Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's in a name?

I thought I coined the term "Democracy 2.0".  That was in early 2004, according to a quick search through my old notes.  I didn't write that term on the internet until September 11, 2005.

I've run across the term in lots of places recently.  A Google search returns hundreds of hits--I got to page 20 without ever finding this blog.  A quick scan through those hits indicates that there is not one agreed-upon meaning of the term--beyond the most general idea that it is an upgrade of the process of Democracy.

I recently read Accelerando, by Charlie Stross.  He used the term late in the book.  The book was written as short stories, and that particular section was published in December of 2003.

Stross's "Democracy 2.0" was very innovative.  It was in a very different future where money was nonexistent.  Everything you wanted was free, because technology had progressed to the point that everything was so cheap to make that it wasn't worth the overhead burden of doing the accounting.  The only traded currencies were bandwidth and reputations futures--a futures market that traded reputations.

Control of the government was handled through the reputations futures market.  Everyone who wanted to be the president registered their candidacy.  A separate pool was created in the futures market for the reputations of the various candidates.  Anyone who wished to participate would buy or sell any of the candidates' futures.  And at a certain time the candidate with the highest-trading reputation future was declared the winner.

That's not what I was thinking of when I started using the term.

When I started using the term it was the title for a book I was writing.  The book was addressed to people who live under dictatorships.  The point of the book was to explain why we were waiting for them to free themselves, and to give them a vision for doing Democracy on their own terms.  Learn from our successes.  Don't repeat our mistakes.

I've since figured out that someone beat me to the whole "this is why we are waiting for you to free yourself, and this is how you can do it" book.  That book is Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp.  It's a free PDF that has been translated into dozens of languages and sneaked into just about every country in the world.  Every underground rebel faction has a well-worn copy.

When the dust clears Gene Sharp is going to win a Nobel Peace Prize for that book.

Dictatorship to Democracy is 93 pages.  The first 72 pages are dedicated to nonviolently overthrowing a dictator.  The last chapter covers establishing a democratic government that can last--4.5 pages.  The rest of the book is appendix and endnotes--14 pages.

I think that building a democratic government is harder than that.  These people are going to need more than 4.5 pages.

I wrote a long blog post the other day that had a reasonable outline of what I think a democratic government needs.  The central ideas are:
* equality under the law
* freedom
* capitalism
* goal-oriented
* measure your success
* experiment and innovate

Those last three points are unique to me.  I don't see anyone else out there, including the whole Democracy 2.0 crowd, talking about experimentation, adaption, and learning.  I call that evolution.  So I've started calling my particular brand of democracy "Evolving Democracy."

I'm coming back around to my original book idea.  Now I know that the first half of the battle is covered, I am free to focus on the second half:
* What are the key features of a democracy?
* How do you keep the people in control?
* What goals should you set?
* What should you teach your people?
* How should your government services operate?
* Who writes the laws?
* Who enforces the laws?

So much of what we do has evolved, and we don't ever think about things like why or how the judges and the police are kept separate.  You can't observe life in the US (or UK, or wherever) and figure out the first principles that democracy is built upon.

That's the book that I'm going to write.  I just need a name for it.

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