Democracy is a political form of government where governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people.
Direct democracy (also known as pure democracy) is a form of democracy in which people decide (e.g. vote on, form consensus on, etc.) policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then decide policy initiatives. Depending on the particular system in use, it might entail passing executive decisions, the use of sortition, making laws, directly electing or dismissing officials and conducting trials. Two leading forms of direct democracy are participatory democracy and deliberative democracy.
Most countries that are representative democracies allow for three forms of political action that provide limited direct democracy: referendum (plebiscite), initiative, and recall. Referendums can include the ability to hold a binding vote on whether a given law should be rejected. This effectively grants the populace which holds suffrage a veto on a law adopted by the elected legislature (one nation to use this system is Switzerland). Initiatives, usually put forward by members of the general public, compel the consideration of laws (usually in a subsequent referendum) without the consent of the elected representatives, or even against their expressed opposition. Recalls give public the power to remove elected officials from office before the end of their term, although this is very rare in modern democracies. Writers with anarchist sympathies have argued that direct democracy is opposed to a strong central authority, as decision making power can only reside at one level – with the people themselves or with the central authority. Some of the most important modern thinkers who were inspired by the concept of direct democracy are Cornelius Castoriadis, Hannah Arendt, and Pierre Clastres.][
The earliest known direct democracy is said to be the Athenian Democracy in the 5th century BCE, although it was not an inclusive democracy; women, foreigners and slaves were excluded from it. The main bodies in the Athenian democracy were the assembly, composed of male citizens; the boule, composed of 500 citizens; and the law courts, composed of a massive number of juries chosen by lot, with no judges. Out of the male population of 30,000, several thousand citizens were politically active every year and many of them quite regularly for years on end. The Athenian democracy was not only direct in the sense that decisions were made by the assembled people, but also in the sense that the people through the assembly, boule and law courts controlled the entire political process and a large proportion of citizens were involved constantly in the public business. Modern democracies do not use institutions that resemble the Athenian system of rules.
Also relevant is the history of Ancient Rome, specifically the Roman Republic, beginning circa 509 BCE. The ancient Roman Republic had a system of citizen lawmaking, or citizen formulation and passage of law, and a citizen veto of legislature-made law. Many historians mark the end of the Republic on the passage of a law named the Lex Titia, 27 November 43 BC. Yet Rome carried out many aspects of democracy, both direct and indirect, from the era of Roman monarchy all the way to the collapse of the Empire. Indeed the Senate, formed in the first days of the city, lasted through the Kingdom, Republic, and Empire, and even existed past the decline of Western Rome, and its structure and regulations continue to influence legislative bodies worldwide.
Modern-era citizen lawmaking began in the towns of Switzerland in the 13th century. In 1847, the Swiss added the "statute referendum" to their national constitution. They soon discovered that merely having the power to veto Parliament's laws was not enough. In 1891, they added the "constitutional amendment initiative". The Swiss political battles since 1891 have given the world a valuable experience base with the national-level constitutional amendment initiative (Kobach, 1993). In the past 120 years, more than 240 initiatives have been put to referendum. The populace has been conservative, approving only about 10% of these initiatives; in addition, they have often opted for a version of the initiative rewritten by government. (See Direct democracy in Switzerland below.) Another example is the United States, where, despite being a federal republic where no direct democracy exists at the federal level, almost half the states (and many localities) provide for citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives (also called "ballot measures" or "ballot questions") and the vast majority of the states have either initiatives and/or referendums. (See Direct democracy in the United States below.)][
Some of the issues surrounding the related notion of a direct democracy using the Internet and other communications technologies are dealt with in e-democracy and below under the term electronic direct democracy. More concisely, the concept of open source governance applies principles of the free software movement to the governance of people, allowing the entire populace to participate in government directly, as much or as little as they please.][
Athenian democracy developed in the Greek city-state of Athens, comprising the central city-state of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, around 500 BCE. Athens was one of the very first known democracies. Other Greek cities set up democracies, and even though most followed an Athenian model, none were as powerful, stable, or as well-documented as that of Athens. In the direct democracy of Athens, the citizens did not nominate representatives to vote on legislation and executive bills on their behalf (as in the United States Congress), but instead voted on these items in their own right. Participation was by no means open, but the in-group of participants was constituted with no reference to economic class and they participated on a big scale. The public opinion of voters was remarkably influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theatres.
