Software, Politics & Austerity in Europe

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facilitated by Rabble Evan Henshaw-Plath

What Exists

  • Pirate Party's "Liquid Democracy"
  • Spanish Cooperatives / M15 (Austerity protests)
  • UK Open Knowledge
  • Brooklyn, Participatory Budgeting

Parties / Structures

  • D-Cent is an EU funded project to build software for dissident political parties.
  • Pirate Party's "Liquid Democracy" -- members debate online and the politicians are obliged to act according to directions from membership.


  • In Finland, you can vote / ID with your debit card; and you can force laws into parliament.


  • In Iceland, they tried to rewrite the constitution with a wiki and collaborative process.
    • That didn't work, but a part of the budget is decided through a public process.


  • In Italy, 5-Star Movement
    • The largest party in the senate.
    • Outwardly super democratic; inwardly, lots of scandals about power.
    • But they're doing some cool things.
      • They validate identity with RSA keys
      • As a party member you can be designated an expert and verified as an expert and they pull experts at random to form juries to evaluate particular policy changes/proposals.
      • So the process takes policy through a jury process to a public vote and then where the party has a majority they vote and it passes.
      • Difficulty is that where they're not in the majority, they don't have the power to negotiate without going back to their membership to approve changes to the law.


  • In Argentina, there are 900 political parties, one of which is exploring some direct democracy methods.


In Spain, "the X party" (Partido de los Equis) is much earlier in the organizing process.


  • Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia all have national electronic ids.
  • This stuff all works better where there's an electronic id system. A lot of european countries have a single electronic login system tied to bank accounts and identity.
  • Liquid Democracy has delegated voting -- you can designate someone else to vote on your behalf.


Can we talk about the difference between negotiation and horse trading?

Online Debate Tools

Your Priorities

Rails Software -- "Your Priorities" is designed to avoid flame wars. Modeled around a single issue and pro/con forums; you can only make refinements to the position you've taken.

Eg. Marijuana Legalization proposal: people can work in parallel to refine their arguement/proposal but you can't make a counter argument against someone else's arguement. So it changes the structure of debate. Individual proposals get voted up or down and refined.

  • Questions we have: what happens with issues that have more than one side?

Estonia E-Voting

The software is on github.

More thoughts

Pirate Parties have been really strong on freedom of expression and internet freedom, but when it came time to vote on all kinds of other things, the parties don't have a position and it was really hard to coalesce around consensus on economic policy.

In response to austerity, a lot of very right wing populist parties were/are in ascent. That is one of many things that is complicated about current European politics.

Attention disparity is a big deal -- some people have a lot of time to be involved, some people don't. Needing to work shouldn't be disenfranchizing.

In European organizations there is a long tradition of membership organizations. Which has drawbacks and is complicated but normalizes participation.

Participatory Budgeting

NYC is doing it, it isn't new. In Brazil it is normal.