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Citizens against Governments

Citizens against Governments

    Reader Henrikaavik points us to a new Estonian-built anti-corruption app that is very much what I described in my previous post. Check it out at http://www.bribespot.com/. Can it change the world? Maybe.

    Citizens are rising up against their governments in an interesting variety of ways. We’re seeing everything from armed rebellions to hunger strikes to anti-corruption apps. Prior to our last U.S. presidential election, I personally funded and published online a survey of economists on the question of tax policy. That was a job our government should have been doing. In California, citizen groups put a lot of “propositions” on the ballot every election because our government isn’t capable of making laws that satisfy the public. Everywhere we look, citizens are chipping away at the power of government. And behind much of it is the Internet.

    I’m still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject, organizes them into point-counter-point debates, and keeps a rolling citizen opinion poll on each topic. That sort of system would, in time, become the real government, with our elected officials beholden to the majority opinions as they formed online. Interestingly, the key to making that sort of system work is the design of the user interface. The Thomas Jefferson of 2012 will be a user interface designer.

    You might think revolutions are only happening in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. I think we’re in the midst of a worldwide rebellion, but it’s not obvious because so much of it is non-violent and it takes so many different forms. In fifty years, only the most backward countries will have traditional governments of the sort we see today. By then, the job of President of the United States will be a ceremonial position. Power will be more directly in the hands of citizens, informed by expert advice. Our elected officials will simply execute the will of the people. And school children will learn that once upon a time there was an irrational belief in something called “leadership,” and it got us in a lot of trouble.

    [Update: And another corruption tracking app: http://www.corruptiontracker.org/]


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