A recent profile of the founder and CEO of NationBuilder, Jim Gilliam, quotes him making a rather horrifying statement:
“’You don’t even have to explain how screwed up the political system is anymore,’ Gilliam says. In an ideal world, there would be no need for political parties, he says. Citizens would be able to bypass elections and directly participate, via the Internet, in their own governance.” (Emphasis mine.)
This, of course, is frightening as hell. As David Freddoso reminded me today, Madison warned about this sort of direct democracy, observing: “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
For a while now, I have been growing worried that technology was inexorably toward this — so worried that it’s the focus of my latest column for The Week.
Here’s an excerpt:
“The founders, of course, feared direct democracy, and instead created a republic. The idea was to avoid a form of government susceptible to being swept up in the emotions of the day and subverting checks and balances. They wanted to avoid mob rule and the tyranny of the majority. But one gets the sense that their concerns might be playing out as we speak.
“We don’t have a direct democracy. Citizens do not (yet) log onto the internet and directly cast votes on things. Some states have Progressive-era reforms like voter initiatives, referendums, and recalls (which are to blame for much dysfunction in places like California), but that’s not what I’m talking about.
What am I talking about? Read the whole thing here.