Solon (594 BCE), Cleisthenes (508/7 BCE), and Ephialtes (462 BCE) all contributed to the development of Athenian democracy. Historians differ on which of them was responsible for which institution, and which of them most represented a truly democratic movement. It is most usual to date Athenian democracy from Cleisthenes, since Solon's constitution fell and was replaced by the tyranny of Peisistratus, whereas Ephialtes revised Cleisthenes' constitution relatively peacefully. Hipparchus, the brother of the tyrant Hippias, was killed by Harmodius and Aristogeiton, who were subsequently honored by the Athenians for their alleged restoration of Athenian freedom.
The greatest and longest lasting democratic leader was Pericles; after his death, Athenian democracy was twice briefly interrupted by oligarchic revolution towards the end of the Peloponnesian War. It was modified somewhat after it was restored under Eucleides; the most detailed accounts are of this fourth-century modification rather than the Periclean system. It was suppressed by the Macedonians in 322 BCE. The Athenian institutions were later revived, but the extent to which they were a real democracy is debatable.
In Switzerland, single majorities are sufficient at the town, city, and canton level, but at the national level, double majorities are required on constitutional matters. The intent of the double majorities is simply to ensure any citizen-made law's legitimacy (Kobach, 1993).
Double majorities are, first, the approval by a majority of those voting, and, second, a majority of cantons in which a majority of those voting approve the ballot measure. A citizen-proposed law (i.e. initiative) cannot be passed in Switzerland at the national level if a majority of the people approve but a majority of the cantons disapprove (Kobach, 1993). For referendums or propositions in general terms (like the principle of a general revision of the Constitution), the majority of those voting is enough (Swiss constitution, 2005).
In 1890, when the provisions for Swiss national citizen lawmaking were being debated by civil society and government, the Swiss adopted the idea of double majorities from the United States Congress, in which House votes were to represent the people and Senate votes were to represent the states (Kobach, 1993). According to its supporters, this "legitimacy-rich" approach to national citizen lawmaking has been very successful. Kobach claims that Switzerland has had tandem successes both socially and economically which are matched by only a few other nations. Kobach states at the end of his book, "Too often, observers deem Switzerland an oddity among political systems. It is more appropriate to regard it as a pioneer." Finally, the Swiss political system, including its direct democratic devices in a multi-level governance context, becomes increasingly interesting for scholars of European Union integration
Direct democracy was not what the framers of the United States Constitution had in mind. They saw a danger in majorities forcing their will on minorities. As a result, they advocated a representative democracy in the form of a constitutional republic over a direct democracy. For example, James Madison, in Federalist No. 10 advocates a constitutional republic over direct democracy precisely to protect the individual from the will of the majority. He says,
John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, said "Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state – it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage." Alexander Hamilton said, "That a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity."
Despite the framers' intentions in the beginning of the republic, ballot measures and their corresponding referendums have been widely used at the state and sub-state level. There is much state and federal case law, from the early 1900s to the 1990s, that protects the people's right to each of these direct democracy governance components (Magleby, 1984, and Zimmerman, 1999). The first United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of the citizen lawmaking was in Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Company v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118 in 1912 (Zimmerman, December 1999). President Theodore Roosevelt, in his "Charter of Democracy" speech to the 1912 Ohio constitutional convention, stated "I believe in the Initiative and Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative."
In various states, referendums through which the people rule include:][
There are now a total of 24 U.S. states with constitutionally-defined, citizen-initiated, direct democracy governance components (Zimmerman, December 1999). In the United States, for the most part only one-time majorities are required (simple majority of those voting) to approve any of these components.][
In addition, many localities around the U.S. also provide for some or all of these direct democracy governance components, and in specific classes of initiatives (like those for raising taxes), there is a supermajority voting threshold requirement. Even in states where direct democracy components are scant or nonexistent at the state level, there often exists local options for deciding specific issues, such as whether a county should be "wet" or "dry" in terms of whether alcohol sales are allowed.][
In the U.S. region of New England, many municipalities (styled towns in contrast to cities) practice a very limited form of home rule, and decide local affairs through the direct democratic process of the town meeting.
Democratic theorists have identified a trilemma due to the presence of three desirable characteristics of an ideal system of direct democracy, which are challenging to deliver all at once. These three characteristics are participation – widespread participation in the decision making process by the people affected; deliberation – a rational discussion where all major points of view are weighted according to evidence; and equality – all members of the population on whose behalf decisions are taken have an equal chance of having their views taken into account. Empirical evidence from dozens of studies suggests deliberation leads to better decision making.
