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Chapter 9
Consensus Democracy

Consensus government is created by adding to the existing branches of a government a new direct democracy branch, a demos, in which the entire electorate practices consensus democracy by deliberating, voting, and achieving consensus on a small, fixed set of economic and electoral issues of central importance to the nation. While how many and which specific issues to include in the demos within various governments is not carved in stone, I found a select set of nine economic issues and three electoral issues to achieve my ends for the American federal government.1  In this chapter I will explain how the demos voting system and deliberations work and how the consensus of the entire electorate is achieved on the demos issues. In the next chapter I will discuss how this demos consensus leads to a true consensus of the entire electorate within our whole government, economy, and society.


Consensus democracy is a “specialty” democracy designed to accomplish specific tasks. If one strays too far from the design presented in this book, one quickly loses the ability to accomplish these tasks. It is designed to overcome the tyranny of plutocracy and maximize the freedom of the individual while avoiding the tyranny that a wrongly designed democracy can become. Under plutocracy the tyranny that is perpetrated against the rest of the populace by a powerful, wealthy minority is primarily economic. An excessive amount of economic power is held by this minority. This imbalance is corrected by removing the electoral system from the marketplace and creating a free, honest electoral system within government (in the demos) that is equally accessible to everyone and by moving certain fundamental economic powers from the other branches of the government into the demos to be handled directly by the entire electorate. Now, even a democracy may become a tyranny if excessive power is held by any group or by the government in general. A just, equitable distribution of power is achieved within the entire government and society by creating within the demos just the right kind and amount of direct democracy, not unlimited majority-rule democracy but a limited measure of consensus democracy.

First I will discuss how the consensus of the entire electorate is achieved in the demos on its nine economic issues. Later I will discuss how it is achieved on its three electoral issues.


In majority-rule democracy, if over 50% of the members of a voting body voted “yes” on a given question, for example, Should the nuclear power plant be built?, then they would win the vote on the issue and those who voted “no” would lose. In the demos the electorate would not practice this “winner-take-all” style of democracy in which the simple majority wins the vote on an issue and the minority vote loses. It would practice consensus democracy. Consensus democracy does not produce winners and losers but always results in the consensus of the entire electorate, a moderate “golden mean” that avoids all extremes.

Unlike majority-rule democracy, which I think of as a “general purpose” democracy that can handle any yes/no or either/or style question put to it in a winner-take-all way—the majority vote wins and all others lose—consensus democracy can only handle a limited subset of all possible questions. Questions put to it must be of a numerical nature, that is, they must be expressible as simple numeric, percentage, or monetary values on which mathematical calculations may be performed. All either/or style questions and even, for reasons discussed in a previous chapter, numeric style questions of lesser importance must be handled in other parts of government and society. Fortunately, the issues that most need to be handled directly by the electorate are economic and, therefore, numerical in nature.

While it may not seem so at first glance, the inclusion of electoral powers within the demos is also a redistribution of economic power. Power is shifted from the wealthy in the private sector to the entire electorate in government. The removal of the electoral process from the marketplace and the clutches of wealth dominated political parties and the creation of a free, honest electoral process within government that is equally accessible to all members of the electorate is, at bottom, a redistribution of economic power. The ability of powerful, wealthy elites to buy elections, offices, and the favors of government becomes dramatically reduced. And the ability of all members of the electorate to elect their champions to office and achieve honest representation in the representative branches of government becomes dramatically increased. While the demos electoral process does not achieve consensus in as straightforward a manner as do the economic issues, its achieving honest representation can also be taken to be the consensus of the entire electorate.

As discussed briefly in an earlier chapter and in detail in Appendix 1, the economic consensus of the entire electorate on the nine economic issues included in the demos is possible because the vote tallies for the issues are processed by computers resulting in mathematical values that are equally influenced by every person’s vote. Thus, each member of the electorate equally affects nine economic values that our government and nation must use as they function.


In addition to consensus democracy’s requirement that the issues on which the electorate votes are numeric in nature, other requirements must be met to produce a demos in which a busy electorate whose members have varying capability may successfully participate and achieve a true consensus that is effectively projected into the rest of government and society. They are: Voting is a civic duty; voting is not periodic but ongoing; a small, fixed set of easily understood economic and electoral issues of central importance; a simple, convenient method of voting; and facilitated running for office, deliberations about candidates and issues, and joining together in support of candidates. Some of these have been adequately discussed in previous chapters and only receive brief mention here. Others are discussed in more detail.

The consensus of the entire electorate on the demos issues can only be achieved if all members of the electorate are members of the demos and actually vote on its issues. Therefore, voting on the nine economic and three electoral issues included in the demos is not merely a privilege or a right but a civic duty for all able, of-age members of the populace. There can be no disenfranchisement for any reason.

Unlike today’s periodic elections, voting in the demos is ongoing. Each member of the electorate has a vote permanently “riding” on each issue included in the demos that, with one exception discussed later, he or she may change at any time. Demos computers continuously maintain the current consensus of the electorate by re-tallying votes and updating mathematical computations every few seconds.

The notion of “getting the vote out” would be very different from the periodic crises that political and other groups suffer today. It would not be a process of getting people to register to vote or of physically hauling people to voting booths. Demos voting terminals would be virtually everywhere. “Getting the vote out” would be an endless process of trying to persuade members of the demos to change or keep as is their already existing votes on one or more issues.

