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Are We An Oligarchy Yet?

9:17 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Matt Stoller believes that the recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page doesn’t support the idea that the United States is an oligarchy yet. He says:

A lot of people are misreading this Princeton study on the political influence of the wealthy and business groups versus ordinary citizens. The study does not say that the US is an oligarchy, wherein the wealthy control politics with an iron fist. If it were, then things like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, veterans programs, housing finance programs, etc wouldn’t exist.

What the study actually says is that American voters are disorganized and their individualized preferences don’t matter unless voters group themselves into mass membership organizations. Then, if people belong to mass membership organizations, their preferences do matter, but less so than business groups and the wealthy.

Well, it’s true that Gilens and Page never say that United States is an oligarchy, and perhaps it’s also true that they don’t believe it. But they do say this:

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of ‘populistic’ democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.’

And they’re right. Their data refute the idea that the preferences of the majority are, by-and-large, or even frequently, enacted into law in today’s United States. Insofar, as that’s a necessary condition for having a constitutional democracy, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that right now the United States doesn’t have one. That finding has further implications.

First, the US doesn’t have either mob rule or constitutional democracy. Nor does the study show that the political system is paralyzed, in spite of all the complaints about excessive partisanship and stalemate in Washington. So someone is ruling. Who is it?

Second, it shows that, mostly, economic elites and interest groups representing them, many of them virtual puppets of the economic elite and corporations, are getting their way. Also, it doesn’t show that one individual is getting his/her way. That means there’s no King or Queen ruling, and also that there isn’t a single tyrant ruling. So, we can conclude that, mostly, the economic elites and their interest groups are ruling. How are they ruling?

Well, third, even though there are legislative and judicial forms specified in the Constitution being followed; there are many elements of current elite rule that are neither constitutional nor legal. For example, is it legal and/or constitutional for the Executive Branch to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool to refuse to go after the big banks for their blatantly illegal behavior leading to the mortgage crisis, the failure of major financial institutions, and the world economy? Is it constitutional and legal for the President of the United States to use drones to kill US citizens without legal or constitutional due process? Is it legal or constitutional for the President to use drones to violate the sovereign territory of other nations through drone strikes without the consent of the authorities of those nations?

Is it legal or constitutional for the big banks to use fraudulent documents to implement foreclosures? Is it legal or constitutional for the Administration to refuse to prosecute officers and employees of the big banks for committing these frauds? Is it legal or constitutional for local governments and the DHS to violate the rights of free speech and free assembly of Occupy protestors across the country in order to protect elite financial interests? Is it legal or constitutional for Justices of the Supreme Court to interpret the 14th amendment as conferring the liberties of biological individuals on organizations whose legal existence is an artificial legal construct? Are the Justices who are doing this not the products of influence previously exercised by the economic elite?

Is it legal or constitutional for State legislatures to enact and attempt to enforce laws to suppress voting rights of minorities and other groups across the country; as well as laws effectively removing the right to choose to end their pregnanicies of women with limited financial resources to exercise that right? Is it legal or constitutional to apply the law harshly to racial and ethnic minorities, and the poor, while refusing to apply it at all to members of the economic elite and their companies?

The answers to all these questions suggest that the non-democratic, non-monarchical rule validated by the Princeton Study is also rule by the economic elite that is a good deal less than constitutional or just. In my book, that makes it rule by the relatively few that is unjust, and isn’t that the definition of oligarchy, whether Gilens and Page say so explicitly or not?

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A Meta-layer for Restoring Democracy and Open Society: Part Three, the IVCS

8:40 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone


Joseph M. Firestone and Henk Hadders

This is the concluding post in a three-part series. The first post highlighted the problem of lack of representativeness in modern societies, characterized human societies, economic, and political systems as special kinds of Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs) called Promethean CASs, and then argued that such systems needed continuous self-organization to maintain democracy and open society in the face of tendencies toward oligarchy endemic in PCASs, and that e-participation platforms might enable continuous self-organization, if such platforms were designed appropriately. In Part Two, we spelled out the general and IT requirements needed for an e-participation platform that could provide a meta-layer for democracy enabling continuous self-organization. In this post we’ll conclude with a case study.

