I'm wanting to develop a world with direct or delagative democracy in which people can earn extra voting power, but which does not unfavorably benefit the rich exclusively. The basic idea is that every person receives 100 'vote credits' for each vote, but can earn extra credits, increasing his voting power slightly but rarely does anyone manage to earn enough credits to counts as more then a few extra votes, and most earn no or few extra credits; basically these credits generally are a minor affect on voting.

The general idea is to have a system to encourage civicaly minded individuals to do things that benefit the government (and reward them for doing so), that doesn't actually cost the government anything. The government is okay with allowing those that are more involved in government activities to have a slightly larger say in votes, but the entire system should be structured in such a way that civic credits always end up being a small amount of the total votes and no one person or small group can ever earn so large a number of credits as to unfairly control government policy, it is avoiding this latter that I want to address.

The mechanics of such a system are described in the second half of this question: Result of a goverment where extra votes can be bought, earned, or lost?, though I'm only considering civic credits not ability to buy votes in this question. To copy the most relevant paragraph:

The government sets up a system where any 'civic duty' can earn someone 'civic credits' that can be cashed in for votes. For instance, in addition to the usual financial rewards for civic duties one may receive 1 civic credit for jury duty. Anyone whose property is seized for eminent domain may receive some credits depending on the size/expense of property. People working for certain recognized charitable non-profits may earn credits per hours worked. Foster parents earn credits for fostering children. Perhaps much like how tax refunds are attached to various activities to encourage behaviors vote incentives will be attached. Charitable donations of money to nonprofits credits based off of money spent, but amount earned is relative to percent of your income being donated and with diminishing returns for larger donations. The government may come up with other activities they want to encourage and offer similar 'civic credits' for those who perform these credits, maybe to help protect the environment congress passes a law that rewards some credits to anyone that purchases a vehicle with better than X MPG fuel efficiency (with assorted rules to prevent rich from buying a dozen efficient cars for credits) The point being that the government sets up ways to reward citizens for other 'civic duties' with extra points.

I know any such credits earned will suffer diminishing returns, the more credits one earns a year the harder it is to earn more credits; capping the maximum votes anyone is going to earn. Civic credits can be carried over across years, but some credits degrade if not spent, the more credits carried over the larger the percent of credits that degrade.

I'm looking to address obvious loophole abuse, such as rich spending money on something just to 'buy' votes through civic credits. Or, more accurately, I don't want the rich to have any increased voting power, so rich being able to loophole their way into earning some civic credits with money is okay so long as the other 90% of the non-filthy-rich are earning enough credits through regular civic actions to outweigh the rich limited ability to 'buy' civic credits.

I would also like to avoid any loopholes in which someone may do something that meets the letter of law to earn credits but would not benefit the country, or even harm it, as civic credits are suppose to.

I will ask a separate question about which groups may disproportionately benefit from this system in a bit, so I don't want to focus too much on that so long as credits are being earned in a manner that actually is helping the government.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ What makes you assume that unequal democracy is OK just as long as "the rich" do not get to benefit from it? It is very cliché to assume that "the rich" are the only ones that would abuse any such system. Today's real life democracies are based on "one person, one vote" not because it is wrong to get extra voting power through money, but because it is wrong to get extra voting power, period. No matter on what basis you skew the voting power, you are creating classes / casts / the Privileged and the Disadvantaged / the Elite and the Commoners. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors I don't assume that. I explicitly said that I would be asking about what other affects and other groups would be disproportinately affected in a later question. However, I know if I ask that question now most answers will focus on rich buying votes, and in fact any system that allows earning of extra votes risks allowing those with power to get disproportionate representation. Thus I am asking about addressing the first obvious power difference first, and will ask about others that may come up and/or need addressed once I know this issue won't distract those answers. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 22:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is this a fictional proportional democracy, or is this a convert of the electoral college or FPTP (first past the post) system? You need the people to feel the added vote means something, and if I lived in a heavy blue or red state and was bound by an 'all for the winner' voting system, then this really isn't any incentive...perhaps the few living in swing states would be more inclined to participate. In a more proportional rep system (IE, seats are determined by percent of vote), I would see a greater desire to participate. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 19:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The major problem with this system is who gets to determine what sorts of civic duties are "beneficial" to society? In National Socialist Germany, working the ovens would be considered very "beneficial", but we might not agree with that reasoning... $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 2:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @all detractors: In fairness, dsollen is not proposing we implement this in real life! But I'm not really sure where the "obvious loophole" is. You said that financial donations have to be proportional to their income (and presumably assets), that there are diminishing returns... A billionaire would have to donate millions to get the same credit as a normal or poor person donating a few quid, all that just for a few extra votes? And if they are willing, given the benefit to the charity, they deserve the extra votes (by the standard of your world) $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 16:53

5 Answers 5


I think you are in a no-win situation here.

Say Alice is really rich. She wants to influence an election. Bob is a poor casual laborer who agrees with Alice's political views. So Alice gives Bob a couple hundred bucks and says: "Don't work today, do some civic duty. Use the credits as you see fit."

Alice cannot legally enforce what Bob does with the money and later with the credits, and if the vote is secret she cannot know, either. But Alice can probably know that Bob did use his time to earn credits, so there is some indication if Bob kept his bargain. And Alice believes that she knows Bob's political convictions.

