What is Liquid Democracy?

Liquid democracy is a hybrid form of democracy that combines elements of direct and representative democracy. It allows citizens to have a more dynamic and flexible role in the decision-making process. In a traditional representative democracy, people vote for elected officials who make decisions on their behalf. In a direct democracy, individuals vote directly on specific issues or policies. Liquid democracy seeks to bridge the gap between these two approaches.

In a liquid democracy, citizens have the option to either vote on issues directly or delegate their votes to someone they trust. Delegating votes means that an individual can choose another person, often referred to as a proxy or delegate, to vote on their behalf. The key feature of liquid democracy is that delegation can be temporary and can be reassigned at any time. This means that individuals can delegate their votes on specific issues to different people based on their expertise, trust, or personal preferences. For example, if you trust someone’s judgment on environmental issues, you can delegate your vote to them for those matters, while delegating your vote to someone else for economic policy decisions.

The goal of liquid democracy is to increase citizen participation and engagement in the decision-making process, while also benefiting from the expertise and knowledge of individuals who are well-versed in certain areas. It offers more flexibility and adaptability compared to traditional democratic models. Digital technology and online platforms have made it easier to implement liquid democracy by allowing for secure and efficient voting and delegation.

Liquid democracy is still a relatively new concept and has been experimented with in various contexts, such as political parties (German Pirate Party, Partido de la Red), organizations, and even some governments (Argentina). Its success and practicality can vary depending on the specific implementation and the cultural and political context in which it is used. Some current open-source software implementations are LiquidFeedback and DemocracyOS.

Author: Dirk Huizenga

Founder of Denver Center for Democracy.