The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) platform: A Case Study

All systems using IT and human agents relating people to one another, including political parties, and formal organizations generally, are PCASs, and in their formative stages after the introduction of the IT component to users will involve some additional degree of self-organization, network effects, and emerging collective behavior patterns, beyond that existing before introducing the technology. But, some IT platforms/tool sets will do a better job of enabling self-organization initially, and maintaining it continuously, than others. That means that some applications will serve democracy better than others in that continuous enabling of new self-organization outside any formal organizational structure within their IT application environments will more effectively prevent formation of entrenched oligarchies than will other applications ostensibly directed at similar problems.

How well IT platforms trying to heal modern democratic political systems such as the United States, will perform in enabling self-organization depends in great part on the power of their central symbols, or “tags” to attract self-organizing activity with a propensity to generate higher-level collectives such as voting blocs and electoral coalitions out of the self-organization.

The IVCS is a platform and set of tools being developed that is expected to fulfill all the e-platform requirements given above. It has policy options as its key tags, the central symbols around which people will self-organize to create voting blocs and electoral coalitions. In addition, when using IVCS, people prioritize their policy options and create policy agendas based on their options and priorities. Policy options, priorities, and policy agendas are the most effective tags for political self-organization because 1) people can locate others based on similarities in these matters, and 2) they can also engage in developing voting blocs and electoral coalitions by first finding people whose agendas are similar to their own, and then negotiating out differences among them by collaborating on how policy agendas may be changed, consensus created and differences resolved.

And because of these tags and other features that enable and encourage participation in the process of building voting blocs and electoral coalitions by negotiating and re-negotiating policy options, priorities, and policy agendas, IVCS is the platform that can best maintain continuous self-organization, continuous refreshing of “bottom-up”, democratic participation, in building and re-building voting blocs and electoral coalitions. The most important thing is that CASs are always poised at “the edge of chaos,” between the disorder of chaotic dynamics and the orderly dynamics of lifeless mechanical equilibrium.

They remain in this state, because their continuous self-organization allows them to cope with environmental challenges through problem solving. Their continued existence as PCASs, therefore, depends on this continuous self-organization. If that fails or is undermined by the institutionalization of oligarchies that can protect themselves from replacement, then the adaptive capabilities of the PCAS will fail and it will change its state.

The IVCS enables the U.S. electorate to bypass the current system and circumvent institutions that have corrupted it. It does this by enabling voters of all persuasions to build voter-controlled on-line voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can get control of all vital processes that determine what the nation’s legislative priorities are, who runs for office, who gets elected, what laws are enacted, and which office holders will be made accountable for breaking their commitments made to voters prior to their elections.

These blocs and coalitions can work together outside the system, prior to elections, to democratize political parties so that their supporters control them rather than special interests. The blocs and coalitions can form alliances with democratically-run parties while supplanting all parties as the driving forces of U.S. politics (see figure 1).

ivcs as a PCAS

Figure 1: IVCS as a PCAS with self-organizing emergent collectives

IVCS’s agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus-building tools enable voters to set their legislative agendas and build voting blocs and electoral coalitions to elect representatives who will enact their legislative priorities, not special interest priorities, into law. The tools empower voters to change the whole political system by creating self-organizing voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can perform all functions political parties perform to get their candidates elected, and their legislative agendas passed. This includes raising money for their candidates from individual donors throughout the country, rather than special interests.

