Most of our world is now ruled by Representative Democracy. People vote for representatives and those representatives then decide on laws and make executive decisions.

The only certainty in life though is change, and the power structures of countries are no more immune to that than anything else. There are a lot of problems with representative democracy and as a result a lot of people are not satisfied with how things are working at the moment. This has been expressed throughout the world with consequences ranging from being as terrible as civil wars and as hopeful as the rise of organisations like change.org and 38 degrees.

The limitations of representative democracy include:

  • The disproportionate influence of people and corporations who can afford to hire lobbyists and donate to campaigns.
  • The fact that you can only choose the "least bad" option. You may agree with some policies but not others but the only choice a voter gets is one package or another.
  • A high risk of corruption in general since the power is concentrated into the hands of the representatives.
  • Under-representation of minorities.
  • Short term thinking driven by the need to get re-elected in a few years.
  • Can result in an elitist political class passing power back and forth between each other.

With advances in technology and society though what is the most likely new form of government that may develop in our world as a successor to Representative Democracy and how might it work?

I am interested in answers that come from any of our current world countries (so Russian, western or middle east or anywhere else is fine) and where the new form of government arises within the next twenty to fifty years. Any technological solutions are welcome but not required, the question really is "looking at where we are now what might come next?"

Answers will be rated based on plausibility (both that the society will function and that we could transition to it) and on originality (they should be different both from our current systems of governance and ones that have been widely used in the past).

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    $\begingroup$ You seem to be focusing on something related to technology. Am I right? Otherwise it looks a bit broad... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ Near future? Involving modern technology? Based on current trends I predict: "Do you support this candidate? Swipe right for yes, left for no." $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but I reject your premise that Democracy is about choosing the "least bad" option and under representing minorities. There are several countries where there are 2 major parties, and voting for anyone else is a waste of a vote. These are somewhere along the democratic spectrum, but can hardly be called a real democracy, due to the lack of Preferential Voting. As for discriminating against minorities, that only really happens in countries where voting is optional. Compulsory voting (another requirement for a real democracy) mostly solves this problem. $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ Plato suggests tyranny follows democracy $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Scott Compulsory voting really, really doesn't solve the problem. Look at Australia, for example. On the other hand, multi-party systems such as are common in Scandinavian countries seem to improve the situation somewhat. When votes are less heavily tied to your locality, you end up with the proportion of elected representatives actually (mostly) representing the proportion of votes cast. This is more common in the House of Review of many countries, but not for the actual leadership. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 23:37

26 Answers 26


In stable representative democracies, there is little incentive for any individual voter to inform themself about candidates and party agendas if their life currently is comfortable enough and under no immanent threat by the government which isn’t easily attributed to external forces. The reluctance to vote increases with more elections and more choices. People may get angry about decisions that violate their common sense or actual expertise, but this must be either a really huge deal in their eyes or pile up a lot to actually make them abandon an entity they once voted for. This keeps professional politicians and established parties in power, a de-facto oligarchy. They are, alas, the ones who would have to change the laws the state works by – without an unlikely revolution proper.

There are, of course, forces outside traditional politics that do want certain legal changes or administrative actions. That’s basically everyone with a lobbyist. If their money-laden influence becomes too big, it’s indeed effectively a plutocracy, but don’t forget that there are also powerful NGOs (incl. organized religions) whose motives are not limited to “more profit”. I deem it possible, but unlikely, that this would become the constitutional form of government anywhere.

We are currently also seeing parliaments and committees basically outsourcing decisions. They hire and task alleged specialists (scientists, consultants, lawyers …) to come up with a well-founded solution for complicated and complex matters that elect representatives themselves feel uncomfortable with or too lay to answer. Afterwards, they have no choice but to accept the outcome. (This is different from fig-leaf external assessment studies which just serve to justify a decision that had already been made.) If this was free from lobbyist influence, which it obviously isn’t in real life, this could be considered a weak form of a scientocracy. I could well imagine a society codify the practice that the parliament’s main task is not to decide and formulate a law (i.e. the solution), but to phrase the question and select the experts – possibly an artificial super-intelligence in the distant future – that will have to answer. It puts the blame on scientists, not politicians! This is different from (but could eventually morph into) a technocracy where the deciders are the experts.

A delegative democracy is also related but different, because – by design – delegates should be knowledgeable (and trusted) in the fields they have a mandate for (i.e. basically technocrats), but as implemented often (e.g. in original soviets/councils) the delegate gets to decide (or delegate further up) on any matter. Therefore it may still appeal to established politicians in a representative democracy, because it will most likely keep the power in their hands at first (and long enough), since it doesn’t look much different. With reliable computer solutions this may change, though, because they could enable micro-decisions and remove the need for mass voting every few years. Everyone would either delegate their general transferable and retractable vote to someone they actually know and trust (i.e. similar to a hierarchic representative democracy, but without defined levels) or they could select someone different for every specific decision or area – think Secretary or Minister of X – and if they chose to, because they feel competent and informed enough, they could also express their vote directly as in a plebiscite in a direct democracy. Since everyone is a possible delegate, this could make lobbyism both more complicated and even more effective, because the people lobbyists would have to influence would be harder to get but easier to manipulate (or bribe) once reached.

In conclusion, a delegate (or “liquid”) democracy could appeal to almost everyone if presented accordingly, because it can look like representative and direct democracy at the same time, which are the realistic and idealistic goals, respectively, for most democrats in Western/European tradition. So everyone would assume they will get what they want or at least could (still) benefit from it.

PS: As it seems, there is a Wikia dedicated to futurology which includes a category on fictional governmental systems.

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    $\begingroup$ 3rd Paragraph about scientocracy is awesome. mind blown. Who'd of thought, let people who actually know things make the decisions, not a bunch of bullshitters and muppets who base all their decisions on their own pockets or distorted personal beliefs. +1 $\endgroup$
    – coblr
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ Awesome answer! This is the most creative and thought provoking posts that I have seen on any of the stack overflow forums. $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ In practice I have no confidence whatever in my parliament's ability to "phrase the question and select the experts", because independent inquiries already exist as a concept, but are often neither independent nor particularly inquiring. However, if doing this was the main criterion on which they were assessed by voters then they might get better at it, you never know your luck. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ the problem with scientocracy or any other form of meritocracy is who chooses who is "qualified", which always opens up selective favoritism, either intentional or unintentional, like the cultural selection bias with IQ tests. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 1:17

From what is currently happening, it seems a plutocracy (disguised as a democracy or something else) is the most likely next form of government.

Advancing technology has freed most people in modern countries from the constant threats of starvation, violence and sickness. They are mostly content with their safe and predictable lives, plenty of freedoms and even more entertainment options. On top of that, people are constantly overloaded with information. These two factors cause many to disregard politics that don't negatively affect their lives, opening the way for a wealthy elite to arrange the government as they see fit. The US is a good example of this, but China is another: The rising middle class there couldn't care less about democracy or communism, as long as their lives and purchasing power keep improving.

Edit: at some point, disinterest in politics could reach a point where the plutocracy is formalized, becoming the legal form of government, as officials are no longer elected but appointed by the various boards and committees that only the plutocrats have influence on. The EU has some good examples of this, with myriad ways to go around the European Parliament, which is the only elected part of the whole setup.

The plutocracy can last until there is a sharp downturn in people's lives (i.e. global warming threatening food supplies), at which point the unwritten social contract will be broken, the people will wake up and try to vote the current government out of power. Then it will either revert to a democracy or other form imposed by the "will of the people" or turn into a dictatorship as the plutocrats use deadly force to stay in power. Russia may experience this if their economy worsens even more, though it's more often called an Oligarchy than Plutocracy/Plutarchy.

