Imagining Life in a Direct Democracy

Imagining Life in a Direct Democracy

This article is a follow –up of my previous article “ A modern revival of Greek democracy”, imagining a functional direct democratic system.

Excerpt from my previous article :

“This is my personal vision of how a direct democratic system could function:

  • All citizens should take part in the decision-making process. Citizens should approve or reject new laws by secure daily electronic voting.
  • The expert’s work should focus on drafting laws and presenting them to the people. Mass media should help by bringing those themes up for debate, explaining them, and encouraging people to participate.
  • Citizens should come up with concrete solutions to the country’s problems. They should also be able to formulate laws proposals. Citizens’ solutions should be discussed, amended, voted on, and eventually implemented. “

Follow –up

This is a concrete proposal of how could the direct democratic system mentioned above function in practice, in a given state and in the frame of a given set of social and political rules.

Part 1- Steps of the law-making procedure :

1.Citizens create a list of problems and they also propose a list of possible solutions to these problems.

  1. These proposals are then sent to specialists, each problem & corresponding set of solutions sent to the experts that are best prepared to understand the issue and the suggested solutions.

  2. Professionals & specialists select all viable (technically possible) solutions.

  3. Specialists re-phrase the problem, providing more details about its context, causes and effects.

  4. Experts re-publish the problem along with the selected list of viable solutions.

  5. Citizens vote & comment the new list of solutions.

  6. The most voted solutions are once again reviewed by specialists whom further explore the top solutions’ applicability and feasibility.

  7. A law draft including the top solutions is formulated and published.

9.  Citizens make amendments and the most voted amendments are included into the law draft.

  1. The law is subjected to an online secure referendum (compulsory voting ) . There are three voting options : YES, NO , and MAYBE.

If a majority of citizens vote YES , the law is approved.

If a majority of citizens vote NO, the law is rejected and the procedure is re-started from step 1.

If a majority of citizens vote MAYBE , the law is rejected and the procedure is re-started from step 9.

Glossary of terms :

Citizens = everyone residing in a certain territory. They are supposed to vote in all referendums, but they only take part in the law drafting procedure (adding comments and voting proposals) voluntarily, if and whenever they are interested.

Referendum = electronic referendums are held every day and citizens are supposed to vote a package of up to 5 laws . The vote is compulsory and provides three options (“yes”, “no” and “maybe”).

Experts =Citizens who have knowledge and experience of certain issues. They are professionals, community leaders or elders. They take on assignments based on their interests & availability. They are selected by the community through direct voting .Their work is paid. Experts’ role is to document the problem and explain it in simple, but clear words in order to make it comprehensible for non-specialists. They also have the duty of analyzing and eliminating all solutions which are technically impossible. Furthermore, they are supposed to document the most voted solutions and technically improve them, to make ideas stronger.  In a direct democratic system, at least one third of the population works part-time or full-time as experts.

Part 2-The Administration

Laws are implemented by the administration.  People working in the executive and central administration are voted for temporary positions, and they only stay in office as long as they prove to be honest and reliable. People working in the local administration are selected locally, according to each community’s specific rules and procedures , but always respecting democratic principles.

Executive & central administration:

The professionals working in administration are voted in or out every 6 or 12 months depending on their job profile. At elections time, citizens are able to decide whether they want to keep them, remove them or, the third option, “punish” them by cutting their salaries for a few months. These professionals are treated as state employees and enjoy fewer privileges than modern day politicians. At the end of 6 /12 months period, they need to be able to explain exactly how they spent the allocated money, and prove it through legal documents. Official contracts compel them to respect the legally binding promises they have to make at the beginning of their mandates. If they fail to respect their contracts, they are legally dismissed.

Those with executive power and /or candidates for higher positions are voted as individuals , while those who occupy lower ranks are voted as part of teams. Candidates for jobs in administration are professionals, not politicians and they are only allowed to candidate for those positions they have expertise in . Those candidates who want to be considered for a certain position, yet lack the needed experience to get voted, can offer to work voluntarily for periods of three to six months . At the end of the volunteering period , citizens evaluate their performance and decide whether they want to keep them or not.

Local administration :

At the local level, decisions are made by self-organized non-hierarchical citizen councils . These citizen councils are free to decide upon the preferred way of self-functioning, including admission procedures, voting rules, internal regulations, remuneration vs volunteer work,etc. Nevertheless, all citizen councils need to function on a democratic basis ( direct democracy or representative democracy) and are compelled to provide membership to diverse social categories : young people, women, elder people, minorities and migrants, socially disadvantaged people -the poor, disabled, unemployed,  people at risk of social exclusion, etc.

