Direct democracy on the blockchan


(Chad Elwartowski) #1

Brought over from another thread:


Quadratic voting
(Larry G) #2

There still has to be some limit on majority rule in direct democracies- 51 voters cannot be allowed to vote to enslave 49 other voters.

Part of the problem we have now is that people simply don’t participate in democratic processes even when they can. The U.S. President typically gets elected with less than half of the eligible electorate voting at all. Which means the winning “majority” is less than a quarter of the eligible voters (and a smaller percentage of the overall population which includes people too young or no longer eligible to vote, including non-violent felons, people who have not yet achieved citizenship etc.) and the win goes to the most extreme of each party.

And before democracy was in vogue, people agreed to be bound by the will of the anointed. Many still are- they idealize politicians in one party or the other, imagining they are somehow above the corrupt influences on the ‘other’ party.

I believe there is voter fraud in our electoral system. But I don’t think it’s even close to the most important problem we have. And even if you or I could get an initiative into your blockchain system, without having the platform to reach people and influence them both of the correctness and importance of our issues, we still won’t get any votes for it. this is the major function of parties in democracy- to provide the organized communications channel and social acceptance of a platform.

There are certain problems of scale involved. Plus there are problems with winner-take-all systems- without a chance to order our preferences rather than make one choice,we most often have to vote strategically rather than correctly. This spirals as both sides game the system and we end up once again with extremes.


(Bill Noyb) #4

I think you exaggerate the situation of 51% of voters “enslaving” the other 49; in most cases, the disagreement is one of policy, and not perceived as some kind of idealogical betrayal. That is less and less the feeling these days in the US, but something we can return to if we try.

I agree that voter fraud in the present system is virtually unknown, and that’s not what I was working to fix. My goal was simply to increase participation and reduce costs; but the point is well taken that, even with my system in place, we would need political organizations to publicize the issues and educate people to take their civic responsibility seriously. I would expect that to be much easier in a Seasteading community because the members are self-selected as people who want to participate.

There really isn’t much of a problem with scale, as this is a peer-to-peer network, and in a direct democracy, there need be no high-powered offices to make winner-take-all such a big deal, though I find your idea of expressing ordered preferences intriguing and probably not hard to implement in my system if that is what the community wants.

Humans will try to game any system, and it remains outside the province of government to educate and nurture the members of society to behave with compassion, self-control, and rationality.


(.) #5

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(Larry G) #6

Incredibly important point, there. Think of NIMBY philosophy.

Errr… Not sure I agree there, Bill. Many times the long game is being played. Structural means of eliminating the ability to compete long before they swoop in for the killing blow. I’m a gun guy. Firearms are no magic panacea, but they are the most effective personal force equalizer ever invented. Make everyone more-or-less equally dangerous and detente is achieved. Many people think guns should be banned because they’re icky, and my philosophy of equally dangerous is repugnant to sheep- they want no one to be dangerous, even the sheepdogs. Others take advantage of that to muzzle the sheepdogs because they know they can’t make a meal while those teeth are free.

Weimar Germany made Jews register firearms. NAZI Germany confiscated them a few years later and soon after committed genocide against a long term resident population. All quite “legal” in that it followed established rule-making procedures and received a majority vote…

Jim Crow laws in our own country. Passed according to the established rules by various legislatures with broad majority support. Not ethical. Used to systematically suppress the ability to compete. Voter poll taxes and literacy tests: I’m on the fence about the latter, but in the historic case in our country they were targeted. Whites didn’t have to prove literacy, they were simply assumed to be literate and allowed to vote while Blacks had to prove it.

I don’t think voter fraud is so unknown. I think the problem of voter fraud by illegal aliens is somewhat overstated, but exists. Voter fraud through false registrations of dead or nonexistent people has a long tradition (often in long term democrat strongholds). Influence by the Russians in our last election deserves serious consideration. But I think if we had more participation by people who are currently too effing lazy and apathetic to bother to vote getting off their arses, doing some basic research, and taking their butts down to the polling places, the scale of voter fraud it would take to significantly influence anything would be very difficult to organize and hide.


(Bill Noyb) #7

Larry,
the examples you give are of political elites, ie legislators and executives of various kinds, deciding to solve their own petty problems rather than those of the people they are supposed to represent. Historically this has happened often and can lead to a catastrophic collapse.

I agree with you about firearms being an effective force equalizer, and I believe that military force should be as decentralized as possible. I would like to see the US Constitution interpreted to require every citizen to undergo military training as part of the right to bear arms.

Until recently, representative democracy has been the only practical form it could take, because large populations were unable to take the time required to educate themselves and the physical process of voting was too inconvenient to say the least; but that is now changing. Now we have the technology to educate everyone who cares, and allow them to participate in government, decentralizing political power similar to how guns can decentralize military power.

Unfortunately, all the best laws in the world will not make people behave with courage, honor, and industry in conducting their lives - building character is outside of the province of government. But a well-managed system that gives the most people possible a voice will go a long way toward giving people a wilingness to abide by the resulting laws.


