The Technology Solution to the Democracy Crisis
The spectacular intrusion of special interests into the passage of the $1.1 trillion government spending bill on December 13, 2014 was breathtaking as bankers and lobbyists whipped the vote by calling Congressional representatives directly to demand a host of special interest provisions, including the following:
- Repealing the Dodd-Frank prohibition on locating derivatives trading activities in the same bank subsidiary company as their depositories containing checking, savings, and other accounts insured by the FDIC.
- Raising individual campaign contribution limits by roughly 10 times the present limit.
- Allowing businesses to default by as much as 1/3 of their private pension obligations.
- Preventing the EPA from introducing new climate protections.
So it is now abundantly clear that what we have is government by minority rule in which special interests reign supreme. Clearly, this cannot continue. It is for this reason that we are sharing the post below describing the only solution to the democracy crisis of which we are aware that can be implemented in the near future. It is long and we do not expect many readers to get through it in one sitting, or even at all. But if it piques your interest, you can re-locate it here at a more opportune time.
INTERACTIVE VOTER CHOICE SYSTEM
Technical Features of the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628)
Accelerating the Technological Evolution of Democracies
Group Forming Network
World’s First Large Scale Consensus Building and Conflict Resolution Platform
A Closer Look at Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs)
Integrating IVCS-Enabled CASs into Electoral and Legislative Processes
Summary and Conclusion
The Interactive Voter Choice System is a technological solution to the democracy crisis caused by the inability of voters, lawmakers, candidates and political parties to agree on what legislation should be enacted.
This inability is leading to increasing confrontations between voters and lawmakers, chronic conflicts among political parties and elected party representatives, and recurring legislative stalemates that prevent the passage of critical legislation needed to address life-threatening societal problems, crises and conflicts.
The democracy crisis is also caused by the increasing political influence of special interests that finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns and use this influence to induce lawmakers to pass legislation that serves special interests rather than the public interest and the needs of lawmakers’ constituents.
The Interactive Voter Choice System comprises a unique web-based consensus building mechanism that enables democracy stakeholders to overcome this crisis. In particular, it enables voters to self-organize from the “bottom-up” into autonomous voting blocs and electoral coalitions around common transpartisan agendas that cross party lines. These blocs and coalitions, which can work with parties or independently, can outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single political party and run and elect candidates to defeat opposing party candidates. This capability enables these blocs and coalitions to overcome the polarization and partisan divisiveness that political parties and special interests inject into electoral and legislation processes.
The Interactive Voter Choice System’s social networking platform also overcomes the well-documented tendency of social groups of like-minded people — especially political groups, to move to extremes, particularly when they are led by self-serving politicians. While the common goals of social and political groups can unite their members, research shows that these goals can exert a divisive influence by prompting them to adopt extreme positions to compete with external groups. In contrast, the consensus building mechanism contained within the Interactive Voter Choice System counteracts this tendency by encouraging the members of voting blocs and coalitions to continuously reach out across partisan divides to attract the new members they need to build electoral bases that possess the voting strength required to win elections.
The system’s capacity to reduce polarization among social groups by facilitating “transpartisan” consensus building among voting blocs and coalitions can extend upwards from grassroots micro-levels to higher macro-levels within and across national boundaries comprised of virtually unlimited numbers of voting blocs and electoral coalitions. Blocs and coalitions that operate within a specific election district can expand and interconnect with blocs and coalitions that operate outside their election districts. By using the system’s consensus building mechanism, they can coalesce and even merge by working together to incorporate broad cross-sections of voters to collectively set common agendas, and plan and jointly execute coordinated electoral strategies to elect lawmakers to enact their common agendas.
The web platform and website that will be built around the system can be used by virtually unlimited numbers of democracy stakeholders in countries around the world to form self-organizing online blocs and coalitions around agendas comprised of any legislative priorities they wish. To take one urgent example, the Interactive Voter Choice System can facilitate the formation of global blocs and coalitions whose members consensually develop a common agenda to address life-threatening global crises such as the imminent threats posed by global climate disruption and extreme weather.
To implement climate-related agendas, individual members of global blocs and coalitions can take their global agendas into their home countries and elect lawmakers to enact these agendas. By operating simultaneously at national and transnational levels, they can surmount the inability of far too many governments and heads of state to agree to adopt and implement common agendas aimed at preventing further global climate disruption and extreme weather.
As discussed below, the web-based platform of the Interactive Voter Choice System will facilitate the creation of self-organizing web-based voting blocs and electoral coalitions around the world that possess the unique problem-solving capabilities of interconnected “complex adaptive systems“. These systems will accelerate the technological evolution of democratic forms of government by enabling democracy stakeholders everywhere, across the political and ideological spectrum, to use advanced web technology to find common ground to solve life-threatening societal and global problems, crises and conflicts that contemporary governments are proving themselves incapable of solving.
These online systems and the technological evolution they will accelerate are particularly needed at the federal level of the United States government where the U.S. Congress is paralyzed by quarreling political parties and controlled by lawmakers representing a minority of American voters who cannot pass urgently needed legislation.
These self-organizing complex adaptive systems, however, are needed just as urgently outside the U.S. in regions where groups of dissidents are using social networks to mobilize supporters to engage in violence against each other and governmental authorities.
For these systems can prevent dissident group members (and prospective recruits) from going to extremes by engaging them in online dialogue and debate with people from diverse backgrounds to devise peace plans and non-violent solutions to the problems, crises and conflicts they face. These interactions can lead to their realization that they can use online voting blocs, coalitions and political channels to achieve their objectives more effectively than by resorting to the use of force.
The core technical features of the Interactive Voter Choice System are described in the patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628, Class 705/12: Data Processing: Voting or election arrangement).
It comprises a “system to create aggregates of voters with similar preferred policy options to influence elections and policy-making in representative bodies”, “a computerbased network”, “a website on the Internet”, and “computerized databases of objects, each object representing a stance on a policy option of concern to voters”.
The system is designed to enable voters to “build consensus, coalitions and voting blocs that can run and elect their own candidates for office and induce elected representatives to enact their agendas”.
The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) creates self-organizing voting blocs and electoral coalitions, and decentralized networks of blocs and coalitions, whose members interact with each other using the information and communication technologies (ICT) available on the website to access the system’s structured and unstructured databases. Core databases are comprised of policy options and selected sets of policy options and policy agendas.
The self-organizing capabilities of IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions are similar to those found in “complex adaptive systems” because they enable virtually unlimited numbers of individual agents, such as voters, to interact and self-organize at all levels to pursue common goals and adapt to change, including current and anticipated changes, as well as complex chains of interacting changes.
These capabilities are particularly relevant to self-organizing voting blocs participating in electoral and legislative processes in large, complex political systems and governmental institutions in which small numbers of lawmakers enact laws for millions of constituents. For they permit virtually unlimited numbers of voters to interact with each other and self-organize from the “bottom-up” into voting blocs and coalitions to set priorities and elect representatives to implement them.
By setting policy agendas and electing lawmakers to solve societal problems, crises and conflicts by adopting policies reflecting voters’ agendas, it is possible for blocs and coalitions to counteract the tendency for electoral and legislative processes to be dominated by “top-down” organizations and institutions such as political parties and organized special interests (Hacker and Pierson, 2010).
The technology facilitates consensus building and conflict resolution by voting blocs and coalitions within countries as well as transnationally. Voters worldwide can use the IVCS platform to form self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions to set and implement agendas regarding any issues they choose, and elect lawmakers to enact their agendas in whatever jurisdictions bloc and coalition members reside.
Accelerating the Technological Evolution of Democracies
For these reasons, the IVCS technology can accelerate the technological evolution of democratic forms of government by providing voters information and communication technologies (ICT) that facilitate the formation of self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions. It combines web-based electronic data processing, structured and unstructured databases comprised of policy options and priorities, online social collaboration tools and the collective action power of the Internet (Shirky, 2008).
This technological combination connects voters to each other horizontally across partisan and ideological lines to build web-based voting blocs and coalitions operating in electoral and legislative processes via the system’s web-based computer network. Through the creation of transpartisan policy agendas and electoral bases that cross partisan lines, the system enables blocs and coalitions to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Although these web-enabled blocs and coalitions can align with political parties of their choice or work independently, their ability to use the system to forge transpartisan agendas and electoral bases that cross party and ideological lines, and outnumber the electoral base of any single party, enables them to surpass the influence of political parties as the driving forces of electoral and legislative politics.
This horizontal connectivity and autonomy of blocs and coalitions that self-organize from the “bottom up” contrasts with the “top-down” pyramidal structure of traditional political parties. Party structures primarily connect individual voters to party organizational hierarchies vertically instead of horizontally to enable voters to determine party platforms and decide which candidates shall be placed on party ballots.
In contrast, the Interactive Voter Choice System provides a formal mechanism by which voters can set individual and group-based policy agendas on behalf of self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions and even formally organized parties. These blocs and coalitions can adopt and elect common slates of candidates of their own choosing as an alternative to accepting parties’ requirements that voters choose among candidates who have already placed themselves on parties’ primary and general election ballots and run on agendas over which voters have little influence.
The IVCS technology re-invents democracy by enabling voters and the online consensus building blocs and coalitions that they create to supercede political parties as the primary definers of policy priorities and determinants of slates of electoral candidacies. Such a technology is especially relevant in countries like the U.S. where academic and policy research has found that the major political parties and their candidates tend to:
- Exercise quasi-monopoly control of the institutional machinery of electoral and legislative processes, and use it to ensure the election of party candidates and prevent the emergence of competitive third parties (Maisel, 2007).
- Receive the lion’s share of their finances from special interests (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010).
- Tend to support legislation favoring special interests even when it diverges from the expressed needs and wants of lawmakers’ constituents (Hacker and Pierson, 2010).
According to the conclusions of numerous studies (for example, Gilens and Page, 2014), lawmakers beholden to special interests often take legislative actions that do not serve the public interest and increasingly fail to effectively address the life-threatening crises and conflicts proliferating around the world.
In contrast, voters can use IVCS agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools to create transpartisan electoral bases large enough to elect their candidates to enact their agendas, without special interest campaign financing, and guide their actions after they take office to ensure their elected representatives exert their best efforts to enact bloc and coalition agendas. If blocs and coalitions deem their representatives’ legislative track records to be unsatisfactory, they can use IVCS tools to run and elect new candidates in the next election.
Group Forming Network
MIT computer scientist David P. Reed pioneered in conceptualizing the unique group forming properties of telecommunications networks. The one-to-many communications capabilities that electronic networks provide to every member of the network exponentially increases the number of connections that can be made. In what is referred to as “Reed’s Law“, he postulated that “the utility of large networks particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network.”
These group forming properties of social networks highlight the virtually unlimited number of IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions that can be formed via the IVCS platform and website. The utility and political influence of these blocs and coalitions and their interconnections are likely to increase exponentially as the number of blocs and coalitions using the network expands worldwide.
In contrast to generic group forming social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the Interactive Voter Choice System platform will create a specialized group forming social network designed to connect voters and other democracy stakeholders to each other.
The platform’s structured and unstructured databases, comprised of policy options and priorities accessible via IVCS agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools, enable voters to set legislative agendas, connect with like-minded members with similar agendas, and create self-organizing online voting blocs and electoral coalitions hosted on a single website running on a single computing platform. The platform will comprise portals for specific countries and facilitate the formation of voting blocs and coalitions that function within countries as well as transnationally.
The system and network enable individuals and groups with access to the Internet to use PCs as well as mobile devices to create accounts, user profiles, directories, groups (communities, voting blocs, coalitions, etc.) and workspaces. They will have access to information and communication technologies (ICT), including state-of-the-art social software, which enable them to build and manage their own communications and content, including using a variety of methods to set and update individual and group policy agendas specifying the legislation they want enacted. An individual or group that sets an agenda can use the system’s databases to connect with like-minded individuals and groups that have set similar agendas to negotiate common agendas and form voting blocs and coalitions to elect representatives to enact their agendas.
There is no technical limit to the number of individuals and groups that can create accounts and form or join blocs and coalitions. Each member can communicate with every other member, singly or through one-to-many communications. Individual bloc and coalition members can communicate with members of other blocs and coalitions to merge and form new blocs and coalitions. These blocs and coalitions will be members of decentralized networks of autonomous self-organizing blocs and coalitions that are interconnected to each other by virtue of being hosted on the platform’s website, sharing the platform’s ICT tools, and enjoying access to its databases.