Glossary of terms :

Elections = national elections which are held every 6 or 12 months (unlike referendums which are held daily and only consist in voting on law proposals). Citizens vote candidates for positions in the executive and central administration. Candidates can be approved or rejected, or ,if they are already in function, re-appointed, dismissed or subjected to penalties. Voting in elections is not compulsory, yet candidates need to be approved with a significant number of votes before they can be appointed.

Candidates = highly-skilled professionals who have experience working in the administration OR citizens who many not initially qualify for a position, but volunteer to work for free and are then subjected to a special evaluation process. Thus, any person has the chance to candidate and be considered for a position.

Local administration = municipalities, cities & towns, districts of larger cities, etc., and other communities who self- organize according to democratic principles. The citizens’ councils are non-hierarchical and they either function according to representative democracy rules ( council  members are elected by the general population and then they  make decisions with a majority rule), either implement direct democracy ( council members help the local community implement a local direct democratic voting system in order to allow all citizens to participate equally). Ideally, in a direct democratic system more than a half of the population should be included in one way or another in a local council.

How to accommodate increased political participation with personal & professional life ?

In the direct democracy scenario, employers shorten the work schedule and allow people to integrate their careers with their political participation goals . Thus, people dedicate only 3-4 hours/day to their daily jobs , while spending around 2-3 hours/day voting , learning about different challenges and designing solutions. The average person spends around 1 hour a day voting law drafts and other two hours commenting law proposals,  designing solutions or participating in the local community.

Experts dedicate even more time to researching solutions and they are paid accordingly. They are also free to choose whether they want to participate in other ways.

People working in the administration are only required to vote in the most important referendums. Furthermore, certain categories of professionals who have demanding and stressful day jobs (eg: doctors) are exempted from voting in all referendums, and they only have to vote on law drafts related to their job fields .

Nevertheless, every individual is free to decide his level of involvement, thus, people who don’t want or cannot participate in the law-making procedure or elections, are only supposed to attend the compulsory daily electronic referendums…

Ideally, in a direct democracy, political participation is integrated into the daily work flow, as making decisions for one’s community directly affects one’s work, career and personal life.

Levels of political involvement in the direct democratic model :

Citizens = contribute to identifying issues to be solved

contribute with solutions and ideas for solving these problems

vote and comment on solutions proposed by others

vote in daily referendums to approve or reject law drafts

vote candidates for the executive and central administration

vote (or participate in) the local citizen councils

candidate for  expert position

candidate for a position in the administration

candidates for a place in the citizen council

Expert = All citizen’s rights +

works on drafting  new law proposals in a specific field

Local council member = all citizen’s rights +

implements direct democracy or representative democracy locally

Administration member = all citizen’s  rights + works in the administration

may be exempted from voting in all referendums

Well, that’s a surprise!

Hy Lucyanna, and welcome back onto Edgeryders! As a fan of your previous Edgeryders posts (like this one), I am pleasantly surprised you have decided to take on new themes.

Coincidentally, I am just back from a summer school where the theme of direct democracy was widely debated. The star of the debate was fellow Edgeryder [Pietro Speroni di Fenizio], who has been devoting serious amounts of work to this in the past years. He is one of the authors of a software called Vilfredo (after 19th century Italian mathematician Vilfredo Pareto), which tries to do two things:

  • assist a collective decision making process making sure it stays mathematically fair.
  • provide some kind of artificially intelligent moderation, connecting people so that the decision process can converge.

Have you considered checking out his work? Pietro is always on the lookout for people to interact and collaborate with. Vilfredo is also a project on Edgeryders.

Re : Thanks for the feed-back

Dear Alberto,

Thank you so much for your feed-back and time.

I joined the project Vilfredo on EDGERYDERS, but I am not sure what to do next. Can I hope Pietro or his collaborators will have the time to read my article ?

By now I know that not being part of a group means not being listened to. So I guess I’ll just have to wait and hope…

Thanks a lot !


Have faith!

I pinged Pietro, so I am confident that he did read your post. BTW, you can contact people on Edgeryders even if you don’t know their email address (here’s how), so you can ping him yourself. He will tell you he would very much like the Edgeryders community to adopt Vilfredo as a decision making tool. Maybe an experiment can be carried out at #LOTE3, though IMHO is the unMonastery group, more than ER as such, that needs to make decisions.


I assigned this post to the Vilfredo goes to Athens project, since it is directly relevant to what’s happening there. It remains in the blog as well, thanks to the smart information architecture enabled by the Edgeryders platform. :slight_smile: