Can Voter Choice Technology Succeed Where Arab Spring Failed?

Yves here. As much as technology offers great promise as a way to create new routes for organizing, consensus-building, and decision-making, I’m not optimistic about the prospects for democracy in societies with no democratic traditions. First, it seems that technology works best when automating systems where the bugs were worked out in the physical world, for instance, replacing physical check-processing with electronic check processing. By contrast, trying to create a centralized mortgage registry de novo electronically (with no preceding physical version) has proven to be a mess.

Barrington Moore, in his The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, argued that countries that had undergone bourgeois revolutions (England and France) were able to develop functioning democracies (although even in the case of France, it took nearly 100 years for democracy to really take root). By contrast, countries that had had peasant revolutions (Russia and China) went the authoritarian route. I’d love to get reader input on more recent academic/sociological work on this issue.

With that caveat, voter choice technology does seem more promising and lower cost than US adventurism as a way to try to build democratic muscles in the Middle East.

By Nancy Bordier, Nancy Bordier is a political scientist, former electoral candidate, and inventor of the Interactive Voter Choice System, and Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs regularly at Corrente, Firedoglake and Daily Kos as letsgetitdone

Our thesis is that the violence engulfing the Middle East is driven primarily by political and economic factors. The roots of this violence derive from complex chains of political and economic causes. Prominent among the causes is indigenous populations’ lack of civil, political and human rights, and their inability to compel their governments to provide basic necessities, education, job skills, living wage jobs, and wealth creating opportunities providing lifelong financial security.

In addition, Western governments’ political, economic and military interventions in the Middle East in support of extractive industries such as oil, when coupled with their alliance with oppressive regimes in the region, compounded the difficulties faced by indigenous populations plagued by systemic injustice and poverty. The failure of efforts to bring peace to the troubled relationships between Palestinians and Israelis added an inflammatory mix of religious, communal and tribal tensions to the political and economic roots of the violence.

While the recent popular uprising in the Middle East known as the “Arab Spring” initially appeared to pave the way to the political and economic enfranchisement of indigenous populations, the rigidity of traditional political institutions prevented the development of a consensus among the protagonists about how to translate popular discontent into broad-based consensus-building and democratic decision-making processes. The result was a rapid restoration of the prior political status quo, as in the case of Egypt, while elsewhere anarchy prevailed and failed states unable to maintain law and order emerged, such as in Libya.

One of the major outgrowths of this chain of events has been the emergence of a brutal new fighting force in the region comprised of armed militias operating under the aegis of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL). ISIL and its assorted allies throughout the region have been able to gain control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and at the same time gradually extend their reach to a diaspora of direct and indirect affiliates in Africa and elsewhere. One of the main attractions drawing together their respective supporters and fighters appears to be common bonds of shared rage, hatred and desire for revenge against oppressive Middle East governments and their Western allies, especially the United States in the aftermath of its invasion of Iraq in 2003.

These complex chains of political and economic causality have not gone unnoticed by these powers. U.S. President Barack Obama recently acknowledged in a taped interview that the emergence of ISIL is an “unintended consequence” of the U.S invasion of Iraq. He also attributed the emergence of ISIL to the failure of the post-invasion Iraqi government to establish effective and inclusive democratic institutions capable of overcoming sectarian divisions, particularly between Shiites and Sunnis. The U.S. president is also reported to have expressed the view that “oppression feeds violent extremism” and to have urged Middle East governments to address grievances stemming from indigenous populations’ belief that there is no pathway open to them to escape injustice and impoverished living conditions.

In spite of these views, the U.S. has taken a lead role in orchestrating a concerted military offensive to defeat ISIL in response to the savagery and oppression ISIL has inflicted on its captives (including public beheadings), its success in recruiting tens of thousands of supporters to travel to its Middle East enclaves from countries around the world, as well as its threats and encouragement of lone wolf attacks against Western targets.

While international observers and military experts predict that contemporary ISIL combatants and affiliates will ultimately be defeated, many also deem it likely that the military and civilian casualities resulting from the offensive, combined with the degradation of the habitability of the terrain of battle, will exacerbate the root political and economic causes that led to the conflict in the first place. The rage, hatred and desire for revenge that brought ISIL into being is likely to engender similar feelings in their survivors and extended communities as long as the oppressive and impoverished conditions they are opposing remain intact — which appears likely. The continuation of these feelings and their extension geographically could result in a steady stream of vengeful attacks and counterattacks for the foreseeable future — along with escalating numbers of casualties throughout the world.

These prospects are leading to dire prophecies that Middle East violence will lead to a perpetual state of war and possibly set off a Third World War. We tend to think these prophecies should be taken seriously due to the improbability that the protagonists will seek or agree to non-violent resolution of their conflicts, as well as the absence of venues through which they could seek common ground even if they were willing to do so.

What makes non-violent resolution of the conflict even more unlikely are the following factors: a) the tendency of the heads of state of the nations involved and their domestic political parties to exaggerate external threats and make provocative public statements; b) their proclivity to use military force rather than non-violent methods to resolve conflicts; and c) their lack of democratic accountability to their all too often disempowered electorates whose preferences for peace rather than war they would prefer to ignore.

Although the United Nations could theoretically provide a venue for finding common ground, it has long been prevented from doing so by the veto power of the five permanent member states of the Security Council. And while regional treaty organizations could intervene, they typically withdraw when confronted by the concerted action of interventionist powers, especially when the world’s sole remaining superpower, the U.S., is among them.

It is the foregoing factors that prompt us to focus attention on the most promising alternative to perpetual Middle East violence: the peace making potential of the World Wide Web and the capabilities of emerging web technologies like the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS).

The combination of the Web’s potential to facilitate large scale collective action with the capacity of IVCS to promote problem solving and the generation of collective intelligence on a global scale empower citizen peace makers in the region and around the world to collectively devise and implement solutions to violence that originated in the Middle East but is now spreading well beyond the Middle East.

The group forming power of the web and the collective intelligence generating capacity of IVCS make it possible for vast numbers of people to connect online via a single computing platform, and use their collective intelligence and problem solving capabilities to devise and implement non-violent solutions that are well beyond the capabilities and propensities of the small numbers of decision makers currently calling the shots in the Middle East.

Specifically, the IVCS web platform provides unique agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools designed to enable these collective problem-solvers to devise transpartisan peace plans and legislative agendas and then form transnational voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions (BPCs) that can acquire the political clout they need to get their plans and agendas implemented.

BPCs can acquire the influence they need by using the IVCS platform and tools to reach out to build consensus on the part of such large numbers of voters, within and across nation-state boundaries, that they can decide who is actually elected to govern their countries and make war and peace decisions — including the implementation of the peace plans and legislative agendas of the voters who put them in office.

What enables them to do so is their capacity to use the IVCS platform to build transpartisan electoral bases larger than the electoral base of any single political party. They can use their electoral bases to oust parties, elected lawmakers and even heads of state who refuse to implement their agendas and plans and replace them with candidates of their choice who pledge to exert their best efforts to enact BPC plans and legislative mandates. If these lawmakers fail to honor the will of the voters who elected them, they too can be ousted in the next election.

This phenomenal voter-driven shift of power to the grassroots will be facilitated by breakthrough web applications that enable large numbers of people to make decisions together through collective deliberation. The MIT Center for Collective Intelligence is providing pioneering leadership in this highly specialized field, per the following examples of work in progress:

We are confident that the development of these deliberative technologies will ultimately scale to the size of the user base of the Internet while at the same time enabling user-voters to form groups of virtually any size to solve any societal problem, crisis or conflict. What is clear is that the intricate webs of relationships and internecine conflicts in the Middle East require vast numbers of citizen problem solvers and peace makers to devise solutions that match the complexity of the relationships and conflicts.

Structured, moderated deliberation will be necessary to attain high levels of coherence, feasibility and bottom up participation in developing the solutions that are ultimately adopted. The development by self-organizing groups of citizens of these democratic modes of interaction will be far more effective in solving difficult problems than the hyper-partisan and increasingly undemocratic modes of decision-making that currently characterize the large majority of ostensibly democratic forms of government.

