Democracy in a liquidiser

A couple of weeks ago, Spineless Liberal had a post about the LiquidFeedback system, asking whether it’s something the Liberal Democrats should be adopting for internal policy debates. (If you don’t know what LiquidFeedback is or are unsure about the concept of liquid democracy, take a look at the various links in that post)

My main question would be to ask why the party’s not doing something like this already. We like to make big noises about how we’re a party run by our members, how they determine everything and all that pabulum, but then make it quite hard for them to do much else other than deliver leaflets. And there are always more leaflets to be delivered.

Yes, compared to the other parties, we do have a relatively open policy process – the power to make policy is still in the hands of Conference (even if MPs seem to regard that as merely advisory) and there’s an elected Federal Policy Committee generating policy ideas between Conferences, but beyond getting into arguments in blog comment sections, how does the average party member have their say in policy discussions?

Couple of quick questions: how many members of the Federal Policy Committee can you name, and what subjects are they discussing at the moment?

Public faith in politicians and political parties is at a low right now, and that malaise is spread throughout a lot of the party membership. One of the key messages of the Liberal Democrats has always been that we’ve done things differently from the other parties, and this is an opportunity to show that difference clearly, by opening up the party to all members. Making party policy shouldn’t be limited to just those who can afford the money and time to be a member of FPC or go to Conference, not least because we shouldn’t be limiting the pool of experience we’re drawing from.

The point about liquid democracy is that it doesn’t require people to be all-purpose experts with an opinion on everything to take part in the process. (And how much better might our political system be if we recognised that there’s no such thing as an all-purpose expert?) People can contribute and vote on areas they feel comfortable in or knowledgeable about and can delegate their vote in other areas to people they trust. People can take as much or as little part in the system as they like, but still know that their voice is being heard within discussions and debates.

I’m not proposing that we immediately abolish conference, FPC and everything else and bring in LiquidFeedback straight away to replace them all. However, what’s to stop the party bringing it in as a parallel system to trial it and see if it works, and if it gets more people involved, generating more policy ideas? Yes, there’s work that needs to be done on the system to make it more user-friendly and understandable to people without long experience of using web forums and the like, but we’ve still got some very clever technical people in the party who can do that sort of thing. In fact, they’d likely come forward and volunteer to do it for free if the party gave trialling this system the go ahead.

One of the key values of the party is democracy and involvement. When the party’s structures were set up initially, they were the best they could be at the time for representing people’s views. Since then, technology has moved on dramatically, and we’ve got the opportunity to update the way we work as a party to reflect that. Labour and the Tories aren’t going to open up their processes to their members like this, so this is a way to remind ourselves that we’re about doing things differently. Why don’t we try it?

Worth Reading 57: And every one of them a baked bean

Greens, conservatives, drugs, proboscis monkeys and liquid democracy. How’s that mix suit you?

Don’t vote Green until they drop the anti-science zealotry – Tom Chivers explains, yet again, why GM crops are not the horrible bogeyman that some like to portray them as.
You don’t have to be a leftie to think Beecroft is wrong – Flip Chart Fairy Tales explains how conservatism can support models of capitalism other than the most rapacious ones.
Take it from an ex-addict, outlawing drugs does not work – “When society hates and fears you, criminal conviction means little.”
Declan Ganley and the need for nuance – Nosemonkey returns to blogging with an interesting perspective.
Liquid Democracy: The Future Of #ldconf – Spineless Liberal looks at the Liquid Feedback system I linked to in an earlier post and suggests a use for it here. I can hear the ‘ooh, that’s far too much change for my liking’ objections already. After all, why use something efficient when you can waste people’s time with a meeting?

Worth Reading 56: Where did you go, Joe DiMaggio?

Or, how liquid democracy gets you the sack in the end.

How The German Pirate Party’s Liquid Democracy Works – Sounds like an interesting way for members of an organisation to discuss things. And no need to get pre-approved for discussions by the police.
SF, big ideas, ideology: What is to be done? – Charles Stross on whether SF is a genre of ‘big ideas’.
The Fandom Issue: Marvelous – “At what point is the triumph of comic-book culture sufficient?” Some interesting parallels between geek culture and the Tea Party.
How a stranger carrying a rucksack got within 10 feet of Nick Clegg – Why, it’s almost like security theatre isn’t necessary!
Sacking people is easy to do – Not that I recommend you should, but John Band points out that people complaining about red tape preventing them doing it don’t have much of a leg to stand on.