Replacing Market Values in Our Local Elections

As a child born in the mid 70’s, I’ve been so deeply submerged in the quiet revolution that Michael Sandel describes in his TED Talk about why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life that I couldn’t imagine the alternative. As I have learned over the years, everything costs money, from healthcare to education, and regardless of the old adage that the best things in life are free, the market values which permeate our culture reduce everything down to the bottom line.

Our market values are problematic in a number of areas as Sandel describes, but the most worrisome is how pervasive this type of thinking has become in our civic life. Once every few years, candidates in our local elections work hard to raise money in order to print yard signs, design campaign websites, and spend time in public debates or going door to door asking for our votes. After the election is over and the votes have been tallied, representatives become emboldened by the mandates of their electors and disappear from the public debates, without the need to show up on our doorsteps until the next election season.

While many people in Washington are committed to getting money out of politics, most of their solutions are based on market values such as limiting the amount of money that campaigns can raise, or providing candidates with a public option in order to level the playing field. In these examples, money is still the primary focus, and the essential means of connecting with constituents is overlooked, being replaced by campaign slogans and the need to stay on message. In short, interactions with our representatives have been replaced by advertising, with little effort being afforded to using the network in order to empower our democracy.

The notion of using the network to upgrade our access to government seems like a futuristic vision on the surface, but rebuilding our democracy from the ground up makes this surprisingly less complicated. Here are three steps we can take which impact little of what we’ve become accustomed to in the voting process while greatly enhancing our control over our system of governance:

  1. Hyperlocal Social Network – The City of Springboro would host a secure social network which is only accessible to local residents. The source code for the network would be open source so that independent experts could review the software in order to verify its legitimacy.
  2. Residents Support Any Candidate – Traditional ballot voting will continue in election seasons, but residents can log into the network at any time to support a candidate and raise an issue that they feel is important to the community in order to solicit feedback from their representatives.
  3. Residents Can Change Their Support Anytime – Instead of waiting for the next election, residents can log in at any time and switch which representative they support. If a representative loses the support of their constituents, they are replaced by another candidate if they garner more support.

What’s important in this approach is that the value of local governance is shifted away from raising money to connecting with local residents. In place of all the campaign promises and the mudslinging which divides our community is a deeper relationship to both our representatives and to each other as residents of Springboro.

Watch the video below and let me know what you think about replacing our market vales with network values in civic life.

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5 thoughts on “Replacing Market Values in Our Local Elections

    • I wouldn’t want to remove traditional voting from the mix in order to provide everyone the opportunity to participate once every few years, in addition to accessing the site at their local library.

      As for the stability, I’ve only seen a small shift in the numbers recently due to the GOP getting the blame for the government shutdown, but by and large we seem to be pretty set in our ways.

      Nevertheless I do agree that direct democracy is a huge leap for us to take at once, and would hope that simply connecting our government to the network is a small enough step to start with.

  1. I completely agree that there needs to be greater communication between voters and elected officials in general. As a former legislative aide to a state representative, I can tell you that interaction between constituents and their elected officials is critical. Our office received an enormous amount of communication via phone calls, letters, e-mails, etc. from constituents sharing their views on a variety of issues. Beyond that there are hundreds of associations that represent a myriad of professions, issues and the like that had lobbyists communicating on behalf of their membership.

    At a more local level, I would support an effort to provide a platform for residents to engage and share their positions on issues in the community. I think it will be tricky from the monitoring sense as well as getting people to participate. You need a fair and equal representation of residents to participate on a regular basis in order for it to be effective.

    I think the suggestion of having elected officials “removed” based upon the lack of support in this social network needs more thought. Our democratic election system is there for a reason. Residents make changes with their votes on election years.

    Regardless, increasing opportunities for residents to engage with their elected officials is needed and this could be a great platform to test. Are there communities that have put this into practice with success?

    • The closest answer to your question is Liquid Democracy which is currently being used by the Pirate Party in the German Parliament and in the City of Berlin. In a recent blog post they cautioned against rapidly scaling it, as they primarily use Liquid Democracy for intra-party deliberation. However, the software is designed to work at any point between representative and direct democracy.

      For the City of Springboro, I believe that we could experiment with Adhocracy, a user friendly version of Liquid Democracy, initially to connect residents to the representative of a single Ward. Once we determine what and how the residents communicate, we can expand it to other Wards.

      Here’s a cool introductory article to everything I mentioned above: http://techpresident.com/news/wegov/22154/how-german-pirate-partys-liquid-democracy-works

  2. “As a child born in the mid 70′s, I’ve been so deeply submerged in the quiet revolution that Michael Sandel describes in his TED Talk about why we shouldn’t trust markets with our civic life that I couldn’t imagine the alternative. As I have learned over the years, everything costs money, from healthcare to education, and regardless of the old adage that the best things in life are free, the market values which permeate our culture reduce everything down to the bottom line. “ – CR

    Michael Sandel is selling a bunch of whoo-hash. There has not been a revolution of markets over the last 30 years. As long as individuals have had items or services of value to offer to each other we have had markets. In other words we have always had and always will have markets for education, healthcare etc….It’s pure fantasy on his part that this is a recent phenomenon.

    “What’s important in this approach is that the value of local governance is shifted away from raising money to connecting with local residents. In place of all the campaign promises and the mudslinging which divides our community is a deeper relationship to both our representatives and to each other as residents of Springboro. “ CR

    The reason there is so much money in politics isn’t because of fund raising or financing rules. That’s a symptom. The cause is government power. The ability to regulate lives, control money, grant favors etc…carries a hefty price. The greater the power the greater the price.

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