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A Digital Direct Democracy For the Modern Age

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the straight-from-the-digital-horse's-mouth dept.

Government 308

New submitter lordofthechia writes "Last month the White House created an online petition system through which constituents can directly voice any grievances and concerns to the US government. Any petition that reaches 25,000 signatures (5,000 originally) is promised an official reply. This weekend the first petitions will be closing, and already many have far exceeded the required number of signatures. Is this the way for the voice of the electorate to gain more weight in modern politics, or is it the web version of a placebo button? Will the President's office really consider the top pleas, which include petitions to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, Forgive Student Loan Debt, and Abolish the TSA?"

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That's not direct democracy (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796258)

Direct democracy is where the people are in control of the decision-making process. This is a mass-petitioning system, where the people are granted by their ruler the ability to make a plea. This is functionally no different than a king saying he will grant an audience to any mob of more than 25,000 people who appear at the castle gates (how nice of him!). There is no guarantee that the ruler will act according to the will of the people. Even calling this democracy at all is a real stretch and a betrayal of the values of the founding fathers.

Real direct democracy is possible with internet tools, but this isn't it. The options for real democracy are:

1. Mixed democracy, where we keep the current representative system, but the representatives are legally bound to act according to the input of direct-democracy-style websites. For info on this, see the E2D initiative:
http://www.e2d-i.org/ [e2d-i.org]
and the many national member parties:
http://www.participedia.net/wiki/E2D_International#Signatory_Parties [participedia.net]

2. Collaborative governance, where actual decision-making is directly and solely controlled by a collaborative consensus process. This system also requires a break from the status quo of hierarchies of governing states: it is starting by providing tools to replace the governments of tiny organizations, and will scale upward from there, disrupting and replacing the current system bit by bit, peacefully and slowly. Because it is consensus-based, it avoids the pitfalls of mob rule.
For info on this, see the Metagovernment project:
http://www.metagovernment.org/ [metagovernment.org]
and the many constituent projects which are involved in it:
http://www.metagovernment.org/wiki/Active_projects [metagovernment.org]

Re:That's not direct democracy (4, Interesting)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796388)

Yup, there is also a paper I wrote a while ago on delegated voting [google.com] . Essentially you form a decision tree. Voters can delegate their vote to other people based on topic, with a "catch all" delegation of their local representative for anything that they don't take themselves or delegate to anyone else. It has the nice property that it can be implemented in a basically backwards compatible way - for people who don't care about politics nothing needs to change, but decisions have far more democratic legitimacy. Nobody can ever say their voice wasn't heard.

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796436)

That way, we can vote to have Socrates drink hemlock tea!

Re:That's not direct democracy (2)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796618)

Voting should be for ideas, concept and policy change. I don't give a fuck about suited persons lying to me on TV, I care if the Change happens at the end of the day, not slogans or fancy campaigns. If I vote for infrastructure maintenance/repair and the Aryan Brotherhood goes out and patch the road for me/my community, then they should get paid with taxpayers money as according to my vote.

Context aware voting, open 24/7 continuous to distribute the resources and fluidly change policy is what we should've had since a decade ago. Instead we're stuck with the write a name on clay shards concept that arguably worked better when it WAS FIRST INVENTED IN ATHENS OVER TWO-THOUSAND-FIVE-HUNDRED-MOTHERFUCKING YEARS AGO

Re:That's not direct democracy (4, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796814)

Context aware voting, open 24/7 continuous to distribute the resources and fluidly change policy is what we should've had since a decade ago.

Our democracy was explicitly designed so that in theory it could not be run away with by zealous whackaloons. The only experience the Founders had in this regard was history, the disastrous self-destructive "direct democracy" you mention earlier as having been invented two fucking thousand years ago. Maybe you skimmed that section of history -- the original Greek Democracy experiment was considered a catastrophe because the mob ran away with the government.

This was to be avoided in our system by giving conservative tendencies greater weight than progressive ones. Thus the Senate which originally wasn't even meant to be elected by the People, and whose sole purpose is to slow-foot the ideas the hotheads in the House come up with.

Although at the time of the ratification of the Constitution the true horrors of the French Revolution were still in the future, the Founders also had the experience of the weak central government established by the Articles of Confederation to guide it.

Recently, zealous whackaloons came up with this idea that they'd be extra-ultra-super conservative, and use all of the built-in tendencies towards PREVENTING change as a way to lock in their ideology.