(Larry G) #8

How do you figure? The elected representatives of New York represent the people of New York. Not the people of Montana. They will never represent the people of Montana. New York has enough votes to pass anything against the entire voting population of Montana (given just these two states).

Jim Crow laws were passed by legislators voted in by White majorities. They were legitimately representing the majority opinion and desires of the time. In a direct democracy without limitations on government there’s still a solid chance of this.

Absolutely agree about government trying to make people be better people. On the second point, I mostly agree, but with a caveat:

“a well-managed system that gives a voice to the most people possible who have skin in the game will go a long way toward giving people a willingness to abide by the resulting laws.”

There’s a reason the original Constitution only gave the franchise to free, white, 21+ years old white male landowners. They want people who could look into and plan for the long term future, and that’s the criteria they thought would achieve that, as biased as those criteria may be. You can’t give a say in your future to people who don’t care about your future. They have conflicting incentives and no incentive to care for you. You can’t allow foreigners to vote in your elections and on your laws. There has to be some incentive to continue the system available to people who have influence on the system. Many people who are net consumers voting in the system can ruin the system. You must have a net product from the aggregate participants in the system, even if some members consume more than they produce at various times. People who have never or will never produce and will only ever consume generally haven’t got the perspective conducive to governing a system of production.

Some kind of easily-overcome barrier to exercising the franchise may actually be a good thing- it sorts out the apathetic who would give their votes away for free bread and circuses, the lazy consumers, the foolish and easily swayed who aren’t smart enough to qualify over the easy barrier, etc.

In Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (the book, not the crappy movies) he posits a world where ANYONE can have the franchise… in exchange for two years minimum service at whatever crap you get assigned. Nobody has to do the service, nobody can be washed out, nobody can be denied. If you’re crippled and can’t be a soldier, they put you to work at something you can do- always unpleasant or dangerous. Only you can choose to forego the franchise by tapping out before you complete the term.

Without doing your service, you get a perfectly normal life- you just don’t get a say in governance. I’m not saying that is the way to go, but it’s an interesting idea.


(.) #9

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(Bill Noyb) #10

My system has an “easily overcome barrier” - a registration process. This came out of current electoral practices, but it has that function, among others. You have to care enough to go and register to vote. I never imagined that the entire internet community could vote in my system, and in fact have designed in four levels to accommodate a hierarchical government system. So the voter would go to a registrar in his community and authenticate himself as a member of that community. Traditionally, that would be by proving residency, but there are other ways. In a seasteading community, it might be more obvious, but it might not. Anyway, once you authenticate yourself to the registrar, you get credentials that let you sign in and participate. In the context of a community, Everybody has skin in the game, even if you or they don’t think so. That too is a matter of education. One restriction built into the prototype is the requirement to be 18 years old. Even that could be changed if the community wishes it.

A good constitution, such as the one whose preamble is quoted elsewhere on this forum for Iceland, would prevent a vote on a law that would disenfranchise races, women, men - but again, the limits of a written law lie in their interpretation and enforcement. Humans have often found ways to perpetrate injustice in spite of decent legal systems. We have to guard against that sort of thing culturally.


(Bill Noyb) #11

I disagree, Spark, there is no such thing as a “natural law” when it comes to human behaviour. We make up laws, hopefully that reflect the majority sense of how we should live together. I can’t presume to speak for “the Libertarian Way”.


(.) #12

It seems to me, that we have different opinions.


(Larry G) #13

There are few natural laws, but they exist despite occasional corruptions and distortion. For example (and it could be phrased in various ways but) the principle of self-ownership is a natural law. Even primitive animals will defend their body from attack.

True, but not everybody passing through a community has skin in the game. The social compact is a pretty common tool for discussing “the majority sense of how we should live together”. Some would define it as something we must explicitly agree to individually, some say it is incumbent upon us to continue the social compact traditions in return for the value we receive as helpless children from our parents. But regardless of which version of social compact you are in, you cannot have community with someone who wholly rejects your social compact. Community is relative, and biologically, we are programmed in certain ways that technology has short-circuited. Social presence in broadcast media (whether real persons providing “news” or even fictitious characters) has replaced some of our capacity for interpersonal relationships.

Education cannot entirely fix the issue of conflicting communities with conflicting social compacts. Sometimes our needs and incentives are legitimately in conflict with no mutually agreeable peaceful resolution. (I mean, one side could always choose to lie down and die in favor of the other. I wouldn’t recommend it.)

A grim outlook, that. But I do agree that for the most part, cooperation is far superior to conflict, and common ground can usually be found. But it’s not automatic, and it’s not always optimal. Not for both parties, often not even for one party. Sometimes a compromise is sub-optimal for everyone, and people do have a (again,natural law) right to seek their own benefit.