While one may change one’s votes as frequently as one wishes, to insure that the consensus of the electorate always remains current, every voter must “refresh” his or her demos votes at least once a year, either affirming each vote as is or altering it as desired. (This refresh requirement also serves to weed out of the system people that have died or are no longer capable of voting. A “no refresh,” a nonperformance of one’s civic duty, invites a bureaucratic exploration of the reason.)


The function of government has long been compared to the function of a biological, homeostatic system. Heartbeat, respiration and temperature regulation within our bodies are homeostatic systems. The tendency of a homeostatic system is to avoid the extremes and to hover around a moderate norm. Competing interests within government pulling in their various directions cancel each other out or achieve some sort of compromise resulting in movement away from the extremes and toward political moderation. With its divided, counterbalancing powers, the republican form of government in particular such as that used by America has been presented as a prime example of government functioning as a homeostatic system.

Historically, however, it has always been powerful elites that create and participate in governments to the exclusion of the many. This includes the republican form and our current American government. Therefore, the interests that compete within our government have always been among self-serving elites while the interests of the many have gone largely suppressed or ignored. Although they do not use and may not even know the word plutocracy, the argument among the elites that essentially own our society and populate our government has always been about how to best manage their plutocracy. Shall we have a more carnivorous plutocracy with more highly concentrated wealth or a kinder gentler plutocracy that allows a little more wealth to trickle down? The homeostatic tendency has always been away from the extremes of the elite and toward moderation among them that favors the elite as a whole, much to the detriment of the rest of the populace.

The demos is designed from the ground up to function as an integrated homeostatic system. Each of the economic issues included in the demos functions like a homeostatic system, ever hovering about a moderate economic norm. And, as shown in Appendix 1, Figure 3 and explained by its related discussion, the carefully chosen issues form an interrelated whole. Together, they function like the interactive, self-orchestrating systems in a living organism. The electorate uses the demos as a tool to achieve a moderate consensus on a few values that our government and nation must use as they function, keeping our society functioning smoothly and evolving peacefully over time as demographics, conditions, and our decisions change.

The demos balances competing interests and powers much more perfectly than does any governing body that exists today. Since the demos is constituted of an electorate consisting of the widest practicable inclusion of the entire populace, the competing interests include the interests of all of us. The resulting political moderation produced by the demos, the ever current consensus, tends away from all extremes including away from the extreme of our current republican form, which favors the few and excludes the many.


Our current system produces fragmentation, polarization, wild swings among extremes, and political-economic dysfunction. An analogy for periodic, majority-rule, referendum-style voting—whether practiced by the entire electorate or within political bodies such as the senate and the house—might be a children’s playground see-saw. The majority piles onto one end of the see-saw, which thumps to the ground and stays there leaving the minority suspended in the air in distress at the other end. And so matters rest until conditions become increasingly out of whack, a growing crisis ensues, and the matter is finally revisited. A new vote is called to mitigate in some way one aspect or another of the crisis. Once again a majority thumps one end of a see-saw to the ground. And so the nation limps along from thump to thump, from mess to mess. (Our whole two-party political system functions this way. One party holds a thirty year juggernaut on power destroying as completely as it can manage what the other party had set in place while rapidly implanting the extremes of its own ideology until things get so bad that the nation swings in wild desperation to the other party which rapidly pursues its destruction and extremes. Given that we are not really a democracy but a plutocracy, we swing wildly between a harsh, carnivorous plutocracy and a kinder, gentler plutocracy while the economic bottom half remains in permanent distress.)

In consensus democracy’s ongoing style of voting, each member of the demos keeps an “increase,” “keep as is,” or “decrease” vote riding on the numeric value of each economic issue. Voting on an issue may be compared to a group of people pulling on a rope in a never ending tug of war. Some people—millions!—are pulling at one end of the rope (to increase the issue’s numeric value, which they see as in their self-interest or best for our nation); others are pulling at the other end of the rope (to decrease the issue’s numeric value); and still others are standing on the side not pulling on the rope at all (because they like the issue’s numeric value right where it’s at).

Now, if one wants to do so, one can pull at one end of the rope throughout one’s voting life. Or one can at any time go to the other end of the rope and pull or stand aside. One can switch as often and as many times as one likes. As demographics and conditions change over time, perhaps in the nation as a whole or due to events in their own lives, some ever changing fraction of the voters become motivated to pull at the other end of the rope or to stop pulling. And so it goes, a few thousand of our many millions of votes on the demos issues are always changing over time this way and that. Demos computers re-tally the vote count every few seconds and adjust slightly the numeric values of the nine demos economic issues, which represent the ever current consensus of the electorate.

All along, within the demos and throughout the nation, the electorate engages in deliberations of the issues, each member trying to convince others to change (or retain) their current votes. Leaders in government and industry use their offices as bully pulpits to encourage the electorate to vote in desired ways on the issues. Pundits write. Every kind of truth, half-truth, outright lie, bias, prejudice, foolishness, and wisdom is out there. Both inside and outside of the demos, those of like mind join together in common effort. Some use tools within the demos itself to communicate and reach out. Some use the mass media. Others wear out shoe leather in their local communities. As with too low or too high a heartbeat or body temperature, movements in the electorate’s consensus toward numeric extremes cause increasing problems. Moderation comes to be understood as the greater wisdom, e.g., a minimum wage that’s not too low but also not too high. Thus, like heartbeat and body temperature, in a never ending tug of war the center of the rope—the current consensus of the entire electorate on the issue—avoids extremes and hovers slowly about a moderate norm over time.

