We are yet to see a working version of liquid democracy, wherein every person can vote or empower trusted proxies with their extra vote on every piece of legislation.

One of the challenges of direct democracy — how to collect opinions (i.e. votes) from as many individuals for as many decisions (i.e. legislation) as possible — has been significantly mitigated. We already publicly express our opinions through likes, dislikes, and shares on an incredible variety of topics, ranging from the removal of CEO to celebrity incidents and international conflicts. What is preventing us from more directly participating in voting, understanding, influencing, and perhaps even approving legislation?

In contrast to rarely selecting political representatives, and the block of opinions that comes with them, Liquid Democracy facilitates frequent voting on a range of issues. This approach blends elements from both direct and representative democracy, evidencing which of our representative’s opinions we actually endorse. Rather than accepting a bundle of views that only partially align with our own, Liquid Democracy enables us to align opinions more closely with the legislative cycle, departing from the constraints of traditional political timelines.

Undoubtedly, not everyone can or wishes to delve into the intricacies of Paulo Freire and Lev Vygotsky for a specific educational bill on a Wednesday morning. This is, indeed, one of the rationales for electing ‘professional’ legislators. Nonetheless, Liquid Democracy goes a step further by allowing personal representatives or proxies, giving you the ability to empower someone else with your vote when you are unable or prefer not to cast one yourself. This individual could be your neighbour, your elected legislator, or a trusted voice within the bill’s sector. You may even choose to have your vote automatically aligned with your personal representative for all legislation related to a certain topic.

Even when votes don’t directly influence legislation, as proposed by Argentina’s Partido de La Red, where elected representatives would consistently align with online decisions, the emergence of current and new voices could exert pressure on political representatives to consider public opinion. An opinion, by the way, which is currently challenging to measure and legitimise through conventional methods, even on high-stakes topics such as the intention of a presidential vote. 

Our infatuation and addiction to well-designed apps and cutting-edge tech also prompts us to ponder the implications if we directed similar incentives towards democracy. Do we genuinely care and desire active participation, or does the role of observer and engaging in status-based moral games suffice for a clear conscience?

While the Liquid Democracy idea presents promising aspects, numerous challenges persist. Chief among them is the task of ensuring unique online identities, where numerous blockchain solutions are being applied, and finding effective incentives for creating such technology, be it by the private sector — which may diverge from the intended purpose in pursuit of profit — or the government, which essentially would have to seek for legislative approval for something that could diminish its power. Yet, perhaps the most fundamental question underlying it all is: do we even want to know what the majority thinks?