Direct Digital Democracy

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Direct Digital Democracy The central question of this paper is whether or not the rise of the Internet – and, in general, new communications technology – alters “the limits of the human capacity for self-government.” My answer to this question is no. Advancements in communications technology, no matter how significant or revolutionary they may at first seem, ultimately have no fundamental effect on man’s literal capacity to govern himself. The Internet, like the television, the telephone, and the transatlantic telegraph before that, all have one basic thing in common: each is a tool and not a force of nature. Each must be comprehended, manipulated and applied by an individual, using his own rational faculty and according to his own devices. The technology itself – although complex – is fundamentally no different than the spear, the wheel, the stirrup, the combustible engine, or the space shuttle. Technology does not change man’s fundamental nature, but it does affect how well he lives, what he does, where he goes, and how quickly he can get there. Will the Internet alter the American political system? Indeed it will, and to a large extent already has, by facilitating the work of current government officials and representatives within our present system of representative democracy. But will the Internet revolution drive the American system of government toward direct digital democracy – a “third transformation” as significant as the transformation from Athenian direct democracy to American representative democracy? Most empirical evidence suggests it will not. Normatively speaking, political scientists ought to retain James Madison’s view that the purpose of government is to prevent tyranny of the majority and to constrain evil. Therefore, contemporary politicians should openly oppose measures that seek to alter our existing institutions in an effort to make them more conducive to direct democracy, whether digital or not. This Madisonian view of government is neither the sole standard of government in contemporary American society, nor is it the frontrunner among competing political ideologies. I would argue that the mythology of liberalism or populism is accepted as just and revered by most average Americans. In the 2002 Presidential Election, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the Electoral College vote, thus winning the presidency, but lost the overall popular American vote by a significant margin.
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