Democracy - there's an app for that

Flux lets users vote on actual policy and then have their elected candidates vote in line with the results

Picture: Feral78 (Flickr)

Picture: Feral78 (Flickr)

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the co-founders of the new Australian Flux Party, Nathan Spataro, a BitCoin-inspired political movement that comes with its own app.

Co-founders Spataro and Max Kaye are running election candidates in every state and territory that are bound by the political will of the people who use their app.

The app is designed to increase political participation by allowing users to vote on actual policy and then have their elected candidates vote in line with the results.

Spataro explained that every user will have equal opportunity to participate and present their best case for law, legislation and policy, stating that the members with the most robust and transparent policies will naturally rise to the top of the pecking order.

It’s designed so that a member’s political popularity will be made or broken on the basis of their policies.

But having spent the better part of a decade covering events of the internet, we all know that in reality, that’s not how democracy works, particularly online, where mob rules and moderates are chased offline by men’s rights activists, gamergators, anonymous or just your garden variety trolls with friends.

Flux is almost a far too successful simulation of politics in a vacuum and I fear for the chaos it has the potential to wreak upon our democracy, or what’s left of it, anyway.

Why even run candidates in every state and territory when a robot with a voting pencil will do just as well?

And on what policies are these candidates meant to get elected in the first place if the political will of their constituents change with the weather (or which users have the luxury of decent internet access that day)?

What is most worrying is Spataro’s conflation of participation with expertise.

“Part of the problem with the political process is that generalist candidates are being appointed without the appropriate qualifications to act in the best interests of voters and the economy,” Spataro told me.

“They therefore have to leverage other people to make up for that lack of experience and those people may also not have the specialist knowledge to ensure a properly-informed decision.”

But the app creates no premium or authority for members that hold an actual qualification. He says that the person with the most popular policies is naturally, the most experienced candidate.

Not to get all Godwins but how’s about you ask Germany or Poland how that worked out for them in the 1930s.

Or better yet, ask America how that theory is currently working, with Trump potentially slated to be next in line for President.

Let’s be very clear: The Australian political system is broken, along with most democracies throughout the developed world.

I’m all in favour of political change, so long as that change is positive. And I applaud anyone trying to increase political participation.

But the exact kind of political participation is one of many variables the Flux app and its accompanying party fails to take into consideration.

To quote Aaron Sorkin by way of President Jeb Bartlet: “In the meantime, the devil you know beats the devil you don't. And I like the devil I got.”

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Claire Connelly

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