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    $\begingroup$ sad but true... $\endgroup$
    – bolov
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Advances in medical technology which might dramatically extend lifespan and will likely be more available to the rich would also give the wealthy a political advantage, as well as motivation to influence politics further to make sure such advances are kept available to them, and possibly only them. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ With some game theory, evil plutocrat does not even need to spend much money: Game Theory As A Dark Art - There are no limits how deep human can sink into evil. And Murphy's law says, it it can go wrong, it will. Requirement of democracy is informed electorate -- oops. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ Russia may experience this if their economy worsens even more, though it's more often called an Oligarchy than Plutocracy/Plutarchy. Maybe because Plutocracy is a Sub-Category of an Oligarchy... All in all, what you describe sounds like todays Political system. $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:32
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    $\begingroup$ It already happened in EU: quote from Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties $\endgroup$
    – mouviciel
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:06

Governments and political systems have been observed to follow cycles. One such cycle is Tytler's (shown below):

Tytler Cycle

Replace Liberty with Democracy and Tyranny with Dictatorship for government types representative of that stage.

The premise is that people are never happy. Obviously when under a tyrannical political system, the people want freedom. This leads to revolution and ultimately liberty.

However, when people are free, they desire other things, usually security (economic, military, or civil), and are willing to trade small amounts of their liberty to get it. This starts the Complacency period in which liberty is slowly traded for more and more security.

Eventually, the population becomes dependent upon the government for their existence, starting the Dependence period. During this period the government uses that dependency to wrest more and more power from the people.

This leads back to the period of tyranny.

The forms that these periods take do NOT necessary have to be liberty = democracy and tyranny = dictatorship but you can consider democracy, republic, etc. as forms of liberty and monarchy, dictatorship, oligarchy, etc. as forms of tyranny.

The most important take away is that people are never happy with what they have. They will trade a little of what they think they have in plenty for what they want (e.g. liberty for security). However, granting government powers tends to be a one way street. Over time governments concentrate power. Ultimately that concentration leads to abuse, tyranny, and a repeat of the cycle.

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    $\begingroup$ When it comes to history, I don’t subscribe to circles. I rather think of it as a (somewhat erratic) spiral, so with every revolution (i.e. turn) the radius gets larger, and hopefully it’s like the lituus approaching a stable state. $\endgroup$
    – Crissov
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Luaan Yeah, that’s the “somewhat erratic” part. The US, in contrast, have now taken almost 250 years to get from 10 o’clock to somewhere between 2 and 7 o’clock (depending on whom you ask) on the Tytler cycle. I don’t think it’s actually supposed to be linearly chronographic, just schematic. $\endgroup$
    – Crissov
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Crissov Well, the US was brutally imperialistic during most of its existence, with a lot of nationalistic fervour - I guess the same might apply to plenty of the old european monarchies. There was always a lot of power and money to gain from warring with your neighbours (the whole west coast, Texas, indjuns...). It might be a (temporary) stabilising factor. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Crissov: Mathematically speaking, if you have enough circles you can describe a spiral. Now I really want a Spirograph to play with. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim2B Apart from discussion on where the US fits in, this model fails to account for the many (European) countries that went from tyranny to democracy without ever experiencing a revolution. but rather by monarchy and aristocracy step by step relinquishing their formal power (perhaps fearing a revolution). Most of the constitutional monarchies are like this. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 15:02

Lets start by stating some assumptions:

1: Democracy is no longer allowed. in 20-50 years, a given democracy must have transitioned away from representative democracy to something else rather than just enabling a more efficient representation

2: The transition must arise from an event likely to happen without any major fudging (IE: No saying 'someone invents an iron man suit and installs themselves as dictator')

3: If the transition is a violent one, the conflict must be resolved into a stable government. IE: no major 'resistance' movements or dissension left.

Right. Now we've got those sorted, lets have a look at a couple of countries:

I'll dispense with mentioning the already non-RD countries.

Great Britain: Technically still a constitutional monarchy, but it's RD in every legal sense, so: The parts of great Britain, disillusioned by the failures of their unified government, break apart. Individual governments in the new Former Britain use a very clever online voting system to enable total representation (all people have the vote, and are able to employ it should they wish). Sadly: the vast majority of people are apathetic about everything except the issues that directly affect them, and so the government becomes a wallowing mess, leading to the eventual economic collapse and marginalisation of the Former British bloc (not the collapse of the government though, the people living there seem to think it works).

USA: Increasing reliance on statistical analysis and punditry lead to the creation of the IVoting system, which allows an automated system to predict the results of every election perfectly. Eventually the IVote system votes itself into office and starts co-ordinating the various governmental positions directly. Everyone is OK with this, because IVote is evidently much more capable at finding the right man for the job than the average Joe.

Russia: A plutocracy funded and maintained by the Oligarchs rises, with former mob bosses and anyone with sufficient money utterly controlling the 'vote'. Those who have no voting power don't decide the fate of the nation, but if they take enough selfies and use social media effectively enough they can convince those with enough money to change the law for them. It's like democracy via facebook.

Japan: A massively complex computer system is commissioned to deal with Japan's dwindling urban space, capable of organising and distributing resources across an increasingly automated island chain. Eventually it is responsible for synchronising all the major governmental tasks and effectively supplants the government. The people who are truly in power are now the software engineers in control of the system, but nobody really notices because everyone is getting fed on time.

Iraq: The democracy in Iraq falls, supplanted by a brutal dictatorship. Technology is used to enforce the Supreme Ruler's wishes. Any resistance is crushed by judicious use of drone strikes.

India: A clever software system starts to manage aid requests between multiple regions. Soon every region in India is helping all the others, and the system percolates down to the individual level, texting people often with notes like 'The lady four doors down the street needs a cup of sugar. Could you take her one please?' As a result India develops into a computer guided ideal of the communistic dream.

Please note: This list is somewhat fuzzy, but I hope it highlights a couple of potential avenues. Which one of these is most likely is entirely up in the air, depending on what situations arise. If a major disaster were to occur in a India, for example, it might be more likely to go down the dictatorial route than merge into a mecha-communistic society. Also: I hate to think what international politics would look like in this world!

TL:DR: Politics is weird. Anything can happen.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't Russia almost already how you describe its future? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ Yep. Russia would be the first of these scenarios to occur (unless Iraq really runs into trouble), but it would have to be a shift from "We're a democracy that's rather corrupt and unapologetic about it" to "We're not a democracy. Suck it, poor people." $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ As a US citizen and a software developer, I think I'd rather have iVote decide my government than that moron across the street with all his "ideals" that baby Jesus "blessed" him with. I'd probably be quite content with Japan's or India's future, minus all the crowding. At least the computer doesn't care about money or power. $\endgroup$
    – coblr
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @fractalspawn: You could win even if you weren't running! "Hey, you there! You're now governor of California. Sound good? No? Sucks to be you, you're the best man for the job!" $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ As a software developer and someone aware of how central planning has historically worked out, the USA, Japan, and India futures thoroughly terrify me. $\endgroup$
    – zero
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 0:12

Direct Democracy

Representative Democracy might be replaced by Direct Democracy. As the legislatures become increasingly polarized and unable to function, more and more initiatives pass via referendum. You can already see this happening in California. And both Arizona and Florida passed election reforms via referendum.

In the long term, online voting may make it practical to eliminate legislatures and put every issue to direct vote. There are security issues, but voting systems often ignore those anyway.

Sampled Democracy

One of the problems with our current system is that it tends to favor people who seem likable rather than people who actually are competent. If it's true that politicians are actually below average in competence, maybe we should stop relying on volunteers. Instead, draft legislatures the same way that we do juries.