The primary goal of the blocs and coalitions will be to determine the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes by deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. They will be able to nominate/endorse and elect candidates to public office at any level of government and oversee the legislative actions of their elected representatives to ensure that they adhere to bloc and coalition agendas. If blocs and coalitions deem their representatives to have failed to exert their best efforts to enact bloc and coalition agendas, they can nominate/endorse other candidates to defeat them in the next election.
World’s First Large Scale Consensus Building and Conflict Resolution Platform
The Interactive Voter Choice System enables not only electorates but the entire spectrum of democracy stakeholders — including elected representatives, electoral candidates, and members of political parties, unions, issue groups and civil society organizations — to connect with each other and use the system’s web platform to find common ground for building consensus and resolving conflicts.
The paradigm-shifting nature of the IVCS platform derives from the fact that for the first time in history, it enables virtually unlimited numbers of individual voters and democracy stakeholders to connect to each other on a continuous basis; collectively set policy agendas, across the board as well as across partisan lines; and build voting blocs and electoral coalitions to elect lawmakers to enact their agendas. The platform provides the technology needed for voters across the political and ideological spectrum to set common policy agendas and build voting blocs and coalitions around them that can grow large enough to supercede political parties and special interests as the driving forces of electoral and legislative processes and their outcomes.
Moreover, these stakeholders, blocs and coalitions will not be constrained to work within pre-existing political and ideological frameworks of political parties and issue groups that may no longer be relevant or appropriate to their needs, interests and desires, or the contours of the specific local, regional, national and transnational environments in which they live and in which their voting blocs and coalitions are operating. Although blocs and coalitions can work with political parties and issue groups of their choice, they can build consensus and resolve conflicts pragmatically without having to fit their emerging agendas into pre-conceived political and ideological frameworks.
Additionally, IVCS technology possesses an inherent incentive and unprecedented potential to unite broad cross-sections of voters and connect multiple groups of stakeholders who might otherwise be divided along irreconcilable partisan lines. They can set their policy agendas using a variety of methods, including formulating their own priorities and options based on the issues, legislation and policies they want to see enacted in response to their own particular needs, wants and situations.
In addition to using the platform to build winning voting blocs and coalitions within a country, electorates, elected representatives, policy-makers, electoral candidates, political parties, unions, issue groups and civil society organizations can use the platform and website to form transnational multi-stakeholder voting blocs and coalitions whose members work together across borders to build consensus on common peace plans and solutions to transnational problems, crises and conflicts. By operating simultaneously at transnational and national levels, they can bring together a broader range of perspectives and a far greater number of problem-solvers to the table to complement those of official policy-makers.
After transnational blocs and coalitions set common agendas, their members can use the political organizing tools of the platform to form, strengthen and expand existing voting blocs and electoral coalitions in their home countries dedicated to enacting the agendas of the transnational blocs and coalitions. These domestic blocs and coalitions can nominate and elect lawmakers to enact the common agendas originally set by the transnational blocs and coalitions, and thereby determine policies enacted in multiple countries simultaneously. The flexibility and global reach of blocs and coalitions that simultaneously act nationally and transnationally to determine which policy-makers are in office can overcome the policy-making stalemates and paralysis of international agencies whose nation-state members can not agree on what policies should be enacted.
Transnational IVCS-enabled blocs and coalitions with these capabilities are urgently needed around the world to solve problems, crises and conflicts non-violently despite the tendency of so many nation-states and their leaders to resort to the use of force without exhausting the full panoply of non-violent conflict resolution strategies and tactics. In particular, the escalation of social tensions and proliferation of confrontations between ordinary people and governmental officials attests to the lack of effective consensus building mechanisms that enable all parties to come together to find common ground. The IVCS technology will create the world’s first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform to remedy this deficiency and facilitate the resolution of national as well as transnational crises and conflicts.
A Closer Look at Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs)
As indicated above, the Interactive Voter Choice System platform will create not only a global group forming social network but voting blocs and coalitions and networks of blocs and coalitions with characteristics similar to those of complex adaptive systems involving “human social group-based endeavors”.
These capabilities derive from the ability of any individual using the network, and any blocs and coalitions hosted on the network, to communicate with any other individuals, blocs and coalitions of their choice to discuss political issues, problems, crises and conflicts and take collective action to resolve them. They can set and update policy agendas, and collaborate to build and continually expand their electoral bases to comprise ever larger numbers of voters until their blocs and coalitions have enough votes to elect their candidates.