However, the more participants there are the more time and money is needed to set up good quality discussions with clear neutrally presented briefings.][ Also it is hard for each individual to contribute substantially to the discussion when large numbers are involved.][
For the system to respect the principle of political equality, either everyone needs to be involved or there needs to be a representative random sample of people chosen to take part in the discussion. In the definition used by scholars such as James Fiskin, deliberative democracy is a form of direct democracy which satisfies the requirement for deliberation and equality but does not make provision to involve everyone who wants to be included in the discussion. Participatory democracy, by Fiskin's definition, allows inclusive participation and deliberation, but at a cost of sacrificing equality – because widespread participation is allowed there will rarely be sufficient resources to compensate people who give up their time to take part in the deliberation, and so the participants tend to be those with a strong interest in the issue to be decided, and therefore will often not be representative of the overall population. Fiskin instead argues that random sampling should be used to select a small but still representative number of people from the general public.
Fiskin concedes it is possible to imagine a system that transcends the trilemma, but it would require very radical reforms if such a system is to be integrated into mainstream politics. To an extent, the Occupy movement attempted to create a system that satisfies all three desirable requirements at once, but at a cost of the resulting system being widely criticized for being slow and unwieldy.
Electronic direct democracy (EDD), also known as Direct Digital Democracy (DDD), is a form of direct democracy which utilizes telecommunications to facilitate public participation. Electronic direct democracy is sometimes referred to by other names, such as open source governance and collaborative governance.
EDD requires electronic voting or some way to register votes on issues electronically. As in any direct democracy, in an EDD, citizens would have the right to vote on legislation, author new legislation, and recall representatives (if any representatives are preserved).][
Technology for supporting EDD has been researched and developed at the Florida Institute of Technology, where the technology is used with student organizations. Numerous other software development projects are underway, along with many supporting and related projects. Several of these projects are now collaborating on a cross-platform architecture, under the umbrella of the Metagovernment project.
EDD as a system is not fully implemented in a political government anywhere in the world, although several initiatives are currently forming. Ross Perot was a prominent advocate of EDD when he advocated "electronic town halls" during his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns in the United States. Switzerland, already partially governed by direct democracy, is making progress towards such a system. Senator Online, an Australian political party running for the Senate in the 2007 federal elections, proposed to institute an EDD system so that Australians can decide which way the senators vote on each and every bill. A similar initiative was formed 2002 in Sweden where the party Aktivdemokrati, running for the Swedish parliament, offers its members the power to decide the actions of the party over all or some areas of decision, or alternatively to use a proxy with immediate recall for one or several areas. Since early 2011 EDD parties are working together on the Participedia wiki E2D
The first mainstream direct democracy party to be registered with any country's electoral commission [checked against each country's register] is the UK's People's Administration Direct Democracy party. The People's Administration have developed and published the complete architecture for a legitimate reform to EDD [including the required Parliamentary reform process]. Established by musicians (including Alex Romane) and political activists, the People's Administration advocates using the web and telephone to enable the majority electorate to create, propose and vote upon all policy implementation. The People's Administration's blueprint has been published in various forms since 1998 and the People's Administration is the first direct democracy party registered in a vote-able format anywhere in the world – making transition possible through evolution via election with legitimate majority support, instead of potentially through revolution via violence.
Some anarchists (usually social anarchists)][ have advocated forms of direct democracy as an alternative to the centralized state and capitalism; however, others (such as individualist anarchists) have criticized direct democracy and democracy in general for ignoring the rights of the minority, and instead have advocated a form of consensus decision-making. Libertarian Marxists, however, fully support direct democracy in the form of the proletarian republic and see majority rule and citizen participation as virtues. The Young Communist League USA in particular refers to representative democracy as "bourgeois democracy", implying that they see direct democracy as "true democracy".
A democratic school is a school that centers on providing a democratic educational environment featuring "full and equal" participation from students and staff. These learning environments position youth voice as the central actor in the educative process by engaging students in every facet of school operations, including learning, teaching, leadership, justice, and democracy, through experience. Adult staff support students by offering facilitation according to students' interests.
Sudbury model of democratic education schools are run by a School Meeting where the students and staff participate exclusively and equally. Everyone who wishes to attend can vote, and there are no proxies. As with direct democracy elsewhere, participants are usually only those who have an interest in the topic.
Summerhill School in England has operated a direct democracy approach to decision making for over 80 years and has often come into conflict with the UK government as a result. The school won an appeal to the high court 1999 after it was threatened with closure after which the joint statement confirmed that: "The minister recognised the school had a right to its own philosophy and that any inspection should take into account its aims as an international 'free' school ... both sides went on record as agreeing that the pupils' voice should be fully represented in any evaluation of the quality of education at Summerhill and that inspections must consider the full breadth of learning at the school – learning was not confined to lessons".
