Liquid Democracy

A quick dive into Liquid Democracy. Before we begin, I’d like to note that this is a term without a Wikipedia entry—a rare thing these days. However, you can read a basic overview on CommunityWiki and the Wikipedia page on Proxy Voting is also informative. It’s an idea of technologically-supported direct democracy that seems to have arisen within politically-interested web circles.

Two main factors define the system:

  1. A citizen may transfer their voting power to a proxy or proxies (and this delegation can be revoked at any time)
  2. Voting occurs on issues, not just candidates for representation

Strictly interpreted, Liquid Democracy is a proposal for using technology such as Liquid Feedback to enable direct democracy to be practiced in a population that would otherwise prove unwieldy due to its scale.

The German Pirate Party is putting this into practice currently. But because Germany does not have a direct democracy, they are using LiquidFeedback to collect feedback from party members in non-binding votes. In practice, according to an article in Der Spiegel, the system articulates the desires of the crowd well enough that its hard for representatives to do anything other than accept the votes.

Delegation is sophisticated and happens at three levels, allowing citizens/users to moderate their personal representation in a sophisticated way:

  1. Global delegation: proxy makes all decisions
  2. Subject area delegation: proxy make all decisions within a defined area  such as education or industrial issues
  3. Issue delegation: proxy makes decision only on a specific issue e.g. proposition n

Additional links:


(Humbling to see that Joi was writing about this in 2003)

(Written in an Wiki style, so the formatting can be distracting, but slices through a number of useful topics )

(Joi and others link to this page which is very haxor, but now it’s only available via Wayback)

Why do I blog this?

As an alternative voting model that has been applied in at least two limited applications (Germany and Sweden), Liquid Democracy is an instructive example for looking at the mechanics of such a system, as well as the psychosocial factors such as the disappointment mentioned at the end of the Der Spiegel article.

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  1. [...] A citizen may transfer their voting power to a proxy or proxies (and this delegation can be revoked … [...]

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