Dahl’s Ideal Democracy Resolved

The Ape is a personal assistant that assist and empowers Peer Democracy.

Professor Robert A. Dahl (1915-2014) said that our present system is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but something in between – he called it a Polyarchy. To be a democracy he coined some criteria that must be fulfilled. Here they are slightly reformulated:

All adult citizens should have equal and efficient ways to:

  1. Vote, and the votes must have the same value.
  2. Participate in the previous debate.
  3. Learn about the relevant arguments and the possible consequences before the voting.
  4. Suggest new proposals and decide which issues will be on the agenda.

“…can any actual association ever be fully democratic? In the real world is it likely that every member of an association will truly have equal opportunities to participate, to gain an informed understanding of the issues, and to influence the agenda? Probably not.”

I am happy to announce that Dahl was wrong. Dahl’s five criteria are met by Peer democracy – a system of e-democracy apps. It makes these five and some additional criteria possible by limiting the number of issues. In Peer democracy, everyone has the same – but restricted – democratic rights. The voting right is still equal, but this restriction resolves a general problem in a democracy. There must be a way to protect minorities from the majority’s oppression. By restricting the voting right to a few issues yearly, the minorities automatically gain more influence over their issues, as they most likely will choose to participate and vote on their own concerns.


Democracy is a method of deciding things together. To be able to do that, Peer Democracy uses different tools and apps. Because voting is a private issue, everybody needs to have a digital ID to log in to the digital toolbox at a strictly private account accessible 24-7, named after Martin Luther King Jr.


Next, we need a voting booth where we can leave our votes safe and securely without any opinion registration, named after Solon, a founder of the Ancient Greece Democracy.


Before you vote, you must have time to read the arguments for and against, so you know the good and bad possible consequences. And you may not have time to read all the arguments, so you want the most important arguments to be at the top. Then you will want to rank the arguments so that the most important ones come out on top. The most important pre-arguments are gathered in one list and the most important counterarguments are gathered in another list. Both argument lists are ranked by those who vote on the proposal. If you come up with an argument that is not already on the list, you must be able to write it. And if you find an argument is poorly worded, you should be able to help improve it, so that the best suggestions are at the top and are formulated in a good way. Structured argumentation is done in Arendt debate, named after political philosopher Hannah Arendt.


It’s not enough just to debate and vote. Someone must also decide what issues you should vote on in the voting booth, and this “someone” should include you, right? This means that there must be a way to decide what to vote on. Dahl’s agenda ranking is an app where we prioritize suggested proposals by ranking them. The agenda is a prioritized list of upcoming proposals. The ranking means that you put up the important proposals on the agenda and move down those that you think are less urgent. Proposals that don’t reach enough support at a certain time are canceled.


What proposals are coming up in Dahl’s agenda ranking then? There must be an equal opportunity to submit proposals. This is done in Proposal Popper. You are only allowed to leave one proposal every year because we don’t want it flooded. There are ways to work in concert with proposals. And then you must be able to support good proposals so that they can advance to Dahl’s agenda ranking and eventually be voted on. All this work is done in Proposal Popper, named after Sir Karl Popper.


Politics also requires a balanced budget. Peer democracy has a special app to set the budget. Everyone has the right to vote. The app is a budget calculator with different control sliders that you can drag up and down. One slider determines how much you want to spend on tax, another how much money you should spend on education, etc. If you think that education should cost a little more, you raise the slider for education. Then every other slider automatically drops a little because the budget must be balanced. When you are satisfied with your shadow budget, you send in your proposal.

The program puts all budget proposals in a long line with the most extreme proposals at the far ends, then it removes those at the far right and left until only the very middle budget proposal remains. It’s called the median and this is the winning budget proposal. We choose the median because if you instead went for the average, for example, a teacher could be tempted to put all the money on the school slider to try to benefit his own business. Extreme values affect the mean, but not the median. Therefore, the median is always used in budget voting. Porto Alegre‘s participatory budget also shows the preceding budget results. The ambition is that anyone can audit the economy, and that every dollar used in the system is openly reported.


To be able to share the power we need to abstain from the ambition to rule the world by ourselves. Peer democracy takes power from global companies and nation-states and shares it with the people. Thus, it will have a lot of enemies. To safeguard the system so that no one can destroy or corrupt it a set of rules is needed. The set of rules is found in something called the Althing Constitution. Everyone has the right to vote for constitutional changes, but they are held more seldom, every 3rd year or so.

The rules for Peer democracy determine things such as how many times you can vote a year, how long time the debate is open when the votes should be held, who can participate and vote, how to do if you want a referendum, etc.  There are also limits to how many arguments you can submit. You may only have to put and improve one argument in each debate. For the system to be fair, everyone must have the same influence limits. You may only be allowed to participate and vote on a single issue every year, but you decide which issue you want to participate in and debate and vote on.

You can also propose ‘meta-democratic issues’ in the constitution. Sometimes an extra question can come up that is very important and that you want everyone to be able to vote on, or you may want to postpone a decision due to a lack of information to wait for ongoing research results. In the constitution, you also decide which are your areas of personal interest, that you will be able to engage in. The constitution is made to be scalable. It means that the same system can be used on every level of democracy, from the local parliament to the global. Peer democracy is most urgent at the global level, because of the lack of global democracy. Thus, Peer democracy should launch with a global referendum held as soon as possible.


To have a fair democracy, everyone must have an equal opportunity to be involved in all steps of democracy. How can we motivate people to take part? Everyone gets paid a little. You get paid in a cryptocurrency called ‘pollar’ (equivalent to the dollar) when you fulfill your democratic duties. The money you earn collects in Wollstonecraft digital purse, and you will be able to use them as a global currency when the system is implemented.

THE APE (your humble assistant)

This is a lot of things to keep in mind, right? To make everything easy for you, Peer democracy gives you a humble assistant that keeps track of your settings and reminds you when it is time to debate, vote, etc. The Ape is a dynamic interface that adapts to the user’s communication. Under the hood is a personal AI. The Ape is to be perceived as a humble friend who helps to use the system and empower the user.


To sum it up, democracy consists of many different parts to give you equal and efficient ways to participate. The ecosystem of Peer Democracy consists of the following ten tools:

  • KING ACCOUNT – private cloud account accessible 24-7
  • MONTESQUIEU DIGITAL ID – security solution to protect and prevent fraud
  • SOLON VOTING BOOTH – where you vote on issues
  • ARENDT DEBATE – the pros and cons argumentation forum
  • DAHL’S AGENDA RANKING – setting the agenda
  • PROPOSAL POPPER – where you can leave a new proposal
  • ALEGRE BUDGET – the median budget calculator                          
  • ALTHING CONSTITUTION – to set the rules for Peer democracy
  • THE APE – your personal assistant

Thank you everyone for your invaluable input and support. I think this is the final conclusion of my 25+ years of thinking on democratic issues. Admittedly, I am a slow theorist. Now there is a Job To Be Done.

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