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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Democracy 2.0

Doug Noon, Borderland, Jun 14, 2007

I haven't said much about democracy and governance in these pages, not directly at least, because my attention has been directed elsewhere. But it has always struck me that attempts to implement e-democracy have been stuck in a 19th century model of governance, one that enshrines the representative function as the almost definitive of democracy. What is democracy, after all, without votes for your representatives? And yet - embodied in this epitome is the very idea of disempowerment, the idea (straight from Hobbes) that we surrender our own liberty in exchange for security and safety (and the other elements of 'good government'). The idea that we could govern ourselves is not merely rejected as wrongheaded, but as dangerous. As though we - who, after all, elect our (mostly untrustworthy) representatives, cannot be entrusted with our own governance. And so we have evolved into a system of government that is mostly about wresting power and control from each other, and not about the collective safety and security - a model that leads us chaotically lurching from Iraq to global warming to Darfur to Enron. I believe that we, as a people, could do a better job governing ourselves than could our elected representatives (especially those more interested in looting us than leading us) and that internet communication technologies make self-governance possible. It is this idea, I believe, that e-government should be exploring, and not things like better systems for public 'consultation' or 'online voting'.

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