Some notable contemporary movements working for direct democracy via direct democratic praxis include:
Majoritarian democracy refers to democracy based upon majority rule of a society's citizens. Majoritarian democracy is the conventional form of democracy used as a political system in many countries.
Though common, majoritarian democracy is not universally accepted - majoritarian democracy was famously criticized as having the inherent danger of becoming a "tyranny of the majority" whereby the majority in society could oppress or exclude minority groups. In contrast to majoritarian democracy and the perceived danger of a tyranny of the majority, consensus democracy was developed in response that emphasizes rule by as many people as possible to make government inclusive, with a majority of support from society merely being a minimal threshold. Fascism rejects majoritarian democracy because the latter assumes equality of citizens and fascists claim that fascism is a form of authoritarian democracy that represents the views of a dynamic organized minority of a nation rather than the disorganized majority.
Emergent democracy refers to the rise of political structures and behaviors without central planning and by the action of many individual participants, especially when mediated by the Internet. More recently, Clay Shirky has referred to this as "the power of organizing without organizations." The term was coined to stand in contrast to more traditional forms of democracy, such as representational democracy and direct democracy. The phrase draws upon emergence theory for the idea that the simple actions of individuals can collectively create complex and unpredictable results, as when the behavior of termites results in large, efficient nests beyond the comprehension of any individual participant.
In the paper that first drew attention to the term, Joi Ito expresses a hope that the Internet, as a large and decentralized network, will enable innovative responses by citizens to highly complex problems. From its outset, emergent democracy has been seen arising most clearly among bloggers who, as a decentralized network of writers, can provide a fuller airing and development of ideas than can the relatively limited resources of traditional media. Supporters of the idea point to instances in which bloggers have brought about political change by posting about issues that mainstream media had not paid much attention to. The canonical example of emergent democracy was the December 2002 resignation of Trent Lott as Senate majority leader after bloggers publicized his praising of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for the presidency.
Ito had been vocal about issues with Japanese democracy, and had spoken at Davos about how broken he felt Japanese democracy was. "Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues," he posted. "These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context." He organized a group effort to discuss and document the emergent democracy concept, using a term initially coined by Ross Mayfield. He announced meetings on his weblog, inviting his readers to attend a conference call that was augmented by IRC chat for posting realtime visual cues and backchannel conversation, and a wiki for gathering notes from the call. This "multimodal" approach was called a "happening" by Ross Mayfield. The conversation resulted in Ito's online article that generated discussions about the potential for weblogs and other social software tools to have an impact on participation in governance. The discussion and notes were captured in a paper that was placed on a wiki for collaborative editing and enhancement. Jon Lebkowsky edited the wiki version, and published it as a chapter in the 2005 book Extreme Democracy. A "teach-in" on that topic was held on February 9, 2004 as part of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. The emergent democracy paper was incubated within the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies framework along with Tim O'Reilly's "What is Web 2.0"; the two can be considered as seminal works that influenced the emergence of today's social web.
Delegative democracy, also known as liquid democracy,][ is a form of democratic control whereby voting power is vested in delegates, rather than representatives. This term is a generic description of either already existing or proposed popular control apparatuses.
The prototypical delegative democracy has been summarized by Bryan Ford in his paper, Delegative Democracy, as containing the following principles:
Variations on this general model most certainly exist, and this outline is only mentioned here for orientation within a general model. For example, in the "Joy of Revolution" delegates are left open to being specialized at the time of each individual's delegation of authority. Additionally, general principles of fluidity can often be applied to the concept such that individuals can revise their "vote" at any time by modifying their registered delegation (sometimes called "proxy") with the governing organization. (see also Single Transferable Vote.)
Crucial to the understanding of delegate democracy is the theory's view of the meaning of "representative democracy." Representative democracy is seen as a form of governance whereby a single winner is determined for a predefined jurisdiction, with a change of delegation only occurring after the preset term length (or in some instances by a forced recall election if popular support warrants it). The possibility usually exists within representation that the "recalled" candidate can win the subsequent electoral challenge.
This is contrasted with most forms of governance referred to as "delegative." Delegates may not, but usually do, have specific limits on their "term" as delegates, nor do they represent specific jurisdictions. Some key differences include:
Direct democracy is a form of popular control where all collective decisions are made by way of the direct votes of constituents. Two key differences include:
Outside of these two main differences, delegative models are seen as essentially a form of direct democracy. So much so that some have taken to calling the system a "direct democracy with delegable proxies" (though that name is less common.)
The internal policies of the Paris Commune are seen as the real-world precursor to the more formalized notions of modern delegative democracy.][
Early Soviets, before a Bolshevik majority was reached. Delegative democracy was gradually eroded in favor of more representational forms of governance.
