Modern Democracy


Here in the USA, we like to say we have a democracy. That’s getting to be a harder and harder claim to make. But for all our technological and creative innovations, it’s damn near impossible to say with a straight face that we have a modern democracy.

We did in 1776. We don’t in 2020.

No one ever talks about this, I don’t know why. Sometimes I try and people look at me like I’m crazy. Pardon me for saying so, but it’s really our system that’s crazy.

Here’s what a democracy can look like in the twenty-first century:
  • Issue digital IDs to all citizens & residents. Then allow voting online, via mail, via community voting box, or whatever, but it all matches back to your digital ID so no one gets their vote counted more than once. This is what countries like Estonia or Singapore do.
  • Give a trackable and anonymous receipt for every vote. This can happen on a blockchain so that this personal receipt is both private and trustless. India is leading the way on this, not us. Countries in Africa is trying this, not us.
  • Set the rules for who can vote and how in one place, or at the level the vote will affect. Local rules can be set locally, federal rules can be set federally, etc. We can also change those rules in one place, so we can have instant runoffs and proportional representation and other modernities that are unimaginable under our current rules The fact that we didn’t do it this way from the beginning is a sad artifact of the 1700s.
  • Transfer power in days, not months Originally, it took a few months on horseback to travel from the frontier to the place where the governing happens. But no one has to travel on horseback anymore, and no one has to govern from a central physical location. In fact, it’s probably better if they don’t. They should stay with their constituents and do their business like most of the rest of us do in these COVID times. Less risk every which way. Like any other job, two weeks notice should be plenty.
  • Give representatives what they represent This would solve SO many problems in one fell swoop. If Senators voting on say, healthcare, had to have the healthcare they voted for for their entire term, we simply would not have the healthcare system we do today. If a Legislator had to live off the minimum tier of wages or services that they legislated, we wouldn’t have to talk about a living wage or an afterschool program. When the people who make the rules also have to live with them, transformation comes quickly

Tell me this doesn’t look more modern than the America v1.8 that we have today.

The irony is that none of these 2.0 changes would cost very much. In fact, they’d cost a helluva lot less than this election did. All the technology required is already open-sourced, it’s not a technical problem that would require wholly new things to be created. Fork the node, run the country. Anyone can view it, so any corruption would be immediately transparent, and even conspiracy theorists would have to point to a line number to form a new crackpot idea.

I’m not saying that my home country will ever get here. I’m just saying that we absolutely could if we actually wanted to. We are holding on to what we have so tightly that we cannot seem to grasp anything better.

The answer is not to tighten our grip, it is to let go and grab what’s next

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