Stack exchange seems to brilliantly and concisely match an answer to a question and more key has a great way of ranking the 'correct' or most efficient answer based on merit or efficacy.

Can we leverage this system to form the basis for governance? So, rather than voting for a single party that go away and mess about for 4 years every important decision is taken based firstly on its ranked urgency and then crucially on whatever answer is deemed the best.

When people want to understand or change policy there is a clear transparent evidence based route for doing so. I would dub it the 'Open' Party and the colour of the ties would be either transparent or no ties at all!, ties in politics are like flags for countries so its important, apparently. Would this system work?

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    It's called direct democracy. It works great assuming you always fall on the side of the majority.
    – user1530
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 23:13

4 Answers 4


Who gets to ask?

In the Stack Exchange (SE) system, the person asking determines the accepted answer. That's not a big problem if one person is the clear beneficiary. But what about systems where multiple people benefit? Who asks would determine who gets to accept an answer.

Subject to corruption

There are regular concerns about people banding together with friends to influence the system in Stack Exchange. This hardly ever happens. Why not? Mostly because the results of being the highest voted or accepted answer don't matter much. If your answer is accepted over mine, it may bruise my ego, but it doesn't actually matter. I don't make less money or have to do more work as a result.

In your system, the outcome would matter. As a result, all those worries about people banding together to control the outcome become justified. Tactical voting would become rampant. Closing questions so that you can ask your own question and control the acceptance criteria would be useful.

Who's the dictator?

Many aspects of Stack Exchange are controlled democratically. But in the end, the Stack Exchange system is a dictatorship, not a democracy. Stack Exchange can reverse votes (e.g. if you go around down-voting a single person for disagreeing with you) and delete questions and answers (e.g. spam).

This works for Stack Exchange for two reasons. First, they are a relatively benevolent, hands-off dictator. We rarely feel the tyranny because they are careful about using it. Second, because Stack Exchange is optional. If I decide that they are abusing their power, I can start a new site called Queue Swap tomorrow that does the same thing. If most people agree with me about the abuse of power, I'm likely to get lots of people joining me. That possibility keeps them honest.

Your system would not be optional. So we'd have to have some way of controlling the "dictator" in the system. But in the end, that just gets us back to something mostly like the current system. An empowered executive who can make the real decisions. A frustrated minority grumbling under those decisions with which they disagree.

Who determines urgency?

every important decision is taken based firstly on its ranked urgency

Who determines whether a decision is important or urgent? This isn't unsolvable, but the Stack Exchange system does not generally solve it. Meta decisions tend to be non-binding, although some people will choose to follow them. The real decisions about the importance and urgency of changes on Stack Exchange tend to be made by the benevolent dictator.

What happens if the dictator disagrees with you? For example, Obama finds Zika to be important and finds terrorism to be less important.

Free markets as Stack Exchange

Note that a free market economy gives many of the same results as you are trying to get from your Stack Exchange system. Most decisions are made by individuals. Multiple answers (products) can receive up-votes (purchases). Your individual decision controls your personal environment, much the way that acceptance controls your question in Stack Exchange. High reputation (wealthy) users have additional moderation powers. Yet you don't seem satisfied with this system and want to change it.

Effecting change

As you may gather, I don't favor this change. That said, the question of how to make change is certainly answerable. You need to find supporters and take control of the mechanism for making changes in your country.

To use the United States as an example, this would require either two-thirds of Congress or sufficient support in state legislatures to call a constitutional convention. If a convention, you'd have to make sure that they voted for your amendment. Then you need to ratify the amendment with the approval votes of the legislatures in three-quarters of the states (thirty-eight or more). Note that the last time we had a constitutional convention, we ended up with a new constitution instead of simply amending the old one.

This is the age old method for making changes. It's not fast. In the US, Republicans as a party were in favor of women's suffrage in 1860 but did not actually pass it until 1920.