Decisions made by large numbers of citizen activists united by the desire to build consensus around complex transpartisan solutions to complex problems are likely to be far more effective than decisions made by highly partisan elected lawmakers divided by contrived political conflicts artificially created to increase their prospects of re-election.

In fact, the global IVCS platform will be the world’s first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform, designed to enable large numbers of people across all ideological and partisan lines to solve problems, crises and conflicts both within and across nation state boundaries.

In the Middle East, it has the potential to enable not only indigenous populations to build large scale consensus to stop politically and economically driven violence. The platform can also provide an alternative to potential recruits to aggrieved groups like ISIL by enabling them to join citizen peace makers from all over the world in online efforts to devise and implement peace plans and legislative agendas to overcome the injustice, oppression and impoverishment that led to the emergence of ISIL.

It will give prospective recruits experiential opportunities to participate in building new political institutions and organizations — especially popularly-controlled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) that can grow large enough to determine the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes within and across nation state boundaries.

By creating consensus around common plans and agendas on the part of large cross-sections of voters, publicizing their solutions and pressuring lawmakers to enact them, citizen peace makers and the BPCs they build will ultimately obtain the political clout they need to get their solutions to crises and conflicts enacted even in countries where oppressive regimes have previously denied indigenous populations the right to exercise their fundamental civil, political and human rights.

While it will take time for each and every member of indigenous populations to obtain and learn how to fully utilize the state-of-the-art digital devices they will need to get control of their governments, few people doubt this day will come. And while governmental efforts will undoubtedly continue to surreptitiously surveil online activism and attempt to prevent it, few people who witnessed the power of digital media to power the Arab Spring uprisings doubt these efforts will eventually fail and fall by the wayside.

In light of the foregoing considerations, we are confident that the best and possibly the only alternative to the prospect of perpetual war in the Middle East spreading outward around the world is the consensus building and conflict resolution capability of IVCS web technology. It will ultimately enable all the protagonists in Middle East conflicts to recognize through first hand online peace making that non-violent solutions can be collectively devised and implemented to replace the use of force.

We are equally confident that this technology represents a transformative catalytic force with an unequalled and unique capability to stop politically and economically driven violence in the region by promoting simultaneous national and transnational consensus building and conflict resolution through democratically controlled electoral and legislative processes that simultaneously protect all parties’ vital interests without the use of force.


A schematic diagram of the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) can be accessed here. Additional information about the IVCS technology can be accessed at

Below is a generic step-by-step view of how IVCS works. First, it describes the steps by which IVCS can be used by entire electorates to build domestic voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) that can determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

Secondly, it describes how IVCS facilitates the formation of transnational BPCs that can devise agendas and peace plans and get them enacted by having their members form domestic BPCs in their home countries that can get transnational BPC agendas and plans enacted using domestic electoral and legislative processes.

A Step by Step View
  1. Voters create personal accounts and profiles on and use IVCS agenda setting tools and databases to set individual legislative agendas.
  2. Voters connect with like-minded voters across the political and ideological spectrum on with similar agendas.
  3. Like-minded voters with similar agendas join forces to build online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs), and negotiate and vote on common agendas using the IVCS voting utility.
  4. BPC members surmount partisan differences and legislative deadlocks by setting transpartisan legislative agendas that cross political, ideological and sectarian lines.
  5. BPCs nominate transpartisan slates of candidates and build winning transpartisan electoral bases larger than the electoral base of any single political party, enabling their candidates to run for office independently without becoming dependent on special interest campaign financing.
  6. BPCs use IVCS outreach tools to recruit new members, merge with other BPCs to increase their electoral strength, and plan and implement get-out-the-vote campaigns to vote their candidates into office.
  7. BPCs use their agendas to provide legislative mandates to their elected representatives and oversee their legislative actions.
  8. BPCs pressure elected representatives to enact their agendas by signing online petitions, holding online referendums and conducting online straw recall votes using the IVCS voting utility.
  9. BPCs compare their agendas to their representatives’ agendas and legislative track records in order to decide whether to support them in the next election or run opposing candidates to defeat them.

In addition to building BPCs within a country, voters can create transnational BPCs that work across national boundaries to solve transnational problems, crises and conflicts.

  1. Transnational BPC members discuss, debate and vote on common solutions, peace plans and legislative agendas (SPAs).
  2. Voter-controlled transnational BPCs evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative non-violent solutions to transnational challenges and contrast their pros and cons with those of solutions that involve the use of force.
  3. After transnational BPCs adopt common SPAs, their members form domestic BPCs in their home countries dedicated to getting their SPAs enacted.
  4. Domestic BPC arms of transnational BPCs pressure lawmakers to enact their SPAs, and if they refuse, the BPCs can replace them by nominating and electing lawmakers who pledge to enact them.
  5. Transnational BPCs with national arms capable of electing the nation’s lawmakers end cross-national conflicts that lawmakers and heads of state have proved themselves unwilling and/or incapable of resolving.

  6. Transnational BPCs use their SPAs to overcome the paralysis of international agencies whose nation-state members cannot agree on policies for ending transnational crises and conflicts.
  7. The ability of BPCs to act transnationally and nationally simultaneously to autonomously devise and legislatively implement non-violent solutions to crises and conflicts can countermand decisions by lawmakers and heads of state to implement transnational policies involving the use of force without consulting and obtaining the support of their citizens for such policies.

  8. BPCs that take effective action transnationally and nationally will motivate politically, economically and socially disenfranchised and marginalized groups to use the IVCS platform to form their own BPCs and use them to take control of electoral and legislative processes and their outcomes.

Jim Acosta. Obama calls on world to focus on roots of ISIS, al Qaeda extremism. CNN, 19 February 2015.

Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. On Terror, Gentle Hand or Iron Fist: Obama Calls for Expansion of Human Rights to Combat Extremism. New York Times, 19 February 2015.

Nick Robins Early. Have We Got ISIS All Wrong? World Post, 21 February 2015, updated 23 February 2015.

Nick Robins Early. What Is The State Of Political Islam Today? World Post, 21 March 2015, updated 24 March 2015.

Luca Iandoli (University of Naples Federico II, Italy), Mark Klein (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) and Giuseppe Zollo (University of Naples Federico II, Italy) (2009). Enabling On-Line Deliberation and Collective Decision-Making through Large-Scale Argumentation: A New Approach to the Design of an Internet-Based Mass Collaboration Platform. International Journal of Decision Support Technology, Volume 1, Issue 1.

Mark Klein, Paolo Spada, & Raffaele Calabretta, (2012). Enabling Deliberations in a Political Party Using Large-Scale Argumentation: A Preliminary Report. Proceedings from 10th International Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems. Marseille, France.

Shane Smith. President Obama Speaks with Vice News. Vice News, 17 March 2015.

Omar Taspinar.
You Can’t Understand Why People Join ISIS Without Understanding Relative Deprivation.
World Post, 25 March 2015.

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  1. Furzy Mouse

    I wish this could work…I’ve dreamt of an internet based voting system for years…but how would these internet based decisions find the power and authority to be enacted, with all the dictators, guns and jihadis running around?​ They will scoff at any such attempts to overrule their “legitimacy”. The guys with the guns rules in most of the countries. Free and fair elections are seldom seen in the ME, and any transnational efforts would probably be ignored or mocked.

    Another problem that occurs to me is a possible constant revision and recounting of votes in such a system. Free elections, or free-for-all? And as noted by Yves, there is precious little understanding of the democratic process in these nations; many of their leaders despise the notion of democracy and/or find ways to game any election.

    1. John Jones

      If it is on the internet. Can’t they be manipulated by other countries more easily?

      1. Furzy Mouse

        With all the shenanigans going on via the internet, – Anonymous, the NSA, Russia, China, etc etc, – ya gotta wonder if any results via internet votes would be accepted.

        1. craazyboy

          Obviously, one IP address – one vote. But Corporate internet service providers can create as many subnets as they want.

        2. Nancy Bordier

          The IVCS platform and votes cast using the platform are separate and distinct from voting in actual elections. The platform enables voters to build voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) ONLINE securely and privately — ultimately with unbreakable quantum encrypted code. Once their BPCs are up and running, their members will cast votes using normal channels. Needless to say, vigilance is required to make sure these voting systems are accurate and while this will surely occur in the future, these challenges in no way negate the value of IVCS as a platform for voter self-mobilization that empowers voters to get control of electoral and legislative processes and run and elect candidates who will enact their agendas.