One problem with Direct Democracy is that most people don't have time to learn all about the issues. With Sampled Democracy, the chosen will be able to devote all their time to learning about the issues.

How this could work (not the only possible rules but an example): Each year, five thousand people could be randomly selected for three year terms in Congress. For the first year, they would have no voting power and would each be assigned to a third year Representative. The second year, they could vote but not hold office (Speaker, committee chair, etc.). The third year, they could vote and hold office in the body. They would also be assigned a first year Representative to mentor. After that, they resume civilian life.

This would give people plenty of time and support to learn the issues. The selectees should be representative of the population as a whole, as determined by the census. This also eliminates the unrepresentative parts of Representative Democracy. Note that in the US, it is possible to get half of the House of Representatives with only a quarter of the vote if you spread out your voters perfectly.

Tax Voting

This is the least likely (Direct Democracy is the most likely of these alternatives), but I find it interesting.

Currently there is no advantage to paying more taxes. Whether you pay billions in taxes or get a small net rebate, you have the same impact. What this does is allow you to specify how you want your taxes to be used. So if you're Mitt Romney, you can put all your taxes into defense spending. If you're Barack Obama, you can put all your taxes into subsidies for the poor.

This has several advantages. First, it gives an advantage to paying taxes and a disadvantage to dodging taxes. Second, since the taxes you paid last year will determine next year's spending, this guarantees a balanced budget unless bypassed. Third, it takes away the legislature's ability to muck around with the budget. Fourth, this leaves more time for the legislature to do other parts of its job, e.g. reviewing regulatory changes.

Note that this only works for the budget. Other forms of voting stay the same as they are now or change separately.

Also note that, in aggregate, this gives most of the budget control to the middle class. Each individual rich person should pay more taxes than each individual middle class person, but the 90% middle class pays more than the .5% rich.

  • $\begingroup$ Intriguing, If I'm Mitt, Who decides how my money is spent after it lands in the defense budget or is it more granular than that? Do I get to decide if it goes toward a tank, or some ammo, or...? Who decides what options I have? Tax Voting -> crowd fund all government projects/departments. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Mindor Mitt would have the same specificity over the money as the current legislature. So if it can appear as a line item in the budget now, you can specify to that line item. Or leave it to the discretion of the executive in charge of that portion of the budget. The defense secretary is the example that I know, but presumably there are sub-buckets of defense for which others are directly responsible. For a more concrete example, you should be able to specify that money goes to the FBI specifically rather than the Justice Department generally. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 1:31

The United States is already post-democracy according to former US president Jimmy Carter:

Former President Jimmy Carter believes the United States’ campaign finance system is so broken that the country is no longer a functional democracy. Appearing on the Thom Hartmann show this week, Carter said that “unlimited political bribery” is “the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.” He said the same problems are present in elections for “U.S. senators and congress members.”

A study from Princton University comes to the same conclusion:

A new study from Princeton spells bad news for American democracy—namely, that it no longer exists.

Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Even if you don't buy that the US is already post-democracy, you can think about it continuing on its current trend. Politicians get more and more controlled by bribery and money so that the elections matter less and less.

If we want to add other elements that further reduce democracy we could imagine that an agency like the NSA who sits on a huge pile of information decides that certain politicians go against its interests. If an attorney general of New York thinks he should fight against wrongdoing by the powerful, the NSA might sift through their online records and find out whether that politician has done anything that can destroy his career and publish that information.

The NSA could preemtively try to prevent politicians who can't be attacked to get into office. The FBI could theoretically buy attack software to upload child pornography to the politician.

In Italy after WWII it took quite a while until it was publicly known that the Mafia had an influence on politics and reemerged.

There are a lot of ways for various parties to affect political decision making that has little to do with actual representative democracy.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing out the obvious. That we aren't a democracy any more for many reasons beyond what you and Jimmy Carter said was my first reaction to the question. Jimmy left out the virtually "unlimited powers" that a president now has thanks to liberal interpretation of "executive orders" and an unwillingness of the supreme court to do the job that they were actually created to do. That being, to limit the overreach of the other 2 branches of government. Instead, they are in collusion with the other branches because the more power the federal government has, the more power the SC wields. $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ To think that the NSA will dig up "dirt" on an opposition politician is to stop short. Information about a person's business dealings, communications, whereabouts, etc, can be used in both direct and indirect ways. Directly, you can make their business fail by always being around to offer a better deal to each of their customers. Indirectly, you can know their campaign strategy and tailor yours to counteract it. In short, information lets you always be one step ahead, even if you don't use it for character assassination. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ "we could imagine that an agency like the NSA" -- for example Shonda Rhimes already did that ("Scandal"). For that matter, MI5 used to run files on politicians in the UK considered too left wing, but I don't know that they ever used that information for political purposes (or how we'd know if they did). I should think now it runs files on all politicians regardless of their politics. The Valerie Plame affair is an example of politicians using information about the CIA for political purposes, so the tables can be turned ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 0:51

Kinetocracy - Government by movement, a.k.a. voting with your feet

In truth, Kinetocracy is already here, but in a weak form. For example, if a US citizen feels strongly that they shouldn't fear death by firearm as a statistically significant risk to their life, what's the most effective means for them to enact that change in their life?

  • Vote for a representative that says they don't support firearms
  • Move to any other developed nation

The latter is certainly infinitely more effective. But, due to the high costs of moving around, Kinetocracy is currently inefficient. If individuals had true freedom of movement across different societies, it would become efficient. Societies which implement "good" laws would grow and prosper and societies that implement "bad" laws would shrink and decline. All this through a simple social contract mechanism that avoids the 'government by force' issues associated with democracy et al.

Current trends which could strengthen kinetocracy in the future:

  • Increased political freedom of movement. More nations allowing citizens of other nations to legally and costlessly enter, live and work in their nation. (e.g. the EU)
  • Decreased cost of movement. Via technological advances and government funding for transportation systems and/or relocation costs
  • Anti "big govermnent" movement leading to increased sovereignty of regional and local governments
  • Interconnectedness of the internet eventually leading to a de-facto common language

Current hurdles to overcome:

  • Increasingly centralized policy, law making & enforcement reducing the variability in laws from society to society. e.g. stronger US government homogenizing law across states, European Union homogenizing laws across member nations, international bodies like the WTO negotiating for parity in certain laws
  • Cultural/media biases towards "Democracy (TM)"

Issues with kinetocracy to be aware of:

  • Inter-society law or interactions must either be resolved via "supersociety" social contracts, or by force/threat of force. Particularly relevant in "tragedy of the commons" type situations.
  • Need to address the current norm that "being born here" entitles one to "being a citizen here". Instead, citizenship is depending on accepting the local social contract.

PS. Full disclosure: I think democracy is a flawed system, and the concept of it an "opiate of the masses"

  • $\begingroup$ And if the UK is serious about wanting to reduce immigration, all they need to do is follow the example of Syria and throw barrel bombs on the own population (or somehow effect the grow of terrorist groups to do so). Net migration will drop to a negative soon enough. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ While I don't have a problem with democracy, I think this is what you will see. It will mostly only work if we also see a reduction in the size of a nation-state back to something on the level of counties. This is already happening on a small scale in the US - nearly everyone moves at least once in their lives, and where you move to depends a lot on how you see the culture in the place you are moving. This can only happen if something breaks down all major states - you can't have individual United States if a united Russia can invade you at any time $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ This will majorly complicate business though... and a society that cramps the economy is not going to win in the long term. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit And which city should be bombed first? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit: as the saying goes, "what do you call a country with a lot of immigration? A great place to live". $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 0:42

A technocracy can rise with increasing focus on knowledge and technical advances.

An interesting form of technocracy might be one which is controlled by an artificial intelligent system. In line with predictions that we might get to singularity as soon as 2045 (I don't agree with this prediction personally) this would be a possibility. However, I think acceptance of this type of government by the population would be unrealistic.

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    $\begingroup$ This is an excellent suggestion. I can see an A.I. going from calculating policy effects to processing them, then to making recommendations until everyone learns to trust them implicitly. At this point, the A.I. would just generate new policy and laws on its own and instruct the humans on how to implement them. $\endgroup$
    – Cyrus
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:11

Internet forums evolve into finally being an effective platform for mass discourse.

United, people are able to answer the most difficult questions of fact, policy, and even science (or at least calculate, given fundamentally limited information, the likelihood of truth of the different answers).

Government, society, and the economy are transformed.

Government becomes a sort of direct democracy, but more effective than anything that came before. Gone are power and corruption. Gone is also mob irrationality. However, with those problems behind us, a new one arises: the capacity to write and enforce an unprecedented number of rules. Like a village council or condo association from hell, the infinitely wise, directly democratic machine of The Forum attempts to solve everyone's problems.

The economy is transformed. With full information transparency, everything is thoroughly reviewed. The Forum has calculated what, without a doubt, is the best, more reliable brand of toaster. Of course, there are no longer brands. Brands are either, at best, irrational points of emotional attachment or, at worst, state-created thought monopolies. There are open-source blueprints of the ideal toaster that a thousand factories manufacture with top efficiency. The diversity of goods is decimated. Only the best is on the shelves. Unfortunately, "the best" is a singular noun.

Full informational transparency also reveals everything you'd ever wanted (or not) to know about your neighbor, your coworker, and the boy your daughter just met. It's great to know that you're hiring the right candidate at the right salary for your job opening, but discomforting that this candidate already knows that you feed your dog on the go by biting your hot dog and handing him the spat-out piece.

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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "Gone is also mob irrationality"? $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Dunk In a word, ochlocracy. From wiki: "Ochlocracy ("rule of the general populace") is democracy ("rule of the people") spoiled by demagoguery, "tyranny of the majority", and the rule of passion over reason, just as oligarchy ("rule of a few") is aristocracy ("rule of the best") spoiled by corruption, and tyranny is monarchy spoiled by lack of virtue." $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 22:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Dunk I didn't go into any depth, but The Forum would work pretty well to be meritocratic. A lot like SE with its votes, reputation, etc. It wouldn't be the kind of democracy where an uninformed fool has as much voting power on every topic as anyone. Informed discussion would prevail. Or at least, that would be the hope of its creators. In practice, nothing stirs the passions more than someone being wrong on the Internet. There would be bias and belief. Nevertheless, the thrust of The Forum would never be irrational, exactly. The deductive mechanisms embedded in it would forbid contradiction. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 22:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hmmm....I am feeling pretty dense right now because I don't see the tie-in to "internet forums" and eradicating "mob irrationality". One of the problems with facts, truth, policy and even science is that "the truth" so often depends more on personal beliefs than anything else. So one person's facts is what another person calls a spin or half-truth. Even if that weren't the case, it seems like your claim stills assumes the voters have any interest in becoming "informed" voters versus those of today who are mostly sound-bite or totally uninformed party-line voters. $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps your idea of the huge role that internet forums would take on, would seem more plausible if it were stated that video gaming caused such realness in virtual reality technology that people seldom had reason to even leave their home any longer. (Which I can already see happening). Thus, internet forum like sites became the primary social outlet for the overwhelming majority of voters. Then somehow make what you said all tie in to that without the part of it solving most of today's problems because opinions and different interpretations will still exist. $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 23:23

During the 20th century, many countries (including the Soviet Union and other communist countries, Germany, Iran, many Middle-Eastern countries, and many African countries) followed the following pattern. It earned the name "One man, one vote, one time":

  • Revolutionaries come to power promising to establish a republic with widespread or universal adult suffrage.
  • The revolutionaries hold an election. The former ruling party was either a minority, and/or discredited by losing a civil war or foreign war, and/or prohibited from organizing a campaign in the first election.
  • One faction of the revolutionaries cobbles together a super-majority coalition in the resulting governing body.
  • Election rules are set up, which require approval from the revolutionary party before a candidate is allowed to run for office.
  • The revolutionary party structure is formalized in a very hierarchical fashion.
  • All politically-minded youth are required to participate in "youth groups" sponsored by the new ruling party. They are taught the "logic" of the ruling party's ideology, and see that all of their politically-minded cohort parrot the party line.
  • Political officers are assigned to make sure that military units behave in ways consistent with the party ideology.
  • Large businesses are required to show support for the ruling party.
  • Small businesses are systematically consolidated into newly created large businesses.
  • Ethnic minorities that are not known to be loyal supporters of the party are banished (or even killed).
  • Result: Whoever controls the highest level of the party, controls what thoughts are allowed to be expressed in public, and controls who hold positions of "power" in the government.

This system had multiple strategic vulnerabilities. The tendency to prevent non-party endorsed ideas from being heard handicapped innovation, commerce, industry, agriculture, and the military. This tendency often resulted in conflicts with other military powers, and sometimes caused the country to be isolated diplomatically and militarily.

This system had two legalistic vulnerabilities: If a reformer captured control of the top level, they could push through constitutional changes. Also, these systems generally made a point of continuing to hold regular elections, where the populace could only vote for party-supported candidates. If a group of candidates could somehow get on the ballot, indicate to the public that they supported reforms, and prevent vote-fraud, they could win the election.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ While it is certainly more "subtle", you have just described what is currently happening in the USA. $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, this answer doesn't meet the criterion of "originality (they should be different both from our current systems of governance and ones that have been widely used in the past)". It also fails at step one with a country that already has universal suffrage, and at step four if there's no history of such a rule before, or a resolved history of it causing problems. $\endgroup$
    – david
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 19:51

Some possibilities are raised by the game Alpha Centauri, which has future government types "Cybernetic", "Eudaemonic", and "Thought Control".

Cybernetic: decision-making turned over to computers. This has been attempted and failed (Project Cybersyn). Perhaps it would succeed with better technology. When people have self-driving cars and self-restocking fridges, and most business decisions have been turned over to computer, having to make policy decisions by mere talking seems inefficient.

Eudaemonic: explicit policy focus on maximising human happiness. There are occasional attempts in this direction (basic income, "gross national happiness").

Thought control: it's a lot of work to give people what they want. But if we can make them want what they're given, everyone can be happy. This might start by greater control of information, propaganda and advertising and lead into full brain-implant mind control.

(That game's help text constitutes a serious work of futurist fiction in itself, influenced by Red Mars etc.)

  • $\begingroup$ Eudaemonic is more commonly known as utilitarianism. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 14:43

We may be seeing a return to "Ruling king with parliament" governments. In these systems:

  • The king is happy to have the firm support of one-third to two-thirds of the population, as long as the remaining population is not organized to overthrow him.
  • Parliamentary debates and decisions matter. Cabinet ministers can be forced to resign if the parliament concludes that they are corrupt or incompetent.
  • The king has honorably served in the military, and the soldiers consider him (and his heir) to be one of them.
  • The king is in charge of the military.
  • The king has enough say that all cabinet ministers must have his confidence and approval.
  • Royal succession is hereditary. Succession crises are resolved by the royal family putting forward an heir, and the parliament ratifying the choice of heir.

