Question: how will this idea fail?

Preferably in a way that is fundamental, and can't be easily fixed with small changes. And politically based, being unable to respond to problems because of the political system I describe

Currently, democracy works like this: you decide who or what you vote for, and you vote for that.

I offer to change it this way: during a vote you get assigned to a random partner, with whom you need to come to a common decision. If you manage to do so, your group vote is counted. If not, your group vote is ignored.

I imagine that this system could be set up as a response to increasingly divisive politics, with either existing parties becoming more extreme, or new extreme parties rising in popularity. Idea is that this method weakens all of the extreme views, as they are unable to find a common decisions with other people that don't share their view.

Another way for this system to be set up is for increased public education, as a way to show what politics is, a process of finding compromises. Assumption is that with such an experience people will be able to be more effective in many other fields as well as in their politics.

And one more option I see is a way to collect more and better data. Polls are unreliable in a sense that it can't measure the extent to which people are ready to go in order to get what they want. While measuring amount of not agreeing groups is easy and reliable, because not agreeing has a cost, that vote wont be counted. Assuming that people want their vote to be counted.

Why a random partner? Because bringing a friend will change nothing, even a person with most extreme views will have some agreeing friends.

Why just two people and not more? Because an average voter will have problems with even that. We used to vote alone, bringing consensus group size from 1 to 2 is already a large enough step. Only after this experience is fully tested I can imagine implementing larger groups.

Why ignore the vote of pairs that don't agree? Because otherwise there is no point. People will just vote the old way, and the new system will have no effect. There must be a profit in agreeing compared to not agreeing.

What if there is no common language? Internet translation, use friends who know the language or give up. Any sort of selection, like language, will allow people to break the system and vote the old way, from the comfort of their agreeing friends nearby.

What about fraud, violence, vote buying, loss of privacy in voting, intimidation? It can be solved with separate decision submission from each person. One doesn't know what another one have sent. But only if they match they will be counted.

What about increased costs? Properly selected government can change the GDP by a few percents, equal to about ten working days per year. If the vote is limited to a few hours spent by the voters to make a decision together, additional cost might be smaller than benefits of better politics.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Feb 11, 2022 at 0:55

6 Answers 6


It will only work in a 2 party system

Let's go Angela Merkel style !

Q: "could be set up as a response to increasingly divisive politics"

Yes, I tend to agree, but when you have more than 2 parties, there may be an issue

Two-party system: moderates and independents will profit

If you have a random voting partner, not only the moderate people mostly agree and vote. Additionally, lots of people whose party affiliation differs will take moderate stands and vote moderate candidates together, many will want to reach a compromise, because they will want their vote to count. Independents and middle-of-the-road politicians would like it, I guess..

Suppose you'd do this.. in the current US, a two-party system you'd may get Joe Mansion for president, or Amy Klobuchar, or Mitt Romney,

Republican + Republican => Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham

Republican + Democrat => Mitt Romney, Joe Mansion, Larry Hogan

Democrat + Democrat => Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar

Independent + Democrat => Angus King, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Mansion

Independent + Republican => Angus King, Larry Hogan, Mitt Romney

A multi-party version of this could pose a problem

In a multi-party system, you'll meet some issues. There are one-topic parties, and parties based on specific religions. Chance is there is rarely agreement between the voting partners, only a small part of the population will take part in democracy. When there are only two parties, you'd have a 50-50 chance of meeting a partner with the same preference. In multy-party systems, that chance is far less.. the left and right parties will get wiped out. Which is in fact the current German system. In Germany, a multi-party system exists, but to get into parliament, a party should have a minimal percentage of the votes.

(EDIT) Another challenge that could make this fail: participation

The system could fail, when participation reaches a point, where people don't feel represented anymore. When you have had 2 of these elections, your government could be colorless, politics uninteresting. The system could also fail on participation, when voters are not prepared to meet the other person. The latter issue is a psychological one, it may be a challenge in many free, western countries, to make random people meet each other!

  • $\begingroup$ Hope was that in USA and a third middle party, it may have a chance to win, if it is less extreme than democrats and republicans - that are drifting apart. 25% dem+dem, vote for dem, 25% rep+rep, vote for rep. 50% rep+dem, they wont give up and vote for opponent's party, but may vote for a third party together, if it is more central than dem or rep. Germany is fine, isnt it? Probably one of the best countries. Question is how to repeat it reliably. If my idea allows to repeat Germany's result, that would be great. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull you would get a larger independent faction, which COULD evolve into a separate third party.. or not. The current independents in the US have a great position for this system, in fact lots of voters are not really interested or engaged: after meeting and getting to know each other, they could part as friends and get a beer.. they would compromise on not choosing one of the two, by voting for the independent. It will still remain a 2-party system. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 10, 2022 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull Some of us don't WANT to the US to be more like Germany. $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Feb 10, 2022 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ I have put an edit.. it could fail when participation reaches a certain lower threshold.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 10, 2022 at 22:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Goodies participation insentives and lack of trust if participation is low is definitely an issue. Thanks $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 23:19

Who controls the agenda?