          1. craazyboy

            Sounds like a promising way to at least break this annoying “framing of issues” by TPTB that becomes the “acceptable” talking and debating points during election campaigns.

            Then, a major problem that working people have with participatory democracy is finding the time for it. The next step in using ‘net tech is independent internet TV stations are popping up. You can make one yourself as the antidote to MSM and broadcast news reports of proposed election platform items, summaries of current legislator track records, or whatever. This way you can have an “involved” group and easy access to present results for the rest. Sorta like a blog on steroids, along with a core group focusing on making politicians listen.

            Still, the first two items to focus on is repealing corporate personhood and capping campaign financing to, say, $100 total. Then we have leveled the playing field.

            1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

              Quicker than repealing corporate personhood, is removing the jurisdiction of the judiciary over campaign finance legislation. Congress can do that at anytime.

              Also, voting blocs in IVCS can implement your independent internet TV stations.

      2. Nancy Bordier

        You have every reason to call attention to the “shenanigans” going on via the internet. But what makes IVCS imperative is that the importance of the shenanigans pales beside the unique capability of IVCS to empower electorates to run their governments. The life-threatening crises we face are due to the fact that electorates do not run their governments. The lawmakers and special interests who do run them pursue self-interests inimical to the public interest. That’s why the U.S. does not have an effective program in place for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, which in turn is exacerbating climate disruption and extreme weather that is rendering large swaths of territory uninhabitable. Think California without water! That’s why the U.S. government continues to pursue violent solutions rather than non-violent solutions to conflicts that create more enemies rather than reduce their number. That’s why the U.S. infrastructure is crumbling and threatening the viability of our economy as the middle class implodes due to lack of livelihoods paying living wages.

        We can only surmount these life threatening crises if voters become the driving force of electoral and legislative processes and determine their outcomes. And to date my co-author and I have yet to learn of an alternative with the same system changing potential of IVCS.

        We know the technology exists to build a global social network for voters that empowers them to get control of their governments because all the things the IVCS platform will empower voters to do are things they already know how to do but cannot do without an online network that is not controlled or controllable by the powers that be.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Offtopic, and thanks for the comment, but as an admin, allow me to ask you please not to post comments multiple times; all that does is train Akismet that you are more likely to be spam, since that’s just what spammers do. At some point, we check the comment queues, and yank the comments out. Akismet is like Skynet; we don’t have a lot of control over it. Thanks.

          NOTE No need for anyone to chime in on this ;-)

    2. Jerren Osmar

      One answer might be to elect representatives who pledge to listen to their constituents in this way, which is at least an improvement on our understanding that lobbyists call the shots in lieu of good public opinion data within districts on individual issues. It seems doubly hard for legislators to ignore the will of the voters and still call themselves ‘representatives’ when votes are actually being cast by their constituents. As an interesting sidenote: There are currently 50+ people pledged to run for US congress on this idea in 2016 through (I am not directly affiliated). It might seem silly, but it would be nice to at least have a national dialogue about the nature of real representation in what is supposed to be a democracy.

    3. Alphonse Lacerda

      I’d love to get reader input on more recent academic/sociological work on this issue.

      Check this out: Philosopher John Gray Believes Humanity’s Desire for Freedom Is a Lie via @vice

      Also, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” explains how humans are hard wired to be susceptible to propaganda, and with the corporate controlled media it often seems like “game over.”

      John Oliver this week showed that Americans don’t know who Ed Snowden is.
      We’re doomed? Probably.

      1. Nancy Bordier

        As a rule of thumb, and former university professor, I never take seriously the claims of anyone who thinks they know other people’s limits, whatever the sources and types of these supposed limitations. The fact is that there is always a variable distribution of traits, propensities, etc. characterizing most groups, and this variability is hardly ever determined solely by genetic factors because most genetic factors are subject to the influence of environmental factors. What people believe and do depends on so many variables that predicting what are the limits of the plasticity of these variables is a foolish undertaking. Also, I have observed that claims that are made about other people’s limitations are often driven by hidden agendas and biases. IMNSHO, our job vis-a-vis our fellow human beings is to create as many opportunities as we can for other people to grow and mature in their views and capabilities so none of the doomsayers can make a dent on ours or their optimism and enthusiasm that the best is yet to come.

    4. RanDomino

      “but how would these internet based decisions find the power and authority to be enacted, with all the dictators, guns and jihadis running around?”
      The trillion-dollar question that progressives refuse to confront.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        You know this isn’t a this or that deal. It’s an “and” thing. Now you have resistance in these nations that is expressed only violently. When IVCS starts working for people, they will use it to organize. What they do then with their new transpartisan organizations is up to them. Let’s not forget that Mubarak was overturned by largely non-violent popular resistance. Of course, the generals quickly recovered and are now running things again. But if Egyptians had had IVCS to help them organize quickly when things were going south there would the generals have been successful? Perhaps, but think they wold have a lot harder time with an organized resistance.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Not only did the generals quickly recover, the popular resistance had no plan what to do after they won. I put the hideous Mubarak -> Morsi transition down to that strategic failure as much as anything else; again, “the left” has issues with actual governing.

          It could be that something like the IVCS would help with that strategic problem, however.

          1. Nancy Bordier

            My view is that what doomed the Arab Spring popular uprising in Egypt was a structural problem, notably the fact that Morsi’s party took control of the government and the whole process of revising the constitution to reflect its religious precepts with virtually no input from other voting blocs regarding their priorities.

            Then it governed without answering the needs and demands of the electorate as a whole that the government take action to meet the subsistence needs of the vast majority of the people who were in dire straits and provide them jobs paying living wages. The cost of living had risen to levels beyond affordability but the Morsi government did nothing to address this problem and thereby paved the way to its own ouster.

            If the Egyptian electorate had had access to the IVCS platform, Egyptian voters could have created consensus among broad cross sections of the people united into self-organizing, voter-controlled transpartisan voting blocs whose members collectively set legislative mandates and demanded their implementation. The Morsi government would have had to accept these mandates once these voting blocs obtained the voting strength needed to defeat it. End of story.

            Lesson learned: political parties often function like political cages that prevent transpartisan consensus-based governing under the illusion that they only have to pay attention to the members of their own party. Generally speaking, traditional political parties are a core component of the problem of failed and failing democracies. They cannot be part of the solution to these failures without the IVCS platform to ensure that all voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions are organized from the bottom up and controlled by consensus building voters across the political and ideological spectrum who can negotiate transpartisan agendas and run and elect transpartisan slates of candidates.

            Again, this is a structural problem. To say that certain people in certain countries are not “ready” for democracy because of some imputedly inherent failing in their participatory capabilities ignores the structural problems inherent in most political party systems and traditional democratic forms of government that conduct electoral and legislative processes incapable of building consensus. They divide voters rather than unite them, during and after elections, and create chronic legislative stalemates and gridlocks that ignore the will, needs and wants of the people.

            1. quixote

              Maybe I’ve misunderstood, but the web is essential to IVCS system. In the Middle East, even in rather developed societies like Egypt, that by itself excludes large swathes of the population: disproportionately many women, poor, rural voters, etc., etc.

              Those are the people, especially women, whose voices desperately need to be added for democracy to have any chance at all.

              So how could one compensate for the structural exclusion caused by an internet-based system, one that exacerbates existing exclusions and their downstream problems?

              1. Nancy Bordier

                I agree with your observations about the current challenges facing societies that are not yet fully saturated by digital devices. But this is only a temporary hurdle, not a permanent one. Digital devices will soon be ubiquitous and the people who are the most excluded will be the most motivated to use these devices to get themselves included wherever they find it in their interest to be included.

                BTW, for what it’s worth, I have observed that sometimes groups of people that are deemed not to be “tech savvy” can actually acquire it in very short order using their own ingenuity once they get motivated and equipped — often with a little help from their friends but not necessarily.

        2. RanDomino

          “Let’s not forget that Mubarak was overturned by largely non-violent popular resistance”
          A thousand people died, many of them police and government thugs, and every police station in Cairo was burned to the ground.