If Alice funds a hundred people like Bob, she does not need a 100% success rate. It will be enough if her judgement was right most of the time.

(BTW, the vote might no longer be secret if different voters have different numbers of votes. I'm using fractional weights here to make the maths easier. Say the ballot box for one precinct contains 12.47 yes votes and 14.38 no votes. The precinct had twenty-two 1.0 voters, one 1.10 voter, one 1.15 voter, one 1.28 voter, and one 1.32 voter. You can figure out how the people with extra credits voted.)

  • $\begingroup$ Very good point about the lack of secrecy! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ In The Prefect, people with high voting weight made a living via lobbiests. But it was paradodical; they had to continue to vote “well” (as determined by history later) to keepntheir weight. So, the lobbiest could not actually influence them. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ But what difference does it make? Alice could try to do that in real life, too, by just paying Bob to vote her way. But because of the secret ballot, she has no guarantee that he'll do it. $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @komodosp, dsollen asked for loopholes in his fictional rules. In real life, Alice might bribe Bob to vote some way, but Bob would be more likely to accept this bribe if either Bob wants to vote that way anyway, or if Bob intends to break the promise. The fictional rule would incentivize Alice to give money to people who vote her way anyway. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 17:06

Make civic credits not only personal, but untransferrable and dependent of a person's own actions - paying an employee to gain civic credits will give the civic credits to the employee.

Make civic credits not sellable or buyable - directly. If civic credits can be obtained by indirectly using money, make the transaction chain publicly known, and force diminishing returns. For instance, 10000 buy 1 CC (civic credit); 20000 buy 1.2 CC (instead of 2 CC); 30000 buy 1.24 CC; etc. For bigger amounts, say, a million, putting more millions is not worth the credits.

  • $\begingroup$ how being untransferrable helps in that case, if I as example wish to make some sort of gifts if they will support me. At the moment votes are untransferrable, because person and his personal actions are vote. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 1:12

Another option you have is, simply a single extra vote (maybe two if you want).

You have various different tasks/activities/civic duties that your population can do to get a second vote. Once they have the extra vote they can't get another and another.

You can have these votes have a rapid expiry date. That way, each voter will have to do another civic duty to get their second vote in say 6months or a year.

This will prevent the rich buying lots of votes. While they may be able to afford to simply 'buy' the extra vote each time, the rest of the population has just as 'easy' a time getting the extra vote as well.


The problem is that the requirements question all but end up as a contradiction when you look closely:

(A) People can obtain a perceived benefit (as they see i), i.e. enhanced influence via slightly more votes. (B) the target is "civically minded people". (C) the desired end result is to motivate activities by the population but those activities can apparently be done by anyone.

Some careful analysis follows (I hope).....

If a person is "civic minded" to the extent of altruistic work, then they won't need extra votes to motivate them.

Conversely a person whose decision whether or not to to do any extra work varies depending upon some perceived personal benefit, is doing that extra work for personal benefit. Your extra votes are buying their choice, in the sense that any civic work that wasn't motivated by personal gain would be done anyway without this offer; so the offer proposed can only motivate the work they do for gain in addition.

That in turn undermines the question because now you have an economic issue. You offer something they want, if something you want is undertaken. Result is almost certainly that people who have the perceived desire and also resources will trade with those who need resources more than they want to avoid the extra work. Thats not necessarily "the rich"; it could be any kind of inequality of any desirable resource in their society, much as described in other answers.

Some resources at first glance, may not seem exchangeable or accumulative - time is one. But those tend to fail too, because what matters is how people value them, not how much they have. As soon as I value my time more than you do, and can persuade you in some way to use your time for my benefit, same issue arises. Even without this, the issue of coercion arises - if it matters, maybe people will be coerced into using their time for others.

Two solutions I can think of.

With some handwavium, maybe how these peoples minds work is different from ours so that such problems just wouldn't arise. For example herd/hive ancestors, terminal inability to be coercive/dishonest, huge civic/cooperative culture.....

The other solution is that the benefit received for these works isn't a slight extra vote. For example, suppose the people who put in extra work get to go to the head of the parade, sit at the lord mayors side or other prestigious positions, which have a big social value but aren't actually very monetarisable or proxyable... now you have a situation where the benefit cannot be so easily passed to another person perhaps, or is more directly attached to the individual and can't be exercised for others. If this society valued names in prestigious lists of civic persons, then that might be a motivation less easy to corrupt.....?


There are two types of riches to worry about

The First is that those rich in political power can use this system to gain more power

Who choses what counts for what vote credits? every group with political clout would try to change the system so that their members gain more votes for example environmentalist politicians would argue that composting / recycling gets credits, law and order politicians would argue that committing a crime should have negative vote credits

You would need a massive and carefully calibrated checks and balances system to limit abuse of the system by interest groups.

The hardest part of this system is it makes it easy to disenfranchise a huge number of people. Pass a rule that owning a house is worth a vote (instead of the current tax incentives) and now all the poor people who don't own a house now only have half the voting power.

Those with financial riches could also manipulate the system.

AS O.M. noted patronage is an unavoidable problem. A rich person can pay people of a similar mindset (and voting preferences) to preform civic actions and get votes effectively buying their candidate more votes.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .