Liquid democracy is a group-decision-making method that works as a sort of "direct democracy for people who know they're not experts on a subject, but know of people that they trust who know more about a subject than themselves". Questions are settled by asking everyone... but many people's answer will be "whatever X says".
It works by enabling people to solicit recommendations on how to vote from people they trust. So, people who know nothing about foreign policy but really like the slogan "Greece first" can get vote recommendations on that subject from people who agree with the basic thrust of those values but who actually know pundits or experts on a given subject who also agree with the attitude - but with serious expertise brought to bear on a given topic (for example "Greek foreign policy towards Syria with a 'Greece First' perspective"). The specific experts may know about areas of Greece-Syria relations that are apolitical but require enormous knowledge (say, estimates of military capability) and get vote recommendations on these sub-domains from experts who don't share their values... while knowing just as surely that questions about which factions in Syria to support is more of a values thing that they'll handle themselves.
In fact, one of the original influences on Liquid Democracy was the desire to replace the chain of command in a military situation with something more efficient and flexible. The idea was that if hierarchy in such a vital situation could be outcompeted on a power versus power basis by something less hierarchical, then hierarchical social decision making system in general would have less credibility.
United Diversity has a wiki that contains an article by the original articulator of the idea titled Liquid Democracy In Context or An Infrastructuralist Manifesto. It's rather long but it's key points are bolded and those bolded points are repeated here to give "the gist":
- While LD would work great in contexts like shareholder meetings, city councils, and online forums, it was initially designed for one very specific purpose: To render obsolete traditional military hierarchy.
- Our civil infrastructure currently depends on our society's institutional underpinnings, which have failed, and will continue to fail, to adapt to radical change. To stave off societal collapse, then, we have but one path available to us: We must systematically render our most vulnerable (and perhaps cherished) institutions unnecessary, and our less vulnerable institutions more adaptable. Only then can have we any hope for the future.
- Perhaps instead of revolution through violence, or art, or music, or culture, maybe we could live to see a revolution through institutional design...?
- Liquid Democracy is a fast, decentralized, collaborative question-answering system, which works by enabling chained answer recommendation. It occupies the middle ground somewhere between direct and representative democracy, and is designed to ensure that the things we all hold in common stay properly maintained (by small, stealthy, distributed teams of anarchist kung-fu badasses, if need be), even in the face of radical technological change.
A Kuro5hin Essay
A member of K5 named Kragg wrote an article for the Kuro5hin community Liquid Democracy: When, not If wherein he explains the basic idea and argues in favor of it. The article recieved 244 comments and a moderating system raised the articulate ones (that agreed to the POV of Kuro5hin) into prominence.
There was a poll asking "Liquid democracy?" and after 117 votes the results were:
- 38% Yea!
- 35% Nay!
- 26% I don't know, but I know a man who does.
A Wiki With Substantial Content On LD
The Twisted Matrix Wiki has the following pages describing an attempt to implement liquid democracy more effictively:
- LiquidDemocracy - Originally the central hub of the LD content, but now somewhat out of date.
- LiquidDemocracyCommons - A consideration of the "policy space" from a tragedy of the commons perspective.
- LiquidDemocracyVotingSystem - Lots of text on the subject of voting and how it should work.
- LiquidDemocracyEarlyComments - A wiki-based discussion of LD and whether and how it would work.
Beyond Politics is an org. Have a wiki. Have some issues:
- go here and pick the good ones.
People's Power Alliance
The People's Power Alliance seeks to implement this reform through ballot initiative in Colorado.
This discussion originally took place as a forum discussion on LD but was moved here because it was more likely to have a lasting impact in this place.
"The internet is the perfect place to change the way our government operates, but we do not need another debating society. What we do need is a way to move everyone closer to the decision making process. The Congress and Senate exist because when this country was conceived it was impractical for citizens to actually take part in a vote(CounterPoint); this is not the case any more.
The next step in the evolution of government is to get people involved by using the internet to vote daily. The debate is important so each side can present their view, but the vote is what will draw people in.
I believe that the most worthwhile endeavor we can undertake to improve our government is to move to a more direct form of democracy. Liquid democracy  is a form of direct democracy with proxy representation allowed."
How do we make this happen?