In addition to doing the same things that parties do to run winning candidates, the voting blocs and coalitions that voters build, using IVCS tools, can do two things absolutely essential to democracy that traditional political parties have failed to do. First, they can overcome the parties’ failure to allow voters to collectively set and vote on party platforms and legislative agendas, And second, the IVCS and its consensus-building tools, especially the voting utility, collaboration, and problem solving tools, and knowledge bases containing both claims and meta-claims, enable voters to resolve conflicts. Space limitations prevent our dealing with IVCS in more detail; more information can be found on the prototype website.


Aristotle pointed out that monarchies were subject to transformation to tyrannies, aristocracies to oligarchies, and constitutional governments to democracies (mob rule). He had no way of knowing that such transformations may have something to do with whether the processes of self-organization decay to such a degree that lack of adaptive success in each of these systems drives their transformation to their perverted forms.

He also had no way of envisioning the need for modern constitutional liberal democracies to continuously renew themselves with new distributed ‘wicked’ problem-solving capabilities and accountability mechanisms that can only be produced through openness and self-organization supported through modern IT web-based e-participation platforms. These platforms can provide a meta-layer of new knowledge, cultural norms, and self-organization, for democratic political systems, unconstrained by and not open to, manipulation by emergent globalizing elites.

Without these new e-participation platforms, and the continuous self-organization they will bring, the iron law of oligarchy will continue to dominate representative democracies, and they will travel further along the real road to serfdom. IVCS can create the meta-layer necessary to strengthen self-organization into voting blocs, electoral coalitions, and web-based social networks in such a way, that new policy solutions can be continuously introduced, along with new mechanisms of accountability. That meta-layer can ensure that policy elites either become representative, or are quickly replaced by new officeholders who won’t rely on the financial and organizational resources now co-opting self-organizing movements, the heart and soul modern democracies. It can repeal the Iron Law!


This conference paper on which the posts in this series are based was written in collaboration with Nancy Border, PhD., inventor of IVCS. We thank Dr. Bordier for her contributions, insights, and support.

(Cross-posted from

A Meta-layer for Restoring Democracy and Open Society: Part Two, Meta-layer Requirements

8:48 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone


Joseph M. Firestone and Henk Hadders

Requirements for an e-participation platform in human political CASs

We won’t be able to stop the movement toward oligarchy unless we can create a new institutional framework that allows us to change those aspects of our present situation supporting oligarchy and undermining open society. We need a framework that will operate within the context of existing rules and laws to create changes supporting increased self-organization and distributed knowledge processing shifting our democratic PCASs back towards an open state.

The new institutional framework must provide a meta-layer of political interaction and networking that places new ecological constraints on the current political system, driving it back towards a condition in which the ability of individuals to both arrive at more accurate constructions of reality, and act on them, through increased self-organization and distributed knowledge processing, is dominant. The meta-layer can be provided by a web-based platform eventually incorporating most of the eligible voters in a political system, and providing capabilities for political organization that can overcome the impact of big money and media on political parties, legislators, legislatures, and politics generally.

Here are the requirements for such a framework. It must provide or enable:

– social contexts and milieus within which people can organize themselves and others around public policy agendas, comprised of policy options and policy priorities, into voting blocs and electoral coalitions ranging from very small to blocs of millions of voters without needing sizable financial resources from sources external to these social milieus, and without being subject to external mass media communications influenced by financial oligarchs and other special interests;

– social contexts and milieus offering the possibility of informal group and social network formation around these policy agendas;

– social contexts and milieus that are transparent and inclusive in providing participants with previously developed data, information, and knowledge, and in allowing them freedom to participate in communicating, organizing, collaborating, critically evaluating, problem solving, and decision making within voting blocs and electoral coalitions;

– social contexts and milieus in which participants have a modicum of trust in other participants;

– participants and voting blocs to communicate their policy agendas to candidates for public office and office holders, and also securing either commitments to these agendas, or clear refusals to support them;

– participants and voting blocs to continuously monitor and rate performance of office holders against agendas and to decide whether to continue to support them after performance ratings are arrived at;

– tools for voting blocs and electoral coalitions to organize efforts to get both major party and third party candidates and initiatives onto ballots, and to get people to the polls to vote. Simply, it must provide tools to enable voting blocs to do all the things political parties now do to support candidates they want to elect and ballot initiatives they want to pass.

