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Reader Henrikaavik points us to a new Estonian-built anti-corruption app that is very much what I described in my previous post. Check it out at http://www.bribespot.com/. Can it change the world? Maybe.

Citizens are rising up against their governments in an interesting variety of ways. We're seeing everything from armed rebellions to hunger strikes to anti-corruption apps. Prior to our last U.S. presidential election, I personally funded and published online a survey of economists on the question of tax policy. That was a job our government should have been doing. In California, citizen groups put a lot of "propositions" on the ballot every election because our government isn't capable of making laws that satisfy the public. Everywhere we look, citizens are chipping away at the power of government. And behind much of it is the Internet.

I'm still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject, organizes them into point-counter-point debates, and keeps a rolling citizen opinion poll on each topic. That sort of system would, in time, become the real government, with our elected officials beholden to the majority opinions as they formed online. Interestingly, the key to making that sort of system work is the design of the user interface. The Thomas Jefferson of 2012 will be a user interface designer.

You might think revolutions are only happening in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. I think we're in the midst of a worldwide rebellion, but it's not obvious because so much of it is non-violent and it takes so many different forms. In fifty years, only the most backward countries will have traditional governments of the sort we see today. By then, the job of President of the United States will be a ceremonial position. Power will be more directly in the hands of citizens, informed by expert advice. Our elected officials will simply execute the will of the people. And school children will learn that once upon a time there was an irrational belief in something called "leadership," and it got us in a lot of trouble.

[Update: And another corruption tracking app: http://www.corruptiontracker.org/]



 
 
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Aug 29, 2011
But what happens when one man's corruption becomes another woman's compassion?

Current unfunded liabilities of our social entitlements have reached roughly twice the amount of money in the world. Yet whenever anyone talks about reducing government spending, they are painted as cruel, mean-spirited person who hates the poor and only wants the evil rich to get even richer.

So where do you point the finger of corruption? What good would a corruption app do in that case? When the corruption is institutionalized in the name of compassion, the finger points right back at the electorate.

This is no time for bread and circuses. It's time to wake up.
 
 
Aug 29, 2011
FYI - the sites you give for the apps are blocked from my government computer
 
 
Aug 27, 2011
"I'm still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject...."

Don't we already sort-of have that with wikipedia? I love that wikipedia is a one-stop shop for knowledge. I don't know that it's the right place to manage voting, but google could volunteer to help with that.
 
 
Aug 26, 2011
"I'm still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject, organizes them into point-counter-point debates, and keeps a rolling citizen opinion poll on each topic. That sort of system would, in time, become the real government, with our elected officials beholden to the majority opinions as they formed online. Interestingly, the key to making that sort of system work is the design of the user interface. The Thomas Jefferson of 2012 will be a user interface designer."

Not so sure how many experts are involved, but Americans Elect does have a spot on the ballot in every state.

http://www.americanselect.org/
 
 
Aug 25, 2011
I wish transparency on its own could effect change. But in the real world, the names were named, the charges were filed, but yet the bailout kings are still largely in place, continuing to steal from us. The shame is what's missing.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
Check out procon.org
 
 
Aug 25, 2011
I see I misinterpreted Scott earlier. He's not against governments, but he believes that "Our elected officials [should] simply execute the will of the people".

This seems to boil down to nothing more than putting policy to plebiscite. Do we really want this? Are you sure you're serious about trusting people who believe in the paranormal but don't believe in evolution? Isn't it better that specific policies are determined by elected representatives who are typically (not always, but typically) more competent than the general public?
 
 
Aug 25, 2011
I wish your economists survey had been a little more enlightening, but I still respect the hell out of you for commissioning that. Kudos, again.

Have you seen the alternate vote idea in the UK? I think it's brilliant, and it would radically change American politics for the better -- most notably providing more incentive for new political parties with more-specific goals and less polarized agendas. http://blog.cgpgrey.com/the-alternative-vote-instant-runoff-explained/

Too bad our two-party systems has not interest in moving away from a two-party system.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
"Everyone understands the concept that "you could be next." "

I think this is an example of the fundamental flaw to your logic. You believe a population will act rationally if they were just given the "correct" information.

A person is smart. "People" are stupid (and scary).
 
 
Aug 25, 2011
[In California, citizen groups put a lot of "propositions" on the ballot every election because our government isn't capable of making laws that satisfy the public. Everywhere we look, citizens are chipping away at the power of government.]

It doesn't matter.

The mega-corporations have been running things for years. We just don’t show ourselves much. People wouldn’t understand. So we let them think they still have a voice.

Oh, wait, that was Babylon 5... never mind. :-D
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
"Our elected officials will simply execute the will of the people. And school children will learn that once upon a time there was an irrational belief in something called "leadership," "

I would not like to live in such a world. I prefer a republic to a democracy.