Notice that the demos computers do not make any decisions for us. They only count votes, do simple programmed repetitive calculations, and display results to us. It is only our changing decisions and votes that alter the nine demos economic values. The always moderate, ever current consensus on the issues always rests directly in the hands of the entire electorate, not an elite few or a simple majority. Under consensus democracy power really does reside with “we the people,” all of the people.

For the several reasons discussed at length earlier in the book, the demos is limited to a small, fixed set of easily understood economic and electoral issues of central importance. This focuses the electorate on a manageable number of our most important issues; prevents intelligent but morally bankrupt sly and cunning individuals from outmaneuvering the rest of the electorate by overwhelming it with a bewildering avalanche of complex, deviously presented issues; limits the size and intrusiveness of government; prevents the simple majority or a powerful elite from using the demos to impose its religious or ideological will and ways upon the rest of the populace; and secures the maximum responsible freedom of the individual in a just, equitable, free, open, pluralistic society.

The demos voting system is made convenient and simple not only by enabling one to alter one’s votes in mere minutes at any time from almost anywhere but also by the voting system itself. A surprisingly simple method of voting on economic issues is used based on the traffic signal colors green, yellow, and red. While each economic issue is expressed numerically (and pictorially), the voter never comes in contact with any mathematics but only makes one of three possible choices: increase a current numeric value, keep the value as is, or decrease the value. Each choice is associated with a color: “increase” with green, “keep as is” with yellow, and “decrease” with red. Other colors and voting methods would be available for those who need them. So the voter only makes a few simple choices by selecting the desired green, yellow, or red colors. On four economic issues the voter selects one of three colored buttons, on two the voter colors slices on a pie chart, and on three the voter colors desired portions of a line on a chart. While learning what is in one’s best interest may take a little longer, this method of voting is so simple and intuitive that a child could be taught to do it in minutes.

Each demos economic issue will later be discussed at length in its own chapter along with the method used to vote on it. Mainly of interest to mathematicians and computer programmers, Appendix 1 contains a detailed discussion of the voting, tallying, and computer calculation system used for the demos economic issues.


Voting and achieving the consensus of the entire electorate on the three demos electoral issues—the election of the president, senators, and representatives—are done in a very different way than on the nine economic issues. To understand how it works, I first discuss the principal problems with our current electoral system and then an entirely new demos electoral system designed to correct these problems.

Our current electoral system is a set of loaded dice that overwhelmingly favors the powerful, wealthy few in two principal ways.

First, elections are left to a marketplace, mass media, and two political parties that are mostly owned and operated by the wealthy rather than being within and supported by government where they belong, equally accessible to all of us. Most of us are resigned to rapidly selecting what we guess might be “the lesser of evils” from among a few poorly known, fork-tongued candidates financed and, therefore, pre-selected by the wealthy. Few run for and win office that do not have the blessings and support of and now owe big money big-time.

Second, if throwing huge amounts of money at the electoral process were not enough of an advantage for the wealthy, dividing states into electoral districts and electing only one senator or representative within each of them virtually guarantees that wealthy or wealth-serving candidates will win the lion’s share of electoral offices and that the wealthy will hold a permanent hegemony of power within government while the poor and minorities go vastly under-represented. When only one candidate can be elected in a district, a candidate with lots of money to throw around will usually successfully buy the electoral office or seat being contested. While the wealthy inevitably manage to buy the first seat in a district, others—the lower middle class, the working poor, and minorities—could elect their champions to second, third, etc. seats in the district. Oops! There’s only one seat in the district.

The demos electoral system completely eliminates these and other problems making the electoral process honest and fair.

In the demos electoral system the Electoral College (which currently elects the president) and all state electoral district systems are entirely scrapped. The president and all senators are elected by direct popular vote from the nation at-large, and each state’s quota of representatives is elected from the state at-large.

All periodic elections, including all primary elections, are scrapped and replaced by a simple “ongoing” electoral system. In a manner similar to the nine demos economic issues in which each member of the electorate keeps a vote riding on each issue, each member keeps a vote riding on one candidate for president, one for senator, and one for representative.

The demos electoral system has a single national Presidential Candidates list and a single national Senators Candidates list. Each state has its own single Representative Candidates list. Any number of people may run for office. The person currently receiving the most votes in the Presidential Candidates list, the top 100 people in the Senatorial Candidates list, and each state’s quota of representatives from its Representative Candidates list are currently seated in office. Discussed in detail in a later chapter, a person gains or loses office when he or she gains or loses a sufficient number of votes relative to other candidates in the office’s Candidates list.

Candidates (who need not be wealthy or wealth supported) may take any amount of time to run for office for free within the demos and build a following. Members of the electorate may take any amount of time to study and deliberate about candidates and to reach out to each other across states or the entire nation to directly elect their champions, truly representative officeholders that resemble them in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook.

It is the electing of senators from within the nation at-large and a state’s quota of representatives from within the state at-large that overcomes the wealth dominated, one elective office per district problem and empowers each member of the electorate to join with others to select their champions. While others vote for their good candidates (who I may consider to be bad) from within these large pools—from the entire nation or an entire state—I and others like me vote for our good candidates from within the same large pools (who others may consider to be bad).

With at-large voting no member of the electorate is stuck selecting a “lesser evil” from a small group preselected by the wealthy as is done today. All voters support their goods, their champions, those who resemble and truly represent them. The resulting senate and house automatically demographically resemble and serve the true and balanced interests of the entire electorate. No quota systems, political parties, or complex electoral schemes are required. People just get to directly vote for whom they really want.