Constant consensus building through discussion, debate and voting on agendas, candidates and action plans will enable blocs and coalitions to grow large enough to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed despite continuous changes taking place around them. To win elections, blocs and coalitions must continually adapt to changes taking place in their environments by building consensus among their members regarding whatever modifications of their priorities they collectively agree to make in order to adapt their agendas and action plans to these changes in a manner that attracts enough votes to elect their candidates.
They will be most likely to succeed if they recruit and collaborate with broad-cross sections of voters across partisan and ideological lines to negotiate transpartisan agendas and build transpartisan electoral bases that cross party lines. By so doing, they will be able to elect lawmakers who can resolve the divisive political and legislative conflicts that parties often create that in turn spark chronic conflicts within legislative bodies and prevent lawmakers from enacting critical legislation needed to serve the public interest and protect and promote the general welfare.
The similarity of core functions and features of the voting blocs and coalitions that will be created by the Interactive Voter Choice System web platform to those of “complex adaptive systems” (CASs) are what gives IVCS its paradigm-shifting potential to fundamentally transform and “re-invent” the way democracies function.
They do so by ensuring that electorates can form self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions (and decentralized networks of autonomous, interconnected blocs and coalitions) that can supercede political parties and special interests in determining legislative priorities and the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes.
For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at these similarities, starting with the functions and features of classical CASs.
According to Firestone and Hadders (2012), essential CAS features include the following:
- Coherence in the face of change, or “identity.” Coherence refers to maintenance of the characteristic pattern of organization of a CAS through time.
- Diversity in both form and capability. They range from adaptive software agents to the institutions that comprise the International Social System. They include one-celled living systems, immune systems, and many other diverse forms of systems of varying capability and degrees of complexity.
- Population by agents (members) who learn, individually and collectively (Firestone and McElroy, 2003).
- Distributed problem-solving and knowledge processing. Individual agents in CASs solve their own problems. In doing so, they contribute to solving CAS problems in a distributed but organized way.
- Extensive interactions among their agents. Intermittent interactions are not sufficient to establish a CAS pattern with complex patterning of feedback loops and reinforcements. (Langton et. al. 1992).
- Self-organization to produce emergent global behavior at the CAS level. This is one of the most important features of a CAS. The key idea is that agents comprising it act in accordance with their own purposes and motives, in pursuit of their own goals, and that their actions produce self-organized emergent global patterns that identify the CAS.
- Behavior and learning partly in accordance with knowledge that can be modeled as ‘rules.’
- Adaptation by creating and using new rules as they continuously attempt to fit themselves to their environments. The process of arriving at new rules is “creative” or “evolutionary” learning. It involves “blind” generation of rules and recombination of components of old, well-established rules (Campbell, 1974) . Once new rules are formulated, they are subject to selection through interaction among CAS agents and interaction of the CAS with its environment.
- Adaptation by creating and using new rules is greater to the extent that their constituent agents are operating in problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing environments marked by relative “openness.”
“Openness” is critical because it must apply across various phases of the problem-solving process, especially in the political context where dominant actors, parties and institutions exhibit a tendency to institute closed hierarchical processes. Openness has at least two important dimensions. The first dimension is internal transparency, i.e. availability and accessibility of information across CAS agents. The second dimension is epistemic inclusiveness and equal opportunity for all autonomous CAS agents to participate and interact in the problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing of the system so that it can be more effective. (This is especially critical for voters participating in political parties, voting blocs and coalitions.) Both dimensions are always found in high-performance CASs. An example taken from outside the human domain helps illustrate a pattern of epistemic inclusiveness.
Ant colonies illustrate ‘native’ CASs that rely on distributed knowledge processing informed by the individual experiences of their members and global behaviors at the CAS level determined as a consequence of information flow among these members (Holldobler and Wilson, 1990).
There is no centralized planning or control producing collective behavior in a system like an ant colony. All knowledge created by individual ants contributes to the pattern of collective knowledge reflected in changed behavioral predispositions of the ant colony, and in the pattern of pheramone trails emerging at the level of the collective. Knowledge at the global level is entirely distributed or “bottom-up” in origin, as is the learning that produces it.
