"Cooperation and partnership are the only route that offers any hope of a better future for all humanity."
- Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations
(from a speech to the United Nations General Assemby on September 24, 2001)
Wikitopia is an open-source web application which turns an organization's wiki into a democratic voting forum. It is a flexible and scalable system for governing projects, clubs, organizations, corporations, and potentially even nations. It relies on an inclusive model of leadership wherein the leader is the one being followed, not the one holding the title. This project was inspired by Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar with the contention that the same principles which have driven the rapid growth of open source software and wikipedia can also be applied in organizational power structures.
Design of WikitopiaEdit
The direct democratic self-determination of the members of an organization has rarely been implemented for two reasons. The most persuasive reason is that it's not logistically feasible. The majority of members of an organization don't have the time or the inclination to examine and decide every proposal. The other accepted reason is that allowing the members direct control would destabilize the organization, as the crowd is too ignorant to directly govern itself.
Combining recent advances in technology with a system of "dynamic delegation" wherein each member can delegate another member to vote on his or her behalf will enable an organization to operate as a direct democracy. A user-friendly web-app can provide a framework for the introduction and passage of proposals that is void of a formal power structure. The web-app will interact with a forum for the members to discuss the proposals and broker agreements and allegiances for their passage.
The Wikitopian ProcessEdit
Wikitopia enables the collective will of the members to be expressed through the acceptance or rejection of contracts presented by members or organizational members. The member will be able to propose a contract for a vote, vote on a proposed contract, select a delegated voter, and participate in the open forums. By default, the member's vote will be private. The member can instead opt to be a public voter, which will then enable other members to delegate the public voter and change the default lack of voting decision from an absence from the voting process to an implied rejection of the contract.
Public and Private VotersEdit
- Public voter
- Vote is public record
- Voter can be delegated
- Lack of vote is an implicit rejection
- Voting cycle begins Friday, ends Thursday
- Private voter
- Vote is private record
- Selected delegate is private record
- Can override delegate on individual votes
- Lack of vote is lack of decision (Null)
- Voting cycle begins Saturday, ends Friday
- Propose a contract
- Vote on proposed contracts
- Add, remove, or replace a delegate
- Choose between being a private voter and public voter
A contract can only be proposed by the individual who is to be bound by the terms of the contract or the chairperson of the organization which is to be bound by the terms of the contract. The exception to this is with revisions or additions to the "general contract," which is the binding agreement between all of the members and the organization.
The contracts will have eight days from their proposal to the final tabulation of the votes. From midnight on Friday, all of the proposed contracts will become available for vote by public voters. The public voters will have a one day advance on the voting process. Public voters will be allowed to vote on the contracts until Thursday at Midnight.
From midnight on Saturday, all of the proposed contracts will become available for vote by private voters. The staggering of the private voters by one day is so that they will have the full day of Friday to vote after the public voters have already moved onto the next week's contracts. Should the public voter's decision be contrary to the private voter's decision, the private voter will have all of Friday to override the delegate's decision, appoint a new delegate, or withdraw delegation.
Lifecycle of a ProposalEdit
- Contract proposal presented in forum for review and discussion (optional)
- Contract proposal submitted to mechanism before Friday midnight's deadline
- For 24 hours (all day of first Friday) the public voters get a head start on voting
- From Saturday at midnight to Friday at midnight, both public and private voters may submit votes
- For 24 hours (all day of second Friday), only private voters can vote on contract
- Voting is concluded at Saturday midnight and contract is either dismissed or binding
In practice, Friday will be the most eventful day in the process as it will include both the introduction of contracts for voting and the conclusion of voting for last week's contracts. Since a public voter's lack of a vote is a vote against a contract, there is no theoretical maximum amount of contracts which can be introduced as public voters and private voters can ignore unpopular contracts, which will simply go away.
The General ContractEdit
One contract which is distinct from the others is the general contract. This contract will be the binding contractual agreement between the individual (or organization) and the greater organization. Every member will be bound by every relevant stipulation of the contract whether or not the member voted for the particular stipulation. Members who defy the stipulations of this contract will be subject to whatever penalties are specified in the general contract.
In a sovereign state, the civil liberties, felonies, misdemeanors, responsibilities, and obligations will be stipulated in this extensive and comprehensive document. Revisions, recisions, and extensions of the contract will be proposed and voted on through the same system that other contracts use. In this manner, all of law is systematized into this contractual relationship. Murder will be a violation of the societal contract, which will stipulate how the murderer is to be charged, judged, sentenced, held, and released. Contractors will perform those tasks on behalf of the citizens.
Before the advent of widespread literacy and the diffusion of information, citizens were too ignorant to govern themselves. A handful of benevolent plutocrats had a monopoly on the information and were the only ones capable of governing. Modern democratic republics haven't dismissed these plutocrats, but have instead created a framework wherein they are loosely accountable to the citizens.
While technology has dissolved this monopoly on information, the concomitant monopoly on power has yet to be dissolved. The entire body of a literate and informed citizenry is capable of either direct democratic decision making or delegating an individual who represents him or her at will.