The Industrial Workers of the World labor union uses multiple levels of democracy, including delegative democracy. Local branches are controlled directly democratically by local members. These branches once per year elect, and vote on direction for, delegates to send to a yearly general convention, at which they carry out deliberations and construct referendums. The convention has no power to make and enforce decisions on its own; changes are accomplished by way of mailed referendum ballot. This yearly ballot is also used to elect members to various union administrative roles. Alternatively to the delegative process, members may add proposals to the ballot by initiative.
Pirate Party in Germany, Italy, Austria, Norway and France use delegative democracy with the open source software LiquidFeedback.][
A democratic republic is a country that is both a republic and a democracy. It is one where ultimate authority and power is derived from the citizens. However, in practice countries that describe themselves as democratic republics do not always hold free or fair elections. Two examples of this were the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, communist states commonly known as East Germany and North Vietnam. Another is the Democratic Republic of the Congo which in 2011 was rated by Freedom House as a "not free" country having a rating of 6.0 (1.0 being completely free and 7.0 being completely unfree).
Interactive Democracy - iDemocracy - is by its very nature 'interactive'. It advocates greater interaction among people in order to create a fairer society according to the expressed will of the people. Accordingly, advocates of iDemocracy believe that change should happen at a number of levels and does not simply refer to one's ability to vote which does not in itself lead to a fair society. A true iDemocracy requires that people learn to think in a democratic way in all aspects of their lives - from the transactions they make, to the way in which they learn and relate to others. Key mantra: being interactively democratic means thinking and acting democratically!
iDemocracy recognises the potential importance of communications technologies which can be utilised to transform current power structures for the greater good by ensuring that people have more direct involvement in decision-making processes right across the political-economic, scientific-technological, social and cultural spectrum. Ideologically speaking, it has the potential to more readily reform the activities of, for example, existing disfunctional government and corporate systems and other prevailing knowledge systems at the local, national, international and global levels if they are perceived to be not serving the interests of humanity at large.
Crucially, iDemocracy is distinct to eDemocracy in terms of who sets the agenda. Typically, with regards to eDemocracy, which advocates the use of such things as ePetitions, the agenda is for the most part set by the institutions of power and then presented to the people on the assumption they will respond according to the options they are given. By contrast, in an iDemocracy, in which a democratic attitude is more thoroughly embedded within the fabric of society, the reverse is true because the agenda is created by the people who then present it to the institutions of power in order to exert influence. This ensures that iDemocracy is built from the ground up, not imposed from the top down (which is unDemocratic).
Advocates of iDemocracy believe that it will help to usher in a new era of global political transformation whereupon outmoded barriers to change, such as political parties with vested interests and the resultant, and all-too-often mutually hostile nation-state bureaucracies, are transformed for the greater good.
Professor Frank Hassard’s keynote address entitled: ‘iDemocracy: Towards a ‘New’ New World Order’ presented to the 32nd Anniversary Annual Meeting of The International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics (IIAS) at the 24th International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics (Baden-Baden, Germany, July 30 – Aug 3rd 2012) argued how a cartel of Western elites has sought to establish a New World Order based on financial oligarchy which has historically served to undermine democracy and contributed to the many economic, ecological and political challenges faced by humanity today.
Hassard further considered how emergent global communications technologies, and the resultant political consciousness, can enable people to transcend the failings of the modern democratic process and negotiate the current political impasse through a new transformative politics described by the term Interactive Democracy – iDemocracy. He suggested that this has the potential to shape a ‘new’ New World Order reflecting a new consensus founded on a positive and collaborative spirit and enacted through a global interactive network of the people, designed by the people, and in which only the people are truly sovereign.
Hassard’s ideas about iDemocracy build upon the concept of Idemology which he first introduced in his paper entitled: ‘Culture, Inheritance and Identity: towards an Idemological Perspective’
His use of the term Idemology is derived from the Latin word idem which, in the Oxford English dictionary, refers to: ‘the same’. The word ‘identity’ is derived from Late Latin identitas which is historically derived from idem. In Hassard’s usage idem is interpreted from a cultural perspective and refers to ‘shared’ or ‘common’ – such as a ‘common inheritance’ or, collectively, a ‘common identity’ or 'shared values'. From this foundation, iDemocracy can be understood as a political ‘offshoot’ of Idemology and reflects his belief that human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the kind of global political awakening which has emerged in recent times coinciding with the dawning of the Communication Age.