You describe "making a decision" with a random partner. What decision? Are you talking about a vote on a bill? Who wrote the bill?

In a careless implementation, the whole process will get dominated by bigoted spam from a tiny extremist group. You and your partner get a 500-page manifesto about why some group of people ought to be jailed or exterminated. In an exceptionally careless implementation, you'll have to read all 500 pages very carefully in order to try to figure out whether no action is accomplished by voting Yes or voting No.

  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking about using this mechanism to agree on tax % for various cases, such as tariffs, vat, income, inheritance, etc. That seems to be rather big field, that is the most prone to corruption, and somewhat easy to make standard. For law creation a vote for a person could be used, for a role like in parlament to deal with writing bills. Again with the same mechanism, where unmatching pairs' votes are ignored. I dont expect people to vote on a problem that is more than a few lines of text, or where option 'do nothing' is unclear. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2022 at 23:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull Tax and spending is actually a really good example where direct democracy on individual decisions fails badly, because you need to balance the budget somehow. "Cut income tax" sounds appealing, but is that "cut income tax and raise VAT", or "cut income tax and defund the military", or "cut income tax and reduce all government spending proportionally"? There are an infinite number of combinations, so before you can vote, you need someone to put forward a proposal and make the case for it - which is basically how representative democracy works. $\endgroup$
    – IMSoP
    Feb 12, 2022 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @IMSoP this is the most useful to me answer. Its not what I asker, but it gives the most new information. I agree that unstable budget is a big problem, and it is hard to solve if direct democracy-like system is used. Probably some sort of expenditures priority vote would help. Like medical sector receives 2\3 and military receives 1\3 of the expected budget if the budget is cut due to lower taxes. Then at least some sectors could remain somewhat stable $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2022 at 15:01

Lack of trust in the randomizing process

How was it set up? What keeps it random? How can the people who do so be trusted?

Once the conspiracy theories start to fly that the supporters of policy X are all being "randomly" assigned to apathetic souls who won't even try, or psychopathic griefers, the government will lose legitimacy in the eyes of too many people to survive.

  • $\begingroup$ I think i see an easy fix. For those who dont trust the randomness we could make this mechanism: concerned person makes a number, and publish its sha256. Then gov publish some random number. Then concerned person selects a person whos ID is the closest to sha256(concerned person's number + gov nunber), as an opponent to find an agreement. Gov cant know what was the original number concerned person made. And person doesnt know what number gov will make when he makes his number. It can be made automatic, and people just need to trust that the program runs is what described. Or do stuff manually $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2022 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ What happens when that produces a person who is closest to more than one person? Besides, if the government can't check what your number is, they can't prove that you didn't actually just choose your best friend and claim it was a match. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Feb 12, 2022 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ everyone needs an ID anyway, for other stuff, like ID checks. That number can be used for selection. if tou are equally close to 2 numbers, pick the one that is higher for example. If there are 3 people between 2 to pick, shift them in some pre determined fashion. Anyway, i dont think it will be such of an issue, we have lotteries today that work similarly. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2022 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't cover the fraud situation. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Feb 12, 2022 at 3:53

Add two minor twists/embellishments to your country:

  • There are two types of votes. One type is supposed to have a result in all cases, so the outcome is decided by the majority of the valid votes. Even if most pairings are deadlocked. Examples include budgets, appointments, or other things which cannot simply pause for a year.
    The other type is allowed to have no result if there is no consensus. The question simply gets postponed until somebody brings it to the ballot again. To make those pass, there must be a majority of the voter-pairs for it. Examples include changes to laws and especially the constitution (supermajority required?).

  • People are reqired to participate in the system. They cannot simply stay home. (This requirement seemed a good idea, when it became clear that voting would take significant time.) But the requirement is fulfilled if the voter shows up, says "hello," writes "irreconcilable differences" on the form, and leaves ...

Now imagine that there are 10% each with strong opinions on two sides, 10% each with moderate opinion on those sides, and 60% who are disgusted with the process or just don't have the time and energy to worry. Year to year, little changes in the two side could yield wild swings in the budget and appointments, while almost nothing happens to change laws -- or the way laws can be changed.

  • $\begingroup$ 1. Im really thinking it wont be a good idea. I was thinking to use '>50% or do nothing' initially. But yeah, stalemate is bad for everyone. Thats when I started to think how can I 'restrict' this damage from the stalemate to those who is responsible? And this is when I came to the idea of ignoring votes of pairs that cant agree. This way yes, small agreeing group can push their decision. Even if country is in chaos. This ability to always be able to find a decision and at the same time punish non-cooperative is what I value. 2. People may choose to be stubborn anyway, why bother with it $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull, we're on Worldbuilding. I thought you wanted a credibly messed-up system, for storytelling purposes. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Feb 11, 2022 at 4:51

The proposed system does not address any of the problems associated with democracies. Most importantly it does nothing to solve these 3 major issues:

  1. Imperfect knowledge of politicians and voters;
  2. Decisions and solutions based on majority rule are not necessarily the best decisions and solutions;
  3. Inherent instability due to frequent political changes.