At any rate, one must plan and design a government very carefully. Just shouting a bunch of ill-concieved libertarian principles into the air is not going to cut it.

Diff between Greeks & Electronic Direct Democr (3, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797132)

The Greeks did not have computers, an internet, nor collaborative Web 2.0 technologies and concepts. These change things, and Greek direct democracy cannot be compared to the new forms being developed today.

The principle behind Metagovernment is that decisions are only made when there is a consensus. This means that mob rule and tyranny of the majority is impossible. Just because 80% of the people want it at that moment doesn't mean it's right... wait until almost everyone is on board, and you know you have found something good.

Now consensus might sound like an impossible goal, but it really isn't. The reason it is so hard to achieve these days is because we have a two-party system where each side benefits from distinguishing themselves from the others: in other words, they abhor a consensus. They thrive on conflict, and play up stupid issues to keep us divided.

When we mature beyond political parties, a consensus system will not be that hard to deal with. This is because collaborative governance tools are designed to push people toward consensus by helping them to find common ground. Without the interruption of politicians, this is not only possible, but truly wonderful. Synthesis is a much, much better form of decision-making than compromise.

You may ask what do we do if we can't find consensus? The answer is obvious: nothing! There is no reason to make a law if society isn't in consensus on it. That is the road to tyranny, suppression, and everything else bad in government. Real government of, by, and for the people must be about all of the people. If something is so urgent that it must be dealt with, then people will find a way to come to consensus... or else they don't really even agree on the urgency, do they?

The projects in Metagovernment have put a lot of thought into their systems, and some of them are extremely sophisticated. As they mature and gain adoption, they will mature. The fact that there are many different projects means that the real-world marketplace of ideas will pick the best solution going forward, providing yet another check on their potential to fail.

Now I am sure you can find some imperfections in all of this, but compare it to the status quo before you judge. Can a collaborative governance system really be worse than the plutocratic, authoritarian, tyrannic demagoguery we have now?

Re:That's not direct democracy (2)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797154)

The extended version of the democracy experiment is about to be considered a catastrophe too.

Re:That's not direct democracy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796874)

Remember, direct democracy didn't work very well even in Athens. They weren't effective in the endâ"they lost the war against Spartan oligarchy. Most of their problems came down to demagogueryâ"guys like Pericles and Alcibiades misled the voters into doing stupid things. Not all that different from Glenn Beck and Kalle Lasn getting tea partiers and OWSers to rally against the concepts of government or corporations.

When the Athenians reorganized the democracy later, it devolved into demagoguery yet again, with guys like Demosthenes and Aeschines using the political process for their own profit (Demosthenes was corrupt, and everyone knew it, especially after the Harpalos affair, but he still wielded enormous power in the assemblies).

Re:That's not direct democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796990)

Suggestion: allow proxies to make their own vote and then a separate vote for the voters who delegated to them (which would by default be tied together), eliminating the problem of vote buying/social pressure.

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797218)

What you have described is being developed and while it is still in alpha, it is at a high level of sophistication already. It is one of the key members of the Metagovernment project (mentioned in the OP), and it is called Votorola:
http://zelea.com/project/votorola/home.xht [zelea.com]

However, there are a couple of differences. First, Votorola is not anonymous. It is completely open and public. That gives participants 100% validation of their voting: nobody can steal or corrupt or hack or usurp your vote, because you can actually check on it at any time.

Second, Metagovernment and Votorola aren't interested in political parties. That's the status quo and it is full of corruption and massive barriers to participation. Instead, we're just making a completely new system which can replace the systems of the status quo slowly and from the ground up. This is a real-world approach we are enacting as soon as we have software that is suitable for communities to implement. It requires no buy-in from any political system: only that people start using it to govern their organizations.

Whether or not you agree with Votorola's or Metagovernment's approach, the Metagovernment would love to have your input and to see your project join with the many others that are collaborating on our list. To join, just sign up on:
http://metagovernment.org/mailman/listinfo/start_metagovernment.org [metagovernment.org]
and introduce yourelf.

French revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796484)

Louis XVI made a petition system in the 1780s, to placate the masses.
Although the petitions themselves were just so much placebo, it sort of backfired, really helping to focus that revolutionary zeal.

