The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

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Tag: democracy

12 ways to Game-ify elections: number 9 will blow your mind. Also it’s probably a weird trick I guess?

Background:

If civil society is to remain functional, some fraction of citizens must actually participate in it. However, apathy is easy!

We propose the use of proven gamification techniques to motivate otherwise-uninterested individuals into feeling a sense of civic responsibility.

Proposal:

In games, achievements are minor rewards for performing certain actions (e.g. “Stomped 50 goombas” or “Flew an X-Wing through the St. Louis Arch”). But there is no reason that they can’t be awarded for non-gaming actions as well. (This part is not a new idea, as seen in https://habitrpg.com/ and http://badgeville.com/ .)

Is your cat a Communist? Sponsored link.

Is your cat a Communist? Sponsored link.

Here, we will appropriate the “achievement” system for accomplishments in the political realm. The government already knows a lot about you: how much you’ve contributed to political groups, whether or not you showed up to jury duty, and whether or not you voted.

So why not track this information on a user-accessible web site and provide “Civics Achievements” for citizens to strive toward?

A selection of proposed achievements:

vote-achievement-contribute

Fig 1: Political donations are commonly associated with extremely wealthy individuals and corporations, but it would theoretically be just as viable to get a contribution of $10 from a million supporters as it would be to receive $10,000,000 from a single deep-pocketed donor. Maybe an achievement-tracking system could encourage small donations from individuals.


vote-achievement-jury

Fig 2: The vast majority of individuals who show up for jury selection are dismissed and do not end up on a trial. But an achievement could make it seem like at least something was accomplished in that time.


vote-achievement-actually-vote

Fig 3: Voter turnout could also be encouraged via an achievement tracking system. The only downside is that some percentage of voters would decide that their goal was the “I voted!” badge—rather than participation in democracy—and would probably stop voting entirely once they had satisfied the achievement’s requirements..

Informed voting:

Perhaps this achievement-based technique could also help encourage some basic research to be done before voters went to the polling places.


vote-achievement-read-text

Fig 4: Referendums are famous for having extremely misleading titles. For example “End unemployment now!” could be a measure that sent all citizens to forced labor camps, which would technically fulfill the promise in the title.


vote-achievement-rep-names

vote-achievement-write-letter

Fig 5: Interaction with one’s representatives is one way to influence politics to some extent without spending money.

Application in non-democratic settings:

This technique can be applied in countries even without legitimate democracies. For example, one might imagine how a totalitarian state with sham elections could nevertheless drum up patriotism with a motivational achievement like the one below.

vote-achievement-glorious-leader

Fig 6: Exit polls conducted by the secret police reveal 100% support for our glorious leader.

Conclusion:

You should write your representative (see achievements above) to propose this great plan, and then vote “yes” on the referendum in its favor. If you also read the text of the referendum, you will have made progress toward FOUR achievements while doing the actions in the previous sentence!

PROS: Saves democracy (at least until people collect their “I voted” achievement and then give up).

CONS: May result in seemingly impossible behavior such as individuals wanting to be called up for jury duty in order to fulfill their “jury duty” achievement. Also possible that future heroic deeds would be accomplished for un-heroic reasons—for example, a citizen might expose a secret reptilian mind-control plot not because they actually wanted to save their country, but because they needed to collect the “Whistleblower” achievement.

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Never be bothered by annoying political ads again! Because you won’t be voting!

  Background:

Voting is important for selecting members of government and influencing policy through referendums, recalls, and other measures directly submitted to citizens.

However, it’s a lot of work to be an informed voter, and most voters are apathetic and uninformed. In the case of referendums / ballot measures that are directly voted on, most voters are not even qualified to evaluate the implications of a measure even if they actually bother to understand the text of the referendum.

The Issue:

Aside from the problem of bizarre ballot initiatives (such as this one banning horse meat sales: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_6_(1998)), many elections are determined not by actual merits, but rather by the success of advertisement and “get out the vote” efforts—which are heavily influenced by the amount of cash available.

vote-easy

Fig 1: Voting is sometimes easy and obvious…

vote-hard

Fig 2: But it can also be a confusing mess!

Proposal:

To fix this, one theory is that voters should become less apathetic. But that is not a realistic recommendation—it’s like suggesting “everyone should drive carefully!” as public policy for reducing car accidents, or “people should just eat less!” to solve the problem of obesity.

So a more realistic proposal is to allow voters to—instead of voting as usual—transfer their voting privilege to any other citizen.

This “representative” will then have his or her votes counted multiple times; for example, if 15 people transfer their vote to Representative X, then Representative X’s ballot counts for a total of 16 votes (their own, plus the 15 people who delegated their votes).

vote-delegate

Fig 3: The idea behind this ballot delegation plan. The blue individual is the “representative,” and the red ones are the voters who are giving up their vote. In this particular instance, the blue individual would end up with a total of 7 votes instead of the default 1 vote.

Essentially, this is an informal reinvention of representative democracy. It has a few additional benefits:

  • It does not require the creation of additional gerrymandered voting districts (A few good examples are available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering).
  • It allows people to feel like their votes actually do count (even if voters don’t necessarily cast their own votes), which may be beneficial to the long-term health of the democratic process.
  • It allows people to easily participate in the democratic process while themselves remaining totally oblivious and uninformed. Since this is the inevitable state of affairs, it’s best to plan around it rather than to remain in willful denial.

There are three additional important features that would prevent obvious methods of abuse:

  • The “transfer your vote to a representative” process would be done by secret ballot, so no one could be coerced into actually transferring their vote if they didn’t want to.
  • The “representative” actually does not know how many votes they command. In fact, a person could be a representative without even knowing it. This would also reduce the effectiveness of lobbying / bribing representatives, since the bribe-er would have no idea if a representative actually had as many votes as they claimed.
  • There could be a limit on the total number of votes an individual could amass (perhaps 100, or 1000) to prevent single individuals from easily subverting the election process.

PROS: Could prevent elections from being decided primarily by money. Allows apathetic voters to have their uninformed and poorly justified opinions represented in the democratic process.

CONS: None! Go out and get signatures for a constitutional amendment today!