This automatic demographic resemblance to and honest, balanced representation of the entire electorate in the senate and the house and the selection of a president that truly represents the broad interests of the entire electorate, as opposed to mainly the interests of the elite as is the case today, is taken to be the electoral consensus of the electorate. Just as with the demos economic consensus, as demographics, conditions, and our decisions change, the electoral consensus of the electorate evolves slowly over time as a small, steady trickle of current members of the senate and the house lose their seats and new members are seated.

(Adding a demos and consensus democracy to any government in the world or to any level of government would produce the same result: a true electoral consensus that evolves slowly over time and honest, balanced representation of the entire electorate in the government’s representative bodies.)

The demos’ nationwide electronic voting system and its free, ongoing, at-large electoral process have several virtues. As a formal branch of government, the demos and its electoral process are entirely government supported. The nationwide electronic system makes it economically and logistically feasible for every member of the electorate that chooses to do so to run for office at any time for free, to freely deliberate with other members about candidates and issues, to reach out to others in support of candidates and issues and, of course, to vote. And in the ongoing voting process each member keeps a vote riding on candidates that, with one exception discussed in a later chapter, he or she may change at any time.

Any number of candidates, rich and poor, may run for office. All candidates have unlimited time and a free place—an Internet-like “web” site containing one or more pages—within which they may campaign for office and present themselves and their positions and proposals. By the time candidates earn enough votes to gain office in this ongoing electoral process, they, their proposals, and their entire political and voting history in previous offices will have been long studied and deliberated. Candidates will be well known and trusted by those who support them.

A candidate and his or her supporters will be able to extend their political views and efforts outside the demos in ways that best serve their needs. Just as today, the wealthy may buy any media and other electoral advantages they may find. But unlike today, the free, at-large, ongoing demos electoral process also gives non-wealthy people (and minorities) the means and unlimited time to reach out to each other across their states or the entire nation in support of candidates that serve their needs and interests, even as they also go out into their neighborhoods and communities, organize, and educate friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others as to their true interests. Unlike today, the economic bottom half of our populace will achieve full presence and honest representation within our government.

While deciding which candidates best serve one’s interests would take study, discussion with others, and thought over time, voting for one’s choice for president, a senator, and a representative is an easy task. On the appropriate demos electoral issue pages, the voter simply selects a name from an already existing national Presidential Candidates list, a name from a national Senatorial Candidates list, and a name from a Representative Candidates list for his or her state or adds new names to the lists.


At this point the more politically astute and capable reader may feel that to accommodate the less capable voters the demos has been made so simple—merely voting on nine economic and three electoral issues—that it cannot handle the more sophisticated or subtle aspects of political thought. Not so! We turn now to the next major function of the demos: deliberations among the members of the electorate.

Most voters would already know their minds and only visit the demos a few minutes per year to refresh their nine economic and three electoral votes, the minimal civic requirement. But many, possibly millions of people, would choose to read or actively participate in optional deliberations of these and many other issues. And some, possibly tens of thousands of people, would run for the presidency, the senate, or the house within the demos. (Of course, likely only a relative minority of candidates would possess sufficient qualities and make interesting enough proposals to have earned enough member interest and votes over time to rise to the heights of the Candidates lists and gain a realistic chance to win office.) Some people may opt to participate in the deliberations areas of the demos only a little, others almost as a way of life.

Exactly how demos deliberations should be organized and conducted is not carved in stone in my mind. What I describe here should be considered as suggestions that invite further thought by minds more experienced in electronic group processes than my own. I strive for fairness, simplicity, clarity, organization, search capability, communication, the facilitation of group processes, and strict formal demos formatting throughout. I favor substance and function over style. The demos must serve the entire electorate including the less gifted and electronic communications savvy. It could in no way resemble the frenetic, kaleidoscopic Internet web sites and pages and the bells-and-whistles-laden software programs of today.

I also believe that the demos should be what I call “text-centric”. Text is machine searchable, vocalizable, and translatable for those who need these functions. While demos technicians may use simple graphic images and charts in the presentation of, for example, the demos economic issues, to the extent that still images, video clips, audio clips, variable fonts and colors, etc. are used by members, if at all, they should play only a supportive role for candidacies and deliberations presented as text.

What I envision is that within the demos 1) each member of the electorate would have a private space within which the member may conduct a campaign for office if desired or simply express views and arguments, hereafter simply called arguments, and 2) there would be a public space subdivided into many smaller spaces, each containing a major issue under discussion. Issues under discussion should be logically ordered and searchable in a way similar to the Dewey Decimal system used by libraries to organize books. Taken together, all issues should form a single, logically organized “library of issues” or “deliberations tree” with major categories of issues and subcategories below them and yet more subcategories below those, etc.

Each of the nine demos economic issues’ voting pages would link to pages hosting deliberations of the issue. Guided by demos librarians, members would be able to add other issues for deliberation at appropriate locations within the overall library of public deliberations. Members could also create links between arguments they’ve made in their personal spaces with arguments they’ve made on issues in the public space. Members should also be able to create links from their personal spaces to locations outside of the demos where they have complete expressive freedom. Using today’s Internet terminology, such a location should open in a new window and always be clearly indicated as outside the demos. The demos would provide a wealth of economic and other data that members may access while deliberating or voting on issues.