Democracy is just second priority, first is money (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796616)

"Direct democracy" schemes help to better display how it actually works, the fact that real power is with whoever has the money, and the elections are to lead the public into accepting, rubber stamping and whitewashing the whole fraud. In fact whoever gets elected hardly has that much freedom themselves, they just each perform their acts, right, left, center, indignant, arrogant, etc, and get a share of the money according to the profitability of their performance.

Real direct democracy is possible w/o internet too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796756)

Switzerland is having a real direct democracy since the 19th century.
Thank you.

Levelling the playing field (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796994)

Direct democracy is where the people are in control of the decision-making process.

Right. This isn't that. What this really provides is a way to level the playing field (a bit) with regard to issues that have wide public support but not necessarily moneyed interests and paid lobbyists behind them, vs. those that do have paid lobbyists behind them.

One of the advantages that moneyed interests have is that politicians want access to the money for campaign purposes (either directly, or want the moneyed interest to spend "independently" in ways that benefit the politician). This doesn't affect that.

But an often overlooked advantage that moneyed interests have -- and, having spent some time working in a legislative office I've seen this pretty directly -- is that they represent a known constituency of a particular size and its easy to know what they are interested in. Its very, very hard to collate non-coordinated constituent communications to get a good view of particular proposals that have interest in the constituency that aren't being advanced by groups that have a paid lobbying effort. There's a reason that everyone says that writing to your legislator is most effective when you can assign a subject line that includes the identification of a particular bill currently under consideration with a support or oppose indicator -- those are easy to categorize.

This conceptually makes it a lot easier to categorize and collate feedback that isn't simple support or oppose to things that are already "on the table" with a convenient bill identifier. And, in that respect, its useful in making it possible for ideas that have interest to get to where they might make a difference.

Its not direct democracy, and its not a magical transformation, but it could be very useful.

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

daath93 (1356187) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797046)

But what about all the "Poor Minorities" who may not have internet access? I mean isn't that the whole reason we don't have to check I.D.s at polls? "What if they can't afford I.D.? Its racial descrimination because it will most affect the black communities" The only way the democratic party would ever go for online voting is if it allowed many more unsubstantiably elligible voters the ability to vote.

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797180)

I thought you had free internet access in your public libraries?

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797112)

Yes, and this site is just another way that activist voices can promote their causes. If everyone was allowed to vote on whether a white house team should be set up to focus on shutting down puppy mills, I seriously doubt that it would be the majority opinion to focus on that. That should be a local not a federal concern, even though I love dogs, especially puppies.

"a betrayal of the values of the founding fathers" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797200)

Having an inbox for concerns is a betrayal to the founding fathers? That's just absurd. I mean really absurd. I mean grade-school next tea party candidate absurd. Let's remember the founding fathers were afraid of the people and were not infallible deities, then let us be more thoughtful about what we write.

Re:That's not direct democracy (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797236)

The biggest problem with most of these approaches are in effect rule by those who can easily access a computer with Internet access. That excludes somewhere around 40% of Americans from governance. I grant you, it's far better than the current system of government which effectively excludes 99% of Americans, but it's still a problem.

Sure beats the alternative (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796282)

Writing to your representative and being ignored.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796336)

At least now they'll look at what you've written before ignoring it.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (3, Insightful)

batquux (323697) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796420)

Now they "have to" give an official reply. Which will always be, "No."

Re:Sure beats the alternative (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796602)

I would have at least given him props if he would have said, "Any item that has more than 25K votes will be presented as a bill on the floor of the house/senate."

At least then he could have said he tried.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (0)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796678)

"Any item that has more than 25K votes will be presented as a bill on the floor of the house/senate."

He can't make that promise, child. If he were a Congressman, he could.

At least try to focus your fucking outrage on the correct problem.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796704)

That means more than you're giving credit for. Actively responding to voters in the negative is taking a clear position that, come election time, can be claimed by opponents to be the wrong one. Dismissively sending a form letter to constituents with opinions gives only generic "X doesn't have time for voters outside of campaign season" fodder, which has considerably less sway. I like a clear opinion that's different from mine far more than none at all. It helps me as a voter if nothing else.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (2)

haystor (102186) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796706)

Good luck getting a "no" out of a politician. You'll get an answer about how there is ongoing study in something vaguely related to the topic of the question. How they know that it is important to you and your fellow Americans and that they would like to see your freedoms to fruition but need to remain concerned that these freedoms do not infringe upon others when some mysterious, unnamed group exploits these freedoms.