On another level, and more profoundly, Hassard understands iDemocracy as an integral part of a wider human-evolutionary necessity. In this connection, his Address to the 23rd International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics (Baden-Baden, Germany, August 1 – 5 2011) to the 1st Symposium on Art of Relational Living in the Communication Age opened in the following terms:
‘Imagine, if you will, a world in which all inhabitants enjoy a life of peace, prosperity, justice and harmony, nourished by a deep sense of meaning and purpose, framed within a secure and sustainable environment. I believe that such ideals are fundamental to human life, but the extent to which these aspirations are perceived by many as hopelessly naive is (perhaps) a measure of just how derailed human evolution has become. However, it must be conceded that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that we are today faced with significant global ecological challenges which need to be overcome if we are to secure any kind of positive future for life on Earth as we know it.’
Instead of voting for politicians, which becomes a multi-faceted issue involving policies, characters and trust, Interactive democracy allows votes on single issues which may be more easily decided on.
Democracy as information processor
Each voter may be viewed as a discrete information processor making a judgement on each issue based not only on their intellect but their experience, morals, values and how the vote will affect their futures. Compared to the few hundred people involved in decisions in a parliamentary democracy, the thousands or millions of voters in interactive democracy, each with a wide diversity of life experiences, process far more information and may make much better decisions.
The security of the voting system is crucial for any form of democracy but the use of information technology adds new opportunities for fraud. All of the systems that are employed in Internet banking systems are proposed to ensure security in Interactive Democracy. However, there are also concerns that personal information and voting patterns open up the system to "Big Brother" style manipulation. Proponents of ID suggest that strong regulations supported by an independent judiciary and police force will be sufficient to prevent such threats.
Proponents of Interactive Democracy believe that the use of information technology is crucial in order to control the costs of so many public votes. Once the systems are established they can be used for all levels of democracy: National, regional, local. However, there must be easy access to terminals (mobile phones or computers) for everyone in society for the system to be fair. This may involve public access through libraries but others point out that personal computer use is increasing and soon almost no one will be without access.
All democracies rest on the freedom of the press and this is especially true for ID. Without media involvement in reporting on proposals and votes the system may not generate enough interest and involvement from the electorate. Though ID offers the media a ready-made interactive story line, there are also issues of potential bias which may need to be legislated for.
ID and Parliament
Interactive democracy recognises the importance of parliamentary parties and government. It is seen as an extension of these political systems and recognises that government is essential for implementing new laws and policies and that parliament must oversee the system and clarify proposals so that they work as laws. However, some ID proponents do not see a role for the House of Lords.
Voting on the Web
The design of the web site on which people can cast their votes may have a large impact on the effectiveness of interactive democracy. Apart from instigating and supporting ePetitions and voting on referenda, the web site may facilitate debate in a number of ways: individuals may pose questions that others answer; they may add comments under the headings of positive, negative and interesting points; there may be calls for research; and government approved studies may be presented. The contributions made by MPs may be highlighted. The web site should also have a search facility that is unbiased and the facility to register voters complaints and suggestions for improvement. The web master must be held to account by Parliament.
Varieties of democracy
Outline of democracy
Deliberative democracy or discursive democracy is a form of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision making. It adopts elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of legitimacy for the law.
Deliberative democracy is compatible with both representative democracy and direct democracy. Some practitioners and theorists use the term to encompass representative bodies whose members authentically deliberate on legislation without unequal distributions of power, while others use the term exclusively to refer to decision-making directly by lay citizens, as in direct democracy.
The term "deliberative democracy" was originally coined by Joseph M. Bessette in his 1980 work "Deliberative Democracy: The Majority Principle in Republican Government."
Deliberative democracy holds that, for a democratic decision to be legitimate, it must be preceded by authentic deliberation, not merely the aggregation of preferences that occurs in voting. Authentic deliberation is deliberation among decision-makers that is free from distortions of unequal political power, such as power a decision-maker obtained through economic wealth or the support of interest groups. If the decision-makers cannot reach consensus after authentically deliberating on a proposal, then they vote on the proposal using a form of majority rule.
Deliberative democracy can be practiced by decision-makers in both representative democracies and direct democracies. In elitist deliberative democracy, principles of deliberative democracy apply to elite societal decision-making bodies, such as legislatures and courts; in populist deliberative democracy, principles of deliberative democracy apply to groups of lay citizens who are empowered to make decisions. One purpose of populist deliberative democracy can be to use deliberation among a group of lay citizens to distill a more authentic public opinion about societal issues but not directly create binding law; devices such as the deliberative opinion poll have been designed to achieve this goal. Another purpose of populist deliberative democracy can be to serve as a form of direct democracy, where deliberation among a group of lay citizens forms a "public will" and directly creates binding law. If political decisions are made by deliberation but not by the people themselves or their elected representatives, then there is no democratic element; this deliberative process is called elite deliberation.