Some countries that have such governments, and/or are likely to have such governments after current civil wars are resolved:

  • Morocco
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Syria (currently in a civil war; the ruling faction has about 10% of the population)

Countries that could adopt such a system:

  • Russia (if it chose to have a Putin descendant succeed him)

Most Western European countries have "reigning" monarchs, not ruling kings. But if their peoples conclude that their systems have failed them, and that their princes are up to the job of being ruling kings, then Europe could also have ruling kings again.

Current fiction works that provide detailed descriptions of transitions toward such a system:

  • Tom Kratman's Carrera's Legions series.

The short answer is that it depends on what happens to change the status quo.

Democratic forms of government (rule by popular vote, either directly on matters of state or indirectly to elect representatives) typically fail either when the process is perverted by those in power in order to remain in power, or when two or more demographics cannot agree on a common path for the country and a substantial minority refuses to accept majority rule. Both have been seen many times in Earth's history. The second situation's outcome is well-known; the minority either tries to seize power by force, or if they're geographically grouped, they try to take their land and leave. Succeed or fail, you basically end up with one ruling party and no opposition in either one or two nations.

If the democratic process is subverted such that the masses no longer have a free choice of their representatives, either because elections are discontinued or the vote isn't free or fair (for instance, some people get more votes than others, or every candidate has the same plan to govern ultimately provided by those who really run things), the democracy devolves into a plutocracy, governed by the wealthy, who gain power through their wealth and wealth through their power in a self-perpetuating cycle. There are dozens of dystopic visions of the future world along these lines, where ultimately government is controlled by business interests, or a few oligarchs, or even a faceless super-conglomerate.

Plutocracies can further devolve into an autocracy (self-perpetuating government by a single person), or either a plutocracy or autocracy can persist indefinitely. These are generally considered "bad" in current Western politics, but there's a dualist nature to their perception in Western fiction, based on part on feudal rule of most of those same societies as recently as a few hundred years ago. Exactly who or what the ruling entity is, how they act and the amount of prosperity of the average person under their rule sets the entire tone of the story.

If the democratic process remains effective, as a society develops technologically and economically we tend to see a trend towards socialism in the far but not extreme left of the political spectrum. This generally occurs as more and more services previously only available to the very wealthy are recognized as essential or "basic" to the functioning of society (running water, electricity, mechanized transportation, voice communications, data transfer, healthcare; all of these were at one point considered a luxury afforded only to the wealthy elite), and society as a whole enacts rules guaranteeing availability of these services to the lowest common denominator, to the point that nobody in the private sector sees any profit in continuing to develop it. Government then steps in and asserts primary authority to administer and maintain the infrastructure for the service. Power ultimately rests with the well-connected and charismatic elements of the society who gain power by being well-liked and likable.

Probably the most well-known extreme of a socialist society would be Orson Scott Card's Ender universe; Ender Wiggin's brother Peter is basically elected ruler of the world through social media, not dissimilar from choosing an election based on who has the most Facebook followers (which would, right now, be Cristiano Ronaldo). The society has its ups and downs, especially in the early books; there are things done to and by Ender that are horrifying, such as the ultimate violation of the right to privacy in the form of a neural implant that gives his supervisors a direct audiovisual link to what he sees, hears and does. Population control measures that basically require a lot of greased palms to have more than two children are also things most free societies today would frown on. Overall, however, most people live as they choose, and have a wealth of technology and information at a wave of their hand.

  • $\begingroup$ I would like to add another way of death of democratic rule. That of plutocracy through subversion. Many countries already have state owned media stations. Sure, voters are free to choose, but they do not choose in a vacuum. They are influenced by the arguments and ideas they hear in their day to day life. If a class of (rich) people buys up much of the media and entertainment industry, as well as controls public expression (social media), they can influence people the way they want them to vote and effectively be in power. $\endgroup$
    – Qoray
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 16:33

I would say that a government controlled by Artificial intelligence seems quite likely (making the assumption that World War III will take place)

  1. Inequality between countries is gradually increasing. Some economies are progressing and others are collapsing. US has sent Voyager satellites to the edge of the solar system, while three-fourths of the countries are yet to send a probe into space. International peace-keeping bodies like UN and WB do not give equal representation to all countries.

  2. Humans are becoming more powerful by the day. The sum of power of all individuals in the human race is increasing. This is especially true in warfare. 100 years ago, we fought on foot. 75 years ago, we invented and used bombs, planes and chemicals. 50 years ago, we created the nuclear bomb. Governments are highly secretive on such issues, but it isn't hard to imagine how advanced today's nuclear weapons could actually be.

  3. Conflicts are happening even today. Lesser people may be dying today then during the world wars, since we are not at war yet, but chances are pretty high that it could start any time between now and 50 years later.

  4. This would lead to murder of countless lives. And to unification of various countries for the sake of survival (in the war, as well as after it). Though some may make attempts to retain democracy, chances are that only a few will be successful. Quite a few will have dictatorship, or similar governments in the name of democracy.

  5. Computers will be extensively used by then for war strategy, to do everything from giving orders for supplies, to reading people's expressions from their political statements. It may go as far as the computers directly controlling the army and fighting the war.

  6. In my opinion, it is likely that human population would drastically reduce. If an apocalypse does not occur, we will end up going back to dictatorships, except that the number of independent countries will be lesser in number and larger in area. Peace may be temporarily restored, but weaponry would become way too powerful for people to resist using it.

  7. The world would be quite unstable as a whole. The only way to restabilise seem to be:

    • Rule of computers
    • Destruction of current technology and majority of human race
    • A global dictatorship by individuals with weaponry more advanced than the rest of the world
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just a hint: in your point 2, you are some 25 years off. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 10:08

The liberty of the individual person comes from their power; power flows from both the barrel of the gun, and from one's economic utility.

Automation takes off. Task after task becomes cheaper to automate than to employ someone to do it. When it is cheaper to build and maintain a computer or robot to do something than it is to feed a human, the human is absolutely non-price-competitive.

The economy continues along, as task after task is eroded from being "worth" maintaining a human to do. Those with ownership rights over resources have fewer and fewer "selfish" reasons to employ humans.

Personal service is one such area (including things that humans desire from other humans directly). The tasks that remain difficult for automation to do (whatever they turn out to be) also employ people. Depending on how hard those jobs are to do and network effects, their salary either skyrockets or plummets as many people compete for the job.

Raw resources to maintain people compete with resources for computer/robotic industrialization. We can see this today, where Ethanol based fuel competes with the price of food. With higher efficiency solar panels and bioreactors, farm land for food competes with energy production more directly.

Initially people will try to avoid having mass starvation. Welfare solutions, or make-work projects, or a myriad of other solutions are proposed. Unrest still occurs, as it sort of sucks to be on make-work and welfare.

With the economic utility gone, and increasingly effective mostly automated policing and military, the power of those dispossessed shrinks. Divide and conquer politics follow in many areas, where the dispossessed are demonized for their very existence.

In addition, wars in foreign areas, where the local underclass is dislocated by a automated remote war machine for their resources to be claimed.

Some states maintain that welfare state. Others let it fall, and start dealing with their underclass in increasingly brutal ways. Democracy's legitimacy comes from its ability to claim the power of the masses as a source of legitimacy: with an automated police/military/production/trade system, the masses lack power. Democracy gets curtailed. Those democracies that don't bend, are broken; they are either passively out-competed by the leaner, more efficient states that don't bend to the masses (and get progressively poorer, as their trade balances collapse; the state needs to spend 3x the resources to make things that other states need to because they spend 2/3 of their resources on feeding the unproductive masses!)

