Berlin, 2012-04

A Political Youthquake: Europe-wide Liquid Democracy

"As controversial as it gets" said our Czech host when we started discussing the idea of a Europe-wide Liquid Feedback installation to develop a common European Programme of all Pirate Parties. I'd like to know what exactly the controversial position would be, so i'll start with mine (maybe "ours", but not sure):

In Italy we are quite critical of representative democracy, it hasn't served us well, so we like to think we can have many simple Pirates for all of Europe participate in developing a common programme rather than ending up with this Brussels-style least-common-denominator finding procedure we experienced at the PP-EU session in Prague.

That was a pretty good example of how it happens in any standards organisation or U.N. body.. there are always people blocking things on behalf of their respective country, and we/they can't even be sure they are indeed representing their country's position — they are just delegates scared of doing something wrong — so in the end we agree on something so weak and harmless that journalists start thinking.. oh, this press release sounds just like any other political party's.

Now i'll put on my other pirate hat and say in a survey Berliner Pirates indicated that Liquid Democracy has been the most important aspect of the campaign. The programme feels very different from one that was written by some thinktank editors or, even worse, the least common denominator of a crowd so diverse that consensus means diluting any political thought down to thin water.

Liquid Democracy helped us develop a, let's say, "best common denominator" that would satisfy large majorities and still be spectacularly innovating - in fact our issues were continously present in the public discourse and have changed the political landscape of Germany.

The fact that everyone participated in the procedure was essential to success, also how the results were vastly superior to what a bunch of blessed editors could have come up with.

For the EU programme it will probably be tricky to let everyone participate, but we should at least try to find something better than EU style get-togethers producing a common denominator that might leave some yawning for its lack of innovation.

And you know, the most powerful message of the Berlin campaign was HOW we wrote that programme. It's spinning in a whole country's head.. this idea that we're an operating system upgrade for democracy. Imagine if we could sincerely say that about our europe-wide programme. it's a political earthquake.

A fair distribution of accesses to vote.

Stephen Ogden wrote:

The problem with using a system where every individual has a say is that it biases in favour of countries with more Pirates.

Obviously there has been some thought on how to address that and you may remember Robotica from Italy presented the Wikipedia page featuring the MEP seat distribution in the EP.

The idea would be to distribute invite tokens to each country's Pirate Party according to this scheme. Then each country has to do a lottery or other approach in choosing who has the privilege to participate - imperfect, but as good as we can do it for 2012-2014, I presume.

I would probably triple or double the number of tokens compared to the MEP seats, that means Germany gets 198 accesses, Greece 44, Spain and Catalunya have to split a 100 etc.

In the special cases of Italy and others, who might not have enough people to distribute tokens to, I would warmly recommend to attract more members exactly on those grounds: Become a Pirate, you can vote on the European Pirate Programme!

What about language?

There were two suggestions from the audience in Prague about this:

The delegate from Spain said each Pirate should post their proposals in their native language, then as interest and support grows, helpers would provide for translation into other languages on demand.

On the other hand, Julia from Germany suggested that Pirates that do not understand the language of a proposal can delegate their vote to somebody who does. That's a legitimate use of Liquid Democracy.

Update 2017, Marina Weisband says:

I also use [Liquid Democracy] in my school project as a form of integration because I try to enable foreign students, the refugees here in Germany, to participate in this process and it's much easier for them when they can type, and use translators, and so on as opposed to being forced to present their ideas out loud in the classroom.

A bicameral system for the European Pirate Parties.

I like the bicameral system. I like the first legislational parliament to be a Liquid Democracy system as described above, where amazing proposals are developed. Then it sounds good to me to have a PP-EU delegate assembly ratify such choices.

That would give us a legal way to call that approach off if something goes dramatically wrong, but looking at the Berlin experience I would rather expect us to be so excited and proud of our collective results in the "first chamber" that the PP-EU assembly would just celebrate the confirmation of each choice.

At least this is a bit how it went when the Berlin election campaign programme was ratified - hardly any bickering, clear visions of what we wanted, we projected those Liquid Feedback decisions to the screen and confirmed that we do indeed want them to be our programme. That was it. Most efficient Pirate assembly ever.

This is in stark contrast to how the national General Assemblies perform in Germany: I haven't experienced a single of those not getting lost in details that had already been discussed and dealt with online. Bickering assemblies are unfair to all that have worked hard on the programme content from home. It's the "dictatorship of the actives" that we observed in the Green movement in the 1980s and we intend not to replicate.

We don't need a European-wide General Assembly, be it virtual or physical, where well-intended trolls take up everybody else's time. That's exactly the kind of participation which is much better implemented by our Liquid Democracy tools: Every pirate has her/his voice, but if nobody supports it, then not everyone needs to know about it. If your suggestions or ideas gain traction, they will be heard, no matter where you sit, how old you are, if you're a pony or a squirrel.

For ratification a simple EU delegational assembly similar to PPI is fine to me IMHO, and ultimately each nation's PP gets to ratify the entire programme as well - so there are plenty of possibilities to slam on the brakes if something went wrong. It's a tricameral procedure in my point of view - and it's very doable, no sweat.

Possible next steps:

Some words on concrete next steps to take. We are fixing up a platform and we can insert people to use it. What we need from each participating Pirate Party is a list of certified Pirate politicians that will either act by themselves or for a group of people, but in any case under their political responsability.

From each we expect willingness to be absolutely transparent. You are a politician, not a private citizen. So for each participant we ask for the real name, email address and SHA1 hash of her passport number (we don't want anyone to obtain multiple accesses by joining multiple Pirate Parties). All of this information must be certified and confirmed by your regional directorate.

Additionally we'd like each to provide information about affiliations that may be of political relevance and expertise. Are they related or working for an organisation with specific interests? Is it registered with the EU Interest Representative Register?

We need your expertise, but we need you to be transparent about it. Let me cite Amelia Andersdotter for the reasoning behind such questions: "bear in mind that the system of influence would be very intransparent if they did not ask for this information. you would not want the recording industry to be unidentified, nor its individual representatives!" She was referring to the way the EU accepts feedback from citizen, which this procedure is inspired by.

This information will be inserted into the profile page of each participant, visible to other participants and, if we later collectively decide so, also to the general public (except for the e-mail address).


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