- Going to have to disagree with you on your historical reference. It was obviously possible to conduct a vote of the entire nation--that's how presidents were elected. Additionally, the founding fathers were obviously not interested in making democracy particularly liquid as votes were restricted to landholders. But all of that is irrelevant anyway--the founding fathers are dead, and this is (or should be) a country ruled by living people. Whatever we say goes, and screw what our ancestors thought about it. I'm with you at least as far as getting people more-involved in our existing political system, and the best first step I can think of is to bring Congress closer to the people. We need congressional staff answering e-mails instead of letters and as far as educating people, we need to increase both prevalence and awareness of independant media and consumer choice. Compaqdrew 21:09, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
- Well if Jimbo or whoever controls the Wikia software would simply incorporate something like Forum:TECK:_The_Electoral_Corruption_Killer into this website, it might happen by itself. Jabowery 02:21, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
- Well, paradigm change will be hard. First of all we need to educate the populous, because I'll be most don't even know what the difference would be from representative democracy. Next, we need to change the government, which isn't as hard once you have an active, educated populous. So, the aim of this site should be to bring education and discussion to the political level, and we can't stay a niche. The message needs to spread to every American. Getting people politically active is hard, especially in our politcal situation today. Essentially, the first step the Campaign Wikia must take is to make itself as user-friendly as possible. Organization and a clear message are key. We should have platforms for every possible take on the issue, along with heavily moderated facts surrounding the issue. And your grandmother needs to be able to browse the site with ease. That is the most important goal at this point. Then we can worry about saturating the American people with our grand new vision of democracy. --Bobcobb 20:02, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
Tend to agree with you Mr. Cobb Think Granny could get lost six months or more in hereMakharramKhan 20:26, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
The problem with this idea of resurgence of direct democracy, at least in the US, is the pandemic laziness and apathy that results in abysmally low voter turnouts for presidential elections every fourth year and even lower ones for more frequent polling. Can you imagine how few votes would be cast if it was a day-to-day occurrence? It's not really a consensus of the people if only the opinions of a small minority are considered, even if they are the minority who understand and care enough about the issue to vote on it.
Then again, in order to function, a democracy requires that voters have a sufficient level of understanding of the political process and the issues being voted upon to form their own opinions, lest all votes be decided based on things like which side had the most attractive spokesperson, while votes that are well-informed and born of strong conviction are mitigated to a minority. This wiki will undoubtedly help with this latter problem somewhat, but most of the voters are not well-informed enough to find it, nor do they have the interest to read it.
Proxy voting seems like a solution to this, because people would only need to know enough about politics to select a relatively like-minded representative, but although I find the solution interesting, I don't think most people would take the time to find a proxy with a smaller constituency, and over 99% of the population would directly designate one of the two major players, leading right back to a (far stronger) two-party system. Worse yet, there could be elaborate conspiracies with puppet representatives designed to collect proxy designations while keeping citizens in the dark about the agenda of the person actually controlling the votes, or even buying or strong-arming designations. And of course, proxies with many constituents would be extremely vulnerable to bribery and other forms of influence, especially considering that there is no proposed means of compensating large proxies who would undoubtedly gravitate toward being career politicians, ensuring that only the corrupt could become powerful. The ability to change proxies or vote yourself should theoretically mitigate these affects of corruption, but the same laziness and apathy, along with media manipulation (the vast majority still use large broadcast/print media outlets rather than seeking out blogs and other less-corruptable sources) and other inevitable attempts to obfuscate the political process to the benefit of large proxies would likely lead to a system that's, at best, no better than what we have now. Unfortunately, the conditions necessary to make this work are closer to the ideal environment for direct democracy than to the real world.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to polish my cynic badge. --whosawhatsis? 01:57, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
- I would not say that participatory democracy means that everyone votes on or cares about every issue. The point is that they are welcome to participate in a genuine way if they choose. Currently, there are a lot of huge barriers to participation - financial, physical, and legal. On top of this, propaganda has largely replaced the press. A lot of the apathy is a direct result of these barriers. People feel (somewhat correctly) that their input in the system is not honored. They feel excluded from any real power. For example: effectively two candidates for president who are part of the same club. Some subset of the whole will always take the lead. The key is to create an opportunity for everyone to have a genuine say. Some will always not care about some issues, which is fine. It is a vote for "whatever you folks decide is okay with me". That's different than "you folks are bullies and are not listening to me and my group", which is what many people are now feeling. --Slije 22:20, 15 July 2006 (UTC)
hello all - sayke here. it's nice to see people talking about LD again! after writing about it some years ago, i was actually brought to germany to develop a software implementation of it, which is now in IP limbo. i've started rebuilding it from scratch, but i don't have a lot of spare time, so progress is slow.
if there's one quick thing i can say, i'd just like to stress the difference between vote proxying and vote recommendation. one's "pull" and the other's "push", and that's a big part of what makes liquid democracy unique. with liquid democracy, people can request recommendations from multiple people, and from there they can do all kinds of things - take the average, ignore some recommendations, ignore all the recommendations and vote their unique conscience, etc. with proxying, you can't do that, and that's why proxying isn't enough.
that's all for now - i'll be around, though. stay in touch! =) -- Sayke 23:59, 12 November 2006 (GMT+4:30)