Note that none of this requires "true AI". The existence of a relative handful of people guiding the "not-true AI" computers/robots/etc doesn't change the shape of the situation much.

Various stable governments result.

  1. Utopian nearly work-free democracies. Increasingly inefficient due to the relative dead-load of the mass people. What human labor is needed is easy to source from a relatively large fallow population.

  2. Brutal automated plutocracies. A handful of well-off people, with a relatively small number of elite workers, and a mass of oppressed poor.

  3. Fake Utopian plutocracies. They pretend to be #1, but are #2. Propaganda convinces the citizens that they are "free" and "the best place to live on Earth" and "their vote matters".

  4. Brutal automated wastelands. The end state of 2, as fewer and fewer of the elites have an "acceptable" standard of living, and even the plutocrats find their standard of living eroded by competition. Something like "Economics 2.0" takes over: resources are efficiently allocated by algorithms that provide less and less surplus for human well being. Humans are trained to provide solutions to the problems that the (probably not true AI) cannot solve, and are rewarded with just enough resources to survive. Even "useful" Humans that consume more resources than that are punished by distributed algorithms that they don't personally have the permission to change, even if they hack the resource distribution engine to allocate more than their fair share. May collapse in the long term.


Today : Democracy (really?)

Most elections on democracies those days resumes on a marketing race where the candidate with the bigger budget and better media exposure wins. People are not really interested on whats happening in the backstage and most even don't cares if they are getting they paychecks and buying the last "you-must-have" gadgets.

One can say consumerism is at the top and even candidates for representatives positions are products to be consumed by the masses. This scenario makes candidates prone to big donors (banks & corporations) and to demagogy the most likely to being elected. The donors contributes to both candidates (in a bipartisanship way). No matter what puppet wins you can pull the strings on both of them.

Optimistic future: Wikicracy

Most likely to start in small well organized countries like Iceland this form of government uses all advantages modern communication systems to create an open environment where citizens participate in the day-to-day political affairs.

This way everyone can post on vote on new propositions most likely in a SE site (like WB for example). Also an wiki-management can greatly increase transparency in the government expenses and even improve wise-costs of public services.

Pessimistic future: Cyberpunk dystopia

Corporations influence in governments increase to (beyond actual) obscene levels and in practice starts to replace the government even in strategic affairs. Health-care is the first to fall but not the last corporations lobby put puppets in key places. Those degrade public services like the Police Department, Fire Department, Education, Mass Transit, Water, Power, everything.

Outraged citizens incited by news fabricated in the backstages of power demands better services. Year after year government fails to meet populace expectations and when those services are sold to the corporations citizens feels relieved for a brief period.

Unfortunately few can pay for all these services and society starts to stratify in castes but with all the media in corporation control the average Joe is most concerned about it's most favorite show characters life or the last sport league results.


I think what is going to happen is that online polls take preference.

Take the referendums in Scotland about independence.

Or the referendum in the UK about the EU and the Euro.

More and more governments are giving the choice to the public so that they cannot be blamed for the outcome. I.E. they are not debating the issue, simply giving the choice the the general public.

Therefore I think this is more likely.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Take the trends of: California's direct ballot initiatives, the growing frustration with our representatives not actually governing, the disgust at the influence of money, and the ubiquitousness of TV shows where you vote on the outcome. I think you end up with some sort of technologically aided "Direct Democracy", where anyone can propose a law, and with enough support, everyone can vote on it. Maybe a StackExchange for legislation. $\endgroup$
    – AShelly
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AShelly Yes this would be a great idea. Maybe we should propose it. $\endgroup$
    – JamesD
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:03

While you could argue rather or not it constitutes a 'new' government, or just an expansion of the existing one, I have asked two previous questions about how to create a hybrid of direct and Representative democracies which feels like a very new take or the existing democracy, perhaps counting as it's own form.

The linked question addresses some of the concept, but let me go into detail. The idea is that with the internet we are capable of near-instantaneous voting now, making a direct democracy more fiesable then it has ever been before. Of course currently voter fraud and hackers are an issue with online voting, but we could presume in the future these are addressed and a system can be created which is no more prone to such fraud then modern voting, and that internet access has grown to be such a staple that it's presumed to be available to even the poorest citizen. If this is the case we can start to craft a system which allows voters to more directly express their wishes by voting directly on important issues.

The advantage to a more direct vote is that votes can be more representative of an individuals opinion, where as it's impossible to pick a perfect representative that truly represents your views. Maybe you mostly agree with political party X, but your views on abortion are opposite of the party line and you have a slightly different view on the appropriate level of gun regulation. You pick the senator from your political party because you agree with 85% of that parties views, but that means that you picked someone who is going to do his best to make abortion laws that are the exact opposite of your moral views. You picked the best representative you could, and still can be upset that your views on abortion are not being reflected. With a more direct democracy you can vote along the party line for the 85% you like, and vote against them when it comes to abortion, better representing your own personal beliefs.

f course the problem with this is that voters don't have the time to vote directly on every issue. a pure direct democracy would be ruled by those that took the time to vote (like the elderly) and would thus leave a huge percentage of people unrepresented. Already most only vote for president, even picking a senator is rare, but that is only one decision every few years. Imagine if you were asked to make a decision every day, few would do it, making those who did quite powerful.

Thus you create a hybrid solution, with representatives picked by voters who actually manage most votes for a voter, but with the voter able to personally vote on any law or legislation he chooses as well.

My question went further to suggest the idea of voter blocks and a sort of hash-tag approach to voting. Each voter can pick a representative to represent them for certain types of votes. For instance you may have someone who believes in small government with little overhead (like republicans) but in more liberal 'if it isn't hurting me let it be' social policies, like the democrats. He may pick a republican 'fiscal' representative and a democratic 'social' representative, who will vote according to his views. Social matters thus get one vote and fiscal a separate vote.

In reality things would likely grow more complex, with one voter able to grant his voting rights out to many representatives. To make this work imagine a system where each bill is given a number of, well frankly government standardized hash tags, to represent the content of the bill. The bill to increase taxes and move the money into supporting faith-based charities may be tagged as fiscal, but with a sub-tab of religion and 'government-support' (some tag similar to welfare, but with a more generalized meaning).

A voter can assign a representative to represent a tag he cares about, but he gets more flexibility then that. This system requires a vote to be divisible, one vote may be infinitely divided. So our theoretical voter who preferred small-government may have chosen the small-government fiscal representative. However, he may also be very devout and so for the religious sub-tag he picked a strong "christian rights" representative.

For this vote his fiscal voter may vote no for the bill, taxes mean big government, but his religious representative may vote yes, more money to faith based initiatives help them to do god-work. One vote each way effectively nullifies his vote, and so his vote doesn't work at all.

However, he may have more flexibility in how he assigns his votes. Maybe he chose the fiscal rep as his main voter, but set it up so that in times where it conflicts the religious rep gets priority by representing 2/3 of his vote on religious bills. The fiscal rep votes against the bill, with 1/3 of the voters granted vote, and the religious rep votes for it with 2/3 of the voters proxy vote, leading to that voter voting 'yes' with 1/3 of a vote. Modern vote systems can easily handle such fractional votes, enough 1/3 votes can counteract full votes...

Of course perhaps in this situation our voter feels that it's a bad idea. He figures that the letter of the law means that christian groups could not use the extra funding from the government to actual preach or evangelism, so the law doesn't help him spread his religion and, to him, is just another form of welfare. So he decides to vote directly against the bill, taking back his proxy vote and directly voting against the bill. He can, at any point, do this, his representatives are simply a way of voting by proxy for the votes he can't be bothered to vote on directly; he always has the right to directly vote personally on any bill he considers important enough to vote on.