In contrast, social CASs created by humans differ significantly from ant colonies (although human CASs sometimes exhibit less advanced forms of self-organization and evenly distributed social learning). The interactions of agents in human CASs are differentiated to a much greater degree than ants by differentials in the power, authority and influence exercised by individual agents that use these differentials to change the patterns of interaction. These differentials and modified patterns of interaction can strengthen or weaken CASs capabilities to adapt to internal and external changes.
For example, they can weaken CASs adaptability when behaviors in managerial and political systems result in the institution of “top-down” mechanisms of control that stultify “bottom-up” self-organization and distributed knowledge processing by agents elsewhere in the system. They often generate tensions and conflicts among interacting agents caused by the efforts of those wielding more power, authority and influence to achieve their own goals through “top-down” command-and-control interventions that stultify or pre-empt “bottom-up” idea generation, information gathering, problem solving and conflict resolution.
For this reason, human CASs have a tendency to create a special type of CAS — Promethean CASs (PCASs) — whose normal self-organizing processes are disrupted by the actions of powerful and influential agents (Firestone and McElroy, 2003, pp. 121ff). It is this phenomenon that appears to have prompted German sociologist Robert Michels at the turn of the last century to write his famous book entitled, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracies (1911). It and similar analyses of the same genre focus attention on “top down” control structures instituted by political parties and other governmental institutions to stultify or pre-empt “bottom-up” self-organization by the voters they are supposed to serve.
The movement toward “top down” pyramidal control structures in human-based systems accelerates when elites and institutions discourage and inhibit continuous self-organization that might lead to the creation of competitive power blocs capable of contesting their influence.
This tendency is particularly damaging to the adaptive capabilities of political systems because they not only stultify and frustrate “bottom-up” self-organization but they also prevent the utilization of the collective intelligence of their electorates in the solution of problems, crises and conflicts that are far too complicated to be solved by small numbers of lawmakers and governmental officials. When these decision-makers are beholden to special interests and pass legislation that serves their interests rather than the public interest and the needs and wants of their constituents, they generate social tensions and confrontations that can threaten the survival of the political systems themselves. All too often the elites that have interfered with self-organization try to limit the tensions and conflicts by instituting even more “top-down” control, which invariably increases tensions and confrontations.
Where other agents wielding less power, authority or influence object to the “top-down” stultification of their self-organizing processes, they will resist “top-down” control and create ongoing tensions and conflicts that sap the strength of the systems and weaken their ability to adapt to external changes. The IVCS consensus building platform provides all parties a common ground to resolve these tensions in a manner that preserves the CASs intact, provided all agents are willing to take advantage of it to work out their differences to ensure that the CASs maintain the adaptive capabilities they need to survive and cope with external change.
The self-organizing tools provided by the IVCS platform will prevent IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions from becoming PCASs themselves if any of their members attempt to institute “top-down” control practices. Other members who oppose these practices can work within the blocs and coalitions to mobilize support from other members to contest the practices and even oust those who are trying to institute them. If the opposing members are unsuccessful, they are free to exit the bloc and use IVCS tools to start their own bloc or join existing blocs.
Along the lines of the analysis by the European political philosopher Karl Popper in his classic book Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), it is preferable to institute and implement policies and programs that support self-organization in distributed knowledge processing and problem-solving by maintaining openness in problem recognition, developing alternative solutions, eliminating errors, as well as communicating and disseminating new solutions throughout the enterprise and other societal institutions.
Conversely leadership behaviors, management, and organizational processes that undermine self-organization will transition human CASs away from openness and democracy towards internally maladapted and conflictual systems that may develop into authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. (Firestone and Cavaleri, 2009).
Given the current paralysis of U.S. governing institutions at the federal level, Popper’s prescriptions appear to have had little impact on the U.S. political system. For it is now gridlocked at the top by so many partisan and ideological conflicts among its political parties and lawmakers that key policy-making institutions like the U.S. Congress are chronically unable to enact needed legislation, including passing the legislation that is required to keep the federal government itself in operation.
One of the primary causes of this break-down in governance is that ”bottom-up” self-organization by the U.S. electorate has been stultified by numerous crippling obstructions preventing most voters from exerting a greater role than special interests in determining who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. The first obstruction derives from the refusal of the dominant political parties to permit voters to vote on what their platforms should be or what slates of candidates they should run.
The second is the fact that the parties have redrawn election district boundaries to ensure election of their candidates by placing voters likely to voter for party candidates in critical districts and dividing up potentially opposing voters and diluting their vote by assigning them to other election districts.
