Australia’s Flux Party wants democracy to be more like technology.
Built on the idea that cryptocurrency tokens riding on a blockchain network can act as a platform for online voting, the Flux Party is seeking to lower the hurdles for passing legislation, thereby helping governments better keep pace in today’s connected, fast-growing world.
More broadly, though, the minor political party wants government to operate in a constant state of change, and to use blockchain technology to deliver on this goal.
According to co-founder of the Flux Party Max Kaye, the main problem with politics is that it’s stagnant and slow-moving, an environment where those that make it to the top, stay at the top, and those who make it prefer wheeling and dealing for their benefit to doing good for the people.
This is especially prominent in Australia, the Flux Party contends, where corruption is rampant and constituents are disillusioned with those currently in power. As evidence, the group cites how the two major political parties opposed a federal commission against corruption like the state-based Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The Flux movement is all about the reorganization of power and direct empowerment, a similar goal to most cryptocurrency projects. Although many times, these things are easier said than accomplished.
Cryptocurrency projects that have tried similar initiatives have been plagued by governance issues, often trying to give everyone a say no matter how educated or emotional they are about a particular topic.
For instance, bitcoin enthusiasts are still split on relatively minor protocol details such as the size of its transaction blocks, and since The DAO got attacked, some in the ethereum community want to pursue technical changes to regain control of lost user funds. Others think that would be an overstep of the ethereum team’s power, but complicating matters is that the network lacks an effective or inclusive governance process dictating how this decision will be made.
But Kaye and his co-founder, Nathan Spataro have thought a lot about such issues and believe they have novel solutions.
In Kaye’s mind, the systems could work like this: If a lot of constituents decided not to vote on allowing the death penalty because they didn’t think it would ever get passed, and then it does, a new ballot could go out the next day. And because the death penalty is very much disavowed in Australia, people would turn out to vote to undo that.
Preventing a Brexit
It’s envisioned as a highly reactive system, one that some UK citizens might wish they had. After some ‘Brexit’ – the UK referendum to vote to leave or remain a part of the European Union – supporters came out saying they regret their decision as the economic repercussions of the country’s uncertainty magnifies.
And, according to Kaye, the Flux Party’s democracy-as-a-service platform is impregnable to corruption. Within the platform, every constituent gets one voting token per issue that can be spent for a “yes” or “no”.
There are also tokens called ‘political points’ that can be traded if a constituent doesn’t want to vote on a particular issue and instead wants to give his or her vote to another person. Political points can also be used to put an issue forward for a vote.
“We try and isolate the monetary economy from the voting economy,” Kaye remarked.
The Flux Party adds opportunity cost into the equation to stop people from voting randomly for issues they are not well-versed in or don’t care about. Because users can gain political points by not voting, they are given positive reinforcement to vote only on issues they care about.
It’s a bit like an auction where individuals can make bids on voting tokens not being used. Political points will be created all the time and then distributed equally among all users.
In an effort to dissuade speculation, the tokens cannot be exchanged for real-world value such as fiat money, which should also discourage electoral training or the means of buying votes, a process banned in many countries and looked down upon in most others.
“We go to great lengths to make sure this is a very egalitarian project that gives everyone a say,” said Kaye. “It’s like capitalism if you had a large tax on income plus a basic income as well.”
Vote for idealism
Currently, the Flux Party is aiming to get one representative in Tasmania’s Senate during the 2nd July election. In Australia, he said, this isn’t such a long shot since someone can get elected with as little as 14,000 votes.
While Flux’s membership is currently only 3,048, it’s one of the more popular minor parties in the country. And Kaye says the party is starting a $25,000 social media campaign in the weeks leading up to the election.
Throughout the rest of the year, the Flux Party will be putting representatives up in state elections and council-level elections. The candidates are all volunteers (plus Kaye and Spataro), but none of these participants will be voting with their consciences.
Instead the representatives will vote in proportion to how their constituents vote on the Flux platform. For example, if 50% of constituents vote in favor of a bill and 50% vote against a bill, three Flux representatives will vote for and three will vote against.
In an effort to keep the Flux platform decentralized, the platform will anchor all votes to the bitcoin blockchain. This decision, they argue, keeps Kaye and the Flux startup out of a powerful role holding the voter data.
The startup will use a distributed hash table that’s stored off chain which is linked to one hash stored in a bitcoin transaction that can represent a million votes.
While this may sound esoteric, and many reports have called the Flux Party’s antics – running on a platform of parliamentary reform instead of the traditional platform of jobs and growth, etc – idealistic, Kaye thinks it’s more pragmatic than a starry-eyed vision of an equitable future.
“If we’re right, this is the sort of thing that makes democracy 10 times better than what we have now,” he said, adding:
“It’s worth the gamble.”
Bailey Reutzel is a veteran finance reporter, most recently covering the intersection of tech and finance for PaymentsSource.
Her latest project Moneytripping is a Gonzo-style journalism project focused on exploring money, politics and finance in America.
Australian parliament image via Shutterstock