Voter Competence in Liquid Democracy
MetadataShow full item record
CitationMawere, Montague. 2021. Voter Competence in Liquid Democracy. Bachelor's thesis, Harvard College.
AbstractLiquid democracy is a form of democracy where people can either vote directly on policies or delegate their voting power. It combines features of direct democracy and representative democracy. In doing so, some believe it can realize the strengths and avoid the weaknesses of both alternatives. This thesis uses computational and philosophical debates on liquid democracy to evaluate its relative performance, given different assumptions regarding voter competence. Whether or not liquid democracy can realize these strengths depends on voter competence. Thus, the organizing question will be: under what assumptions regarding human competence does liquid democracy lead to better outcomes than those of direct democracy and representative democracy?
The computational models of democracy build upon the social choice literature on liquid democracy. Single elections have two policies, where one policy is independently preferable to the other. Voter competence is measured by one's likelihood of selecting that better policy. Two further distinctions are considered: personal competence and social competence. Personal competence determines how well people vote individually. Social competence determines how well people select others to vote on their behalf. Interestingly, the simulation results show that liquid democracy outperforms the alternatives when voters have high social competencies but varied personal competencies.
These models and simulations illuminate the critical role that voter competence plays in models of democracy. The models bring to light the fact that the relative success of liquid democracy relies heavily on various understandings of voter competence. The effect of voter competence shown in these simulations depends on even more assumptions about human behaviors, social structures, and the normative goals of democracy. Computational models are subject to many limitations resting on assumptions that must be further justified or shown in empirical research.
The philosophical discussion of this thesis, then, identifies and applies pressure to some of these limitations. It is essential to clarify what is modeled and the method of evaluation. With regards to the former, this thesis only considers democratic voting for policies at scale. With regards to the latter, some evaluate democracy concerning preferences, while others evaluate it concerning the truth. Given these approaches, one could focus on voters' preferences and the truth being maximized in the process or the outcome. These particular models present something closer to the truth-tracking outcome-oriented approach, though this is not incompatible with the other views. An understanding of what qualifies democracy establishes what makes an individual's vote better. Ultimately, notions of voter competence are rooted in normative democratic ideals. The hope is that these discursive efforts will contextualize and guide further investigations of liquid democracy.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368564
- FAS Theses and Dissertations