Professor James Fishkin, who has designed practical implementations of deliberative democracy for over 15 years in various countries, describes five characteristics essential for legitimate deliberation:
In Fishkin's definition of deliberative democracy, lay citizens must participate in the decision-making process, thus making it a subtype of direct democracy.
James Fishkin and Robert Luskin (2005) suggest that deliberative discussion should be: (1) Informed (and thus informative). Arguments should be supported by appropriate and reasonably accurate factual claims. (2) Balanced. Arguments should be met by contrary arguments. (3) Conscientious. The participants should be willing to talk and listen, with civility and respect. (4) Substantive. Arguments should be considered sincerely on their merits, not how they are made of who is making them, and (5) Comprehensive. All points of view held by significant portions of the population should receive attention.
Joshua Cohen, a student of John Rawls, outlined conditions that he thinks constitute the root principles of the theory of deliberative democracy, in the article "Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy" in the 1989 book The Good Polity. He outlines five main features of deliberative democracy, which include:
Cohen presents deliberative democracy as more than a theory of legitimacy, and forms a body of substantive rights around it based on achieving "ideal deliberation":
In Democracy and Liberty, an essay published in 1998, Cohen reiterated many of these points, also emphasizing the concept of "reasonable pluralism" – the acceptance of different, incompatible worldviews and the importance of good faith deliberative efforts to ensure that as far as possible the holders of these views can live together on terms acceptable to all.
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson’s definition captures the elements that are found in most conceptions of deliberative democracy. They define it as “a form of government in which free and equal citizens and their representatives justify decisions in a process in which they give one another reasons that are mutually acceptable and generally accessible, with the aim of reaching decisions that are binding on all at present but open to challenge in the future.”
They state that deliberative democracy has four requirements, which refer to the kind of reasons that citizens and their representatives are expected to give to one another:
A claimed strength of deliberative democratic models is that they are more easily able to incorporate scientific opinion and base policy on outputs of ongoing research, because:
According to proponents such as James Fearon, another strength of deliberative democratic models is that they tend, more than any other model, to generate ideal conditions of impartiality, rationality and knowledge of the relevant facts. The more these conditions are fulfilled, the greater the likelihood that the decisions reached are morally correct. Deliberative democracy has thus an epistemic value: it allows participants to deduce what is morally correct. This view has been prominently held by Carlos Nino.
Studies by James Fishkin and others have found that deliberative democracy tends to produce outcomes which are superior to those in other forms of democracy. Deliberative democracy produces less partisanship and more sympathy with opposing views; more respect for evidence based reasoning rather than opinion; a greater commitment to the decisions taken by those involved; and a greater chance for widely shared consensus to emerge, thus promoting social cohesion between people from different backgrounds. Fishkin cites extensive empirical support for the increase in public spiritedness that is often caused by participation in deliberation, and says theoretical support can be traced back to foundational democratic thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville. Former diplomat Carne Ross writes that in 2011 that the debates arising from deliberative democracy are also much more civil, collaborative, and evidence-based than the debates in traditional town hall meetings or in internet forums. For Ross, the key reason for this is that in deliberative democracy citizens are empowered by knowledge that their debates will have a measurable impact on society.
A claimed failure of most theories of deliberative democracy is that they do not address the problems of voting. James Fishkin's 1991 work, "Democracy and Deliberation", introduced a way to apply the theory of deliberative democracy to real-world decision making, by way of what he calls the deliberative opinion poll. In the deliberative opinion poll, a statistically representative sample of the nation or a community is gathered to discuss an issue in conditions that further deliberation. The group is then polled, and the results of the poll and the actual deliberation can be used both as a recommending force and in certain circumstances, to replace a vote. Dozens of deliberative opinion polls have been conducted across the United States since his book was published.
The political philosopher Charles Blattberg has criticized deliberative democracy on four grounds: (i) the rules for deliberation that deliberative theorists affirm interfere with, rather than facilitate, good practical reasoning; (ii) deliberative democracy is ideologically biased in favor of liberalism as well as republican over parliamentary democratic systems; (iii) deliberative democrats assert a too-sharp division between just and rational deliberation on the one hand and self-interested and coercive bargaining or negotiation on the other; and (iv) deliberative democrats encourage an adversarial relationship between state and society, one that undermines solidarity between citizens.
A criticism of deliberation is that potentially it allows those most skilled in rhetoric to sway the decision in their favour. This criticism has been made since deliberative democracy first arose in Ancient Athens.