          1. Nancy Bordier

            Your point is well taken. Once these confrontations get going, there are often no holds barred and the protagonists one and all engage in violent acts — which of course makes their conflicts even more difficult to resolve. The IVCS platform will give them a chance to air and share their points of view and grievances and see if they can find common ground before things get out of control.

    5. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      IVCS doesn’t replace ordinary voting with an internet-based system. What it does is to allow voters using it to form voting blocs, electoral coalitions and political parties. The new groupings emerging from it then have to project their influence into existing political sphere using whatever methods are appropriate for their political context.

      There is a voting utility envisioned for IVCS, but it is for making decisions within the BPCs that form. What the IVCS does is to create a new political meta-layer for politics. That metalayer enables organization primarily around issues and policies. Then the BPCs negotiate with candidates to get representatives who will implement the resulting agendas. Representatives are monitored by the BPCs every day, and they are continuously held accountable by people wanting explanations of this or that vote in the context of the agendas they’ve promised to support. If they prove faithless to what they’ve promised then the BPCs has the knowledge base of day-to-day interactions to organize retaliation at the polls.

  2. Furzy Mouse

    Like Lambert, I am 100% for hand counted paper ballots, which can also be subverted or stuffed, but at least leave a paper trail.

    1. Jerren Osmar

      There is talk of bitcoin style consensus computing, which CAN be hacked but has never been on a wide/consequential scale. Everything MUST be open source so that anyone can review for security flaws. If this were true and flaws were corrected promptly by skilled professionals, then security would be as tight or tighter than our financial institutions which function adequately despite not being perfect.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      I am too. But IVCS is perfectly compatible with paper ballots in the official elections.

    3. Nancy Bordier

      Increasing efforts are being made by very respectable and dedicated engineers to build end-to-end verifiable e-voting and even web-based technologies and I am confident they will ultimately find ways to prevent rigged elections and outcomes. The original e-voting technologies were a dream come through for a whole slew of corrupt vote riggers but deplorable as the consequences have been they have brought into existence an army of technologists dedicated to outwitting them. I am confident they will eventually succeed.

  3. pgrommit

    Though I greatly appreciate and admire the idealism of this concept, I’ve become way too cynical to ever think something like this will ever gain anywhere near enough traction to become viable.

    Given how much outrage there was in the U.S. over all the bailouts, and the fact that we are as “internet savvy” as any country, look at how easily TPTB “took care of” the Occupy movement, and got THEIR guy to become president, whose actions once in office totally undermined his own campaign rhetoric.

    THEY will continue to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that whoever is running governments keep spending money that, as always, ends up in THEIR pockets.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Just a few comments. First, the US is not as internet saavy as many European nations, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Our internet services are rather sow compared to those available in other nations, because our cable providers don’t invest in faster internet and also play games with their customers.

      Second, the TPTB first got Obama elected, then after his early sellouts, Occupy erupted, and then he helped to put Occupy down. Occupy is still there, however. Its people have not gone away. It can organize again, and one of the ways is through IVCS. Next time it will be more effective, because now it knows that it can’t avoid politics.

      Third, the TPTB will do whatever they can do to undermine IVCS. We take that as a given for us and them, and money will be no object. However, one thing about IVCS that should be noted is that it will create an alternative world of information and knowledge created by its BPCs, and insulated from the mass media. We believe that people will come to trust their iVCS sources of information, more than they trust their mass media and mainstream sources because IVCS interactions will be interpersonal and greatly facilitated by the platform. Also, all ads within IVCS will be fact checked by human panels. Ads that lie will not be accepted for publication, and you can believe that we will very strict about this because it will be very much in our interest to develop a reputation of unshakable honesty and integrity so people come to us for information rather than to any mainstream source.

      1. pgrommit

        Thanks for clarifying my mis-perceptions.
        As for this: “people will come to trust their iVCS sources of information, more than they trust their mass media and mainstream sources” — I sure hope you are right, but my fear is that there won’t be enough folks willing to learn what the facts really are, instead relying on political hacks on either the far left/right in MSM to tell them what to think, especially if it’s what they WANT to hear.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          There are millions of folks now in our political system who have a pretty good grasp of the facts now. That’s not enough to overcome the influence of the bought parties, officeholders, and mainstream organizations, but it is enough people within the IVCS to overcome their baleful influence outside it. These millions will be able to amplify their voices and their knowledge within the IVCS in a way that they cannot do without access to its enabling facilities for self-organization.

      2. Furzy Mouse

        Nancy, I am delighted to learn of your work and dedication, as well as your analyses of how this may be implemented. I hope we hear much more from you and your associates. Perhaps I could introduce IVCS to the Democrats Abroad committees at some point if you think would be appropriate – I’m sure they would only want to focus on “Democratic” suggestions and agenda tho. But it might prime the pump to demonstrate the feasibility of you program. Or, perhaps better yet, you could contact them directly:

        1. Nancy Bordier

          Hello Furzy Mouse,

          I would be very appreciative if you could introduce IVCS to Democrats Abroad as you propose. They can reach find out more about it and also reach me at the website. IVCS is a platform designed to promote transpartisanship but any individual or group can use it to promote partisan goals. As they start to build an electoral base to elect lawmakers to enact their agendas, they will find it useful to reach out to voters across partisan lines to see if they can find common ground and add more voters to their base to increase their chances of electoral success. From what you have written about Democrats Abroad, they are likely to see the underlying transpartisan rationale behind IVCS and see that it can help them accomplish their electoral and legislative goals.

      3. Furzy Mouse

        There is a disturbance in the Force (for disseminating valid info)….Google’s Knowledge Vault….:

        “The imminent deployment of Google’s Knowledge Vault will gravely impact all Alternative News sites, including FKTV. The Knowledge Vault’s Artificial Intelligence analyzes data on a webpage. The further that this data deviates from State Propaganda, the lower the search engine results of that page. Google search rankings will no longer be based on popularity but on an Orwellian, Artificial Intelligence-based “truthiness.” The content on FKTV often deviates substantially from “truthiness.” – See more at:

        I have been finding it harder and harder to get to known and previously used sources via Google search. Please note that I was not searching for UFO’s on FKTV !!… only the discussion about Google’s Knowledge Vault…

  4. Mary Wehrheim

    I have taught history for 25 years…I have learned to be very suspicious of one size fits all grand summations in the line of Hegelian philosophy or Victorian “great man theories. ” There are so many factors “black swans” that can throw a monkey wrench into the works like technology and environment…those pesky externalities. I think the Christian Fundamentalists here in America would be just as blood thirsty as their Islamic counterparts if they were allowed totally free reign. Unfortunately for them they happened to crop up in a nation with very secular orientation and, for now anyway, separation of church and state. Their rabid ideas find more fertile fields in countries with less secular traditions….the virulent anti-homosexuality in Africa being just one example of the effects triggered by such western missionaries. Technology is a two edged sword. Democracy depends on the free flow of ideas and information, totalitarianism on the centralized control of the flow of information. I think Marx is right about a very common theme cropping up throughout our history involving struggles between haves vs have nots….especially in regard to more present day events. Our media technology would be a perfect vehicle for the haves to better control the have nots. At present we seem to be moving towards a multi-national corporate/financial system of world control . Which system will will out? Authoritarian/ hierarchical or more egalitarian/communitarian?

    1. Nancy Bordier

      Mary, let me take a shot at addressing the alternatives you phrase so eloquently:

      At present we seem to be moving towards a multi-national corporate/financial system of world control . Which system will win out? Authoritarian/ hierarchical or more egalitarian/communitarian?

      There is no doubt in my mind that it will be the latter rather than the former. The Internet will ultimately prove to be the great leveler because it enables the vast majority of the people to put their heads together and create the large scale collective intelligence needed to outwit the minuscule “authoritarian/hierarchical” sector.

      After all, the a/h sector is actually quite small in numbers, compared to the e/c sector, and now that the e/c sector has the web to pool their ideas, mobilize the vast majority of people on the planet and spend as much time as they need to outwit the a/h elites, how could they lose?

