Government by Facebook?

Written by Paper. Posted in Life, Main Street Polity

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Published on October 03, 2014 with 1 Comment

Humans are the only species that engage in collaboration, says Matt Ridley, who is among a group of TED Talkers on the issue of collaboration. He argues that collaboration across borders of numerous types results in strength and growth for all of us. Take for example the simple Stone-age Ax. It was created in the pre-collaborative phase of human existence. As a result, it is made from one single material, by the person who will use it. Over numerous generations it did not evolve into a more user friendly tool. On the other hand, the computer mouse which is approximately of the same size is made from different materials and draws on the ideas of numerous people – including the barista who made the coffee for the people brainstorming the mouse. Whether it’s the Mountain Bike, Rap Music or software programs, Ridley along with Charles Leadbeater and like minded others believe strongly that collaboration improves our lives exponentially. Without the collaborative exchange of ideas society would be stagnant.


Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Image via Wikipedia

And that might be all well and good but what if we took the Open Source idea to governance? Why do we need elected officials to decide for us? So says Scott MacAfee, a Canadian who broached the subject of Open Source Governance. As far as political philosophies go, this one is relatively new, dating back to 2004. But it is an interesting question to consider. What if we didn’t have to go through the Congressional election cycles that swing the pendulum this way or that? If everyone could vote and draft policy via say, Facebook and Twitter, would that end partisan bickering? Would that be true Government by the People? If we could vote on everything would that end the idea of elective officials representing our interests? In such a scenario, would we always go according to the majority opinion? Philosophers tend to attack the idea of majority rule without checks and balances as being unjust, selfish and cruel. What would the Founding Fathers think?

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  1. I don’t think technology is up to par to allow something like this to be successful. There are still a lot of people without internet access or on dial-up, so social media doesn’t seem like a good option if you want to include everyone. I would think that one of the requirements would be to first create a free internet source that is available to all US citizens. Another thing that would probably need to happen is to make a completely open source network so you wouldn’t have a company like Facebook or Twitter in charge of all the content.

    Plus, there are a lot of potential concerns that would need to be addressed. Who would host the network? What happens if it goes down? Or, more importantly, what might happen if hackers gained access to the site or viruses were written that force people to vote a certain way on a single issue?

    Anyways, if you look at many open source software projects, the successful ones generally have strong leadership giving the project direction and deciding which code is good enough to make it into the project. This seems to be closer in concept to our elected officials than “Government by the People”. I don’t feel that many of the current open source concepts would transfer over well to government so I think it is very doubtful that something like this would be very successful.