Re:Sure beats the alternative (1)

batquux (323697) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797204)

True. Don't forget, "God Bless America."

Unofficial Response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797084)

So, how long is it before the lower 99% figure out that it's more effective to use guns than "online petitions"? Given the levels of gun ownership in the USA, I'm pretty sure I don't want to be hanging around when the proverbial shit hits the fan.

Not likely (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796332)

Obama has done this before. The number one question submitted was whether legalizing marijuana would contribute positively to the economy, in terms of providing jobs, tax revenue, and freeing up resources spent on law enforcement.

Obama laughed and said no [telegraph.co.uk] . There was no discussion of any of the issues. I see no reason to believe he will take this any more seriously than he did before.

How long does he think he can keep up this charade of openness?

Re:Not likely (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796442)

Exactly. Obama at least shows no signs of taking this seriously if he thinks it's OK to just laugh off the top suggestion.

Re:Not likely (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796562)

Exactly. Obama at least shows no signs of taking this seriously if he thinks it's OK to just laugh off the top suggestion.

So that's a dead subject. Doesn't mean they all will be. I'll be starting up one on Monosodium Glutamate this evening - use in restaurants, labelling, etc. I suffer migranes and know there are others who suffer side effects from this cheat to make food more appetizing.

Re:Not likely (2)

KingMotley (944240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796762)

The correct thing to do is to add asprin to the MSG.

Re:Not likely (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796946)

The aspirin will make your aneurism clot slower :)

Re:Not likely (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796784)

Did you know that no double-blind test has ever reproduced the MSG headache?

Maybe it's something else in the food...

Re:Not likely (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796938)

Are you really going to write off the unjust imprisonment of thousands of harmless Americans as "a dead subject"? Anyone who doesn't see this as a travesty of justice is sick. Your dietary issues are quite frankly pathetic next to the harm marijuana prohibition causes.

Re:Not likely (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797122)

Actually, pot can cause the same kind of headaches (as well as can red wine). I personally am all for freeing the pot heads and pot sellers, but I won't be a customer due to my "dietary issues". But yeah, free 'em all. We should be locking the drunks up instead. Much more dangerous.

Re:Not likely (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797254)

It's a dead subject as a proposal to the president, such as this petitions.

It's called "context [wikipedia.org] ."

Re:Not likely (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797270)

It's only a dead subject if you let it die. Thankfully, millions of Americans won't.

Re:Not likely (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796554)

He had a similar thing happen when he ran a widget on barackobama.com that allowed people to ask questions and vote for questions they'd like answered (alas, I cannot for the life of me remember its name). The marijuana question, near the top of the list by votes, was quickly and quietly deleted, along with other questions along the same grounds.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see the same thing happen here.

Re:Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796842)

Reason recently ran an interesting article on Obama's shifting stance on marijuana [reason.com] . As with quite a few other issues, it seems like it went out the window as soon as he took office.

Re:Not likely (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796864)

It won't vanish, they'll just parrot the standard line about MJ causing paranoia/memory loss in some people.

At which point you can mutter about peanuts killing some people but they're not banned are they, and things will go on as before.

MJ prohibition is good for government - it creates government jobs and politicians can always use it show voters how tough they are.

Who are they going to piss off anyway, a bunch of stoners....? Woooo scary!

Re:Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797206)

Slap a warning on MJ, just like peanuts have. At least then we would no longer have a large underground drug market for the stuff.

Re:Not likely (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797048)

He has to divorce himself from the cannabis issue so it doesn't play into his image and diminish his credibility and that of the democrat party. The republicans would skin him alive on that and the issue would disappear under a blanket of jokes endlessly regurgitated by the media.

Re:Not likely (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797214)

The majority [talkingpointsmemo.com] of the country supports marijuana legalization now. That, along with having both facts and justice on his side would allow Obama to skin the republicans alive.

Obama's just too big of a pussy to stand up for what is right.

Apples and Oranges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796698)

The previous system didn't require a log-in and so was more easily gamed and the results more easily dismissed. At least this time the results are more accountable (you have to create a login and verify your email address, list your zip code, etc) and even though they may not get a serious reply from the administration, they instead may spark debate on those subjects for the next election cycle.

Just WHO is on the other end? (2)

sehlat (180760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796354)

That's always the question. WHO sees the petitions, the signature counts, the comments, etc. and evaluates them.