      1. NoFreeWill

        Have you been paying attention over the past 10 years, during which time the internet has changed from a force for good to just another tool that corporations, banks, police, and governments are competent at controlling and in fact extends their power and ability to react? Financial speed, goverment and corporate surveillance, and communication control have all been enhanced. The fact that HK protesters or Arab Spring rebels are using Twitter to organize demos or whatever doesn’t change a thing. And your fancy new platform can be banned like Arab countries ban and prosecute bloggers, twitter posters etc. There is nothing magical about the internet that makes it democratic, it all depends on who controls it (hint: it’s ISPs and big web companies that are in the pocket of the NSA and the government). For every 10 people who find a way around the Great Firewall of China there’s 90 who never have…

  5. craazyboy

    In the Ender’s Game series of sci-fi novels they had online democratic discussion, consensus building and decision making. But it was only a novel. Whenever I see daytime TV by accident at the gym, I’m reminded why we have “representative democracy”.

    1. Jerren Osmar

      The authenticity of our ‘Representative democracy’ may be overplayed. That is the problem this idea is designed to remedy.
      Princeton did a study comparing public opinion to policy change, and found no correlation for the 99%. I think that’s a problem even if I’m not the biggest fan of the nation’s collective intelligence. Unless we no longer believe in democracy.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      No solution can counter everything oppressive governments can do to prevent communication. But ultimately, such governments rely on communications like the rest of us, if they want to remain part of the modern world, and then IVCS will be there, on their cell phones, at least..

    2. Nancy Bordier

      The one thing that oppressive regimes and their leaders can do that will ensure their eventual ouster is to try to cut people off from the web. It is the central social nervous system of the planet that connects everyone to everyone else and politicians that try to cut off their citizens from this system will eventually arouse so much opposition that they will be unable to remain in power. In the interim, courageous, indefatigable local nerd/hackers will outsmart their censors every time with their ingenuity and dedication.

  6. Demeter

    The pathway to functional democracy is…start small.

    Get the voting public used to the idea of voting by making the first votes meaningful to voters. Pick decisions (not candidates) that immediately and observably affect daily life. Banning or labeling GMOS, for example. Everybody has an opinion, and majority consensus and implementation would be public and enduring. Voters could see that they did make a change.

    Then through regular exercise at the voting booth, build up the voters’ political muscle and endurance. Stick to pragmatic, observable, meaningful policy decisions.

    When the tenor of public discourse (not lobbyists, not 1%) starts to become clear, then progress to political platforms for candidates to continue to carry out the will of the people. Although, if done properly, it shouldn’t even be an issue…it may be that direct democracy eliminates both the party system and the lobbying practices.

    It would be revolutionary.

  7. Cugel

    “U.S. adventurism” is not and was never intended to “way to try to build democratic muscles in the Middle East.”
    Why would the U.S. foreign policy establishment, which in practice means multinational corporations, particularly oil companies, want “Democracy”? Democratic control by indigenous populations would only interfere with resource and wealth extraction by the international elites.

    The application of military force has been designed to prevent the outbreak of Democracy in the region for 50 years now. Arab Spring was crushed using military force with the tacit approval of the U.S. and western powers. The same thing has been happening for decades, as with the CIA toppling Mossadegh of Iran after he nationalized the Anglo-American Oil Company (now BP).

    Blowback in the form of ISIS terrorists is simply part of the price to be paid for attempting to control the world’s energy reserves and preventing the populations of the Middle East from getting in the way. I don’t see how technocratic solutions like Internet Voting are going to change this.

    I’d like to see this effort get off the ground, but what happens when a corrupt dictatorship is threatened with the loss of power through some interfering internet busybodies? They cut the power, turn off everybody’s cell phones and impose martial law.

  8. Nancy Bordier

    In response to the above, I would ask the commenters to recommend system-changing alternatives that are more promising than the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS).

    IVCS in our view is the most promising alternative because a) it can be implemented quickly and easily through a single global network and b) it will galvanize bottom up, self-organizing by virtually limitless numbers of people who will create a growing momentum for change around common objectives — even if, as several commenters have correctly pointed out, there are temporary obstacles in their way.

    The most important thing is to connect citizen peace makers to each other to hammer out common legislative agendas, and in the case of raging conflicts, peace plans. Once they have the power of their numbers and can grow infinitely large through consensus building, they will find ways to pressure incumbent lawmakers and, if that fails, run their own candidates to get their agendas and plans enacted.

    1. NoFreeWill

      How about a violent revolution in which the bourgeosie are first against the wall and immediate global Full Communism? Jk, but maybe some organized violent resistance is necessary……..

      1. Nancy Bordier

        Needless to say, I disagree entirely with your proposal. I have read reports that 40,000,000 people were killed under Stalin. Need I say more?

  9. hemeantwell

    I find the IVCS idea very interesting. But the writer would have been better off arguing that the IVCS system can possibly reinvigorate existing democratic systems by allowing voters to form organizations outside of their catch-all party systems. It would be great if all the discontent with the major parties that courses through the Internet could take on a more durable and effective political form. If that would work, the demonstration effect on other areas of the world might be considerable. But touting it as an alternative to ISIS is bizarre. Understandably paranoid about security and thoroughly antidemocratic in any case, they have a habit of eliminating communication to the outside world and punishing people who try to get around their restrictions.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      In response to the points you raise, you might find the following of interest:

      Overcoming Systemic Voter Disempowerment with a System Changing Technology

      A Technological Fix for Failing Democracies

      Our argument in this piece about the Middle East is not that the inner core of ISIL’s leadership is likely to embrace IVCS but that IVCS has the potential to dry up ISIL’s pipelines for attracting new recruits.

      ISIL is recruiting aggrieved individuals because it alleges that ISIL is the only way to overcome injustice, poverty and oppressive regimes. Providing prospective recruits an alternative to ISIL by enabling them to self-organize online to influence electoral and legislative processes in countries where they live before migrating into ISIL enclaves can empower them to play online peace-making democracy-building roles rather than become perpetrators of blood shed and violence.

  10. beene

    Yves, thank you for this great article.

    It, as mentioned by others has the problem of accuracy of vote, but the potential for connecting a population on common goals is tremendous. It also solves one of the major problems of organizing people who lack time and ability to attend physical meetings.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      You begin to see the potential, but to understand the richness of the system and its potential, please go to the web site and look at the extensive background material there.

  11. Furzy Mouse

    I like the notion of citizen peacemakers nominating their own candidates….as an officer of a chapter of Democrats Abroad, which is largely an internet-based effort to get out votes from abroad and claims millions? of members, I have tried to “stovepipe” some more liberal ideas to the executive committees….with little or no response…a typically top down organization. Nonetheless, the ’08 Dem global primary did allow the first-ever online voting for a major party:

    For the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Democrats Abroad enabled millions of U.S. citizens living overseas to have the chance to vote in the first-ever online global primary to choose the Democratic nominee for President.
    The Democratic global primary allowed for voting by Internet, fax, and post. Traditional drop-in Voting Centers were also open in more than 30 countries around the globe.[citation needed]
    The worldwide election results determined the 14 delegates who joined eight DNC members in Democrats Abroad’s delegation of 22 to the Democratic National Convention. These delegates were elected at a combination of regional and global meetings held during early 2008. These meetings also provided an opportunity for Americans abroad to shape the party’s election platform.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      Thanks so much for this great information!

      It just shows that voters will take advantage of online political participation opportunities when they are well constructed. It may take a while for this construction to get configured in a user-friendly manner, but the example you cite shows how extraordinary the potential iis.

      We will study the link and information you provide and thank you most heartily for bringing this pioneering effort to our attention.

  12. dingusansich

    The IVCS reminds me of a punch line to an old joke: Assume a can opener …

    How wonderful if it were as simple as that. An anecdote: a friend’s NYC coop received an offer from a local developer to buy its air rights. There are six tenants. Some want to sell all the rights; some don’t want to sell any rights; some want to sell some rights while retaining others; some want a study before deciding. That’s only the beginning. Another developer then offered a bid. There are details about lawyers, costs, regulatory requirements, negotiating tactics. Bear in mind, I’m describing diversity of opinion and complicating factors for a single small urban building of demographically similar residents.

