Liquid Democracy

Since 2015 we have been nurturing the idea of merging Latours vision of a Parliament of Things with the liquid democracy, a hybrid between direct democracy and representative democracy.

We are interested in tracing the representation of the delegation of mandates between agents in a form carrying greater resemblance to the actual interactional space of society. In social interactions actors delegate mandates to other agents or actors who then act on their behalf on a daily basis. We collaborate and thus trust other agents to do something on your behalf.

In direct democracy you are to vote on all societal matters in person. While operational in smaller societies or organisations, in most contexts this type of governance is not feasible due to complexity. Direct democracy is considered suboptimal because no-one can be expected to be well informed on all aspects. To enable democracy to scale the notion of representation was developed. In most current representative democracies citizens hand over their entire political mandate to a party or an agent on a set of societal aspects for a predefined period of time, for instance politicians are elected for the Danish national parliament for four years at the time, with each politician being elected in his local constituency.

But like the direct democracy, representative democracy has its issue with scaling in complexity too. Firstly, a singular agent can, just like the individual not be expected to know it all on a certain matter and thus vote informed. Secondly, for the system to work for you, you would have to be completely aligned with your representative, which is unlikely to occur in practice. Even more so, it is completely unlikely that a representative is fully aligned with his constituency. In the event of critical disagreement with your representative you cannot revoke your mandate, only vote differently at the next election. Thirdly, aggregation of en entire set of societal matters to a singular agent short circuit the tracing of representation, which according to actor network theory and Politics of Nature is a key requirement if we are to keep track of the social contracts.

Advances in digital communication technology has made new types of delegative democratic processes possible, hereunder liquid democracy. The German Pirate Party and Interaktive Demokratie e. V. developed the digital democratic tool Liquid Feedback, and Liquid Democracy e.V. developed the tool Liquid Democracy. These tools both host deliberation and decision functionalities. When voting you can choose to do preference ranking instead of simple yes no. You can require explanations of objections and so forth. More importantly, you can choose to vote directly or delegate your vote. Mechanisms has been put in place so that you can delegate your mandate according to specific topics, and you can delegate it to whomever you want.

This mandatary can then vote on your behalf on the specified topics or decide to forward this mandate to someone else, in parts or in full. Mandates can be revoked at any time and votes cast directly. It can be arranged so that after a representative has given his vote, the constituency is notified and a grace period commences, allowing delegators to revoke mandates and vote directly. This doesn’t mean that a representative cannot betray his constituency, but the power is handed back to the individual.

 

In effect the liquid democratic process can be hypothesised as to spread out instead of converging as seen in representative democratic processes. You can delegate a vote to a friend that you trust on matters pertaining to environmental regulation. Your friend can in turn delegate this mandate, or sub-delegate parts thereof, along with other received mandates pertaining to the same subset of societal aspects, here environment, to other agents with more topic specific knowledge.

Doesn’t this process not happen already, with politicians being informed by counsels and advisors? While the information and knowledge might be of equal or higher quality in existing political systems, the transparency is lost or effectively hindered by regulations and the one responsible for casting the vote, will remain able to cast blame on unidentifiable informants, as the tracking of the representations has been obscured.

Frederik Lassen

Frederik Lassen

Co-initiator at Politics of Nature
Frederik Lassen

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