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Video: Direct Democracy in California

Video: Direct Democracy in California


At the founding conference of Democracy International, Joe Mathews (New America Foundation) talked about direct democracy in California and explained what one can learn from California's experience.

Joe Mathews uses the theory of singularity to illustrate California's direct democracy: “As machines become more complex and more intelligent, they will eventually reach a point in which they are so complex and intelligent, that they will be smarter than human beings. At that point we will not be able to govern the machines any longer; the machines will govern us.”

Over the last century, California has developed a dubious kind of direct democracy. Joe Mathews warned that the system, especially in regard to budget, taxation and other money matters, has become so complicated, that the people are not longer able to effectively govern. Officials and parties are not solely to blame; people themselves authored the system by using their direct democratic rights. They have, unintentionally, created a machine beyond citizens' control!

Joe Mathews had a clear message to the participants from all over the world: Don't re-design the direct democracy California uses. Size is the enemy of good citizenship! Direct democracy has to operate on a profound human scale. The system has to encourage human interaction, use rules, easily accessible to everyone, foster conversation, and ultimately bring people together. Ignoring these principles may let the machine win.


Speech by Joe Mathews (pdf - 4 pages)

More Information

Report on direct democracy in California


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