There was a great "West Wing" quote/story about this. I don't remember it exactly, but essentially it pointed out the intricacies of foreign relations, law, economics and other matters of state are too complex for the general public to decide directly (no matter how well informed).

 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
Scott,

You obviously have more faith in the sheeple than I.

I still think we need some sort of weeding/contol process so that the masses can not vote their own bread and circuses on the minority.

I think putting your body in the way of bullets to protect the country/people would be a reasonable start. (Yes I know Heinlein said it first)
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
Mr. Adams;

Good morning. In a perfect world, or even in a semi-perfect world, your proposal has merit. However, in this world, one huge problem remains. In your statement "I'm still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject, organizes them into point-counter-point debates, and keeps a rolling citizen opinion poll on each topic." please define the word "BEST". What are the criteria ?

Further, if we depend on "experts" to define the "Best" then who or what determines the criteria for the title of "expert" ? So-called "experts", even well meaning, honest ones can be swayed by personal interests and prejudices. Don't forget that T. Jefferson kept slaves. Therefore, placing so much confidence in "experts" must be done with "experts" chosen with exquisite care. The question was posed long ago: Who guards the Praetorian guards ? Have a productinve day.

JAXID
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
I hope this transformation will also transform companies into democratic workspaces. Ricardo Semler is the Jesus of our time.
 
 
Aug 25, 2011
Obviously this idea wouldn't work in real life. If the human race evolves enough so that the vast majority of us are rational as opposed to automatically following our pre-programed 'herds' then perhaps this idea could have merit.

But now??It would be a disaster. The majority need protection from themselves.

Take any 'hot' topic and consider the national mood at that time. For example the recent riots in London. During the riots most people would have been happy to see the army deployed and live fire used to suppress the riots, but how would that have reflected on the UKs global reputation?

I not suggesting our current system always gets it right. The response to 9/11 wasn't a measured attack against those responsible; you just punished a relatively harmless Muslim country just to be seen to be doing something.

Come back in 500 years and we may be ready for self-governance, but not now.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 25, 2011
This proposition assumes that the public are rational and intelligent enough to want to inform themselves properly, and will then make good decisions based on that information. Or at least enough of them are to outweigh the idiots, the prejudiced, and the fanatical.

If only that were the case.

Of course, you could still argue that this is at least no worse than decisions taken by our idiotic, prejudiced and fanatical politicians - and maybe better, because the population at large at least isn't adding to their decision-making recipe an ingredient based on which special interest group they need to please to fund their re-election campaign.
 
 
Aug 24, 2011
I'm not connected to this site in any way -- just happened to see a guy interviewed on Colbert a few weeks ago -- but does americanselect.org have at least the vestiges of this sort of system? I haven't looked at it too closely, but it's certainly hanging its hat on crowdsourcing as a means to mostly every end.
 
 
Aug 24, 2011
Hey Scott, thanks for the mention! What a funny coincidence, I just wrote a post on my personal blog quoting your WSJ piece on boredom and here are you pointing to Bribespot service we built out of boredom :) Anyhow, thanks for the mention, we appreciate that and if you ever want to do a strip vaguely related to corruption, it would be cool to post it on Bribespot or maybe even run T-shirts with that!
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 24, 2011
"Well, (bearing in mind that I am pro-gay), that is not democracy than, is it?"

No indeed. Precisely my point: majority-rules democracy is not always sufficient to protect or expand the rights of oppressed minorities, since those tolerating the oppression pay no penalty for it and lack the empathy/foresight to imagine themselves ever being the victim. That is why I think Scott's proposal is misguided.
 
 
Aug 24, 2011
Hi Scott -

[I'm betting on self-interest trumping hero worship. That's happening in Libya right now. It happened in Egypt earlier this year. Syria might be next. These are essentially leaderless revolutions. -- Scott]

Following leaders (or hero worship, in your words) is a form of self-interest. That was the main point of my previous post. We crave a purpose in our lives, and leaders can provide that purpose. There are other forms of self-interest, and other ways than following a specific leader to have meaning in your life. I'm not saying everyone blindly follows leaders, and I'm not saying important things can never be accomplished without a clear leader. I'm just saying leaders will never go out of fashion because following a leader is one way to give our lives purpose.

Give them time - leaders will emerge from each of the countries undergoing leaderless revolutions.

Besides - who wants to be bothered to vote on every little thing? There are so many laws out there and so many things to know and to consider for each one. I don't have the time. Can't I just have a proxy - someone who thinks like I do and who can vote on my behalf. You know - someone who can represent me. I'd even pay them a small fee to do it. Maybe a group of us can get together and pay someone enough to propose new laws that benefit the group, research proposed laws, and cast votes on our behalf as a full-time job.

Also - Leaders are not all insane, and followers have not all deceived themselves. I'm using this surprisingly common scenario to illustrate how desperate people can be to find a purpose in their lives, not to express an opinion about the majority of leaders and followers.
 
 
 
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