    I wish IVCS the best. True, the text above reads a bit like a grant application, which is unfortunate, but I’m sympathetic to its concerns. Transnationality, democracy, and consensus need attention and tools, to be sure, and even if the idealism isn’t entirely warranted, it’s understandable and often goes with the let’s-do-something territory. However I suspect there’d be less skepticism if the claims and ambitions were somewhat less grandiose, with a more realistic sense not only of opportunities but of practical problems and limitations. Let’s see an implementation in a small city, or even a coop building, before we talk about the Middle East.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      The challenges of build consensus within any group of decision-makers are real, as you point out with respect to your COOP example. In political systems, these challenges can be insurmountable in terms of ensuring that a nation’s electorate has the power to build consensus around voters’ own priorities and agendas and drive them through electoral and legislation processes to get them implemented.

      The reasons for the insurmountability are numerous and obvious, but the main one is that voters cannot connect with each other horizontally and work out consensus among themselves to set legislative priorities because the two political parties are run from the top down, do not allow their supporters to communicate with each other horizontally to discuss, debate and vote on their agendas, and typically tend to enact the agendas of the special interests that fund their campaigns at the expense of the priorities of their constituents.

      What IVCS does is connect voters to each other online and provide them mechanisms for building consensus among enough voters, across partisan and ideological lines, to outflank and outnumber the electoral bases of any single political party. With broad cross sections of voters driving and controlling the voting blocs they create using IVCS agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools, they can acquire the voting strength they need to get their candidates elected to enact their agendas because they can put their candidates on the ballot lines of any party they wish by collecting the required signatures and then get out the vote to put them over the top.

      We would argue that electoral and legislative processes in the U.S. have been corrupted by special interests and that the only way to get around this is to build a voter self-mobilization platform. The reason is that lawmakers beholden to special interests are not going to change or pass any laws that prevent them from using special interest money to get elected — including money from foreign special interests. To circumvent this corruption, IVCS empowers voters to insert a new layer of voter-controlled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions into the status quo to get control of these processes by the sheer power of the numbers of voters they can bring into their fold through consensus building and debating and voting on common agendas.

      While there are many incremental ways to get IVCS going, we think that the collapse of meaningful democratic processes in the U.S., the spread of violence throughout the Middle East, and serial “natural” catastrophes occurring as a result of climate disruption, merit creating the a IVCS platform whole cloth from the get go to serve the multitude of politically disenfranchised constituencies who will gravitate to it because of a lack of alternatives. You are correct that there will be many things to work out once it is up and running, but a bold global, technology-based solution is imperative given the life-threatening challenges we face.

      1. dingusansich

        I agree with much of your analysis. All I can add is, I hope you’re right and the IVCS will look as good in practice as it does on paper. Either way, you’re contributing to the skunkworks of democracy. Even if an IVCS were to accomplish only a small fraction of what you imagine it can, that would be worthwhile. To quote an old imperialist (in the interest of consensus building, of course): “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I wish you success without the failure. However if the IVCS should fail to live up to such high expectations, I wish you continued enthusiasm.

        1. Nancy Bordier

          My dear dingusansich,

          I simply love what you wrote and thank you immensely for making me laugh outloud at your wonderful sense of humor. It is amazing that I continue to have such great enthusiasm and confidence in IVCS because it has been many moons since I started working on it. But it continues to meet all challenges, at least IMNSHO. Were it the case that I discovered more promising alternatives or serious defects in the possibilities I foresee, I would be the first to join alternative bandwagons.

          All best regards,

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Sometimes incrementalism doesn’t work and one needs to talk about grand visions for people to see potential. However, that said, of course there will be pilot implementations of the system first at smaller scale before the platform will be able to scale up the way we would like it to.

  13. Eureka Springs

    Wonderful to see Nancy featured on NC. Just to see/experience this concept in action among the skunk party or even among so-called left to develop and support or nay something like the Corrente ten point platform would be great. It was a crying shame the firedoglake of olde and Occupy didn’t have this functioning at the time.

    Limiting my cynicism to one note: Of course he/she who controls the questions and possible answers controls so very much in any polling scenario.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      Hey Eureka Springs,

      So happy to re-connect and hope all is well on your end. Re the time lag in getting IVCS up and running from time of inception of the original idea, we endure very complicated, deliberately bollixed up governing institutions designed to disempower us. So it has naturally taken a bit of time for our team to configure the IVCS platform so that it will be able to provide all the things voters they need to get control of their governments. But the hardest part is to explain this configuration in 25 words or less, or even 2500 or 25,000 because it is also rather complex in that it requires an understanding of the underlying technology as well as how political systems can be rigged and unrigged technologically. But I do really think we’ve got it figured out and now all we have to do is get the word out around the world so that people recognize its potential and have confidence it will work.

      All best regards,

  14. John Yard

    It is hard not to see some of the comments about IVCS and the Arab world as terribly naive. Most of the Arab countries are not failed democracies; they are not failed nation states. They have never been nations in the Westphelian sense at all – a shared internal identity – at all.
    The boundaries of most Arab countries were fixed at the Treaty of Versailles , based on Turkish provinces. The Turkish provinces were drawn to incapacitate rebellion by including the maximum mutually incompatible ethnicities and groups. Personal advancement was by membership in an ethnic or religious group: identity politics gone wild.
    Since the US and Europe have ensured these ‘state’ boundaries are unalterable, no solution is possible.
    The problem is not IS – it is a symptom of state dissolution. If there is no unified state, voting mechanisms like IVCS make no sense.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      I agree with your analysis up until the point that you argue that a “unified state” must be in existence before voting mechanisms like IVCS work. Indigenous groups can use IVCS to create a critical mass of large self-organizing voting blocs that are national as well as transnational in scope. Once they attain the electoral potential to run winning candidates they can play a determining role anywhere, regardless of how well-established or embryonic are the states in which they operate.

  15. JEHR

    I must say that I was truly inspired to write a few letters to organizations that might be interested in strategic voting for the Canadian election in October. Below is my letter (I have left out the names of the organizations in order to protect them):

    Members of XXX organization

    I believe that your group might be interested in strategic voting for the election in October. I have come across ideas about how to get large groups of people working towards a common goal. Maybe the ideas in this article will give you some pointers that you can use. Please see the link below:

    I visualize having all the groups that are now against Harper’s policies (the Y Party, Canadians for ZZZ, Canadian Centre for YYY, WWW Civil Liberties, PPParty, QQQue, OOO Foundation, Canadian TTT, Council VVV, etc) joining together as a voting block and deciding who in the opposition would be the best person to vote for to keep Harper home. We could exchange ideas using the Internet until a consensus is reached and the result can be sent to all the members of those groups.

    I feel very strongly that Canada will become totally unrecognizable if Harper gets re-elected and we don’t have much time to get organized. Let me know if you think you can use the ideas presented in the link.

    PS: I am already getting automated calls from the Conservatives asking me to vote for Harper! It happened in the last election too. Harper will do everything, legal or illegal, to get re-elected. Harper is so well organized and he has the advantage of being able to use taxpayers’ money to create ads. So far he has spent more than $233 million on ads to get himself re-elected plus all his policies are undertaken, not for the good of the citizens of Canada, but for the purpose of getting re-elected. It makes me fume!

    1. Nancy Bordier

      Wonderful, JEHR!
      You totally get IVCS!
      I’m just thrilled and immensely encouraged because we never cease trying to explain it clearly and concisely.
      Huge thanks!
      BTW, have you seen this diagram:
      Needless to say, unlike your description, the diagram tends more towards capturing the complexity of IVCS rather than its simplicity . . .

    2. JTMcPhee

      The magic word: “organized.” Decent people just don’t seem to be (pardon the sad pun) constitutionally suited to the task.

  16. Peter Dorman

    A political theory moment. This proposal is one-half Dewey, and in an interesting way. Boiled down to its essence, Dewey’s theory of democracy has two components, achieving jointness of purpose and intelligent action. Democracy is not about which side gets the most votes, but about finding common purposes across the many differences that separate us. In this sense he extends the tradition of Rousseau: democracy means finding the we. But if the decisions are poor, democracy will fail; people will abandon it for some other political form that promises strength, security, prosperity, etc.

    IVCS is entirely about the jointness of purpose mission, and it looks promising in this respect. But Dewey, and I, doubt that intelligent decisions can be arrived simply by forming intellectual constructs and debating them. The world is too complicated for that. What’s needed is a process of trial and error and learning through experience. We may not be able to figure out intellectually what the best policies are but can come close enough to them by trying stuff out, paying attention to consequences, revising, and so on. (This is the method of adaptive management, minus a few refinements.)