This is not the place to discuss these shortcomings in detail, so I will not elaborate on this. Interested people can do their own research.

In addition to not resolving problematic aspects of democracy, the proposed voting method is:

  • undemocratic

    Democracy is based on a principle that all votes are equal and independent. The proposed voting method predicates the validity of one vote on another. It can be seen as just one more way to disqualify votes and disenfranchise voters.

  • based on an assumption that politics is all about compromises

    Compromise is just one of the possible political strategies. However, it is just one of many strategies that can be used to achieve political goals. Doing nothing and/or blocking actions of a political opponent can be a very effective and valid strategy as well. A good example of this the GOP in the US Senate: By doing nothing and blocking the majority of Democratic proposals they achieve their goal of keeping the status quo.

The proposed voting method also does not do anything to increase political participation, especially, in countries where voting is a right and not a duty. It may also discourage participation because not everyone is thrilled about talking to unfamiliar people or people who disagree with them. For example, according to the Pew Research Center survey conducted in September 2021, 59% of US adults find conversations with people who disagree with them on politics as stressful and frustrating. Forcing people to talk to others and achieve consensus in order to get their votes counted is a very unreasonable and unnecessary burden.

I also do not think that this method of reconciling differences will be effective in cultures where compromise can be achieved in a form of 'agree to disagree' or in countries where political affiliation shows a tendency to merge with cultural identity (this is the case in the US).

  • $\begingroup$ It is a good answer, I just want to point out that from my position, who doesnt really like the USA, this answer is more like a list of positive things. I dont plan to change the USA. But I think I will like the people who like this system, so a self-selection is a major thing. You focus on problems that would appear if we install this in country that is culturally against it. My interest is in cases where it is installed where culture is compatible. And I think cultures that are compatible with it are not so rare. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2022 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to have accurately summarized the Wikipedia article, but they miss the real issue. Successful democracy depends on running a free and fair forum where people have the practical freedom to effectively collaborate to generate the best proposals that are carefully thought through from beginning to end, rather than one dominated by ideas from corrupt or misguided sources and carefully engineered for loopholes and "unintended consequences". $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2022 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull Cultural compatibility is a minor thing. Your proposed voting system fails in the very beginning if your goal is to keep democracy since predicating the validity of votes on other votes is undemocratic. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Feb 12, 2022 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeSerfas I disagree. Democracy is an achievable utopia because of the inherent human limitations. It is not possible for humans to be experts in every field. It is not possible for humans to make rational and informed decisions on every issue. Even if all corruption and intentional malice are removed, the majority of people do not have the skills and qualifications to collaborate on carefully thought-through proposals. Not to mention that what is good for society is not always the best for individuals. Take, for example, climate change. Any serious attempt to address it [cont.] $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Feb 12, 2022 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ [...] will necessarily lead to disruption of lives of millions of people. It may seem like a bad and misinformed decision to do nothing about climate change. But for those who risk their jobs and lifestyles, it may be very reasonable and rational to vote against potentially disruptive measures. A better and brighter future in 30-50 years may hold little to no value to a person who will have to starve for 10 years in order to achieve that future. Add children to the equation and you will get very strong opposition from parents who do not want to raise their children in poverty. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Feb 12, 2022 at 18:51

Because a lot of people are stupid and/or lazy:

No, seriously try and see how much the average joe cares about elections. A lot of people don't show up to vote and those who do often only have the faintest of clue what their favourite party wants to do.

Your system would mean people would need to have a decent idea of all politicians. That ain't gonna happen which means a lot of votes will;

A): Be wasted as no compromise was reached. (Which will breed resentment)


B): Be given to the first guy they can sorta agree on even if said person is as incompetent as they get. A likeable person does not necesarrily equal a competent person after all.

In Belgium we have a lot of politicians that regularly get elected (due to our complicated state structure) and are absolutely god awfull.

A lot of people don't vote with facts, they vote on the first politician they sorta like even if said like is based on a single television interview or habit. I know for example a woman who keeps voting liberals despite not liking their current way of doing stuff because she has been voting on them from the start and her parents did the same before her.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, any system suffers from this issue. But I hope what I offer has some chance to improve it. As time goes people will learn some arguments from those conversations alone. So that average knowledge will rise, and people will make a bit better decisions. What else can we do? Just accept bad choices? We do it already, its sad but not too deadly. And I think in my case it will be a little less sad. After some time. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2022 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SurprisedSeagull Only democracies suffer from this. The more people vote, the more people need to actually know their stuff. In modern democracies it is expected every citizen does their research, in ancient Athens (which was more of a very large oligarchy than a democracy) it was down to every male citizen (with Athenian parents) and in a dictatorship only a small group of people need to be competent. That's the big advantage of a dictatorship over a demoracy. You only need a small group of competent people. The disadvantage being that if said small group isn't competent things go very bad. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2022 at 14:56

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