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Liquid Democracy In Simple Terms

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Published on Nov 18, 2012

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Script:
Did you know the word politics comes from ancient Greek "polis" — the city state in which the first kind of democracy was carried out by its citizens? They, like us today, identified problems and discussed them. We do it on the streets and in bars and sometimes begrudgingly at thanksgiving dinners. In Athens the citizens all came together on a designated hill outside of the city to discuss current issues and create policy solutions. Every free man, literally only free men by the way, had a say and a vote to decide on a policy for each issue. Thus word on the street was transformed into politics. This input from citizens into policy making is what we call direct democracy.
Modern nation states, like Germany in our example here, do not share one common public space where all citizens could meet. Reaching an understanding about common issues merely by talking them over is unfeasible for the amount of people that would have to be included in our modern societies. The problems of our time are very much different from those of ancient Greece in three ways: Because of the diversity among our citizens mitigating their issues is far more complex. Moreover, to be a citizen today is no longer a vocation. Unlike the men of Athens we usually have to work to earn our living and do not have the time to spend all of our day pondering and discussing political issues.
That may be part of the reason why many people today feel they do not have the adequate expert knowledge about those issues to contribute to the political sphere. What most modern democracies do instead, then, is have designated representatives from the populace devote their full time to be professional politicians. They carry out the public discussion of issues in our place. Mass media channels their discussions back to our societies. But only the politicians get to decide on those issues in the designated political arena.
We, the public, do get the chance to vote for a representative of one world view or political persuasion in certain intervals, usually every few years. In most of our democratic systems the representatives are being organized through party affiliation. The majorities that come about in the election then get to decide on current issues and turn them into policies for as long as th ey are elected. We regular citizens do not get to have an input on policy making during that time. This system of politics is what we call (for purposes of this explanation) indirect democracy.
Recently there are people who are no longer satisfied with such a rigid system that all but eliminates the input of citizens from policy making. They argue that any citizen at any time should have the chance to make their voice heard in the policy making process, even if they do not want to become full time politicians. Full time politicians and parties may still be useful, but every citizen should be given a vote for every issue on the table. In this system, people may choose to delegate their vote to another person, whom they trust to make an informed decision in their place, who in turn may delegate those collected votes further on to yet somebody else, a politician who stands for a certain world view, perhaps. They may also choose to elect professional politicians themselves. And now people also get to vote on policies directly. Now there are several ways in which the input from people may be transformed into policy. Moreover, whenever there is a particular issue in which a person has such a strong opinion they do not want to trust anyone else to make the decision for them, they can take back their vote from the person they delegated it to, and vote on the policy themselves. It is this fluid alternation between direct democracy and indirect democracy that gives name to the proposed system of liquid democracy.
Modern technology has made a public space that all citizens can inhabit possible. Instead of on a hill outside the city we may meet in cyberspace. We can discuss events online to determine issues that warrant policy making. Collaboration tools, of which Wikipedia is but one small example, can facilitate ways in which many people can have an input on policies. And computers and modern cryptography can tally votes and the delegation of votes so we can decide on those policies. This way all citizens could partake in policy making once again, much like on the Agora, the hill outside of Athens.

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