28 marzo 2007

Peoplecracy (.org)

An idea that has been spinning in my head for the last years is “Peoplecracy”. I prefer to unveil the details of this idea because I am sure I am not going to pursue it in at least 3-5 years. Disclosing my vision could help others to refine theirs. And if anyone wants to set-up a project based on this idea, I can participate part-time (Saturdays basically).

I have called this concept “Peoplecracy” (and registered peoplecracy.org), as a renewed way of understanding democracy in developed countries (after reading this post you will realise why it applies better for developed countries). Peoplecracy is based in the following ideas:

  • The most developed societies in the world are almost always those where democracy is in its most advanced state (e.g. California or Switzerland). There is a clear correlation between democracy and development, being democracy understood as the cause.
  • If there is political consensus, fostering democracy is relatively cheap compared to its huge benefits.
  • Politicians are intrinsically not motivated to improve democracy, especially if the are in power, and if a better democracy is for their country (because that means a higher level of control).
  • There is a general “complacency spirit” about democracy. Romans had the feeling their society was really a democracy because there was a “senator for life” representing each area. The British think theirs is a very developed democracy but they have a chamber plenty of hereditary chairs. The American people think their democracy is the most advanced in the world but in the last 20 years 2 families have occupied in the White house, with Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as clear candidates for 2007/2011… etc. I think there is quite a lot of room for improvement in our model of democracy, and people should be aware of it.
  • People are more educated and informed nowadays than at anytime in history. Barely a century ago, the gap between the educational level of a country’s politicians, and its citizens was huge (what lies under the justification of the “elites model”), now it is not. Now nobody better than the citizens can take decisions for their country, there is no educational or informational gap anymore.
  • Societies are incredibly more dynamic now than few decades ago. 4 years (or 5 or even 7 such as France’s presidential elections) is an endless period of time where many key decisions for a country have to be taken. Decisions that in many cases were not included in an electoral debate because at that time that issue hadn’t arisen yet.
  • Technology has improved significantly and makes “real time democracy” feasible: Internet, Phone Messages, Automated call-centres can easily take the opinion of most part of the population.
  • Democracy is a free good: once a model is developed or refined, it can be adopted and used by others for free.
  • Democracy is a cool word for getting more votes: Politicians are –in general- not very worried about this issue but once a new model is developed, they would run to join it; it has always been that way.
  • Developing a new model is not easy. Technology is an issue yes, but I think the most difficult part is defining the process of selecting issues to submit for voting, and the process of being sure that there is no fraud or technological problems. Trust is a key success factor.
  • A community should be created. Similarly to the Open Source model, where thousands of people reflect and help to improve a software tool, Peoplecracy should set up a webpage and create mechanisms to absorb people’s ideas and concerns. Peoplecracy should be developed democratically.

The way I see Peoplecracy taking form is by an open source software that a major, the president of a political party, or a head of state (hopefully) can install with the help of an IT provider. Once installed it would manage the Internet, SMS and phone votes. This system should be accessible by third parties who supervise the process, and also but the voters that can check what they voted in the past and complain if there is anything missing or wrong.

So if at one time there is one or more issues subject to popular opinion (i.e. a referendum) the people of the town, state or country can vote over a period of time (e.g. 2 weeks) logging-in the corresponding webpage (using their certified account), sending an SMS (using a registered mobile phone), calling the call-centre (from a registered phone landline) or voting physically in the corresponding place (for people with no access to technology: impaired, elderly, etc, voting locations could be only a few).

The first users of the system would be “crazy, innovative majors” willing to bring fresh air to their towns. Those first experiences should serve to help to improve the tool and to create a climate of new democracy that could eventually make the concept grow to larger cities, then states, and nobody knows if even some countries. Everything depends on how the project is managed and how its leaders are able to engage people.

Peoplecracy could be used for very different public spaces, event for parties’ primary elections. Peoplecracy could actually enhance people’s participation in a country’s decision making.

4 years of “blank check” for one of the 2 candidates for presidency is not enough democracy. People can, have the right, and should influence a governor’s politics in the shorter term. That's peoplecracy.

Any ideas?

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