A democratic republic is more vulnerable than a direct democracy to demagoguery and misinformation because misinformation and public hysteria can be brought to a crescendo at the date of the election. The result of this collusion of events (which is common) is that this misinformation and public hysteria is crystallized in the republic until the next election.
A democratic republic is more vulnerable than a direct democracy to manipulation by lobbyists because creating a formalized, centralized, and temporarily unaccountable legislature creates a target for corruption. Often, the democratic republic creates an environment where the politician is in the dangerous predicament of being thousands of miles from constituents offering no immediate incentives and surrounded by lobbyists offering immediate incentives.
Government bureaucracies are state-protected monopolistic organizations which are only ceremonially accountable to a legislature which is only ceremonially accountable to the citizens. Monopolies are wasteful. Even the most altruistic monopolistic organization is sub-optimal because its monopoly inhibits a more efficient organization from superceding it. Monopolistic government bureaucracies have very little incentive to accomplish their appointed task and very little accountability for their efficiency.
Democratic republics are comprised of an array of government institutions with designated tasks. Each of these institutions is an organization which has been granted a monopoly over a task which the legislature is performing on behalf of the citizens. A modification to this arrangement wherein each organization has an explicit contract with no monopolistic privileges that is directly brokered with the citizens assures the most accountability, the most incentives, and the greatest efficiency.
No institution representing the citizens should have a monopoly on any task. The only monopoly in any district should be the will of the people. The most optimal system is an absolute dissolution of all government institutions. The tasks formerly performed by government institutions can be more efficiently performed by private individuals or organizations which have brokered an explicit contract with the citizens.
Direct democracy dismisses the governors and direct government dismisses the government altogether. This should not be mistaken for anarchy or even minarcy. A welfare state can emerge from the accumulation of contracts between the citizens and private organizations. An accumulation of standards, protocols, and systems will emerge from the direct interaction between the citizens and the market-driven organizations. Law enforcement, jurisprudence, education, and even military defense can be designed and implemented in a direct government framework.
Absolute privatization is difficult to visualize at first because modern political science often relies on presumptions that sovereignty lies in the hands of an individual or a council of individuals that explicitly dictates policy. The leap of imagination that allows one to view the mechanism which generates contracts as the sovereign entity is necessary. The sovereignty of this mechanism, like the sovereignty of humans, is only as valid and secure as the citizens are unwilling to or incapable of deposing it.
The scope of the Wikitopian Project does not include prescribing the direction that the collaborative community will go once it has been conceived. A few considerations on how the members may interact with private organizations are only intended to jog the imagination. Readers of the document who don't readily envision these processes interoperating to facilitate a functioning society may mistakenly presume that it's not feasible, that it is somehow utopian and contrary to human nature.
Dictatorships, utopian schemes and Marxism rely exclusively on altruistic behavior for societal progress. Modern democratic republics also rely heavily on altruism. Politicians, bureaucrats, and other "public servants" are expected to act in an altruistic and motivated manner with very few incentives and very little accountability. This has been partially successful. Altruism is, however, a finite resource which shouldn't be wasted when contracts can be fashioned which create a network of incentives that motivate individuals.
While it is likely that profit-motivated corporations will offer the most competitive contracts, altruistic non-profit organizations and individuals can submit contracts as well. The citizens will decide whether the corporation or the non-profit organization will more efficiently and effectively operate. It is not necessarily true that profit-driven corporations are the best suited for every task. Non-profit organizations can provide an important counterbalance to the threat of corporate excess.
The development of the Wikitopia Project will not be determined in advance. The Wikitopian Roadmap is a living roadmap. It is simultaneously a prescription and a prediction based on a logical continuation of the development of the project.
Milestone: Development of the Wikitopian Manifesto
The Manifesto Phase is when the Wikitopia Project is designed and described in the collaborative "Wikitopian Manifesto" document.
Milestone: Development of the Wikitopian Web Application
The Programming Phase is when the Wikitopia Project is implemented as a collaborative open source programming project. The principles laid out in the Wikitopian Manifesto will guide the programming project.
Milestone: Development of Wikitopian Organizations
Once the Programming Phase reaches a mature stage where the program can be implemented by organizations, organizations will begin experimenting with it. The programming project itself will most likely convert to the Wikitopian model and churches, school clubs, and other open source projects will provide usability feedback.
Critical Applications PhaseEdit
Milestone: National and Corporate Governance
Nations, corporations, and other large and critical organizations will begin adopting Wikitopia after it has proven itself more efficient and effective than more structured frameworks of governance.
Appeal for AssistanceEdit
If you believe that this project is noteworthy or exciting then please contribute in some way. There are innumerable ways to benefit this project, the most valuable of which is to simply draw attention to it. If you have a blog, write about it. If you have a friend, tell her about it. An incomplete list of ways you can contribute include:
- Starting the open source software project
- Creating graphic art to make the manifesto more attractive
- Correcting any typos or clarifying any obtuse language