I once read a story which said that experienced people in Washington, when they're told "White House calling," know to ask "WHO at the White House is calling?"

This is inverse of the same question, on a MUCH bigger scale.

Referendums on a national scale? (1)

SwedishChef (69313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796386)

They've had mixed results on the state level. The major problem is that the majority has little use, apparently, for constitutional protections. I'm afraid we'll just see more-of-the same on a National level.

Re:Referendums on a national scale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796496)

for constitutional protections

Eh.. are we talking about the same country here? People get walked all over when they do have constitutional protections.

Just imagine what it would be like if we didn't have them.

Forgive Student Loan Debt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796390)

Fat fucking chance.

Re:Forgive Student Loan Debt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796876)

And if they do, it had better be retroactive.

No, he won't. (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796396)

Can't really get any blunter than that.

Not this one, No... (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796818)

Will the President's office really consider the top pleas, which include petitions to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, Forgive Student Loan Debt, and Abolish the TSA?"

But I know of a contender in current race (with not too bad chances of winning it, IMHO), who already said that he would do first and third, and work to reign in the source of the mess which gave us second.

Seriously!

Re:Not this one, No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796928)

Will the President's office really consider the top pleas, which include petitions to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, Forgive Student Loan Debt, and Abolish the TSA?"

But I know of a contender in current race (with not too bad chances of winning it, IMHO), who already said that he would do first and third, and work to reign in the source of the mess which gave us second.

Seriously!

Which is totally different from the current situation, I'm so sure. Totes different. He's not the guy in charge NOW, so we all know his radical campaign promises are rock-solid and airtight. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Not this one, No... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797338)

He says that, but he won't actually do it. I have some bad news for you, politicians lie.

It's not direct democracy (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796456)

It's not direct democracy (Switzerland has that, and people actually vote on things like immigration policy), but it's not a bad idea.

I wish that Obama had the guts to implement a few of the top ones.

Re:It's not direct democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796692)

...I wish that Obama had the guts to implement a few of the top ones.

Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter 2.0; just as lame, but not as intelligent.

Re:It's not direct democracy (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797024)

The president actually has very little authority to enact bills. He can of course sign the bill once congress has passed it. He can propose bills to congress. He cannot force congress to consider a bill.

Campaign (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796480)

If I recall, Obama had something similar around the last time he wanted to get elected. My money is on this being a craven hollow gesture in order to recapture those whom he excited in his first Presidential campaign.

The problem is not that he's ignorant of what many citizens want (return of habeus corpus to those accused of terrorism; prosecution of CIA torturers; cessation of free trade deals and IP legislation that favor corporations over regular citizens; cessation (or reversal) of crony capitalism by Bernanke and Geithner; etc.) The problem is that he won't actually execute those ideas.

Re:Campaign (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797134)

The problem is that he won't actually execute those ideas.

Things like this are what you make of them. If these questions come up and the President takes no action, in theory this would cause some sort of public awareness of the problem, and people would change their votes.

This doesn't happen though, because despite the fact they've set up the website very few people pay attention or care. I don't think Americans really want the sort of democracy where everything is petitioned and then they can follow up on the implementation themselves through transparent government. They'd much rather vote for people they like and then complain about the "system."

Advocating policies, and then pinning down politicians on those policies would force people to condition their vote on things that they really wouldn't want to: approximately zero voters would switch their vote from Obama to the viable Republican alternative over marijuana legalization, or habeas corpus, or IP legislation, or cessation of crony capitalism, Republicans are further to the right than him on all of those things. There's no need for him to take any action on these, and as long as the US has first-past-the-post balloting for the Presidency and Congress, alternative candidates will always be spoilers. And the voters won't condition their votes on these, because they know the viable alternative is worse and less-optimal for these goals.

Our system is designed to insulate elected officeholders from accountability to single-interest voter preferences.

Hard to take it seriously... (2)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796510)

Since a petition to force government to disclose all extra-terrestrial communications gathered over 5K votes, the serious requests will probably be treated the same way.

Re:Hard to take it seriously... (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796560)

I kind of wonder how many sockpuppets are behind some of these causes.

I wouldn't surprise me if we requested the IP addresses of all who registered and find that they belong to a few pet individuals.

Re:Hard to take it seriously... (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797040)

Would be a rather frightening use of a botnet, wouldn't it?

Because direct democracy worked so well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796534)

for the Greeks.

