Radical Democracy

Imagine a world where political minorities could protect their most cherished interests at the ballot box without relying on whims of judges and compromises on sensitive issue could be hammered out transparently in the public square. If citizens were able to trade influence on issues they don’t care or know about for influence on the issues most important to them, the voting process itself could help create reasoned compromises among citizens. Minorities could overwhelmingly vote down populist politicians who threatened to oppress them, while the majority of citizens could choose which of the remaining candidates represent the best direction for the country. The public sector, and organizations of all sorts governed by voting (from corporations to housing co-ops), could make decisions efficient in the best total interests of their stakeholders.

We propose a new system of Quadratic Voting (QV) that would create such a truly radical democracy. Every citizen would receive an equal annual allotment of “voice credits” that they could use to vote in a range of collective decisions from elections to the school board to referenda on membership in international organizations. Every citizen could choose how many votes, up or down, she wants on any given issue or candidate, as long as she has enough vote credits to afford it. Crucially, the costs of votes would be quadratic in the number of votes acquired. For reasons we explain in chapter 2 of our book, this quadratic cost is the only one under which citizens have in theory an incentive to and in experiments in practice do vote in proportion to how important issues are to them. It is thus the only rule that leads to social decisions that produce the greatest good for the greatest number. By making collective institutions that are thus truly responsive to the general interest and not just the prejudices of the majority or special interets, QV could restore faith in and thus a greater role for public institutions. And it is already being used for governance and to elicit opinions in polling using software created by our start-up, QDecide.