    This is why Dewey did not see democracy as confined to a separate political sphere. He thought it needed to be enacted in all the practical aspects of life, such as the economy and the schools, so that decisions could become more intelligent in the matters that really count. People excluded from the knowledge and the opportunities for practical experiment in real life are not going to make great decisions no matter how wonderful the communication and coalition-formation algorithms are.

    From this perspective, the limitation of IVCS is that it lives in a virtual world. There is nothing to prevent its decision formation process from being hijacked by a crazy, dangerous idea that powerless people, with no opportunity to explore its consequences, temporarily flock to. Its democracy is disembedded.

    That said, I agree that a collective political identity, even if it is virtual and risks getting gunned down in the streets, is enormously important. In some ways, this is the political challenge we all face, in “democratic” and authoritarian countries alike. We need to see ourselves as part of a vast “we” rather than wallowing in the powerlessness of individual discontent. That’s what demonstrations are good for, but in most circumstances their demarcations are too rigid and don’t allow a large enough collective identity to emerge. I like initiatives like IVCS that promote a majoritarian, counter-hegemonic we-ness.

    1. Nancy Bordier


      Permit me to interleave my comments into your very interesting and thoughtful text below in brackets:

      A political theory moment. This proposal is one-half Dewey, and in an interesting way. Boiled down to its essence, Dewey’s theory of democracy has two components, achieving jointness of purpose and intelligent action. Democracy is not about which side gets the most votes, but about finding common purposes across the many differences that separate us. In this sense he extends the tradition of Rousseau: democracy means finding the we. But if the decisions are poor, democracy will fail; people will abandon it for some other political form that promises strength, security, prosperity, etc.
      [NB: Entirely agree with the preceding.]

      IVCS is entirely about the jointness of purpose mission, and it looks promising in this respect. But Dewey, and I, doubt that intelligent decisions can be arrived simply by forming intellectual constructs and debating them. The world is too complicated for that. What’s needed is a process of trial and error and learning through experience. We may not be able to figure out intellectually what the best policies are but can come close enough to them by trying stuff out, paying attention to consequences, revising, and so on. (This is the method of adaptive management, minus a few refinements.)
      [NB: I think the IVCS platform will enable the trial and error and learning through experience to which you refer.]

      This is why Dewey did not see democracy as confined to a separate political sphere. He thought it needed to be enacted in all the practical aspects of life, such as the economy and the schools, so that decisions could become more intelligent in the matters that really count. People excluded from the knowledge and the opportunities for practical experiment in real life are not going to make great decisions no matter how wonderful the communication and coalition-formation algorithms are.
      [NB: Agree with observation that political deliberation should infuse all societal activities. I also note that IVCS will be available on mobile as well as stationery digital devices and thereby enable citizens to collectively decide what they want their governments to accomplish 24/7/365 and learn from the consequences of their actions and observations.]

      From this perspective, the limitation of IVCS is that it lives in a virtual world. There is nothing to prevent its decision formation process from being hijacked by a crazy, dangerous idea that powerless people, with no opportunity to explore its consequences, temporarily flock to. Its democracy is disembedded.
      [NB: My experience based on a decade of observing open access online political activity is that it is very unlikely people using the IVCS platform will get railroaded by ill-considered ideas because naysayers and reality demons have a habit of showing up out of nowhere and blowing everyone away with ideas, information and angles of analysis no one had previously thought of. Also voters can enter, exit and start IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) at will. So disaffected voters can always wean naive voters away from “crazy, dangerous ideas” by inviting them to learn about and try out competing ideas gaining currency in other BPCs.]

      That said, I agree that a collective political identity, even if it is virtual and risks getting gunned down in the streets, is enormously important. In some ways, this is the political challenge we all face, in “democratic” and authoritarian countries alike. We need to see ourselves as part of a vast “we” rather than wallowing in the powerlessness of individual discontent. That’s what demonstrations are good for, but in most circumstances their demarcations are too rigid and don’t allow a large enough collective identity to emerge. I like initiatives like IVCS that promote a majoritarian, counter-hegemonic we-ness.

      Me, too!

    2. dingusansich

      This is why Dewey did not see democracy as confined to a separate political sphere. He thought it needed to be enacted in all the practical aspects of life, such as the economy and the schools, so that decisions could become more intelligent in the matters that really count.

      I agree with Dewey. It’s hard to see how a political democracy can prosper alongside an economy based on quasi-feudal workplaces. It may seem culturally far-fetched, but what if Joe and Nancy were to pitch the IVCS to corporations? If it truly leads to better decisions, that should show up on the bottom line. It’s not just the Supreme Court that says money talks. Wouldn’t it be too droll if an IVCS became the rope that capitalism han—, er, transformed itself with. Folks, talk to the business schools and offshoots like the Great Place to Work Institute. Strange bedfellows, right?

      1. Nancy Bordier

        Looking into my IVCS crystal ball, once IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) can outvote special interest controlled parties and candidates, we will enter into an entirely new political era. Business and financial interests will find it to their advantage to use the IVCS platform to enter into dialogues to find common ground with BPCs that have the electoral clout to defeat the lawmakers whose votes they were previously able to buy via campaign financing.

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      IVCS is entirely about the jointness of purpose mission, and it looks promising in this respect. But Dewey, and I, doubt that intelligent decisions can be arrived simply by forming intellectual constructs and debating them. The world is too complicated for that. What’s needed is a process of trial and error and learning through experience. We may not be able to figure out intellectually what the best policies are but can come close enough to them by trying stuff out, paying attention to consequences, revising, and so on. (This is the method of adaptive management, minus a few refinements.)

      I agree with much of this. But 1) I don’t think the world is complicated, but instead that it is often complex and is full of complex adaptive systems.

      And 2) IVCS is not entirely about the jointness of purpose mission; it’s also about the problem solving mission and enhancing the solutions informing decisions in BPCs. The blog series summarized here describes how problem solving pattern management can increase adaptive learning in organizations. It doesn’t mention voting blocs, electoral and transnational coalitions, and political parties. It doesn’t mention BPCs, but, of course, they’re organizations too. You’ll see this series is very much oriented toward adaptive learning and problem solving and how to enhance that. The IVCS platform will incorporate facilities to enable adaptive problem solving with a strong emphasis on learning from experience.

  17. Jim

    The above analysis by Bordier and Firestone raises some extremely important issues.

    They argue that “…the rigidity of traditional political institutions prevent the development of a consensus among the protagonists about how to translate popular discontent into broad-based consensus building and democratic decision-making processess”

    Isn’t another key factor that has historically ” prevented the development of consensus among protagonists of the status quo– the deep divisions among historical currents considered to be on the Left.

    For example,during the French Revolution their were a whole series of positions that were left-wing insofar as they were firmly anti-royalist, anti-catholic and opposed to any attempts to restoring pre-Revolutionary conditions.

    But at the same time these same groups celebrated different ideas of an appropriate political alternatives (from the Gironde to the many different sects often called the Montagn (made up of Dantonistes, Robespierristes, and many other groupings) Historically such groupings have been categorized as center-left vis-a-vis the more extreme left.. As history played out during this period the constitutional republicanism of the Montagne (equal rights for men and women, representational democracy, and freedom of the press etc.) suffered a type of coup in mid-1793 by the more authoritarian populists around Robespierre.

    Furthermore the analysis by Bordier and Firestone raises even deeper questions about the nature of the political itself.

    Is politics finally about the pre-ethical, about decisions and not about norms?

    Is the founding of a new political order largely outside legal and intellectual moral systems?

    Is the friend-enemy distinction closer to the foundation of politics?

    If politics is more about process than about decisions (as the discussion of Bordier and Firestone imply) are the tools discussed in the above analysis adequate enough to create a new political order in which there is both a multiplicity of opinion and the need for a life in common?

    1. JTMcPhee

      I have never been able to understand why this or that brand of totalitarianism gets hung around the necks of “the Left.” Stalinism and its precursors were “leftist,” just how again? Because the nominal state, actual kleptocracy, “owned the means of production?”

