What is a Liquid Democracy?
The concept of a liquid democracy is a fairly new one. Also known as a “delegative democracy” in some circles, this is where citizens are permitted to more directly share their votes and support certain policies rather than having to rely fully on politicians and regional representatives to do so. Using modern technology, today’s citizens can instead be more active in forming the laws that govern them. The reason it is sometimes referred to as “delegative democracy” is because of the idea that the power rests more in the hands of the delegates rather than the representatives.
The History Behind Liquid Democracy
To fully understand the concept of liquid democracy and why the idea has come about in the first place, we must first look at the history of politics (although more specifically, democracy) itself. Going back to Ancient Greece when democracy first began, it is interesting to note that laws and other decisions of the land were made after the issue at hand was formally discussed by local citizens. Since human societies have since grown to be so large and complex that most issues cannot be discussed as a group, we now elect individual “representatives” that supposedly share similar mindsets and ideals as ourselves to hold these discussions and come to conclusions.
As such, most modern societies with democratic systems are now running on “indirect” policy making systems. It is referred to as “indirect” democracy because most citizens now do not have a direct say when it comes to making decisions and laws. Instead, the average citizen must rely on their representative to support policies within the best interests of the people who elected him or her.
The plain and simple truth is that many people have since grown to be unhappy with modern democracies because of the indirect policy making systems. They feel that today’s citizens deserve to have just as much input as those of Ancient Greece, where a direct democracy was actually effective. Basically, many citizens now feel that full-time politicians can and do serve an important function, but individual citizens should be allowed to more directly share their opinions and cast votes.
Liquid Democracy and the Cyber World
The modern idea of liquid democracy actually has a lot to do with the technologies now at our disposal. For example, supporters of liquid democracy are now advocating for online meeting areas where people can log in to discuss political issues. Ideally, citizens will also be able to go online to cast their votes, especially if they do not happen to agree with the politician who is supposed to be representing them and/or their region.
Who Participates & What Are Potential Issues?
As ideal as it is to have every last citizen of a country being active in policy making and giving their full input, the truth is that this is just not going to happen. That would be “direct democracy”, and it is unfortunately unfeasible due to the sheer size of modern societies, in addition to the lack of interest displayed by some. After all, many legal citizens do not bother voting now or even reading up much on the politics that are affecting them. That said, a liquid democracy system allows any citizens who are interested in being more involved to do exactly that. Nobody is ever forced to go online and vote or partake in a political discussion, but if they would like to, they can. Of course, it is very possible that much of the current disinterest in political participation displayed amongst today’s citizens is in fact because they do not feel their values and opinions are represented. So, adopting a liquid democracy system could very well encourage more participation from citizens across the political landscape.
As with all political concepts, there are some potential issues in spite of all of the potential benefits of liquid democracy. For example, even today, many people do not own a computer or other device with reliable access to the internet. This therefore means that people of lower means and resources may not be able to participate even if they would like to, thereby putting them at a disadvantage and not fully representing them. Additionally, if political discussions are to be held in online spaces, moderators may be necessary in order to keep such discussions “civil” and effective.
Liquid Democracy at Work
Although, again, liquid democracy is still a fairly new idea, the truth is that some countries have already begun to utilize it in some forms. For example, certain political parties in Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Norway and the Netherlands are currently using an open source software called Liquid Feedback to get more input from interested citizens. Meanwhile, a political party in Belgium has started using an online discussion space called Get Opinionated on GitHub.com. A modern political party in Spain has also started using liquid democracy in an effort to better represent citizens and become more effective