Consensus-based decision making similar to deliberative democracy is characteristic of the hunter gather band societies thought to predominate in pre-historical times. As some of these societies became more complex with developments like division of labour, community-based decision making was displaced by various forms of authoritarian rule. The first example of democracy arose in Greece as Athenian democracy during the sixth century BC. Athenian democracy was both deliberative and largely direct: some decisions were made by representatives but most were made by the people directly. Athenian democracy came to an end in 322BC. When democracy was revived as a political system about 2000 years later, decisions were made by representatives rather than directly by the people. In a sense, this revived version was deliberative from its beginnings; for example, in 1774 Edmund Burke made a famous speech where he called Great Britain's parliament a deliberative assembly. Similarly, the Founding Fathers of the United States considered deliberation an essential part of the government they created in the late 18th century.
The deliberative element of democracy was not widely studied by academics until the late 20th century. Although some of the seminal work was done in the 1970s and 80s, it was only in 1990 that deliberative democracy began to attract substantial attention from political scientists. According to Professor John Dryzek, early work on Deliberative Democracy was part of efforts to develop a theory of Democratic legitimacy. In the US one of the results was calls to make traditional representative democracy more deliberative, though efforts in this area are not widely considered to have been successful, with the 2010 Supreme Court Judgment allowing an enhanced role for money in US politics at the expense of deliberation. A different and more fruitful result has come from efforts to revive direct deliberative democracy by promoting projects where lay citizens participate in political decision-making. Theorists such as Carne Ross advocate deliberative democracy as a complete alternative to representative democracy. The more common view, held by contributors such as James Fishkin, is that direct deliberative democracy can be complementary to traditional representative democracy. Since 1994, hundreds of implementations of direct deliberative democracy have taken place throughout the world. For example, lay citizens have used deliberative democracy to determine local budget allocations in various cities and to undertake major public projects, such as the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Deliberative democracy recognizes a conflict of interest between the citizen participating, those affected or victimized by the process being undertaken, and the group-entity that organizes the decision. Thus it usually involves an extensive outreach effort to include marginalized, isolated, ignored groups in decisions, and to extensively document dissent, grounds for dissent, and future predictions of consequences of actions. It focuses as much on the process as the results. In this form it is a complete theory of civics.
On the other hand, many practitioners of deliberative democracy attempt to be as neutral and open-ended as possible, inviting (or even randomly selecting) people who represent a wide range of views and providing them with balanced materials to guide their discussions. Examples include National Issues Forums, Choices for the 21st Century, study circles, deliberative opinion polls, and the 21st-century town meetings convened by AmericaSpeaks, among others. In these cases, deliberative democracy is not connected to left-wing politics but is intended to create a conversation among people of different philosophies and beliefs.
In Canada, there have been two prominent applications of deliberative democratic models. In 2004, the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform convened a policy jury to consider alternatives to the first-past-the-post electoral systems. In 2007, the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform convened to consider alternative electoral systems in that province. Similarly, three of Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) have referred their budget priorities to a policy jury for advice and refinement.
The Green Party of the United States refers to its particular proposals for grassroots democracy and electoral reform by this name. Although not always the case, participation in deliberation has often been found to shift participants opinions in favour of Green positions, and can even cause a favourable change of voting intention. For example with Europolis 2009, at the time one of the largest deliberative assemblies ever held, which set out to assess the public's view on a wide range of issues and included representatives from all 27 EU member nations, the share of citizens intending to vote for the Greens increased from 8% to 18%.
According to Professor Stephen Tierney, perhaps the earliest notable example of academic interest in the deliberative aspects of democracy occurred in John Rawls 1971 work A Theory of Justice.
Joseph M. Bessette coined the term "deliberative democracy" in his 1980 work "Deliberative Democracy: The Majority Principle in Republican Government", and went on to elaborate and defend the notion in "The Mild Voice of Reason" (1994). Others contributing to the notion of deliberative democracy include Carlos Nino, David A. Crocker, Jon Elster, Roberto Gargarella, Jürgen Habermas, David Held, Joshua Cohen, John Rawls, Amy Gutmann, Noëlle McAfee, John Dryzek, Rense Bos, James S. Fishkin, Jane Mansbridge, Dennis Thompson, Benny Hjern, Hal Koch, Seyla Benhabib, Ethan Leib, Jeffrey K. Tulis, David Estlund, Mariah Zeisberg and Robert B. Talisse.
Although political theorists took the lead in the study of deliberative democracy, political scientists have in recent years begun to investigate its processes. One of the main challenges currently is to discover more about the actual conditions under which the ideals of deliberative democracy are more or less likely to be realized.