In brief, the new institutional framework must provide an alternative network of social and political relations to the contemporary world of political parties and established interest groups. The alternative world must embody the key attributes of open society, which means it must provide an informal communications and knowledge network that is very much independent of the mass media, and also capable of enabling creating highly cohesive voting blocs and electoral coalitions of many millions of people, and even new political parties, which can offer decisive support to candidates and office holders in return for their continuing support of voting bloc agendas. The alternative world will then work as a meta-layer constraining the prior political world, and preventing it from concentrating power in oligarchies by subjecting them to continuous self-organization and a cultural background of new knowledge arising from distributed knowledge processing.

Information Technology Requirements

What are the Information Technology (IT) requirements to provide this new meta-level of political interaction and networking? Below we present our view on functions and facilities needed:

a. Application software available as web services within an architecture capable of easily incorporating new web-service enabled applications when they appear. Fulfilling this requirement makes the platform adaptive;

b. Facilities (e.g. forums, web conferencing) people can use to jointly clarify with one another and state the problems they see, and store the problem formulations in a knowledge base, linked to people who formulated them;

c. Facilities for creating policy options, selecting others from a knowledge base, rating policy options relative to one another to establish ratio-scaled priorities, entering and storing policy options, and priorities in a knowledge base, making annotations linked to the options text, explaining why policy options make sense, and describing how they’ve performed;

d. Facilities for gathering information both internal to the system, and across the web, to help people arrive at their policy agendas. System search facilities employing the best available semantic web technology, newly emerging in web 2.0 and 3.0 applications, to help people locate information relevant to policy option formulation. Facilities for content aggregation “mash-ups” drawing on hundreds of web sites for content related to issue areas linked to policy options. For more advanced users facilities/tools for modeling, measuring, and projecting policy impact;

e. The search and content aggregation facilities mentioned, will supply people with tools to help them critically evaluate policy options, and annotation and linking capabilities will enable them to tie their evaluations to their policy options, and to create a track record that they and others will be able to use in the future;

f. Facilities for accessing an already existing policy options knowledge base, using platform search capabilities, learn about other people’s policy agendas, creating new policy options, and adding them to the knowledge base. Facilities for accessing existing policy options by using folksonomies established by users over time, producing content by participating in forums, by blogging and micro-blogging, and by contributing to wikis they’ll create on various issues. Facilities for cognitive mapping allowing people to compare the cognitive profile of their own policy agendas with other policy agendas available in the knowledge base, helping people place their agendas in context, and preparing the way for collaboration with others in voting blocs;

g. Facilities for annotating policy options and creating the track record of criticisms and evaluations of all policy options, as well as all reasoning recorded in the knowledge base supporting them. The best practices in policy and the lessons learned will be there. The history of performance will be there, and will be organized, searchable, and navigable due to the annotation and linking capability present in the platform and people’s use of this capability over time;

h. Facilities for social networking including building and mapping networks, and analyzing them like those in such well-known applications as Facebook and LinkedIn, and for accessing social network graphs, using social software for creating communities and discussion groups, exchanging ideas, searching for and locating experts, using text and data mining, cognitive mapping, and finding and contacting voters with statistically and/or conceptually similar priorities and cognitive maps;

i. Facilities for team-based workflow so teams of people can plan and implement common tasks involving specialization, virtual team workspaces, application and desktop sharing in virtual collaborative sessions, collaborating on documents such as policy agendas, policy options, impact analyses, wikis, blog posts, and discussion forums to use in creating voting bloc coalitions;