(Bill Noyb) #14

Many thanks, Elwar - I had not yet discovered this thread, being new to the forum :slight_smile:


(Bill Noyb) #15

Of course, people just passing through a community are not expected to be a part of the community in the same sense as actual members are, and have no reason to be enfranchised to vote. And similarly, the inter-community relations, especially between communities with conflicting values, are beyond the province of self-government, which is what we were talking about. With direct democracy, a community could propose and vote on policies to adopt toward another community and maybe someone to convey those policies to them; but it cannot hope to inflict its will politically on another community, not directly.


(Larry G) #16

Even members within a community form easily-identified sub-communities, and often enough the perceived benefit of the majority is directly in conflict with the basic rights of a minority.

The individual is simply the smallest minority.

True, and one way of doing that is to not rely over much on presuming that majority (mob) rule is automatically good decision making.


(Bill Noyb) #17

What can I say? Life is unfair.

Depending on how you define it, the basic rights of any minority should be protected by a constitution, so that is not a valid concern here.

I heartily agree. And in fact this is another argument for representative democracy, presuming that people elected to represent the larger community can (and will) spend all their time working on making the government respond to the social problems within its mission. It’s important to recognize that the mission of government is limited, but often the people who try to become our representatives are more interested in being able to wield power than in being able to solve problems. One should never expect government to solve all our social problems. I have always respected the idea of representative democracy, but have come to believe that technology has enabled us to effectively function in a direct democracy, at least at the town level. In a community of maybe up to 100,000 people, if you don’t like the rules, you can work to change them; if you don’t like them enough, you can leave the community. In a larger community like a state, this may not be practical, and unfortunately the tyranny of the majority is more likely to be unpopular with one or more significant minorities. The writers of the US Constitution did their best to build in checks and balances, and any new government needs to do the same.


(Larry G) #18

I think that the US Constitution tried to provide those checks and balances with the 3 equal branches and the division of Congress.

I think something similar might be achieved by defining the spheres of representative and direct processes in the Constitution.

Or they become that way after a while due to frustration and perverse incentives. I think a lot of people try to do good. They just use the hammer to pound the nail because the incentive (approbation, re-election, bribery) is to be seen doing something, even when doing nothing has less negative consequence.

Some things would really benefit from direct democracy because of an issue known as the agency problem. Taxation is a good example. I think taxes (which in the US must be started in the House of Representatives to try to solve for this issue) should be in the direct democracy sphere. I also think we should repeal all legislation requiring individuals or companies to collect taxes on individuals, and make everyone calculate and pay their taxes directly to the government. We would get a lot more scrutiny of the justifications for taxation that way. I also think taxation should be fee for service, with no general funds other than perhaps the military defense fund.

Actually, I think a large part of the problem with our current political climate is that we moved from a temporary, limited mission of service to the people to permanent, long term, professional political classes. I don’t see the justification for Congress to be a full time job. But call someone a legislator and they will tend to think they are supposed to write laws. So they write too many, too often, without due consideration of whether the addition of a new law is really a better idea than some other means o achieving a societal goal. That point you make about “within its mission” is the problem. The mission isn’t defined strictly enough to be limited to that which is actually necessary and only addressable by government.


(Chad Elwartowski) #19

What it comes down to is that many systems have been tried and as I look around the world today I would say that just about all of them have failed. Some more than others.

I can’t believe that anything envisioned by people hundreds of years ago was the best solution. They were making a compromise of “hey, at least it’s better than what we had”.

With seasteading we can try out many different systems. With technology such as the blockchain, the Internet and many other things that they did not have back then we can create and try out many new systems of governance. This is part of why I support seasteading. So we can try these new solutions in a microcosm and learn which ones work and which do not.


(Bob LLewellyn) #20

I will concede the usefulness of government when it ceases to be so reactive and becomes more proactive. Let’s look at Huston bay. This isn’t something that should have caught anyone by surprise as all the forecast for future ocean levels put Huston underwater just as it looks now. But in a couple of months, the water will have subsided and stupid people are going to rebuild right where it was already destroyed.

Humans have a hard time learning anything. I just heard that hundreds of boats were destroyed in Corpus Christi. All those doctors and lawyer play things got destroyed because the real boat people would not have left their boat strapped tight to a non moveable pier. What happened to the coast guard?

If I had a boat in front of a storm, I think I would have taken my family to safety. No forward thinking at all. Everyone just reacts after the damage is done. We didn’t learn a damn thing from New Orleans. Government at it’s best, sucks. What I like about a libertarian government is that it has less stuff that sucks and would be in place so no other dictatorial government could easily set up shop. It’s just that I can’t see how running elections and voting on bills via block-chain will change these other system failures.

Stephen Hawkins gave society about a hundred years before we brake down all together, I think he was being optimistic.


(Larry G) #21

DfGovernment isn’t outside of ourselves. Two people deciding what to have for dinner together is government.

We make processes to try to be consistent and predictable about group decision making because that is an important part of making good decisions- the ability to learn from them and repeat good ones while avoiding bad ones is partly dependent upon knowing how the decision got made in the first place. A great deal of the process of governing is signaling rather than decision-making.