17 August, 2022

Liquid democracy: Citizen political response to authoritarian governments

Photo: Courtesy.

By Guillermo Mejía

Facing the authoritarian and totalitarian temptations of governments amid the coronavirus pandemic, that impose their wills even with military force, citizens can seek alternatives to exercise their social rights, economic, political and cultural, so it is not a bad idea to see the possibilities offered by liquid democracy or digital democracy.

This is how the Venezuelan historian and political scientist Ruth Capriles illustrates, Researcher at the Legal Research Center of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, in his essay "Post-pandemic liquid democracy" in the latest edition of the Communication Magazine, of the Gumilla Center Foundation, from a critical and alternative perspective.

"In the political sphere that concerns me here, the prospect indicates an excessive growth of the power of the States, the arrival of the Orwellian Big Brother. It only arrives with 60 years late, multiplied as in a perverse game of mirrors by how much autocrat decides to go through some of the well-known deviations of democracy. Expected, Yes, the unstoppable outbreak of populism, nationalism, authoritarianism, messianism, imperialism, and so on", warns the specialist.

Later, he wonders: "What will we do in the face of such expected situations of social control? The answer is pretty obvious: the citizens of the world also navigate these technological trends, they can use them for their own protection; even better, they can use them to control governments in turn ".

In that sense, tells us about the so-called e-democracy, digital democracy, the liquid democracy, appropriate and dominant description on blogs and user platforms of blockchain technology as a real opportunity for citizen action, thanks to this technology that will modify, how much less, the modus operandi of politics that will also have its modification of the political form of democracy.

Definitely, appropriate changes will have to be made to overcome the current form of democracy.

According to Capriles, With the pandemic-quarantine duo, state control has been installed over people and thus new technologies - which we used to use for personal development- now they are also instruments of a global experiment in crowd control that, although it was already known before, now is key in the world.

"The State and governments, justified by public health reason, they can add the new surveillance and control technologies to the old practices of the use of legitimate violence to confine the population at their discretion ”–he warns-, "An unstable situation due to the extreme difficulties that the States themselves will have to bear all the weight that this pandemic leaves on them".

And it ends: "For already authoritarian governments, the opportunity is maximum because the sanitary control installs in a justified way the permanent surveillance, the massive conscription of populations, people at home, occupation of the streets by the armed forces, with an open letter to stop all passersby. It is the perfect situation to exercise absolute control; not only about the behaviors but even the thoughts and desires of the people who tell them everything in digital media. The fear of contagion is added to the fear of the tyrant, but the fear of contagion overcomes, it even justifies state control ".

Entering the matter of liquid democracy, the Venezuelan specialist exposes, among other, the next question: Are we then destined to succumb to the controlling tendencies of the state?, the total loss of our privacy, the conversion of all the world's inhabitants into subjects with an implanted chip that monitors their health and emotional reactions?

Liquid democracy is a digital voting method (blockchain technology), according to Capriles review, that allows the voter to record their vote directly on public matters of interest or to delegate a specific representative for each one or more matters. The system guarantees the suitability and effectiveness of the vote and allows control over the result.

“It does not need a central electoral body to guarantee or mediate it.; it is an instrument in the hands of the citizenry and controlled by the same incorruptible and summation chain of the will of the citizens ", affirms the author, "That is why it is said that it is a new form of democracy: a hybrid between representative democracy and direct democracy ".

It is representative because the person can choose a representative who decides for him on the laws that will govern the State, but you can also withdraw that delegation in real time and decide directly on public affairs. This presupposes, Capriles illustrates us, a different form of the representation bond; does not delete it, modifies it by passing the decision-making power to citizens.

“It is an inevitable corollary of this theory that citizens with the new technologies could demand greater participation in the laws of a parliament or even in executive decisions. (municipal, regional, presidential), but also about international organizations that influence the lives of the planet's inhabitants ", affirms the Venezuelan specialist.

"I have no doubt that these changes will come, but I also know that it will be slowly, after much resistance. Political control will be shared if, and only if, citizens are activated to continue advancing towards the democratic distribution of power ", add.

Capriles explains that Blockchain technology is a digital base that stores information in a large network of users, public but decentralized. Information, every transaction of a user on a network, is stored in a "block" embedded in the chain or database. In the electoral case, each block would contain the vote in the chain formed by all the votes, being the same chain, unalterable, the guarantee of the total vote or voting results.

It continues that once the vote is verified by the user and the voter's information is verified with respect to the digital REP, the block receives the cryptographic code, enter the chain and it becomes public for everyone connected on the network. That way, each user could know the decisions of previous voters (chain back) and adding each new vote. A) Yes, each vote is stored in a block in the chain (blockchain), being the same chain, and the impossibility of altering transactions, the guarantee of the total vote or voting results.

The advantages of this proposal are, first, greater citizen control over government and interest groups; in second place, that would help increase confidence in the effectiveness of the vote and increase citizen participation; in third place, would make the misuse of influence and lobbying of interest groups more difficult; Y, in fourth place, delegation of trusted experts and people would help to produce informed and rational votes.

Capriles concludes - summarized in this text: 1. The propositions of deliberative and digital democracy show at least that, with the active participation of citizens, there are ways to reform democracy, limit your excesses, highlight their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, even under government vigilantism and control that according to global experts will be a post-pandemic trend. 2. The reform of democracy to adapt to liquid modernity and offer solutions to the demands for a revolutionary theory of post-pandemic global thought. 3. The greatest resistance to change can be expected from political actors. It's not just long-lasting political forms, politicians are social actors more resistant to change; they adhere to the formulas that have allowed them to exercise power. 4. To get out of the present it is necessary to see and foresee the future. In recent 21 years, we have become accustomed to experiencing politics as a permanent and fratricidal war of all the institutions of the State against the citizens. It should be refreshed that this is not politics. Politics is an order of authority that is justified and legitimized only by fulfilling the function of producing the common good. Politics is not to annihilate citizens or subject them to the will of leaders; the space of politics is where leaders serve the common good.