Re:Because direct democracy worked so well (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797120)

Seems to be working for the Swiss...

Purile petitions (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796548)

I imagine the vast majority of the petitions submitted will be silly and drown out real ones.

I'm sure things like "Make Jedi the official religion of the US" will get more signatures than any serious issue.

Re:Purile petitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796848)

Just look at the top petitions. [whitehouse.gov]

The silly to real ratio doesn't seem to be out of control. Don't agree with all of them, but there are many good ones at the top.

Re:Purile petitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796974)

I'm more concerned about what happens if these petitions are taken seriously. Bots registering and mass-upvoting harmful petitions, anyone?

(and no, the recaptcha won't necessarily prevent that. Computer vision is pretty scarily good these days, and that's not the only attack possible on recaptcha)

A reply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796566)

They only promised a "reply." Note, this promise does not imply action, only a statement response to the petition. Lip service anyone?

*Puts on tin foil hat* An awesome plan, now they got a list of all the dissidents. Quick, arrest all the people on the marihuana list for drug abuse! *Takes off tin foil hat*

The only real democracy is direct voting of laws (wasn't possible in the past except on the local level but we have technology for this now).

Simple rewriting (4, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796576)

Allow me to summarize how this works:

  • VOTE: Shall the US Government give you free money, taken from anybody except yourself without consideration for law, fairness, effort, contribution, or the damage done to the economy and future generations?
    • [ ] Yes
      [ ] Gimme!
      [ ] I'm entitled!
      [ ] Anybody who earns more money than me must have cheated, so yeah
      [ ] Hanging chad

I think that sums it up nicely. Or, to quote someone a hell of a lot smarter than most people:

  • A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
    --Alexander Tytler

Re:Simple rewriting (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796870)

I hate to point this out to you, but in spite of having a dictator in addition, England has had a representative government for hundreds of years, and the collapses of major civilizations with one notable exception have not occurred under any such democratic condition. And Athens lost their democracy through foreign invasion, not internal corruption. This nonsense is by stupid professor trying to generate a secular justification for absolute monarchy.

It's sad that you'd prefer the ideas of a discredited monarchist philosopher above the more modern ideals of liberal democracy. History has shown democracies build stronger, more robust societies than any other system. Unless you'd like to point out a clear case to the contrary.

Except he never said that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797014)

I would review: http://www.snopes.com/politics/ballot/athenian.asp

In addition, I would suggest that you read up on what is more expensive to the U.S. Government, allowing a difference between taxes collected on capital gains versus working income (i.e. what the money collected would be if capital gains were taxed at the same rate), or tax credits aimed exclusively at the working poor like the EITC?

More to the point, why don't you stop being coy or cute about it and just say what you believe?

Direct Democracy does NOT fix the problem (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796604)

Direct Democracy does not fix the problem that is caused by the majority of voters being poorly informed on the issues. The reason that the "voice of the electorate" does not have sufficient weight in modern politics is that too many of the voters do not put enough effort into understanding the issues and the actions taken by politicians. Laws which make it easier to register to vote were passed in order to make it so that the "voice of the electorate" would carry more weight, yet they had the opposite effect. Making it easier to register meant that people who could not even be bothered to go to the designated location to register some time before the election (length of time varied by state) were now voting in elections that they could not be bothered to pay attention to until a few days or weeks before the election. Campaign finance reform laws were passed to reduce the impact of corporate money on elections. They, also, had the opposite effect. Campaign finance reform laws resulted in making it harder for a challenger to unseat an incumbent, meaning that a company had to put more effort into cultivating those holding political office (since they would be there long enough to make life miserable for along time for any company that did not do so).

The idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796630)

is to reliably locate potential trouble makers and unpatriotic people.

Is direct democracy a good thing? (1)

Troy (3118) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796650)

I'm profoundly unconvinced.

While heeding the "will of the people" is one of the fundamentals of any "democratic" (all variations) government, I think we have plenty of examples where groups of people aren't necessarily smarter or more moral than individuals. For example, consider California's initiative system, which has created a mess of conflicting and impossible mandates.

Additional influences like the Dunning-Kruger effect [wikipedia.org] only muddy the waters further. Everybody seems to think that direct democracy would be good for them, but bad for everyone else.

My take - genuine concerns are lost fighting crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796674)

I'm for legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, but still don't want to associate with its users.