Each of the three demos electoral issues’ voting pages should link to its own public deliberations area within the demos’ library of issues where members may raise and discuss electoral issues of a general nature. Each of the electoral issues pages would contain Candidates lists to which members may add names. Each candidate’s name would link to the candidate’s personal space where the candidate conducts his or her campaign for political office. All campaigns must follow the same demos designed organization, methods, and formatting. As part of this design, members may create links to campaigns of their own design that exist outside the demos. The demos would provide a standard set of information about each candidate including biographical, previous jobs and offices held, voting records, etc. This information would be linked both to the candidate’s name in the Candidates list and to the candidate’s personal campaign space. Members would be able to conduct pro and con arguments about each candidate. The pro and con discussion about a candidate should be linked both to the candidate’s name in the Candidates list and to the candidate’s personal campaign space.

Both within members’ personal spaces and within public space, the demos would include tools that facilitate members’ direct communication with each other and their coming together in groups in support of (or against) candidates and issues.

Appropriate to the focus of the specific issues under consideration, those who opt to participate in deliberations could express their own arguments, bringing any ideas into the debates. Members could also attach pro and con arguments to other members’ arguments. And yet other arguments could be attached to those, etc., forming chains or trees of discussion, as is done, for example in Internet newsgroups today.

Obviously, no single member of the electorate could possibly intelligently participate in the likely many thousands of branches of the demos deliberations tree, the myriad issues of our complex modern society. Over time, each member would have his or her continuous or shifting areas of interest, expertise, and focus. To be honest, most arguments would likely be of an inferior quality, if not entirely useless. But there would be no shortage of precious gems and metals among them. Even poorly expressed arguments would have value in that they indicate what is on people’s minds. Taken together, the arguments and deliberations of the electorate in the demos would give a clear indication of the true, and often divided, mind and will of the electorate.


Still, we would want to focus on the arguments of the finest and wisest thinkers among us. We would want to somehow mine the precious gems and metals, or, to put it another way, separate the wheat from the chaff. But, as is said, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So when it comes to matters of morality, validity, utility, value, and taste; when it comes to arguments within the demos, who is to decide which are wheat and which are chaff?

All members of the demos that are participating in deliberations should somehow be able to indicate which of their many arguments they find most agreeable. This could be accomplished by voting. Members would be able to vote on favored arguments of others causing the best and most relevant expressions of arguments to rise to greater visibility within the demos. I see each member as having one vote to optionally cast for a favored argument for each issue or branch within the demos library of deliberations that he or she may change at any time.

Only voting by the entire electorate on the twelve main demos issues, the nine economic and three electoral issues listed earlier, would result in economic law and the election of officeholders. Voting on arguments by those engaged in deliberations would only raise the arguments to greater visibility within the demos, nothing more.

Now, if member voting were the whole of the method used for the ordering and visibility of arguments, then the more popular arguments would become quickly and more or less permanently ordered at the top of the heap of arguments surrounding an issue, and all other arguments would remain permanently buried beneath them out of sight and out of mind. But less popular arguments should also have their moments before the eyes of the demos members. It is by our coming in contact with new ideas that our thinking evolves.

Therefore, the method used for the ordering of arguments should have an additional mechanism within it that works together with member voting, a mechanism something like the one described in the following paragraphs. (Not all readers may be able to fully understand what is described. Just understand that it is a computer managed process that insures that all members’ arguments would enjoy a fair amount of visibility.)

Recall that demos deliberations in the public space would be organized as a large deliberations tree with many dividing smaller and smaller branches. Each branch would contain a major issue or a lesser subtopic, etc. and a possibly very long list of member arguments about the topic. Throughout the entire tree, demos computers would maintain a real-time, ever current tally of votes on the arguments within each list and perform calculations. For each list of arguments, the number of votes enjoyed by each argument at any given moment would be expressed as a percentage of the total number of votes cast for all arguments in the list. The argument in a list currently possessing the largest percentage of votes, say 23%, would not simply be displayed continuously in position one in the list of arguments until it finally got bumped by some other argument but would occupy position one 23% of the time. Out of every twenty-four hour period, which contains 86,400 seconds, this argument would occupy position one for 23% of 86,400 seconds which equals 19,872 seconds. But do not think in terms of the argument being displayed in position one for 19,872 continuous seconds. Throughout each twenty-four hour period, a demos computer would randomly assign 19,872 one-second intervals during which the argument occupied position one in the list. Say the second most popular argument in the list received 14% of the vote. It would occupy position one in the list of arguments for 12,096 randomly selected one-second intervals during each twenty-four hour period. Etc. As was done with position one, every other position on the list of arguments would receive a mathematical treatment such that each argument occupied each position in the list for the appropriate number of randomly selected one-second intervals.

Whenever a member entered the deliberations area of the demos the member could quickly search and navigate the logically ordered issue and topic names within the branches of the deliberations tree. The screen would show the member’s current location within the tree along with as many member arguments as could be displayed in what could be a very long list of arguments at that location. Every location in the deliberations tree would have its list of arguments, and the list ordering process described below for this member’s current location would function in the same way at each location in the tree when it is visited by a member.

Whatever argument the computer determines should occupy position one in the list of arguments at this location in the deliberations tree for the current one-second interval would be displayed in position one in the list of arguments on the member’s screen. And all other arguments would be displayed in the list as ordered by the computer. The list of arguments would remain as ordered until the member elected to order the list in some other way. Meanwhile, even as this member’s list of arguments remains fixed on his or her voting terminal screen until he or she reorders it, other members that navigate to the same location in the deliberations tree in the next second or the next, etc. receive arguments lists that are ordered by the computer in other ways during those seconds. And each of those members’ arguments lists remain fixed on their screens until the members organize them in other ways.