The third obstruction is that the parties have legalized the expenditure of vast sums of money by special interests to ensure that competing candidates cannot defeat major party candidates who are financially beholden to special interests and will pass the legislation they demand.
The quasi-monopoly of electoral machinery held by the two major parties does get the large majority of their candidates elected. Contrary to democratic theory, however, the party that succeeds in controlling the U.S. Senate and/or House of Representatives is typically able to do so by obtaining the votes of only a minority of eligible voters.
The fact that a controlling party’s lawmakers are elected by a minority of eligible voters, however, does not prevent them from claiming they speak for “the American people” or stating that the legislation they pass represents the “will of the people”. This transgression of democratic theory is compounded by the fact that internal Congressional committee rules and practices, such as the Senate’s filibuster, enable a handful and even a single Senator representing less than a fraction of 1% of the entire U.S. electorate to decide which legislation will be enacted or rejected.
The harm done by these obstructions to the self-organizing capabilities of the U.S. electorate, and to the determination and enactment of the public interest, is inestimable. The consequences of “top-down” minority rule by U.S. political parties and lawmakers beholden to special interests that finance their elections is reflected, to take just one example, in their failure to pass and fund the legislation required to repair the nation’s economically indispensable infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, waterways, etc., the cost of which has now risen to a colossal $3.6 trillion.
Integrating IVCS-Enabled CASs into Electoral and Legislative Processes
A core paradigm-shifting characteristic of the Interactive Voter Choice System is its capacity to support voters’ online self-organizing around policy options and agendas, as opposed to parties or candidates. These options and agendas can be viewed as “symbols” and “tags”, per the lexicon of complexity theorists such as John Holland who wrote about the importance of “tags’ for self -organizing in his books, Hidden Order (1995) and Emergence (1997), both of which are classics in the field of complexity theory.
IVCS can counteract the tendency of hierarchically-controlled political parties”, referred to above as Promethean” CASs, to stultify “bottom-up” self-organizing. It can do so because it offers voters an alternative to organizing around parties and candidates over which they have no control, namely by empowering self-organization by unlimited numbers of voters interacting with each other to select policy options of their choice, as well as common policy agendas and slates of candidates. The voting blocs, coalitions and electoral bases involved in these processes can continuously increase their size by reaching out to incorporate new members in consensus building to adopt common agendas and slates of candidates until they grow large enough to outflank and outnumber the membership and electoral base of any single party.
By shifting the emphasis from organizing around party and candidate agendas to identifying, discussing, debating and voting on substantive policy options and agendas, and running and electing candidates to enact them, IVCS can democratize and reinvigorate electoral and legislative processes that have been stultified by “top-down” parties that resemble PCASs. (Note: IVCS-enabled blocs and coalitions can run their candidates on independent ballot lines or the lines of any party they choose by recruiting enough registered members of the party to of place their candidates on party primary and general election ballots).
IVCS also provides the foundation for holding candidates and office holders accountable because the primary focus is not on parties, candidates and office holders but on bloc and coalition policy priorities and what exactly lawmakers do to enact and implement these legislative mandates that they receive from the voting blocs and electoral coalitions they are selected to represent.
Significantly, IVCS will not only shift the locus and focus of discussion and debate from PCASs to voter-controlled CASs, but it will also engender the creation of a “parallel universe” of political discourse and political action controlled by voters that is capable of counteracting and overcoming the distorting influence on public perceptions exerted by partisan and special interest controlled media.
As a corollary, this parallel universe of discourse can produce policy agendas and the enactment of coordinated, multi-faceted legislative programs that accurately responds to the overall needs and wants of actual constituencies — a desperately needed substitute for the piecemeal, special interest-driven legislation that typically fails to serve the public interest. By shifting to grassroots voters the power to set overall priorities, IVCS can counteract the tendency of partisan politicians to pass piecemeal legislation resulting from their segmentation of their constituents into artificial “voting blocs” based on market research requiring respondents to indicate their stances on separate issues.