That's the short idea. This will result in a very different feel, with a decrease in power of political parties as instead of voting on specific large platforms voters can focus on personal belief systems. However, complex politics will start to be about how to assign the 'tags' to a particular bill in order to get the 'right' representatives to vote for the bill, ie the ones you think will vote in your favor.

For example, say there is a a vote being made about rather to fund abstinence based sex-education or to fund only comprehensive sex-education. Perhaps those that want to pass the comprehensive sex-education bill will try to get the "LGBT-rights" tag assigned to the bill, on the grounds that comprehensive sex-education is more likely to address alternate sexuality and therefore pro-LGBT representatives would therefore be more likely to vote for the bill. You could argue rather sex-ed really is an LGBT-rights issue, but rather or not it gets assigned to a bill is partially based off of rather one group or another thinks those reps will vote in their favor. Sadly you can't get the politicking out of politics lol.

Notice I've refereed to finance votes in a way that isn't really representative of how bills work currently in the US, that's intentional. In this new system there would likely be a focus on breaking up larger decisions, like funding decisions, into a number of smaller votes so that people can better vote on them individually; which would also require a focus on less time debating each bill if you want anything to be done, or perhaps just more parallel votes going on in different sectors, the 'financial' and 'social' votes can happen mostly independently since reps for one can vote separately from reps of the other.

Of course this addresses only the votes. Someone has to craft the original bills and votes. Thus I imagine a representative will be picked the way most representative democracies do who is responsible for crafting and modifying bills, and this rep's vote would count for anyone who has not transferred his voting proxy to another representative. The difference is that when votes happen multiple voting representatives can vote along more complex divides then just bi-party views.

I imagine one of the biggest bit of politicking in this system would be how to assign 'tags' to a given vote. A group may try to get certain tags attached to a vote because they know that the majority of voters for that tag will vote along the lines they want, so bickering over what tag to assign or not assign may become quite common. This is assuming that the government assigns tags. As an alternative there may be non-political entities that read and assign tags and someone may choose to use any one of a few 'tag assigning' entities as the one that decides how to tag a bill to decide how their vote proxy should be divided.

Obviously this system only works in a modern world with computers. This would all get way to complex without not just instantaneous voting, but also the ability to help calculate complex rules for how a single vote was divide. However, with modern computers these sort of calculations can be done easily. All a user has to do is assign his vote proxy using what would amount to a simple rules-engine to best define how he wants to divide up his vote amongst representatives. Most will assign their vote to a single rep, some will assign their vote to a single rep but with one or two issues that are important to them getting special reps, and only a few will right more complex rules for vote proxying, but every voter gets to decide how they wish to divide up their vote, and every voter gets the right to personally vote on an important vote if they choose to.

*note, these theoretical voters do not necessarily represent my personal political views, I'm personally a registered independent without strong preference to either party. I added views as I came up with a good example that would require someone having a certain view that's all.

  • $\begingroup$ That’s a lot of words to say “delegative democracy”, but nice intro for those who have never heard of it. $\endgroup$
    – Crissov
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ And you expect people who can't even understand the concept of fully punching out a chad or filling in a circle when voting to understand what you've described:) $\endgroup$
    – Dunk
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 21:51

Perhaps we will see experiments with demarchy. Demarchy has been described as democracy without elections. We will still have a parliament, but its members are randomly selected, similar to members of jury in jury systems. A small experiment was done in The Netherlands with the Burgerforum Kiesstelsel[NL], but its recommendations were ignored. Considering the limitations of democracy you describe:

The disproportionate influence of people and corporations who can afford to hire lobbyists and donate to campaigns.

Lobbyists will still influence parliament directly, as they do now, but there will be no more campaigns as there will be no elections.

The fact that you can only choose the "least bad" option. You may agree with some policies but not others but the only choice a voter gets is one package or another.

A sufficiently large randomly selected parliament assures that all preferences are represented equally.

A high risk of corruption in general since the power is concentrated into the hands of the representatives.

This may remain, although one might wonder if randomly selected people are more or less corrupt than politicians.

Under-representation of minorities.

Minorities will be more or less represented according to their share of the population. One risk is if a large group of a minority is disproportionally considered unsuitable for political duty, due to being a minor or not meeting “objective” (i.e. Jim Crow) requirements.

Short term thinking driven by the need to get re-elected in a few years.

Nobody will need to be re-elected.

Can result in an elitist political class passing power back and forth between each other.

This is eliminated in demarchy.

There are plenty of disadvantages, as all systems do.

But to answer your question: Will it actually happen? Probably not. But who knows. As Niels Bohr is disputedly reported to have said:

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.


The primary issue is the dissonance between Politics and Governance.

Politics is defined in Organizational Theory as a means of allocating resources. (We often talk about office politics as being why so and so got the corner office, for example). The issue in the present and near future is that most people in the developed world have access to more than enough resources and really don't need government or the formal political process to do much more than ensure that they are protected and can keep their resources (an army and police) and there is a neutral means of arbitrating disputes (Courts of Law). This is sometimes called "Libertarianism as a Social Movement".

New technologies that increase productivity, allow you to do more things with fewer resources (compare a Smartphone to the plethora of devices we needed to do the same things when the PC was introduced in 1981) or even disconnect from the grid (while not totally possible just yet, there are a lot of technologies that can get you pretty close). A person living that lifestyle isn't going to need or appreciate someone interfering with their lifestyle with more taxes and regulation.

OTOH, governance (the art of the possible) also includes many mechanisms that reward increasing the size and power of the State. This is sometimes summarized by Pournelle's "Iron law of Bureaucracy":

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

The sorts of authoritarian people drawn to these kinds of organizations will also be quite envious of the wealth that is accumulating on the outside, and try to bend rules, regulations, taxation and laws to channel the wealth towards them, and insulate themselves from the worst effects of their actions.

Sine even in the most utopian world there will always be a need for the minimal functions of governance (protection of liberty, property rights, the rule of law), there will always be an "in" for the Iron Law to take root and grow. It is difficult to imagine how a controlled drawdown would take place, but societal collapse, armed revolution and other forms of destruction of the regulatory structures and institutions tend to leave dictatorships in their wake, rather than the freedoms revolutionaries imagined.

In the short to medium term, I suspect the most likely form of "post democracy" will be in the form of people taking themselves out of the loop and moving to secure their wealth and property in ways that governments can't tax or expropriate. This could range in form from growing "victory gardens" and otherwise getting off the grid to moving to cryptocurrency and dark "mesh nets". People living in these circumstances will form associations which will be more tribal in nature, bound buy shared affiliation and mutual trust, and loosely interacting with other "tribes". If governments prove ineffective at providing protection from external enemies or criminals, then these tribes will also evolve to take on these duties as well.

So "post democracy" might not be feudalism or Mad Max, but it won't be pretty either.

  • $\begingroup$ I question whether it will ever be possible to totally disconnect from society long-term. The hypocrisy is demonstrated by many doomsday preppers creating secret bomb-proof shelters out in the woods in the middle of nowhere... but retain all the modern conveniences including electric light, heat for cooking, climate control/ventilation, cold food storage, etc that rely on expendable fuel and breakable, precision-engineered generators or solar panels. They also heavily rely on guns that require precision-machined ammunition cartridges. That self-sufficience lasts exactly as long as supplies. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ Real small-group self-sufficiency in the long-term absence of modern society is going to require reverting to a level of technology predating electricity and refined fuels. Wood fires, bows and arrows, fat lamps, natural convective ventilation, etc. Your life will be only one or two degrees removed from the natural world. That, in turn, requires a world not totally ravaged by the very cataclysm that caused society to fail. If the environment degrades to a point where advanced tech is required to produce edible food and drinkable water, humanity is doomed. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 22:52

Maybe, online democracy with people voting in the Internet on many issues including minor ones, such as placement of bus stops and what to be offered in local supermarket.