      Seems to me “the Left” is more about decency toward one’s fellow humans, tolerance of viewpoints and actions and policies (I hate that effing misbegotten mostly meaningless slurb of a word) that “diverge,” and concern about the general future and general welfare, not short-term ME-ism and MORE-ism and the welfare of the Generals. Such a deep layer of cow crap thrown on the “brand,” which suffers from the inability to herd the cats in a useful direction. No real agreement on a prime directive and “strange attractor” that might keep us all not only alive but at least possessed of a “modest competence” out of the huge wealth that’s all stolen, concentrated and wasted.

      One might come to the unfortunate view that the “Futilitarians” have the right of it, for a fun discussion. My grandkids and nieces sure don’t think so, yet, and are working hard at instilling some currents of betterness into the mix. In spite of perceiving the huge mass of idiocy arrayed against their efforts.

      I’m thinking that “democracy” is an empty set, has been from the first focus groups in the Greek cities. But there are anecdotes in the literature of anthropology that hint that smaller groups, with family and tribe and sept affinity, especially where matrilineal and matriarchal, and not of course universally, seem to approach a structure and behaviors that I would prefer to live amidst. Trumps and the (too many) other types of tumors and parasites not encouraged.

      1. Jim

        “I have never been able to understand why this or that brand of totalitarianism gets hung around the necks of “the Left. Stalinism and its precursors where “leftest” just how again?”

        The quick and dirty response to this question can be found in the 20th century perversions of Marxism that achieved an absurd form in Stalinism(the creation of a centralized bureaucratic structure aimed at eliminating differences between human beings).

        But to the extent that Marx and Engles themselves considered the possibility of successfully denying human difference and of homogenizing citizen interest via the affirmation of revolutionary centralism (see, for example the arguments of Hannah Arendt) where she sees this denial of human difference as a foundation of totalitarianism.

        Both Marx and Engles in their “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League” argued explicitly that successful revolutionary practice is only possible with the rejection of democratic contestation which they saw as representative of social differences which had to be neutralized.
        Political centralization was necessary, for them, precisely to the degree that human division, which manifested itself is the appearance of diverse political goals, militates against the formulation of a unitary revolutionary will.

        I also argued in my above comment that the authoritarian populism of Robspierre had its foundation in an attempt of eliminate human difference, not through the philosophy of Marx, but rather through the General Will of Rousseau.

        1. hunkerdown

          Democracy is not about which side gets the most votes, but about finding common purposes across the many differences that separate us. In this sense he extends the tradition of Rousseau: democracy means finding the we.

          Oh, is Rousseau who we blame for the cleansing power of the word “people”, the Jesus “democracy”, the bourgeois disease. Well, another nail in the coffin of the Enlightenment.

    2. Nancy Bordier

      Your historical analysis is astute, penetrating and good food for thought. What I have discerned from survey research and public opinion polls is that most voters’ political priorities cross partisan and ideological divides. The efforts to create typologies of voter stances, for example, is interesting but not much help in the realm in which we are most interested, consensus building. That’s because the large majority of people cannot be pigeon-holed into rigid stances even though political parties try to cage them into such stances and give the impression of ideological coherence and consistency with respect to their electoral base. Since there is such a huge amount of variation and deviation from neat ideological stances, parties and candidates tend to either dissimulate their real priorities or try to talk out of both sides of their mouth on the campaign trail. What IVCS does is simply leap frog over these obstacles by letting voters define their priorities however they wish while seeking consensus about these priorities. The bottom line is for IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) to grow large enough in terms of voting strength to win elections and get their agendas enacted. The content of their agendas and the language they use to express their priorities are their decisions to make and no one else’s.

      However, IVCS is a game-changer in that IVCS-enabled BPCs will have WRITTEN legislative mandates that they will expect their elected representatives to enact, and if they fail to exert their best efforts to do so, the BPCs will defeat them in the next election. Candidates of traditional political parties in contrast will be doing pretty much whatever they wish in order to please themselves and their special interest contributors even if their actions flout the will of their constituents. Once voters can choose between working in their own IVCS-enabled BPCs or subjugating themselves to dissimulating political parties and elected representatives who ignore them once they are in office, we’re pretty sure that traditional political parties will either fall by the wayside or opt to use IVCS themselves and either join or start their own BPCs!

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      The divisions on the left have been important in the development or lack of progress of democracy. However, IVCS can help with divisions on the left, and other political fractionation as well.

      On politics being about both process and decisions, I certainly agree, but point out that that good process is related to good decisions and vice versa. Also, good processes are not just about operational decision making processes, they are also about good learning processes and decision making resulting in higher quality knowledge that then feeds political decision making. IVCS enhances learning processes, resulting knowledge quality and political decision making by participants. So t enhances collective intelligence, collective knowledge, and collective decision making.

  18. Gaianne

    E-voting–the perfect illusion of democracy! Circuses for the masses! And the techies too busy writing code to realize it is all GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)!

    Are we seriously proposing turning national decision-making–elections–over to systems which are inherently vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks? Hacker nirvana! Let the peons enter their “input” and then turn the decision over to the real people–election fraudsters and their computer AI–to battle it out! Democracy!

    Democracy is over. We have entered the century of undemocracy–of totalitarian systems disguised by feel-good bullshit.

    Why? Because democracy exists only where people hold it sacred–specifically, superior to market forces. Where people are willing to hold real elections with real ballots, counted by real people under supervision by all parties. Where elections are not merely the cost of doing government but part of the whole point of government. Where civil liberties are not merely acknowledged but practiced as a daily matter, and intimidation and fraud are suppressed by common agreement.

    Those days are gone. There are no democratic countries anywhere. If you are a member of an organization that still uses democratic process–cherish it! You are part of a rare and exotic breed. Perhaps democracy will return sometime in the far future. Perhaps you are a seed of that future. May it be so!


  19. Nancy Bordier

    I agree with you, Gaianne, about the vulnerabilities of e-voting which are real and significant but will eventually be overcome.

    Let me note, however, that IVCS is not a platform for e-voting but for forming online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) whose individual members will cast their ballots through the official channels managed by their local election authorities.

    It is a platform through which voters across the political and ideological spectrum can connect with each other online and mobilize themselves around their own collectively set agendas and slates of candidates. By building consensus across partisan lines, they can grow large enough to outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single party and thereby defeat their candidates. This will eliminate the core problem, which is that voters cannot currently form autonomous, self-organizing BPCs from the bottom up that cross partisan lines. Instead, they will be able to set transpartisan agendas and adopt and elect transpartisan slates of candidates who will end inter-party partisan bickering and gridlock when they win the majority of seats of their legislatures.

    To your argument that “there are no democratic countries anywhere”, I think it important to take note of the increasingly widespread self-mobilization of voters around the world against unresponsive governments. The confrontations that are taking place are truly troubling to unresponsive governments because even with massive police presence and efforts to prevent confrontations, voters who are facing truly ruinous and inescapable conditions will relentlessly rally against them because they will have no alternatives. And when they do, they will vastly outnumber the armed forces called out to suppress them.

    It is true that oppressive governments have always done their utmost to take out protesters and dissidents forcibly. But with IVCS, it will be possible for non-violent truces and compromises to be formulated in which all parties participate to figure out how to protect their vital interests without blood shed. Yes, many governments contain deranged, sadistic individuals and agencies that thrive on cruelty and violence. But these governments and individuals are in the minority when compared to the majority of sane people of good will and unyielding dedication to freedom for all who will never cease working for justice and democracy. The latter will most certainly win out over the former in due time — sooner rather than later when the IVCS platform is up and running.

  20. Oregoncharles

    Frankly, I’d be more interested in the abiity of voter choice systems to restore democracy in the US and Europe, where there are actual democratic traditions.

    I’m also inclined to question the initial premise; the violence in the ME is clearly driven in very large part by religious conflicts. Even granted that those are secondary to political and economic failures and foreign intervention, they are nonetheless very real.

  21. JTFaraday

    “Can Voter Choice Technology Succeed Where _____ Failed?”

    Well, I’m a democratic republican, but right now I’m not optimistic.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      Could you clarify what you meant by your lack of optimism?
      Is it generalized pessimism or does it relate to IVCS?

  22. Kandy

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    digital information. Anyone that has a computer with an internet connection could
    find and download a novel, document, tv show, film, song, image or photo.
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