This piecemeal, market research driven approach is a primary cause of lawmakers’ inability to see the “big picture” in terms of what is required to “promote the general welfare” and adopt workable, interconnected public policy programs that protect the broader public interest. As noted above, a concrete example of these shortcomings is the failure of U.S. lawmakers for the past twenty years to enact and fund the legislation that is urgently needed to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
An equally crucial example of the governance crisis afflicting democracies around the world is the proliferation of armed conflicts among nation-states and dissident groups operating within and across their borders. Suicide bombings resulting in massacres of innocent civilians has become common place because the combatants show little if any inclination or capacity to negotiate non-violent solutions to their conflicts.
What is most alarming is that the protagonists’ portrayals of the causes of the conflicts often do not jibe or do justice to each other’s contentions. Often, these conflicts are rooted in complex events that date back years and even centuries. Objective analysis of these roots reveal that gross injustices have been committed by virtually all of the protagonists yet their collective memories obfuscate what really happened and who did what to whom.
These normal human tendencies to misperceive reality are what make the IVCS platform indispensable for solving complex problems, crises conflicts especially those that are transnational. Ultimately, these conflicts will be solved by the formation of IVCS-enabled consensus-building voting blocs and coalitions that operate simultaneously at national and transnational levels to devise peace plans and set legislative agendas to implement them which they can enact in multiple countries by virtue of the fact that they can decide who is going to hold policy-maker positions in these countries.
Summary and Conclusion
The paradigm-shifting nature of the Interactive Voter Choice System derives from its potential to re-invent democracy by injecting “bottom-up” consensus building IVCS-enabled voting blocs and electoral coalitions into electoral and legislative processes that unite rather than divide voters and lawmakers into hostile camps, as do the conflict-producing political parties and institutions that currently dominate these processes.
The reason IVCS-enabled blocs and coalitions can re-invent these processes is because they can inject problem-solving “complex adaptive systems” into micro-levels at the grassroots that can grow into macro-level “complex adaptive systems” that function at higher levels. They can re-route divisive political conflicts from the contemporary seed beds of party-contrived political controversies to the common ground that will be created by the world’s first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform. Political CASs will build consensus voter-by-voter and issue-by-issue from small numbers of voters and democracy stakeholders at the grassroots to virtually unlimited numbers of voters and stakeholders at regional, national and transnational levels.
The IVCS focus on policy options provides voters across the political and ideological spectrum with powerful catalytic and symbolic “tags” around which to self-organize to create voting blocs and electoral coalitions around collectively determined agendas and slates of candidates. Policy options, priorities, and policy agendas can serve as more effective “tags” for political organizing than parties or candidates because unlimited numbers of voters can locate and connect electronically with any number of other voters based on the similarity of their respective “tags”. They can engage in developing voting blocs and electoral coalitions by first finding people whose agendas are similar to their own, and then negotiating out differences among their “tags” by building consensus on setting, modifying and updating policy agendas as needed.
Because of these tags and other IVCS agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus building tools, the IVCS platform can ensure continuous “bottom-up” online self-organization into highly adaptive voting blocs and electoral coalitions around any issues they choose, at any level within any nation-state or across nation-states. Moreover, the members of IVCS-enabled CASs will always be capable of overcoming the classic tendency for leaders of Promethean CASs to stultify “bottom-up” self-organization and exacerbate the divisive effects of the political conflicts around the world that are now threatening to create uncontrollable and chaotic conditions.
By continuously building consensus within their own growing transpartisan ranks of broad cross sections of voters, they can seamlessly merge into ever larger coalitions and networks of blocs and coalitions until they dominate legislative agenda setting and the electoral and legislative processes at all levels through which they can elect their own representatives to enact their agendas.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that monarchies were subject to transformation into tyrannies, aristocracies into oligarchies, and constitutional governments into mob rule. He did not delve into the possibility that such transformations might be caused by the absence of “bottom-up” self-organizing processes and ensuing lack of adaptivity of societal institutions — especially political institutions — to continuous change and the massive population growth that has taken place within most nation-states.
Nor did Aristotle envision the urgent need for modern democracies to overcome their susceptibility to multiple interferences obstructing governing processes themselves, especially those stifling the multi-stakeholder problem-solving that has become indispensable to the generation of workable solutions to complex societal problems, crises and conflicts occurring within and between nations. Fortunately, the technology solution that IVCS brings to the fore can ensure the institutional openness and systemic, “bottom-up” self-organization that is indispensable to re-inventing paralyzed, conflict-ridden political systems gridlocked by deliberate efforts to undermine democratic electoral and legislative processes.
(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)