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  1.  (3121.1)
    StumbledUpon a site called GovIt this evening; article here does a nice job of describing the general idea.

    As a caveat: I doubt seriously that this will change the state of American government. (Then again, if it gets people who've never written their reps in their adult life to send them an email with their opinions on this bill or that, who knows). Mayyybe have an interesting effect on increasing people's knowledge of what's actually going through their legislature on any given week.

    What stands out in my mind is how well the idea is implemented. Here's some bills, here's a quick summary. Do you want this to become law? Y/N. To vastly oversimplify things, it's like the Hot or Not of US legislature*, as scary a concept as that sounds like. And, if the site is to be believed, it makes sending quick emails to your reps just as easy as voting (i.e. one click).

    I'd be interested to hear peoples' thoughts on this idea, positive or negative, regardless of nationality.



    *Ratemysenator.com, alas, does not go where you think it ought. NSFW.
    • CommentAuthorWiseEyes
    • CommentTimeJul 28th 2008
     (3121.2)
    As long as they're providing the full information behind the bills/laws and avoiding the whole party alignment to describe them, I'm all for it. Anything to get people more involved/aware of what's on the table is a good thing if it properly educates them. I think whenever I finally settle down, I'm going to have to start writing my congress-persons and just suggest the most insane shit I can think of. Subsidize chocolate rehabilitation clinics! Ban underwear! Mandatory inverted curfew of 6am! All children must drink before they turn 21 and are not allowed to afterwards! All government funding should be provided by a single fast food chain! Koalas for citizenship!

    Only problem is some of my serious ideas would probably be taken as a joke after a few weeks of that.
  2.  (3121.3)
    Heh, imagine a society with no politicians where everything was done by strict democratic principles over the internet. Rather than congress and the senate voting on legeslation you'd just have the population vote electronically. Sure there'd be problems with fraud and so forth but those are technical challenges and surmountable.

    Technically I guess it would be a very pure form of democracy.
  3.  (3121.4)
    Steve...may I call you Steve?:
    That brings up a good point - simultaneously the greatest strength and weakness (I think) of a working democracy, representative or direct - quality of education. Imagining that senators might craft bills entitled similar to the "Hugs and Puppies act of 20XX" while chocking it full of potentially undesirable clauses...

    Well, it's almost too far-fetched to imagine. :p
  4.  (3121.5)
    Heh, imagine a society with no politicians where everything was done by strict democratic principles over the internet.


    Not everyone has access to the internet of course. Which isn't meant as a snark, but more a reminder that there are still large amounts of the population who either don't have internet access or, more importantly, the skills, to use the internet.

    By doing that you'd be disenfranchising a whole chunk of people, which I guess would be a very pure democracy in the 'ancient Greece' sense.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJay Kay
    • CommentTimeJul 29th 2008
     (3121.6)
    @ Reynolds: Sure, not everyone has the internet, but as the tech becomes easier and cheaper to produce, it would be more and more available, sorta like how televisions used to be a sign of surbuban elequence and now there's at least two or three in your house. Just because it can't be fully done now, doesn't mean the idea of an internet connected direct democracy is a bad idea.
    • CommentAuthorWiseEyes
    • CommentTimeJul 29th 2008
     (3121.7)
    Follow up to DarkKnight - Also, what about the distant future where embedded WiFi connections are neurologically implanted into all constructed newborns issued to parents?
  5.  (3121.8)
    Relevant quote: "Democracy is the best way to ensure people are governed in the manner they deserve."
  6.  (3121.9)
    I am skeptical, although it is an interesting thought worth consideration, if nothing else.

    Giving people anonymity tends to bring out the worst in the them, though. For example, from my experience, everyone who has ever put on an Xbox LIVE headset is a racist and every mildly popular internet forum I've ever frequented is filled with morons that seem to have no other purpose in their life beyond antagonizing others via text. Although I doubt the US would allow people to vote without first seeing some credentials on their part, I also doubt people would vote the same in a real, live polling booth than they would in an online one.

    I can only imagine what would happen if the government opened some online voting poll. Besides the fact it'd probably be hacked in minutes and the front page would be an animation of whatever 80's pop culture icon is in vogue at the moment, people probably wouldn't take it very seriously.

    Of course, I have a more somber opinion of the human race than most...
  7.  (3121.10)
    I like this as a starting point in getting involved. We (I include myself in this, mind) tend to bitch a lot about the current state of things without being willing to fully understand nor actually get involved. Politicing is dirty business. We refuse to get involved in it, which allows it to become even dirtier, which means we want to avoid it even more, rinse, repeat.
    I hope something this accessable will show people that we *can* get involved. Representatives are supposed to represent you. They can't do that unless they know what you want. It's like a relationship - your partner(s) can't get mad at you for not doing what they want if they haven't told you. We are not mind readers.

