Democracy by Design: Basic Democracy and the Self-Organisation of Collective Governance

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Jeremy Pitt

Basic democracy has been proposed as a means of collective self-governance distinct from liberal democracy, i.e. it is a conventional rule-based system of empowerment, decision-making and public action that is both prior to and separate from concerns such as justice, morality and rights. In this talk, we investigate the automation of basic democracy as a framework for the self-organisation of collective governance in open systems. We present a series of simulation experiments in civic participation, legislation, and entrenchment, which demonstrate how an open system founded on the principles of basic democracy can mitigate the risks of oligarchy, autocracy and majoritarian tyranny. This implies that basic democracy can provide a stable platform for implementing value-driven requirements such as the supply of sustainable institutions and ‘liberal’ values like distributive justice. We conclude by considering the implications for the development and management of socio-technical systems, specifically that these systems should be ‘supplied’ based on the theory of basic democracy, codified as principles of democracy by design.