Liquid Democracy and Martin Haase, German Pirate Party

liquid-democracyOn March 22nd, we published a blog on liquid democracy. It’s not always easy to understand when written in the abstract; hopefully the story of Martin Haase brings the theory of liquid feedback system to life.

220px-piratpartietThe one statement that most helped me understand the internet was that ‘filter then publish’ had been replaced by ‘publish then filter’. Martin Haase’s experience shows that, similarly, liquid democracy replaces ‘I have authority, so I can speak’ (say, on party policy) by ‘I speak, so I have authority’. Because he speaks – or writes – well, in many areas of the Pirate Party’s interests, at one time or another 167 other members have delegated their vote to him. (I’m using the latest figures I have, but they are from 2012, so out of date.) No-one else has that many votes, so he has great influence on the Party’s policies, more than those in formal positions of leadership. He used his votes to help to stop a proposal for annual elections to the party’s executive committee, on the basis that electioneering would detract from tackling the issues that mattered.

As I said in the previous blog post (or at least I think I did), the results from the Liquid Feedback system are often non-binding. But as Haase himself says, “It is difficult to vote against a clear opinion that is emerging on Liquid Feedback.” One of his proposals was on family and gender. He wants marriage and registered life partnership to be legally equal to each other. He also wants the government to stop documenting the gender of its citizens. He and others campaigned for this on Twitter and in Pirate forums. He then introduced it on Liquid Feedback and won the non-binding vote on the Internet. In November 2010, he took the results to the party’s national convention and his motion was accepted. The system means that new policy ideas can emerge quickly, without – for good and bad – needing to work their way through the bureaucracy of more conventional parties.

pound_sign_peopleAlso in 2010, the party was working out its position on the idea of an unconditional citizens income. Many pirates gave him their votes, confident that Haase would support it. In fact, he transferred his votes to another party member, who voted against the motion, which was defeated. Some 50 Pirates promptly withdrew the votes they had delegated to him. Influence, like shares, can go down as well as up.