Re: Forms of electronic democracy [cr-95/8/31]


Sender: "Steve Eppley" <•••@••.•••>

Andy Oram wrote:
>The components of online democracy I've heard of include:
>       1. Email between legislators and constituents.
>       2. Online voting on individual issues (referenda).
>       3. Government information online (bills, voting records,
>          regulations).
>       4. Forums like "electronic town halls" for candidates to
>          express themselves and field questions.
>       5. Online discussion groups, which could function like town
>          meetings or the informal street-corner exchanges citizens
>          used to have.

Here are some not in your list:

1) Universal access to the net would make possible a variant of a
form of proportional representation which I call CTS (Candidates Take
their Share).  In CTS, instead of each legislator having an equal
weight, each has a weight proportional to the number of people who
support him/her.  (It would be wise to put a cap on the weight any
single legislator can have.)

The variant of CTS made feasible by universal access is to do away
with election days and let citizens change their choice whenever
they want, even represent themselves when they want.  (Other
representational forms, in which each legislator has an equal
weight, do not permit this option.)

2) Any knowledge generated as a result of tax dollars should be
available freely online.  And there should be a public project to
make educational materials available online.  You can't have a good
democracy without good education.

3) This is just an expansion of your #3:  Require all government
business (including conversations among legislators and between
lobbyists and legislators) to be conducted online, and except for
classified info make it all freely accessible.  Maximize public

4) Mobware, software tools to help filter out the redundancies and
the chaff generated by millions of participating citizens.  This will
make your #4 and #5 more productive activities.

---Steve     (Steve Eppley    •••@••.•••)


Sender: George White <•••@••.•••>

On Fri, 1 Sep 1995, Cyber Rights wrote:

Government information should include many types of public data.  There
is a lot of information collected at all levels of government that is, in
principle, public.  Although this information is increasing stored in
machine readable form, much of it is difficult to obtain in a form that
is easy to use.  An increasing fraction of the public has the resources to
perform analyses with such public information that can have implications
for decisions.  There are examples where decisions were based on
erroneous analyses or invalid data.  Public scrutiny can help reduce
the incidence of such errors.  Access to machine readable data can
help the "public" provide higher quality input to elected government.

A case history on access to public data in Maine is available at

> Some people think email to legislators will make a big difference in
> how people feel about government, and how responsive it is.  But many
> others have pointed out that email will soon be abused with massive
> mailings of form letters (as paper mail is now).  ...

I agree that the likely path is towards online voting, but there is a
second path that uses net resources to develop high quality submissions,
particularly in areas of local responsibility (e.g., municipality or county
level decisions), based on input from interested parties around the
world.  Subjects such as land use bylaws, regulations for recreational
vehicles, etc. are examples where local decisions could benefit from
the perspective the internet could provide: experiences in other
jurisdictions, example wordings, etc. are not often available to
local decision processes.

> ...
> Again, I agree with the critics.  Revolutions are led by small groups
> of people with a full-time commitment to their goal; they have
> persuaded the masses of their trustworthiness but do not consult
> everybody for every decision.

> ...
> Essentially, I think we don't need better ways to talk to our
> legislators, but better ways to talk to each other.   ...
While I basically agree, the issue of access to public information is
key.  Currently legislators often make decisions based on a single
analysis whose assumptions are never examined.  We should be using net
resources to improve the quality of our discussions and thus the input
we can make to government.  For this to happen we need the raw information.

There has been plenty of noise about things (naughty pictures and
bomb building manuals) that some want excluded from the internet, but
we must also consider things that are not on the net but should be.
If individuals will install filters to control what things on the net
can be seen, perhaps access to public records should be viewed as a
filtering problem: by default, all public records are visible unless
through due process we install a filter.

George White <•••@••.•••> <•••@••.•••>

 Posted by --  Andrew Oram  --  •••@••.••• --  Cambridge, Mass., USA
                 Moderator:  CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)

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