I'm against forgiving student loan debt and I say this as someone with quite a bit of student loan debt and limited income. The only exception I could see is for those who serve the country in some fashion, such as soldiers or teachers.

As much as I despise the TSA, I don't believe in abolishing it.

I am wary of the increase from 5,000 to 25,000 and fear additional increases. I understand they're trying to avoid some crazy people, but come on, there are A LOT of crazy people out there. They could muster signatures in the millions if necessary. So who really hurts? Those with genuine concerns.

Attn: White House Webmaster, your site is broken (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796676)

Many states have initiative, referendum, and recall, and they have real effect. Not necessary good effect, but effective. In California we got Proposition 13 (extreme tax limits) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as Governor) that way.

As for the White House site, it's too broken to use. I'm getting a 404 error on login attempts. Somebody didn't test the error handling. There's no obvious way to send a bug report. "Contact" just sends you to the "write the President" page.

Re:Attn: White House Webmaster, your site is broke (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796736)

I think California is as good an example as to how bad direct democracy can become. Simply put, I don't really think you can run anything beyond a small city on direct democracy before it starts to have serious, deleterious effects.

Glass Steagall (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796722)

Sign the petition to reinstate Glass-Steagall here. [whitehouse.gov]

not Rep or Dem, so I'll take what I can get (3, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796730)

I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, so I have very few meaningful ways of participating in the US political process. My congressman is a social-conservative Republican in a safe Republican district, so there is essentially no chance of ever getting rid of him. I did recently re-register Republican so that I could vote against him twice, once in the primary and once in the general election -- not that it will accomplish anything. Another benefit of being registered Republican is that I can vote against Rick Perry in the primary. And that's about it -- that's all I can do in electoral politics, and it ain't much. I'd love to have a chance to vote for a politician who was against the USA-PATRIOT Act, but I can't, because it has essentially 100% support in both of the major parties. Ditto for ending the disastrous War on Drugs, or for kicking America's habit of getting involved in multiple simultaneous wars thousands of miles away from home; all of these issues have zero traction in either of the two major parties.

So this petition thing may not be much, but I'll take what I can get. It might make it harder for politicians to claim that absolutely nobody cares about certain issues, and that would be a good thing.

Re:not Rep or Dem, so I'll take what I can get (3, Insightful)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797098)

what about Ron Paul?
against the USA-PATRIOT Act - check
ending the disastrous War on Drugs - check
kicking America's habit of getting involved in multiple simultaneous wars thousands of miles away from home - check

Re:not Rep or Dem, so I'll take what I can get (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797216)

Against abortion rights? - check

But I don't want a democracy (4, Insightful)

gewalker (57809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796740)

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, if you can get 51% to vote for taking you life, your liberty, or your property -- you lost under mob rule. What I want is a rule of law, wherein government is limited by law and in practice to the domains in which it is permitted to act. You know, like a constitutional republic for example.

Neither the Democrats or the Republicans seem to be interested in this form of governance though.

Re:But I don't want a democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796822)

Issues that have over 51%...

Based off recent polls over 51% percent of people.

Oppose Abortion
Oppose Immigration

You really want to live in Nazi Jesus land?

Re:But I don't want a democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796866)

but everyone laughs at you now if you want a constitution and calls you a fucking idiot libertarian. its probably because they want to be part of that 51% mob.

Re:But I don't want a democracy (0)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797038)

If 51% of the population wants the constitution changed, then the constitution will get changed. Whatever made you think that constitutions did anything more then make the process slower?

Re:But I don't want a democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797162)

Bingo.

...promised an official reply? (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796798)

"Lawl, no, gtfo" counts as a reply, right?

Needs more pony (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796852)

I loved the one asking the USA to help overthrow the tyrannical rule of Princess Celestia. Got taken down, sadly.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-V6NUom7FyQU/Tn56zgOhiyI/AAAAAAAAAr4/-7dAR6bjsvY/s1600/ohuguize.png [blogspot.com]

It's time for an Equestrian Spring. Winter Wrap Up is coming...

Bad Idea (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796882)

A true democracy where everyone gets a vote is a bad thing. Most people are not competent enough to understand what they are voting on ( sometimes that is by design, but the reality is not everyone understands everything, and some understand nothing ) so the theory is that you elect liked minded people that do understand a lot, and have the time and resources to work thru the details and learn what they do not.

If we went that route, it would be total chaos, and the country would be controlled by the people that had the better marketing team to manipulate the populace.

