Digital Democracy is Good For The Climate, So Flux Should Start Saying So

For the last few elections, Australians have been able to vote for experiments in a far more democratic system. But “neutrality” is preventing proponents from highlighting its role in solving the climate crisis.

The VoteFlux.org party fields candidates who pledge to vote according to the results of a blockchain-based app. The app allows citizens to custom fit their vote. They can vote as direct (by voting per act of parliament) or as representative (by designating representatives for some or all issues) as they wish. As such, Flux is more democratic than a purely direct system, because those who don’t want to vote on every bill don’t have to —– it’s as direct as voters want it to be at any given moment.

While a supporter of Flux, I wonder whether its electoral failures are related to its strategic decision to exist almost as an apolitical political party. For in some ways Flux is less a political movement than a tech startup. Already, it turns a profit selling its underlying code (which is clearly a huge asset, and far more commendable than owning millions of dollars worth of pokies). And while it does stand firmly for experiments in systemic reform, on specific policies it is completely neutral.

This makes intuitive sense. The party is literally offering “the people” whatever they vote for, and it needs to convince voters that its candidates will do what the app tells them. The position is also “safe” — it shouldn’t alienate too many people. But it isn’t winning over many voters, and to me this isn’t surprising. Why? Because while the Flux app can far more accurately represent each voter’s preferences, no individual voter can be sure that in aggregate the Flux system would actually help or hinder their interests. Or at least they can’t be sure so long as Flux makes no attempt at determining what the result of “Fluxing the system” would actually be.

This deep uncertainty at the heart of Flux is related to deep uncertainties that have always bedevilled democratisation. While democrats want “the people” to have more power, many of “the people” don’t always agree. Of course, such fears are manufactured and stoked by a media that benefits from being divisive. Regardless of why, many are keen to blame things such as Brexit, Trump, and a lack of action on climate change on the masses. If idiots keep voting for morons, can idiots really be trusted?

But this need not be how the debate unfolds. In reality the world is beset by a plethora of problems caused by elites, and elites do nothing but wash their powerful hands of responsibility. Meanwhile, and tragically, it’s the masses who cop the blame. It is in finding a solution to this, to the quagmire that has the earth dependent on a path towards ecological and economic collapse, that Flux is a solution for.

Why? To take just one example, a vote for Flux is a vote for meaningful action on climate change. When polled at the last election (before the bushfires), 82 percent of Australians considered global warming an important issue. Most strikingly, even when voters were categorised according to which party they voted for, all groups viewed global warming as an important issue. 98 percent of Greens voters did, and 93 percent of Labor voters did, as is not surprising. But 68 percent of Coalition voters did too. There are important differences though. Of Coalition voters, only 22 percent viewed it as extremely important, while 46 percent viewed it as ‘quite important’.

(From: https://australianelectionstudy.org/wp-content/uploads/The-2019-Australian-Federal-Election-Results-from-the-Australian-Election-Study.pdf, p. 9)

(From a Lowy Institute study: https://lowyinstitutepoll.lowyinstitute.org/themes/climate-change-and-energy/)

Nevertheless, for democrats who don’t want millions of people to die from climate-induced displacement, the results are overwhelmingly positive. While climate skeptics get elected, this shouldn’t be held against moves towards increased democracy. Instead, it is related to problems with the current system. With a majority of Coalition voters viewing climate change as significant, the party’s intransigence reflects not the wishes of the people, but the way political elites balance the interests of their financial backers with the relative care that voters place on different issues. Because Coalition voters view ‘the economy’ as the most important issue, and because they can’t seperate their vote on economic issues from their vote on environmental issues, coal-hugging elites like Scomo can win the climate skeptic vote without losing many of those who are moderately concerned.

(Also from: https://australianelectionstudy.org/wp-content/uploads/The-2019-Australian-Federal-Election-Results-from-the-Australian-Election-Study.pdf, p. 23)

If given the option to vote only on climate change, there would be more action on climate change. This is exactly what Flux offers. If the Flux system was introduced Coalition voters could vote for climate action without sacrificing what they believe Scomo offers them. In theory, they can vote directly on climate change, or for Labour or Greens to represent them on climate change, while still giving Scomo their vote on all other issues. Of course, it gets tricky because “economic” issues are not easily seperable from climate policy for all voters. Thus, only the Flux app could truly show where voters’ preferences lie. Nevertheless, preliminary polling is overwhelmingly positive. A vote for Flux is a vote to save the planet, and a vote to end the toxic attacks on “the people” that climate-inaction-fuelled polarisation can provoke.

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