    It's why I'm going to law school. To change shit. Of course I would much rather tear down what we have, start from scratch, wake people, shake people, engage the mind and the heart. But I'm no longer such an idealist. So I work with what we have - which is pretty amazing. Something is unfair? If you have the time, energy, (and often money as well), you can bring it to the courts. And after it's decided on, that decision guides future decisions. It's living and breathing so long as you actually give enough of a shit to act. So act.





    ..wow, I'm epic and angsty today. More coffee.
  8.  (3121.11)
    Willow:
    Yes. Well said; it's an interesting starting point. Opens the possibility for the "representative" part of "representative democracy" to be a bit more directly democratic. Though, as discussed above, it does require internet access. So no, it's not going to single-handedly usher in direct democracy in the US... but I do appreciate how easy it makes finding out what's going on in the Legislature and letting your reps know how you feel about it.
    • CommentAuthorWiseEyes
    • CommentTimeAug 2nd 2008
     (3121.12)
    Another relevant quote:
    "Democracy is the worst form of government, other than every other form of government." -unknown to me at this time
    • CommentAuthorTaylor
    • CommentTimeAug 2nd 2008
     (3121.13)
    Hi

    It's Taylor from Govit.

    it's like the Hot or Not of US legislature

    What can I say... I like things to be easy. :)
    But here's the deal- There's 60 lobbyist for every congress member. Big money and special interest have leverage. Citizens need to get involved, even if it's a little messy at first. I hope by making the process easier, we'll have more time to get informed and organized.


    Not everyone has access to the internet... you'd be disenfranchising a whole chunk of people

    Very true. "Just over half of U.S. households currently subscribe to broadband Internet services". And if you're not on broadband, you're not going to be using govit.

    But, we can't wait for everyone to get online, before we start taking action. We need to start now. Especially when the next president and congress take office. Even if they promise change, we need a way to hold them to it.

    tend to bitch about the current state without actually get(ing) involved
    Willow B100. Yes! I'm tired of bitching too, I want action! A little less conversation, a little more action - Elvis

    Thanks guys, I enjoyed the conversation. Stay in touch twitter.com/govit or taylor at govit . com.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 3rd 2008 edited
     (3121.14)
    "Heh, imagine a society with no politicians where everything was done by strict democratic principles over the internet. Rather than congress and the senate voting on legeslation you'd just have the population vote electronically. Sure there'd be problems with fraud and so forth but those are technical challenges and surmountable."

    How's this for an alternative.

    Keep Parliament but operate on a proxy system - you grant a politician the right to represent you. They each have as many votes as they have supporters. But you can switch your proxy to another politician at any time or over-ride their vote on a particular issue.
    • CommentAuthorWiseEyes
    • CommentTimeAug 3rd 2008
     (3121.15)
    Kosmo - I like that idea. Even better, we could turn it into prime time television and have the representatives compete for votes! It could be like American Gladiators meets Survivor!

    Seriously though, that is an interesting idea. Fuck, I'd just be happy if the US ditched the electoral college... well not happy, but happier.
  9.  (3121.16)
    I had this idea awhile ago. Mental piracy, ARGH!

    I came up with the idea that everyone should be able to vote on everything. No more representatives (it's a real democracy when a few people decide everything and all you get to choose is those few people). Internet access would have to be ubiquitous, perhaps some sort of voucher (or go to the library ya fuckin bums!). It could be done...
  10.  (3121.17)
    The ancient Greek democracies worked on the direct democracy model.

    Problem was only the richer city dwellers could afford to stand around the agora all day voting. THe poorer citizens and the countryfolk were effectively excluded (along, of coruse, with women, slaves and foreigners). IN pre-Periclean Athens every few years the hill folk'd descend on the city en masse, vote to overturn virtually all policies adopted by the cityfolk then go home again only to have all their changes overturned again.

    So despite its romanticised nature I'm not 100% convinced of the merits of direct democracy in a larger polity. Especially not when there's a constant mass of complex issues that need to be voted on. (There's a British movie from the 1960's called, I think, The Rise and Rise of Martin Topper. The power-hungry title character is a politician who introduces direct democracy in the UK. People get so sick of going to the polls every week or so for referenda on issues like dog license fees in the Scilly Islands and orad cloasures in rurual Yorkshire that they vote to make him dictator.)

    Let's imagine for a second that there'd been direct democracy in the US immediately post-9/11, anyone think it wouldn't have resulted in American Muslims being interned?

    So I like the idea of keeping representative democracy but letting people vote directly on those issues that really matter ot them.
    I think the proxy voting system would work like this: you have multi-member electorates like Japan used to have and New Zealand and some European countries have now. The top five (say) vote-getters would be eligible to sit in Parliament subject to some cut-off point (say 5,000 votes). Any politician whose proxies
    fell below that cut-off during their term would lose their seat. So the size of Parliament woudl actually fluctuate over time. You'd probably also have a system so that anyone who picked up 5,000 proxies in an electorate could demand a seat.

    You could replicate the same system nationally for the upper house - get 0.5 or 1% of the national vote and you get a seat.