to me, and last night I was thinking it might make for good sci-fi. It’s at a time in the future where technology allows for voting to happen on the fly. There’s no more routine elections, but rather everyone has the opportunity to vote on every policy in the government (through the Internet). But like today, people are busy, working, raising kids, going out, and also like today, it’s just too much effort to stay engaged in politics. So a person can give another (a friend, or someone’s values they share) the ability to vote for them (i.e. by proxy). Some people actively collect votes, and then they in turn can give the votes they’ve collected to more prominent people, and in turn, they can pass their votes on…etc

So what happens is, you have the guy in your office always trying to convince you to swing your vote over to them. He collects 80 votes from co-workers, friends, family, and puts them behind a well known local activist, who has accumulated a few thousand votes. The local activist might use their big vote count to vote directly on policy or they may put them behind an even bigger politician.

Anyone can switch their vote at anytime — they can take it back, or put it behind another. Also policies could end up switching back and forth… for example, let’s say 49% of the votes are going towards abolishing meat as a food, and then after some grassroots campaigning, it passes the 50% mark, all of a sudden meat production stops and everyone is forced to eat vegetarian. An underground meat market develops. But then it swings back, and more people support meat as food.

Perhaps there’s no central head, political parties, or hierarchy, and the only power held is how many votes a person has behind them.

It’s a world where anyone can be a politician, there’s way more politicians, a lot of people are trying to gather votes, and it’s considered much more democratic.

Then we could take all the follies of this system and play them up. i.e. it’s kind of like government by polls, except real power transfers as soon as a vote is changed; majority has power over the minority; it’s unpredictable – many policies may be in constant flux.

The system was brought on by a collapse in the current political system, but now, because of it, the world is much worse. Everyone’s stuck in it, and because of this new system, it’s impossible to reform it again. Finally, there’s an underground movement trying to over through it.

5 Comments on Brave New Politics

  1. Jim says:

    Would it be a utopia for 51% of the population, and a dystopia for 49%?

    Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed describes an anarchist society. The part that stuck out for me was when the schools showed the “bad old days” of capitalist excess by showing a sunbathing lady with a jewel in her navel, the teenaged boys started to fetishise those times.

  2. McCawley says:

    Again Jim, very cool idea. It does immediately make me ponder potential abuse of the system. If it was actually up to the public to vote on every conceivable policy measure or motion, there would be big incentive from special interest groups to seize, control or fix votes. There would have to be a way to ensure the authenticity of the votes. Imbedded bio-ID chips for logging onto the Vote-Net or something like that. If the system is working I would want to know how it has remained foolproof. And if it is corrupted somehow, that might also be interesting to explore.

  3. Jim says:

    Hey Chris, it’s actually Sean’s idea (author is below the title).

  4. Dave says:

    Cool idea – reminds me of Jack Layton’s “lend me your vote” message during the 2006 federal election. To some degree, representative democracy is already about giving your say over to an activist or politician. This just extends it further…

  5. McCawley says:

    Sorry Sean… I need to fix my internet glasses. Please consider this a transfer of my “very cool idea” comment from Jim to you.

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