[pp.int.general] 'Liquid Democrazy': Pirate Party Sinks amid Chaos and Bickering

Eduardo Robles Elvira edulix at gmail.com
Sun Feb 24 11:07:08 CET 2013

On Sun, Feb 24, 2013 at 9:42 AM, Nicolás Reynolds <fauno at kiwwwi.com.ar> wrote:
>> 2. Maybe we are really trying something impossible by fighting the
>> 'iron law of oligarchy':
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy - maybe we should
>> accept it as a reality, analyze it and try to make it a smaller effect
>> it instead of trying to have politics completely democratic.


I'm Eduardo, one of the (founding) members of the spanish pirate
party, which as you might know is no stranger to organizational chaos
and bickering. I'm also developer of the tool agoravoting.com and
member of the local *party* Piratas de Madrid.

This topic is very interesting to our movement: if we want to create
something more democratic, how can we achieve that avoiding the arise
of oligarchy? The wikipedia page about it [1] is a very interesting
read, thanks Zbigniew. Basically the idea is that when a group gets
bigger it requires some leadership and bureaucracy for practical
reasons to keep things efficient, and this promotes oligarchy and
corruption. "The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale
democracy succumbs to "social viscosity" in a large-scale
organization." (quote from wikipedia)

I imagine that what happened is that people are trying to keep social
viscosity down in a large-scale organization, and *this* leads to
internal inefficiencies: people stop working on productive things and
start fighting against each other. We could call this "social
temperature". This means that the pirates have done what any of us
would have expected from them: fight concentration of power, fight
bureaucracy, fight corruption, fight emergent oligarchy.

Kudos for them, I'm quite proud. And this has probably kept the matter
in a liquid state, so they have won that battle. Problem is, when
temperature rises pressure also rises. The problem of course is that
power, bureaucracy and all that doesn't rise for no reason: as we said
earlier, it happens to try to make things efficient and practical at
bigger scales. I feel the pain misunderstood leaders of the german
pirate party as I felt it when it happened to some of the leaders in
the long wars of the spanish pirate party. The pressure they must feel
right now is quite hig, for you know liquids are incompressible.
Liquid democrazy is a nice term for this, congrats to the person who
coined this term.

Democracy seems to work better at small-scale, I think this is
something that we can probably accept. This is why hierarchy usually
arises: we can have "democracy" at different layers, to keep it
efficient, but of course this makes difficult for people to climb the
ladder of power to an upper layer and leads to oligarchy and
corruption, oops.

Please don't take all this reasoning badly; I'm with all of you that
like liquid democracy and as a pirate, I'm just struggling to make it
better, to make it work at larger scales. Solutions to mitigate this?
Here are some thoughts:

1. Transparency. This avoids corruption, because political corruption
is kind of the opposite of transparency. Transparency  means a lot of
things: it should be transverse at all representative layers,
obligatory for those that represent us, but also people should keep an
eye and organize, because "given enough eyeballs, all bugs/corruptions
are shallow" [3].

2. Self-determination/federalism/individual free will. We don't like
to be told what we can or can't do: we believe in free will. Even in
groups, individuals are the ones that ultimately take the decisions.
With our free will we choose to organize in groups, so it's a matter
of sense that with the same free will we can choose to leave that
group and join another one or create one ourselves. This is the
principle of federalism or self-determination, and it's also the same
principle behind liquid democracy. This means that we need to give
back power autonomy to small communities.

I think point 1 is important as counter-balance mechanism to power,
and mechanism 2 is a good valve scape to pressure. We didn't know it
at the time, but when the Spanish pirate party was completely "chaos
and bickering", we applied "divide and conquer" strategy [4]. Lots of
unproductive fights were going on for a long time, this meant that
there were still people that wanted to do productive things. After
all, if you have pressure it means there's something inside.

The pressure escaped by the creation of multiple local parties.
Remember, democracy works better in small-scale. And how it worked!
Catalans created a new political party in Catalonia and even achieved
two councilors in some municipalities, for example. They were the
first to do this bold move, and lots of "pressure" escaped through
this valve and Catalonia has currently one of the best organized
pirate parties in Spain, and we have some other new political parties
in Madrid, Extremadura, Galicia, etc. As a phoenix, we will arise from
the ashes, one might say.

Of course I do not have any magical answers to solve this complicated
problem. It'd be best if we didn't have this pressure that seems to be
quite related to our kind of organization. We need a way to make the
recipient (which is our organization) bigger so that temperature
doesn't need to get higher, and we need small escape valves to keep
pressure from going to the roof. Perhaps we should find a way to
remove the recipient and convert this in a cloud, another fancy term
nowadays in the Internet. But can be a cloud democratic? how does one
create and maintain such a cloud big and strong without acid rain? =)

Finally I recommend you all to read the book "Direct Democracy", free
to download in multiple languages, which talks about matters like
federalism, direct democracy mechanisms, etc - I found it to be an
interesting read [5].

Best regards,
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_corruption
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus%27s_Law
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide_and_conquer_algorithm
[4] http://www.democracy-international.org/book-direct-democracy.html

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