Peer Production of Democracy

Democracy is in trouble, and we will need to become a new social organism to protect it.  We are in a period of rapid evolution as a social species.  The dinosaur-like institutions of our past are not capable of responding to the pace of change, and they respond by attempting to stem the tides of change.  New social species are emerging who are agile and intelligent; they design their own structures and deploy themselves.  Instead of being crushed by the shock waves that are the modern condition, they are riding the shockwave into an open future.  What is proposed here is a plan for action to take back our American democracy from global corporate interests, and to spread that work worldwide in support of any people who will stand to defend democracy, and to create new democracies where it is absent.

At the core of democracy is who votes and why, how are they organized.  Now, going on 250 years in the boldest experiment in democracy since ancient Athens, what do we see?  A dilapidated two party system that has been largely captured by one dinosaur institution or another, and a developing network of social organisms preparing to take the stage.  The old systems are at most a handful of catastrophes from collapse, and we need to be ready to take the stage.  Careful where you stand or they could fall on you.

Our secret sauce is a new mode of production, commons based peer production (CBPP).  This is the mode of production of open source software, and the Wagn project I help to build in this way, and many projects in collaborative content development.  In this project we will not focus only on the production of information artifacts, that is, shared data and code produced in common, but on our being as social species.  The old species produce and reproduce by contract, fiat (scarce) currencies, and the "rule of law" as deployed by armies of lawyers and lobbyists.  The modes and currencies of the old social species are environmental for the emergent species, and each of us must navigate this world as individuals and nuclear social groups.  As such, we are often naked and vulnerable in the face of the power and violence of that environment, but there is a lot of slack in the system and many energy flows that can be tapped to stay ahead of the waves of change.

Emergence is more about the recognition and organization of structures that were present in varied and partially functioning experiments, in prototype forms, and the bubbling up of "best practices".  The selection of viable structures through practice, and codification of practices is an emergent tradition.  I am making a claim that new species are emerging without providing much in examples; I trust readers as  fellow wave riders of social change will know of many as I do.  We have become architects of invisible (social) architectures.  Now we need to build new levels of structure for ourselves.

We need new currencies and financial institutions that are structured to support a gift economy, and to defend themselves and thrive against the command economy.  We need to survive and thrive in the environment they have created, and to have robust interfaces to dollars. Furthermore, we need to make the numbers in the dollar denominated accounts less and less important; we need to use other currencies to make decisions, and to provide sufficient resources where and when they are needed.

A Vision of the Possibilities

We will need to start with a simple model that can be replicated everywhere.  We need to take existing models and adapt them for the new context.  When I was a kid, there was a political machine with precinct captains in every part of the city, but it was paid for in patronage and loyalty to a party organization.  We can imagine and produce the same kind of coverage by a commons-based peer to peer structure.  Clearly the question of how to pay for it is important, but let us start with more of what and why.  The greatest possibility is revitalizing the conversation of democracy, and publicly examining the stories that have driven political and economics throughout history.  Instead of a stale competition of interests looking to press an advantage, a genuine democracy could emerge where people participate because their voices are heard and their issues are addressed in a fairminded way.

Imagine how this might work.  We begin to develop and deploy an app, and a few people start to use it.  They get experience using it, and, with what their neighbors, they get what they want from the political system and provide the feedback needed to make the app what it needs to be.  Then it goes viral and everyone wants to get involved.  The work we do in the beginning to engage our network in the practices of co-creation and stewardship of often intangible assets, and learning how to deploy these assets to expand the common wealth will be the key to success.

A network of a few million activists could create a comprehensive network and database more powerful politically than any dozen billionaires with checkbooks.  If you paid every networker a living wage, the cost would still be modest compared to the current costs of political campaigns.

Producing the Components of Democracy

Having a precinct organization is having a sufficient work force in the peer production of democracy, but what are the other components?  The Constitution gives the framework, but it too is the result of political processes, and specifies the processes by which it can be changed.  The laws themselves, and all the institutional expressions of these laws are subject to change.  The very idea of the "rule of law", and expressions of "law and order" politics are products of the democracy.

Once we have built out an active electorate and a networked organization reaching up from this base, we can begin to remake the field of candidates and elected representatives.  We will elect them to implement the will of the people as expressed via emergent social networks that are the new base of democracy.  There will no longer be a place where corrupt special interests can get purchase in institutions that are of the people.

Next we can even remake the structural laws that lead to the old structures.  Voting can be made easier and more common with new technologies, if that suits us.  When narrow interest seek to limit access to the vote by any means, we will be there to keep the doors open and open them wider.  We can reform the drawing of districts, or even make the processes of drawing disctricts less inportant in the process or producing representative institutions.

Boiling it Down, 2022

The above is from a draft that I have not looked at in some time, before American democracy itself came under open attack. This needs to be completed/evolved towards a mission that inspires. The networks the the founders are connected with are likely skewed to one side of the spectrum, but this doesn't work if we don't attract leaders and communities from across the spectrum. The two party system and their media partners that have come about to fuel deepening divisions.

The way we address this is to set goals that are not driven by hyper-partisans, for example, why not go for near 100% participation rates in registration and voting? Pioneer new kinds of direct democracy throughout the networks of production for a new democracy. What if we created processes to draw proposed electoral maps and give them to the polititians to pass?

The details are not important at this point, the overall visions is.