  • The urgency issue could be solved if some kind of discussion question is introduced, which would allow people to vote for the most relevant issue, but I'm not sure it would work. Anyway, I've never thought of Stack Exchange as a dictatorship!
    – A. Darwin
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 14:40
  • Nice answer Brythan, actually I'm very much for free markets which as you interestingly point out is quite similar but perhaps the difference whether important or not is an emphasis on social rather than economic capital? but maybe different side same coin. Stack exchange aside I do still feel like there's room for certain aspects of collaborative software development platforms to be used as democratic infrastructure albeit the detail of your answer has made me realise how vague and grandiose that initial assumption was :) Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 15:34
  • You did not include the fact that moderators are lifetime. Could you imagine a lifetime senator? Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 17:04
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    @LuisMasuelli - aren't they? *cough* Byrd *cough* Kenneddy *cough* :)
    – user4012
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 14:00
  • Supreme Court justices as moderators? Judges in general are lifetime positions.
    – Brythan
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 4:14

If you are "voting for a single party that go away and mess about for 4 years" then you are doing it wrong.

In most jurisdictions, there are multiple elections every year for positions like school board, water district, city council, local judges, etc.

Those positions, while not as glamorous as President, have more direct effect on your life and your community. They set local rules, zoning, tax rates.

While your vote for Federal President is roughly 1 vote in 120 million, your vote at the local level is frequently one of just a few thousand. Your vote counts more locally, and any volunteer efforts or donations you make locally will have more impact.

So my answer is to stop looking to technology like Stack Overflow to try to re-vamp the federal system; you'll be better off learning about and getting involved in the full breadth and depth of the existing political system.

  • 1
    I'm not entirely sure this actually answers the question, but I think it'd fall under challenging the frame of the OP's question. And it's very true.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 2:52
  • 1
    From the OP's talk about coloured ties (which aren't so much a thing in the US, if I'm right?) and non-US spelling, I'm inclined to think that they aren't American. Challenging the frame of the question by assuming that the US system of government is "the status quo" is... irritating. For all you know, the OP is about to run for office in a recently-formed state that's still working out its political conventions ;-) And in that case, they could do a lot better than going with the existing system in your country (or, arguably, the system in mine).
    – owjburnham
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 13:45
  • @abelenky Please do excuse me if that's overly tetchy. My own country's seat-of-your-pants approach to our constitution has prompted me to drink entirely too much coffee today.
    – owjburnham
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 13:46

It would not work. What if the programmers are bribed or lobbied? You would still have the principal agent problem (assuming the programmers or site admin is the agent).

How will you manage Sybil attacks from millions of fake (Russian/Chinese) accounts?


A Stack Exchange type system may be implemented as a supplement to voting. The best arguments and evidence on both sides of an issue could be referenced easily before casting a vote. To the voter, its a way to verify information and become an informed on an issue. To the government, It could start as a more accurate method of polling due to sample size and geographic division. SE supported polls could possibly be used as non-binding referendums and the government will continue as usual. voting could be done any time on any issue yet there could still be "election days" when votes are tallied, thus determining urgency. With such data already gathered, no longer can politicians be presumptuous enough to claim "this is what the people want."

The layout of SE should take on some modifications to make both supporting and opposing arguments equally visible. The best answer on each side would be determined by acclamation (up votes) instead of by the asker.

The moderators could be bound to enforce internal "laws" which dictate rules to determining unacceptable answers. unacceptable answers are still viewable... crossed out with an explanation of why it was removed...

Librarians could be trained to help computer illiterate people log on and participate at any time at no cost

The only argument against democracy is, The Tyranny of the majority will oppress those in the minority. The answer to this concern is already implemented in the 10th Amendment. We have cities, counties, states and a federal government. Each of these divisions has it's own set of compounding laws and ordnances. The laws not set by the federal government are be determined regionally by the area's inhabitants. There may be some place somewhere which accepts the weird things you do that put you in the minority. If you want to stay in an area where you are in the minority, at least your vote was counted on the issue that matters to you. That would be a huge improvement from todays "supposed" representation where you vote for someone else to vote for you.

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