Direct Democracy Fails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796916)

Direct Democracy just speeds up abuse of a democratic system. To avoid long-winded real-world explanations of partial fallout, let's just cut to the simple examples: what happens when 55% of the population bands together and votes that the other 45% of the population need their taxes raised by 150%, while cutting the 55%'s taxes to zero? What happens when the 90% who aren't legally disabled vote to cut all disability spending to the 10% who are? What happens when a rich guy "pays off" (through indirect and legal means, e.g. funding a non-profit that benefits them in some large obvious way) a large class of non-rich voters to vote his way? What happens when the entire lower two-thirds or so of the economic scale votes that the upper half should provide them a guaranteed decent standard of living with free housing and food? (This one's already been happening slowly for decades, even indirect democracy doesn't completely protect us...).

Direct democracy leads to blocks voting in their own interests at the very great and direct expense of others. What we try to do by limiting our "democracy" to a republic with representative voting is put up roadblocks to slow this down and try to ensure a reasonable measure of basic fairness and liberty for all.

Democracy Is MONEY +5, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37796918)

  according to Senator Mitch McConnell [youtube.com] .

Cheers,
K. Trout

Slashdot Politics (1)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796964)

Of the 25 stories on the default main page right now,

6 are U.S. politics.
11 are politics in general.

Enough is enough!!!

Re:Slashdot Politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37797146)

Well this is technology use in politics. Plus how is this [whitehouse.gov] not relevant to slashdot! Even the EFF seems to think it's worth trying [fsf.org] .

another possibility (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#37796976)

Could it simply be a method for getting the names of malcontents?

Hired Representatives (1)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797016)

Rather than electing by majority rule, I believe a representative system where each voter / citizen elects their own federal representative without regard for geographic boundaries would be more effective. Representatives would carry the weight of their backers in voting and at any time they can gain or lose backers. More engaged voters could even back different representatives for different issues or vote directly on issues (if they do so during mandatory 24 hour voting times). A representative would then require a threshold number of backers to participate in debates (to limit cranks) or propose legislation. This system would be followed by both the Senate and House but rather than voting on the same general issues the Senate would be specialized into dealing with laws, pacts and foreign affairs while the House would be specialized to deal with taxes, business regulations and federal department management (Education, Energy, Interior). The president would be elected by simple majority rule for a 4 year term, but limited to military decisions (requiring legislative approval), judicial selection and appointing department leaders in the executive branch.

The 1% has support here (2)

Old Wolf (56093) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797072)

Interesting how the second-highest petition appears to be to free a guy who was jailed for ripping off millions of dollars and abused hundreds of illegal workers, including child laborers; and was caught trying to skip the country when he was charged. (if Wikipedia is accurate) He has more votes than the petition to recognize the 99% !

Did some good in the UK (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797126)

The Turing petition [bbc.co.uk]

In France... (1)

frenchbedroom (936100) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797210)

We have a saying in France, rougly translated :

In a dictatorship, it's "SHUT UP"

In a democray, it's "yeah yeah, keep talking"

Probably a bad sign (1)

mrquagmire (2326560) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797282)

It's probably a bad sign that the first thing I thought of when I found some petitions that I wanted to sign was, "I better not because then they'd have my information."

Petition to solve the economic crisis (1)

cbarcus (600114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37797332)

Most people to not appreciate the role energy plays within the economy. Whether it is the fuel oil in that tanker that has brought those manufactured goods across the Pacific, or the fuel in your gas tank that has allowed you to drive to work this morning, energy plays a fundamental role in economic activity.

We have a plan to develop a special machine that will allow us to synthesize carbon-neutral petroleum replacements cheaply using nuclear fission as a primary input. With this safe technology, we can drastically reduce waste through efficiency, avoid the use of water for cooling, reduce manufacturing costs by avoiding the use of a high-pressure cooling system, and scale to many thousands of reactors over the coming decades. With this, we exceed the current world energy consumption of roughly 15 TW. We can sequester a century's worth of carbon from the atmosphere, safeguarding our shorelines for generations to come. And we can end water shortages the world over through massive efficient desalination.

This Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is Green Nuclear, and it is THE silver bullet.

The White House petition for LFTR [whitehouse.gov]

More information regarding the technology. [energyfromthorium.com]

Green Freedom - industrial scale synthesis of fuel from nuclear energy [lanl.gov]
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