Let’s face it. The idea of representation is a tragedy.
April 18, 2022
Sam Schikowitz

Let’s face it. The idea of representation is a tragedy.

It was reasonable at a time when a representative was bringing the opinions of a town hall to the country capital by horse.
The town hall consisted of 20 to 150 white men, all farmers and blacksmiths.
Today, representatives are expected to “represent” the opinions of as many as a million people.
And these people are, more than ever, a very diverse mix of every race and color, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, education level, and income.
How could one representative, often a white male, actually advocate for the needs of this group of people?

Liquid democracy solves this problem elegantly by removing the concept of “representation” from delegation entirely.

Instead of voting for a representatives or leaders once every 4 years and expecting these delegates to make decisions on every type of topic, members can empower other individual members as each member feels is appropriate;

  • at the level of the whole community,
  • on specific topics like “Finances”, or
  • on specific challenges like “The 2023 Budget”

Thus, individuals are empowered by others to make decisions ONLY to the degree, an on the topics, that they are trusted by other individual members.

  1. Delegation is instantly reversible on a person by person basis, without needing an impeachment processes.
  2. Delegation can be domain specific, so you don’t have to empower people beyond their area of expertise. People tend to be more trustworthy in the area of their specialty.
  3. You can see every vote made by the people you delegate to.
  4. You can delegate to anyone, which means there are too many potential candidates to corrupt.
  5. Because empowerment is more on the bases of expertise, the political process does not attract those with aspirations to power.

As you can see, this reduces potential conflicts of interest.

Studies show that people in liquid democracies delegate to those with more skill in a the area being delegated to. This means that instead of electing politicians, liquid democracy concentrates expertise onto the challenges we face.

All or Nothing Representation vs. Long Tail Liquid democracy.

The benefit of liquid democracy is that there is a long tail effect, where a larger number of people can be empowered. Each of them is empowered to the degree that they are trusted by others.

Allowing these stragglers to be part of the conversation opens the door for qualified but politically less savvy experts to prove their insight and value, even when there are popular personalities who would have “won” an election.

No Such Thing as an Election in Liquid Democracy?

So we have found people who’s expertise inspires our trust on as wide a range of topics as we want.
These experts act within their expertise on behalf of us all.
And, they are simply citizens voting their conscience, not paid representatives. It costs us nothing to empower them.

If we can delegate to anyone, what would we need an election be for in a Liquid Democracy?

Empowering Sustained Attention

Liquid democracy manages decision making in a much more nuanced and elegant way than conventional representational democracy.
But even in Liquid Democracies, there are cases where an Election is needed.
However, the purpose is a little different.

Elections in Liquid Democracies empower someone to dedicate more time and energy toward a problem.

You can think of elections as the way liquid democracies hire people or select volunteers. The elected person is empowered with specific tasks or responsibilities for the group or society.
For example, a person could be elected to manage a farm. The elected member could be empowered make decisions about what planting technique to use and when to plant. The decision about what to grow might be reserved for the group as a whole.

While not everyone may have voted for the winning farmer, the elected person would be treated as the delegate even to those who didn’t vote for winner, and the liquid democracy rule of “if I delegate to you, I can see your votes” would apply even for those who did not vote for that person.


In short, delegation of decision making in our complex groups, societies, and nations is necessary, but

Representation is not a viable concept given the size and diversity of our societies.

Instead of choosing representatives, we should empower our fellow members to make decisions based on their expertise.

Liquid Democracy solves this problem in a powerful and elegant way, allowing us to concentrate expertise onto the challenges we face in our groups and societies.

Sam Schikowitz