Monday, December 10, 2007


I've thought a lot about how democracy can be improved by utilizing the internet, and one of the main ideas that's always guided me is that in a modern, educated society, citizens should vote, not for people, but for ideas. In other words, citizens should decide the law directly, rather than delegating representatives to do it for them ... those representatives, being human (and moreover, that particular type of human who is attracted to power like a moth towards a flame) will inevitably represent their own interests rather than those of their constituents.

So when I saw this article, the light bulb floating above my head starting blinking like mad:

When the New Zealand police force said they were open to suggestions about how to rewrite national policing laws, they meant it. In September, they posted the 1958 Police Act online and invited Kiwis and non-Kiwis alike to visit the site and type in their own revisions to the law — extending the concept of “Wiki”-style collaborative writing from encyclopedias to democracy.

This is a brilliant idea, and I'm convinced it could be taken much further than simply culling an advisory document, as the Kiwis used it. A wiki is the ultimate democratic forum: not only can you say whatever you want, you can edit what other people say, expunging their contributions entirely. Now, this is very similar to how bills are created inside legislatures: elected representatives and their staffs add and remove clauses and subclauses until a workable compromise is found, at which point it's put to a vote. The wiki platform could allow this process to be expanded to include the entirety of the citizenry, and in so doing, lead to much better laws. As the saying goes, with enough eyes all bugs are shallow; were the creation of laws to be open-sourced, the final products would be more acceptable to the people who will have to live with them.

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Jay said...

Huh, looks good. Very compelling argument. Only problem is, how are we gonna get the powers-that-be to relinquish their monopoly on that power?

Keitousama said...

By any means necessary ;)