j. Facilities for project, task, and event management, web-conferencing for online meetings to recognize and formulate problems, develop solutions, criticize them, and mobilize support for policy agendas and for voting bloc campaign activities; collaborative prioritizing of policy options as well as planning and prioritizing political initiatives to get policy options passed into law; collaborative e-learning for getting access to content fragments gathered from across the internet relevant to a problem they’re trying to solve, and a variety of virtual environments for social collaborative learning for teams;

k. In addition to the facilities mentioned earlier, a voting/polling capability for collaborating and getting agreement in voting blocs, using agreed upon policy agendas as a legislative mandate for elected representatives and electoral candidates, a rating tool for evaluating announced candidates and recruiting new ones, a tool for monitoring elected representatives’ legislative actions, and a scorecard and decision making tool for evaluating their track records and deciding whether to vote for or against them;

l. Facilities for a mass e-mail blaster; “Write-your-rep” campaigns and petitions using voting bloc agendas; web conferencing between voting bloc members and reps, if they agree to attend; voting bloc donation solicitation and management; political event management; and voting bloc chapter management.

m. Facilities for identity management for members, a hierarchical system of access rights guaranteeing the security of sensitive data, content, or applications, assigning access rights to any object, a central user and rights directory allowing access rights of individual users or groups to be assigned with a mouse-click. Facilities for creating unbreakable security for privacy protection including, if necessary, quantum encryption.

Next we look at the case of the platform and its Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) tools being developed by a team led by political scientist Nancy Bordier. The platform, IVCS tools, and voters using it will together form an open PCAS, solving the wicked problem of overcoming Michels’s Iron Law which, today, is threatening to transform the US and other modern democracies into oligarchies.

(Cross-posted from

A Meta-layer for Restoring Democracy and Open Society: Part One, Conceptual Foundations

8:37 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone


Joseph M. Firestone and Henk Hadders

The Disconnect

It’s hardly news that there’s a very wide chasm between voters, lawmakers and political parties. The rage in America reflected in the Republican primary contests is palpable. And there’s also rage among progressives as well, though it’s not finding an outlet in the Democratic Party. The same is true in Europe, where we see unrest in many nations. People in developing nations are demanding democracy, and making some progress too. But, everywhere one looks in developed countries, democracy is retreating, and Michels’s (p. 400) “Iron Law of Oligarchy” is triumphant.

In the U.S. most Americans believe lawmakers don’t care what they think, Congress’s approval rating is at an all-time low, and most Americans believe the major parties won’t represent them. Neither tries to match its policies to a majority of voters’ preferences, and both continuously support laws that seem designed to benefit large corporate interests and the 1%, but not working Americans. There are now more unaffiliated voters than party-affiliated ones, and major party candidates often win elections with only 25% of potential voters.

Most voters want most federal incumbents defeated, but legal constraints on minor parties and candidates typically ensure their defeat, whether they are “insurgents” from within the party, or candidates from third parties. This skewing of electoral outcomes leads voters to think that they have to vote for major party candidates, or “waste” their vote. Angry voters alternate election cycles between major party candidates to “punish” incumbents. But the new “winners” ignore what voters want, just as the old ones did. So, how can we repair this disconnect? How can we make office holders accountable and representative again?

Complex Adaptive Systems: Features and Significance

A mechanistic world view is unlikely to work in reforming our political systems, because they’re not clockworks, “orange” or otherwise. We need models for transformation using perspectives of complexity theory, focused on the significance of co-intelligence and deliberative democracy in tackling legislative problems.

In working with complexity theory, it’s common to try to define “Complex Adaptive System” (CAS). But, I think it’s better just to list their features. The first of these is coherence in the face of change, or “identity.” Coherence refers to maintenance of the characteristic pattern of organization of a CAS.

Second, CASs are diverse in both form and capability. They range from adaptive software agents to the International Social System, and include one-celled living systems, immune systems, and many others of diverse form, varying capability and degrees of complexity.

Third, CASs are populated with agents (members) who learn, individually and collectively. Fourth, distributed problem-solving and knowledge processing is an important feature of CASs. Individual agents in CASs solve their own problems. In doing so, they contribute to solving CAS problems in a distributed, but organized way.