As many members visited many locations in the deliberations tree over time and were presented computer ordered lists of arguments at each location, the overall effect would be that arguments with higher percentages of votes remained mostly but not always within the higher regions of their lists. Arguments with lower percentages of votes would remain mostly in the lower regions, but they would also enjoy their fleeting moments at and near the top of their lists.

This mathematical “round robin” method of presenting arguments should be used by default each time a member of the demos goes to a new location in the deliberations tree. There should be a built-in pause of, say, 20 seconds while the argument currently occupying position one is displayed. A countdown number from 20 seconds to zero could be displayed. The member would be able to immediately navigate to some other location in the tree. But if he or she elected to remain at the current location, the member would be unable to reorder the currently displayed list of computer ordered arguments until this period of time has elapsed.

This 20 second pause would be a very critical period for an argument. However long a member’s argument may be, its creator would be wise to begin with a brief, effective, initial summary to be displayed during this duration. It is only by earning the interest and votes of demos members that an argument could enjoy more and more time before the eyes of voters. In fact, perhaps it should be a formal demos requirement that all arguments be preceded by or begin with an initial summary of 25 words or less.

Not only would member voting combined with the computerized round robin process and the 20 second pause give all arguments their fair share of time before the eyes of the electorate, but they also, likely without most members even realizing it, would involve all members of the electorate participating in demos deliberations in the mining process, as it were, the never ending search for precious gems and metals, excellent arguments that have not yet earned votes but should. What does anyone do with 20 seconds to kill in any situation? Grab a cup of coffee; twiddle one’s fingers; or read whatever is before one’s eyes. By the time the 20 seconds were up the member may be hooked by an attractive or interesting argument, may read it in its entirety, and may even vote for it. The member may even peruse the next few arguments in the computer generated list. Thus, all who participated in deliberations would be drafted a few seconds here and there into a never ending—and I must add, absolutely fair—mining operation that would significantly benefit the function of the demos and its members.

Obviously, an argument would have to gain a number of votes before the round robin process caused it to enjoy significant amounts of time before the eyes of voters. A few early votes may be earned from the extremely rare moments the demos computer presented the argument before the eyes of some voters as they visited the current location in the deliberations tree. Other votes may be earned as adventurous members go “treasure hunting” in their own way for new or novel arguments, perhaps aided by specialized demos tools. Arguments could also earn member attention and interest within demos facilitated communication activities and even outside of the demos by word of mouth, media promotion, rallies, door-to-door campaigns, etc. As an argument gained an increasing number of votes and visibility, it could more readily gain even more votes and visibility.

Once the round robin process has displayed its ordered argument list for 20 seconds to a demos member, the member would then be able to continue perusing the list as ordered for as long as desired or to order the list of arguments by other methods such as ranking by percent of vote, random selection, search terms, etc. The member would be able to create, peruse, search, tag, and vote for demos issues’ arguments and share them with others.

Whenever an argument was displayed, its percentage of the total vote at the current location in the deliberations tree would also be displayed. Each argument should also be assigned a reference number or ID by which it could be directly located. The number should also serve as a link target. Members of the demos could share interesting arguments with each other by sending the reference numbers of arguments or links to each other or including the numbers on printed flyers, in media ads, etc.

Within society at-large money would still “talk” and, therefore, have its indirect effect on the demos. However, within the demos only a formal and consistent structure, function, and format such as that just described should organize deliberations and arguments. No doubt large moneyed, political, and other “grassroots” organizations would strive to “get out the vote” for their favored arguments on various demos issues. The round robin scheme would allow other arguments to break through such efforts enough that if any among them have merit they have a sufficient chance to be seen by and gain the votes of demos members.


While we may study and embrace the wisdom of our ancestors, government, including the demos, is for the living. There must be a formal methodology that keeps the demos deliberations tree a living tree, not a collection of dead branches. I think in terms of a demos archive that any member could visit at any time. As demos members died their entire personal spaces could be removed from the demos’ active area and archived. Their arguments posted in public spaces could also be removed and archived.

There is the problem of what to do with any arguments of other members that may exist under and be dependent upon those being removed and archived. My solution became: So long as an ex-member’s argument enjoys at least one vote cast by a currently living member or has attached to it the argument of a living member it may remain in the active area, perhaps with the text assigned a different color indicating—oh, what a terrible pun!—dead man talking. When all such support has died, the argument would then be removed from the active demos area and archived. It is possible that some of our ancestors’ finest arguments on lasting social issues could enjoy unending support and become, in a sense, eternal within the the demos deliberations tree, the wisdom of the ancients treasured by the living, even as the living grow and create anew.


All demos deliberations would be accessible to everyone including those working in the mass media and people serving in official capacities in the other branches of government. Even those who are too young to be demos members and the citizens of other nations could explore the demos as non-voting, “read-only” visitors. This would teach and create demand for true democracy in other nations as well. In this way members of the demos could express opinions and exert influence well beyond the strict limits of their voting.

With everyone 1) studying both high and low politics and the theory and practice of true democracy including actual “guest” participation in the demos for four years at the high school level, as is proposed in a later chapter, 2) possessing equal voice and vote in the demos on truly important issues, 3) having a meaningful role to play in government, and 4) enjoying the ability to have a real effect on the nation in which they live; political interest, thought, and expression would flower throughout the land. An electorate that for generations has been deliberately misled and rendered politically confused, apathetic, and impotent would, in time, become astute, politically streetwise, and perfectly capable of looking after its true self-interests.

Because of demos deliberations, much would be learned by everyone, including those who work in the media and those in the other branches of government, about what views the American electorate truly embraces on a host of significant political, economic, and social issues. It would be difficult for a politician or a pundit to claim some minor view as that of the whole or a majority of the American people when the true views of all members of the electorate are there for all to see.