Rule by Machine Learning

Most people today assume that AI would be an intrinsically inhuman form of government, but in today's schools, learning about Machine Learning is becoming compulsory in more and more fields of study each year; so, soon enough people will understand Machine Learning well enough to give wide scale political support behind replacing human leadership with AI.

Machine Learning would allow for a form of government that is even more representative than direct representation. People only know what we want, but can not understand how our wants will lead to things that we either do or don't like. If a local ordinance is proposed to allow a casino to open up next door to us, how do we know if we should vote to allow or disallow it?

Under democratic rule, we only know what various forms of media tell us, and those avenues of information are curated by people spending money to manipulate our vote, but with machine learning, you can cut out the manipulations. By analyzing our online information, an AI is able to classify a person into a variety of cohorts which defines how we are alike and different than other people. Using cohort correlations, AIs can than make predictions about us that we can not even make ourselves. If 95% of people who like cheese are pro-casino, and you like cheese, then the AI can factor that into voting for you as to if you will be satisfied with the new casino. You don't have to understand what being a cheese lover has to do with casinos as long as the correlation is high enough, it tends to be a good predictor.

But this is only 1 part of what Machine Learning can do. While democracy makes adding rules easy, it is very hard to roll back bad decisions in a democracy due to the shortcomings of human nature, but a Machine Learning system can analyze public opinion in real time; so, if everyone seems to want the Casino before it is approved, and then the AI realizes that the casino is destroying the local economy making a lot of people upset, it can resend its decision without getting stopped up by concerns like saving face, sunk cost, or other hang ups that prevent humans from changing thier minds in politics.

This leads to the 3rd strength of Machine Learning: It remembers every failure its ever had. Humans only know what we know, and in democracies, we are constantly replacing people who've learned from thier mistakes with new people who have never made those mistakes before and therefore do no know not to make them. So if the AI knows that every time it approves a new casino, that this is followed by a 10-20% drop in approval, then it knows not to approve a new casino even if there is 60% support for it based on the cohorts composition of the local population.



First off, let's assume current trends of today continue. Corporation grow in power and gradually vie to exert more and more influence over politics than they do even today.

Eventually, after years of decline, government assets, services and properties atrophy and are bought by companies.

However I actually get the feeling that the US military might remain one of the few intact and in power institutions alongside a few other organizations given that modern PMC's are never as competent as their government equivalents.

What we see basically is a transition to something resembling the government of an old merchant republic.

By now the old democratic government has become so atrophied that it resembles a glorified HR department rather than a functioning entity.

Barring certain changes, it'll probably be very bad news for the average person given how worker's rights tend to go in these types of societies.

We'll see of course a new aristocracy and power structure. With a ruling class composed of shareholders, bankers, CEOs and Junta officers.

They'll also work alongside a sort of middle class. Imagine the modern equivalent of a medieval guild basically. The bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, scientists, managers, popular celebrities and educators. Atleast the ones that exist at the top of the totem pole.

Alongside them will be of course be police, military and heads of intelligence agencies that have been coopted.

Now this society won't spawn out of the ether or due to some corporate overthrow.

Rather it happens gradually due to current trends refusing to ease up. With voting becoming useless outside of local politics.

People feel the need to vote for strongman politicians and selected oligarchs who make the problem worse rather than easing their frustration.

The current civil-military gap also widens deeply. Unrest and crises boil over, and more funding is placed into policing and controlling that unrest.

Eventually democracy becomes picked clean via a slow and steady series of reforms and changes.

One year, company towns become legalized. Another year funding for public libraries gets cut. News laws are put in place to make voting requirements more stringent.

Mayors and governors become obsolete as pretty much everything, from parks to post offices are bought out and they find they no longer have any say over property that doesn't belong them.

Worker's rights get trampled. In particular the Plutocracy begins to clamping down on worker mobility. Via blacklisting, occupational licensing policies and non-compete clauses, as well as control of vital amenities like healthcare and housing.

Even basic services, like grocery stores that sell fresh food might all become membership only clubs that you have to pay for or receive a membership from employment. Leaving you stranded in a food desert if your unemployed.

Throughout this all, everyone in power will deny being an oligarch. They will still chatter on about democracy and freedom.

However slowly the message will start to change. 'I love democracy and am not an oligarch, but even if I were would that really be so bad?'

In other words, media and art will gradually start denigrating democracy and all its ideals without ever outright using the word 'democracy'. Things like workers rights and public services become ridiculed or vilified. Victim blaming of the poor for their helplessness becomes more common.

Movies and media will typically be hideously classist by our standards. With media often times giving false platitudes and advice to the average person.


More pervasive democracy within ideologically aligned communities

The current situation is at odds because people depend for livelihood and all the essentials of life on corporations or other authoritarian structures, which may be nominally democratic among shareholders but almost invariably operate as fiefdoms.

A future society has cooperative enterprises everywhere, acting in nominal competition that is softened by some weakening of the profit motive. CEOs have gone the way of the dinosaur. Lobbying has fallen into the hands of ordinary men. Social classes have broken down and a deep sense of equality pervades a society where people can move into new employments more easily and with much less sense that this is what defines them.

Yet from among all these voices, fundamental principles emerge. The Bill of Rights is many things -- short, mostly -- but people are changing that, and with it, establishing new definitions of community. In a sea or space settlement, community may have nothing at all to do with place, which changes constantly, but only on principle. Over time these principles, seen as inalienable rights rather than positive law, tend to supplant ongoing democracy within any given community. War is replaced by a struggle to win immigrants.


As mentioned here, you have things like the civil oligarchy that many say the United States has become:" the only type [of oligarchy] in which no oligarchs rule (if they hold office, it is never as or for oligarchs), and the coercive state defending property for oligarchs is governed impersonally through bureaucratic institutions".

You can also have bankocracy where the financial institutions of a nation have control. There are examples of this in history and people have talked about bankocracy in Europe during the 2007-2012 financial crisis like Economist David McWilliams. There is also direct democracy replacing representative democracy, something that has already happened in Switzerland and Iceland which are both nations with direct democracy. The popular vote allows people to make direct decisions in governance.

Another possibility is algocracy: a form of government where the usage of algorithms, AI, and technologies like blockchain, is applied to regulate society & enforce the law in day-to-day life. Some versions of this have been tried practically in real-life such as Project Cybersyn between 1971 and 1973 in Chile & government auctions run by blockchain-based algorithms back in 2017 as part of an experiment in Ukraine.


Long version: iVote replaces electoral college, and since it is owned by a Chinese conglomerate and not Diebold, it is met with great fanfare. Soon it is entrusted for all the things. Polls are taken before each meal. This leaves the government without politicians directors or undersecretaries, but with plenty of agents. The agents direction comes not from supervisors, but from the polls. At some point the apathy and fickleness of the voter is recognised by the agents. Warlords rise up from the agent ranks and fight each other over who will be the Agent-King. By this time the voters are not considered people, rather natural resources to be used for the good of the powerful. Soon Autokrator Constantine Augustus I installs himself as the Agent-King. Then, after declaring himself divine stud, he has sex with all the things contracts syphilis and dies.

Short version: Monarchy.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ On Worldbuilding, we like concrete answers. This is not really one of them, it looks a lot or extrapolation without any clear basis. As such it might be deleted. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:28

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