Fifth, CASs are marked by extensive interactions among their agents. Intermittent interactions are not sufficient to establish a CAS pattern with its complex patterning of feedback loops and reinforcements that maintains the CAS at “the edge of chaos.”

Sixth, CAS agents self-organize to produce emergent global behavior at the CAS level. This is one of the most important features of a CAS. The key idea is that agents comprising it act in accordance with their own purposes and motives, in pursuit of their own goals, and that their actions produce self-organized emergent global patterns that identify the CAS.

Seventh, CASs behave and learn partly in accordance with knowledge which can be modeled as ‘rules.’ Eighth, they also adapt by creating and using new rules as they continuously attempt to fit themselves to their environments. The process of arriving at new rules is “creative” or “evolutionary” learning. It involves “blind” generation of rules and recombination of components of old, well-established rules. Once new rules are formulated, they are subject to selection through interaction among CAS agents and interaction of the CAS with its environment.

Ninth, the ability of CASs to successfully learn and develop new rules, or knowledge, is greater to the extent that their constituent agents are operating in problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing environments marked by relative “openness.” “Openness” must apply across various phases of the problem-solving process. It has at least two important dimensions. The first is internal transparency (availability and accessibility of information across CAS agents); the second is epistemic inclusiveness, equal opportunity for all autonomous CAS agents to participate and interact in the problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing of the system, so that it can be more effective. Both are always found in high-performance CASs. An example taken from outside the human domain helps illustrate a pattern of (uncontaminated) epistemic inclusiveness.

Ant colonies illustrate ‘native’ CASs that rely on distributed knowledge processing informed by the individual experiences of their members, and global behaviors at the CAS level determined as a consequence of information flow among these members. There is no centralized planning or control producing collective behavior in such systems. All knowledge created by individual ants contributes to the pattern of collective knowledge reflected in changed behavioral predispositions of the ant colony, and in the pattern of pheramone trails emerging at the level of the collective. Knowledge at the global level is entirely distributed or “bottom-up” in origin, as is the learning that produces it.

Social CASs created by humans are unlike ant colonies. Agents in human CASs distinguish, to a much greater degree than ants do, power, authority, or influence relations, and concentrations of such relations, and of the resources that are at the basis of them. These are an emergent reality affecting human CAS interaction. The existence of such relations is an important factor distinguishing social CASs comprised of human agents, and their interactions, from other types of CASs.

Human CASs are Promethean

Human CASs, are subject to human attempts to change the patterns of interaction and outcomes that their CASs are predisposed to produce. In fact, politics, management, and leadership is frequently about attempting to treat organizations as though they were, or ought to behave like, mechanical systems, subject to determinate cause-and-effect relations, rather than as CASs whose adaptive global behavior results from self-organization and distributed knowledge processing.

Such attempts produce continual conflict between predispositions produced by interacting agents within self-organizing processes, and other predispositions produced by efforts of the powerful and influential to realize their own visions of the future through command-and-control interventions. So, human CASs constitute a type we will call Promethean CASs (PCASs), because, their normal predispositions toward behavior and distributed knowledge processing are subject to the “god-like” intervention of powerful and influential agents. That’s why Michels’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” is often predictive of politics in political parties and democracies.

PCASs, the Movement Toward Oligarchy, and Open Society

The movement toward oligarchy in human-based systems happens because powerful people and institutions don’t like continuous self-organization, and the appearance of new ideas, ideologies, and power structures that come along with it. So, they intervene to stop or regulate it, and, in doing so, destroy the essence of democracy; the ability of people to always organize anew and disturb and even displace the policies, power structures, elites, and institutions of the past with new ones, more adaptive in solving the problems of the present and future.