Because it is their views and arguments that would usually be voted into greatest visibility, the demos deliberations would attract our finest thinkers from all economic levels and walks of life. But this would be just the focal point of a much larger deliberative process. Demos deliberations would spill over into, affect, and add focus to our national debate in the mass media, schools, workplaces, homes, public places and events, and the representative areas of our government. Thus, even that vast portion of the electorate that would likely not participate directly in demos deliberations would be influenced and guided by them. In this way our national political debate both inside and outside of the demos, a debate not owned or dominated by the wealthy or any other political faction, would become focused on our most important issues and our best thinking about them, including the best of our new ideas.

The debate would not be dominated by the wealthy? Keep in mind that under consensus government with the electorate in the demos directly setting some fundamental economic values and electing members to representative bodies that truly serve the entire electorate, the wealthy would likely not be so excessively wealthy nor the ‘poor’ as poor as today and the use of mass media for political purposes would likely be regulated much more fairly than today.


Borrowing some more of the Internet terminology I’ve been using all along, I now turn to the “look and feel” of the demos. It would consist of a nationwide electronic network much like today’s Internet but much more secure. Although it would really exist at several very secure electronically interconnected physical sites with several layers of back up and redundancy, to visiting members the demos would appear as a single web site. 

It would have an initial “Home” page with links leading to other pages that have links leading to yet more pages forming a large interlinked whole. Members of the electorate could conveniently visit the demos at any time from almost anywhere to study, vote on, and deliberate with each other about the economic and electoral issues included in the demos. They could deliberate on other issues of interest. And they could vote on favored arguments increasing their visibility in the demos as described earlier.

Connecting to the demos would begin with a secure “sign in” process that identifies the voter with certainty. Along with providing a “user ID” and a password, it may involve inserting a voting card, finger print, voice print, maybe someday even DNA.

The demos Home page should include a list of all twelve of the demos issues. Some issues would be simple enough to allow the voter to conveniently alter his or her votes right on the Home page. Some issues would need to be presented in a graphic form and would require that voting be done on their own pages. Each demos issue listed on the Home page would have a graphic or textual hyperlink to click that would take the voter directly to a demos page containing only that issue. Via links, a voter would be able to freely move among the pages as desired.

The Home page would contain a list of the demos issues, but it should not contain any discussion of issues. Each of the individual issue pages, however, should contain further information. For example, a page on which a particular value may be increased, kept at the current amount, or decreased would state what the current value is, ask the voter to make a selection, and contain a button for each selection. Depending on what information is most relevant to a given issue, its page may contain more buttons that when selected lead to more information about the issue. Such information may include charts and graphs, historical data concerning the issue, or discuss the relationship of this issue with other issues in the demos.

Each demos economic issue’s page should also contain brief pro and con arguments about the issue. The issue itself and its voting buttons could be displayed vertically along the left half of the screen, and the pro and con arguments could be displayed on the right half of the screen. I think the “point-counterpoint” pro and con arrangement currently used in some states for the discussion of referendums would be best. On an issue’s page, a pro argument could be followed by a con argument, each about 25 words or less and focused on the merits of their own positions. Then the pro position could make a separate 25 word rebuttal against the con position and the con position could make a rebuttal against the pro position. Each of these four brief arguments should be accompanied by a button. Selecting one of the buttons would lead to a page containing an elaboration of the point or points being made. Since these initial pro, con, and rebuttal arguments are the first to meet the voters’ eyes (and maybe the only arguments ever seen by members that never opt to view or participate in demos deliberations), they are very critical. They must result from a formal process within the demos issue’s deliberations area, perhaps simply using the initial summaries of those arguments most central to the demos issue that have earned the most votes from members participating in its deliberations.


Listing as briefly as possible the twelve issues that would be included within the demos, they are: the length of the Standard Workweek, the amount of the minimum wage, the amount we tax ourselves in support of the federal government, the distribution of that tax burden on three sources of revenue (corporations and businesses, personal income, and inheritance), the amount of national debt or savings, tax revenue allocation to four major areas of government (the military, health care, other entitlements, and the remainder of the federal government), and the selection of candidates for president, senators, and representatives.

The first nine issues listed are among the most fundamental and important issues of our society. Some of the most profound philosophical and practical aspects of good governance and “the good society” would be deliberated: How large should the public sector, i.e., government, be with respect to the private sector? Should there even be a private sector or a public sector? What should be the distribution of the tax burden and, therefore, the distribution of wealth in America? Perhaps we should not have a national debt but a large national savings? How much of the total collected tax revenue should go to each major area of government? Should we limit via taxation the size of corporations? How much leisure should we grant ourselves? What are the minimum requirements or essentials for something of a living in America? It can readily be seen that the electorate would not be discussing minor issues in the demos but the most essential issues that form the very foundation of our relationship with each other.

Further, as demos members added a host of other issues to the deliberations tree and deliberated about them, as candidates ran for office within the demos and presented their views and proposals, and as members of the demos debated pro and con about candidates, virtually every important issue and aspect of our society would be examined and deliberated.


The demos would come into being as a result of one or more amendments to the Constitution. Those amendments and all the rest of the document that forms the basis of the government of which the demos is a part would be legitimate objects of study by the members of the electorate. The demos should have a special area supporting a discussion about the content and meaning of the Constitution. This discussion should follow rules and procedures similar to those used to discuss other issues in the demos.

