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Delegation

Delegative democracy allows voters to assign their voting power to others, generally on a per-issue basis and subject to immediate recall. Voters generally have the option of voting on a given question directly but can choose a proxy whom they deem trustworthy. That proxy may choose a proxy in turn.

Delegation has more recently, and sometimes controversially, been referred to as "liquid democracy." It occupies a middle space between systems of representation and referendum-based direct democracy.

Input: Choice between referrendum voting and assigning a proxy, issue types

Output: Referendum participants with varying proxy power on each given issue type

Background

Bryan Ford:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was only one of many people to think along these lines over the decades. In Lewis Carrol’s Principles of Parliamentary Representation of 1884, candidates could “club” their votes together, allowing a candidate who received more votes than required to win a seat to delegate the “excess” votes toward the election of other candidates. James C. Miller in 1969 foresaw electronic voting and proposed a delegate proxy voting scheme, to enable more widespread——and more propoportional——representation in political decisions.

Starting around 2002 the Internet exploded with reinventions of this and similar ideas. Besides my Delegative Democracy proposal, there was Dennis Lomax’s Beyond Politics, Jio Ito’s Emergent Democracy, Sayke’s Liquid Democracy and voting system, Mikael Nordfors’ Democracy 2.1, James Green-Armytage’s delegable proxy system, and Mark Rosst’s Structural Deep Democracy. The idea of allowing voters to delegate their participation to individually-chosen representatives is central to all of these proposals, though details differ.

Feedback loops

Sensitivities

  • Amplifies voices of popularly recognized experts
  • Disaggregates issues that might otherwise be bound together by party alliances

Oversights

  • Popularity may accord to proxies for reasons other than genuine expertise
  • Lack of stability in proxy power might unsettle deliberative processes

Implementations

Communities

  • Flux - Australian political party
  • Partido de la Red - Buenos Aires political party
  • Pirate Parties in many countries have used delegation to decide on policies
  • United States electoral candidates

Tools

Further resources