The task of any CAS system is to maintain itself at “the edge of chaos.” This is difficult enough in the face of environmental influences that tend to transition PCASs either to chaotic dynamics, or to closed systems inexorably driven toward a sterile mechanical equilibrium. It is even more difficult in the context of continuing political or management interventions that frequently may amplify the strength of tendencies toward one extreme or another by changing the internal environment affecting self-organization. management, leadership, and politics.

In the context of Open Enterprises and Open Societies, the task is about implementing policies and programs that will support self-organization in distributed knowledge processing and problem-solving by maintaining openness in problem recognition, developing alternative solutions, and error elimination, as well as openness in communicating and diffusing new solutions across the enterprise or across society. Conversely leadership, management, and politics in such systems that undermines self-organization by repressing or otherwise manipulating it, will transition human PCASs away from openness and democracy, and towards extreme conflict systems, or authoritarian or totalitarian oligarchies.

So, for democratic societies today, an important question hangs in the balance: How can we counter tendencies toward oligarchy in our democracies by restoring self-organization and distributed knowledge processing to their proper place in reinforcing open society, democracy, and adaptiveness to environmental and societal change?

Many are looking to e-participation innovations in democracy to provide an answer to this question. But if e-participation is to serve that purpose, rather than the purpose of elite astro-turfing manufacturing consent within a totalitarian oligarchy, then e-participation platforms must fulfill certain requirements. We’ll turn to those in the second part of this series.

(Cross-posted from

The Only Way Around All That Money

7:46 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone


Joseph M. Firestone and Nancy Bordier

We think most people agree that money has corrupted our politics. Some even think that we now live in a Plutocracy, and not in a Democracy, and that both parties are corrupted and now represent only the financial oligarchy. So, the central issue of our time is how can we break its hold? How can we overcome the influence of money in politics and make our political system more responsive to most Americans once again?

The way we can do that is by modifying the political system so that much less money is needed for new citizen voting blocs to organize and make themselves felt as a political force. In turn, we think, this modification comes down to removing the necessity for candidates and new movements to engage in mass media advertising, and direct mail marketing campaigns to become popular, grow strong, and win elections.

There’s only one way to get that done, however, and that’s to create a system of communication and political organization that relies primarily on the Internet, and makes organizing so cheap for people, that money is irrelevant to formulating one’s message, getting it out, and joining with others to produce platforms and candidates with capability to compete with others who have huge amounts of corporate and personal money. We have to make campaign resources like Meg Whitman’s $100 million — plus irrelevant to winning elections. We need a software application and Internet site(s) that will provide people with a virtual place through which they can: define their own policy options and prioritize them to create political agendas, social network with others who have similar agendas to their own, work together with these others to create collective political agendas, voting blocs, coalitions and new political parties that, partly by using monitoring, evaluating, and communicating capabilities of the application will make their representatives accountable. In this post on the Interactive Voter Choice System, Nancy Bordier and I described the premises of such an application, for which she has a patent pending, and also how it would work to help people overcome the problems of political organization, while providing a very low cost environment.

The application will supply the most comprehensive current environment available for developing a rich inner life for new voting blocs, and the people within them. It will provide a richer ecology for voting blocs to evolve within, than anything available now. It will also support openness, transparency, and political inclusiveness within its voting blocs. Because of these characteristics, including the openness of the blocs, more of the blocs will solve their problems, and adapt better to their environments, improving the chances that some of them will transcend the awkward brittle stages of voting bloc growth, and survive long enough to grow into a real force that will challenge the legacy parties and force the changes in the American political system we are all looking for.

Most Americans want to do something about the mess that we’re in. They’ll respond to an application like the one we’ve outlined, because it will facilitate their efforts to self-organize coalitions, evaluate their representatives, influence them, and, finally, hold them accountable. Since it will cost little more than time to organize and get one’s messages out by using it, the application will eliminate the need for voting blocs and candidates to rely on big money to evolve support. It will de-fang the Citizens United decision. It will be the solution to the problem of how we can shift the balance back from Plutocracy toward Democracy.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).