The members of the electorate could debate, for example: Would a single legislature be wiser than our current bicameral legislature, i.e., our current house and senate? Should there be a new way to amend the Constitution? What new issues should and what current issues should not be included in the demos?

During and ever since its creation, the Constitution has been the subject of critical examination, discussion, and deliberation … among certain circles, usually people with legal expertise. But it has never been the subject of critical examination among us all.

At some point in the educational process most people are taught in reverent tones about the Constitution, that is, what it contains and what one should think and how one should feel about it. In Washington, millions of awed tourists parade past this holy document preserved within argon gas. But the vast majority of Americans are never invited to critically examine the content of the Constitution, to ask what its basic assumptions are and to question the legitimacy of those assumptions. In the entire history of the American school system, how many students have been asked to improve the Constitution or to write an entirely new one? Are students made to understand that it was a privileged few who wrote the Constitution and that today only a privileged wealthy or wealth-serving few seated in office may amend it?

Sometimes it’s not what you see in the media but what you never see that is most obscene. We have seen technical discussions within the popular mass media about how the Constitution, the physical document, is preserved. We—or, at any rate, I—have never seen in the mass media a penetrating debate concerning the possible creation of a new, better constitution.

In the hands of only the elite, the Constitution and the government based upon it are merely tools for self-service. Only a constitution in the hearts, minds, and hands of all of us can be considered to be a document that truly lives for us all. The demos would serve as a place where everyone is invited to engage in perpetual, penetrating debate and deliberation of the Constitution. The Constitution’s very roots and foundation, its legitimacy, and its quality and utility should always be subject to expert and popular questions. We should not merely eternally reinterpret the current Constitution but actively seek ways to transcend it and move another evolutionary step as a society toward greater humanity and happiness.

Part of this area of the demos could serve as a permanent “constitutional convention,” so to speak. The members of the demos could work together creating modifications to the current constitution, an entirely new constitution, or several possible constitutions. None of the ideas brought to light here would actually need to be incorporated into the current constitution. But the process that takes place here would enrich our thinking on the matter of good governance and “the good society.”


One of the tactics used by the few to overpower the many within our current political process is “divide and conquer,” distracting with “hot button” issues and playing on the already existing fears, hatreds, and divisions of the many to keep it divided and weak. In a larger sense it is not just the many that is divided but our whole society, the struggle between the rich and poor being just one more division to add to our several others. With its strong interest in gaining and preserving its wealth and power, the few manage to overcome its divisions well enough and long enough to achieve its goals. The many only rarely rises up to this level of coordination and cooperation.

Within the demos, all of us, rich and poor alike, are brought together in one cooperative body designed to produce a sufficient center to overcome our divisions and the many forces that pull us apart. The demos enables us to peacefully achieve a national consensus on our most fundamental issues and to elect officeholders that honestly represent all of us.

Along with all else that they did, the founders created The Great Seal of the United States, which is the official symbol of the United States. On the seal’s face is an American bald eagle. On the eagle’s breast is a shield with thirteen vertical white and red stripes beneath a blue field that represents the thirteen states joined in one solid compact supporting a chief that unites the whole. In the eagle’s beak is a scroll inscribed with the words, “E Pluribus Unum” which means “Out of many, one.”

That we may one day achieve at last true democracy, justice, equity, freedom, and happiness, the entire American electorate as individuals must be brought directly together as a political whole. The demos, I believe, would serve most admirably as that whole. It is designed from the ground up to serve just that purpose. Out of many, one.

One thing that would allow the members of the electorate to function well together as a whole within the demos is that they would not face each other directly and personally as members of differing classes, races, genders, etc. but more abstractly and universally, each as a member of the same electorate. As issues were democratically deliberated, ideas and the ability to peacefully persuade would reign supreme over individual personalities.

It is not that we wouldn’t continue to argue and haggle animatedly over issues both within and outside of the demos and the other branches of government. Our national debate and deliberation would increase tremendously as a result of the demos. It would be the electorate’s consensus within the demos, the social contract, that would tend toward stable norms and produce a smoothly functioning, peacefully evolving society, even as we haggled vociferously over the issues.


Unlike majority-rule democracy in which there are winners and losers, in consensus democracy everyone is a winner in that it results in a more stable society and maximizes justice, equity, freedom, and happiness.

In his book “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny” Robert Wright discusses a concept involving a nonzero-sum game or relationship verses a zero-sum game or relationship. An example of a nonzero-sum relationship would be between two players on the same team playing a tennis doubles match. As teammates, their relationship is not as winner and loser. By both of them cooperating and working hard together they may both be winners of the game. A zero-sum relationship exists between two players playing a tennis singles match. They are competitive opponents. One player wins the match while the other player loses.

Majority-rule democracy is a zero-sum game that produces winners and losers. Consensus democracy is a nonzero-sum game in which everyone, participating cooperatively as members of the demos electorate, wins the game.


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Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America    www.BeyondPlutocracy.com
© Copyright 2001-2017   Roger D Rothenberger



1  For a long time I remained undecided about including a tenth economic issue, but I finally left it out: Expressed as a daily-compounded, annual percentage rate (APR), what is the highest total amount that may be charged in America by any person or entity for any loan of any kind for any purpose? This would have been a 3-button style issue. If the current demos consensus on the issue was, say, 11.32%, the members of the electorate would vote green (increase), yellow (keep as is), or red (decrease) to alter the percentage value over time. (A rose by any other name is still a rose. The term highest total amount includes all interest, processing fees, service charges, and any other kind of costs that the sly and cunning care to dream up.)  1