I saw this endorsement of direct democracy on Facebook, and had to, in the finest conservative tradition, pounce. Here is the image again:
Ok, let’s unpack that. Using the kind of self-serve kiosks that you see in newer McDonalds is funny, admittedly. Using them in the meme got me thinking. We are closer to national direct democracy than we have ever been.
And that is not a good thing. There are advantages to the republican form of government, not the least of which is a shield against mob rule. And make no mistake, that is exactly what direct democracy is – the rule of the mob. And no one wants that in their lives.
Liberal readers, consider that in direct democracy, if county X in state Y decides to outlaw homosexuals or illegal aliens, that’s the new law. Direct democracy for the win!
Conservative readers, consider that in direct democracy, if county X in state Y decides to outlaw fossil fuels, that’s the new law. Direct democracy for the win! And don’t laugh – see the Green New Deal and the inexplicably allowed to continue Juliana v. United States suit that seeks to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
But that’s just the tip of the direct democracy iceberg
How do you enforce one citizen / one vote rules that direct democracy requires? With modern technology it’s pretty easy, actually. Just offer up a fingerprint or rental scan, then vote. Well, easy except for the infrastructure to actually do it, which isn’t the iceberg I’m referring to.
Anyway, no, the iceberg in this analogy is the question ‘who owns the data’.
Didn’t think of that one, did you? Who owns all that juicy biometric data needed to prevent vote fraud? The government? Google? Apple? Who do you trust to keep it secret, keep it safe?
I don’t trust the government. They left my personal data open to whomever (read: China) wanted it in the OPM hack. Others in the bureaucracy have been leaking anything to the press they think can harm the President for a few years now. No, I can’t actually trust the government to keep vital personal data safe.
Equifax is out – same reason. Google is out. They have too much data on us already, and as a private company must not be trusted to run an election. Which also kicks out Apple, and every other company in the world.
So who do you trust with your data?
And no, it won’t just be the biometrics to secure the vote
In order to function as a direct democracy, each voter needs to be registered to a state, county, township (if used), municipality, ward (if used), etc. That information includes your name and address, of course – it has that now. When you patch in the needed information to vote – a biometric scan of some form – you enter into a scenario where the risk of identity theft becomes greatly heightened. If I have your name, address, and fingerprint, I can unlock your phone or computer, and gain direct access to your deepest personal data. Easily.
But why use biometrics, why not use a smart ID card, like Homeland Security uses? First, of course, is cost. Second, how do you vote without it? We have people hieing unto their fainting couches at the mere thought of requiring easily-obtained ID, which is also needed for almost every other governmental, financial, business, or employment function. How do you think they would respond to requiring a fancy new ID?
Also, if you can loose it, it isn’t secure. Full stop.
So, to recap – direct democracy is technologically possible in a nation of 300+ million people. Direct democracy needs to have a secure and unbeatable way of verifying votes in real time, and that requires infrastructure that does not exist, and a level of network security that the US government has proven incapable of providing. This would also represent an expansion of the government, even if a logical one, and resisting expansion is one of our foundational beliefs.
In other words, direct democracy isn’t an actual option.