Representative democracy is a failed system, why reimplement it in Cardano?

So, some discussions have been happening around the Voltaire CIP.

I must say that I absolutely hate the idea of representative democracy, having spent my entire life watching my elected representatives completely fail to represent me, I don’t think the system works. It concentrates power in the hands of the few, it’s ripe for exploitation and lobbying by big business (how the lobbying situation in the US remains legal totally escapes me - where I’m from, paying to influence a politician is illegal).

I’m massively disappointed here - one of the great promises of crypto is that it offers new and exciting possibilities for direct democracy - this is one of the key things which excites me about crypto - its potential to replace the current, broken system. I don’t understand why we have failed to make use of this amazing new power for radical political change.

On a technical level - I understand that one vote per wallet (weighted by stake) would require quite a lot of transactions if everyone voted.
Firstly, not everyone will vote - look at the figures for Catalyst.
Secondly - perhaps we should make it so that Cardano can handle one transaction per day from every user of the system? Like… if it can’t do that, what is the point?

I would rather you fix the throughput than fix the elections.


Although I do not share the fundamental criticism of representative democracy per se, I also don’t think that dReps are necessary or sufficient in the context of CIP-1692 or Catalyst.

The idea of members of parliament in a representative democracy is that representing is their job and they get a salary and a staff for that, because they have to make decisions and negotiate compromises that are notoriously difficult and cumbersome.

We might disagree on how broken some or all of these systems are at the moment and if they should be fixed and improved or rather abolished and replaced. But maybe we can agree that what is built with the dReps is something fundamentally different.

I don’t know if I want them to get rewards at all, but it is totally unrealistic that those rewards are enough to count as a salary, enough to make being a dRep their main job and give them the freedom to garner enough expertise that it makes any sense that they decide instead of just all of us.

Also: The delegation to a dRep is also a transaction on the chain. I would doubt if it really saves on transactions to do this indirection if people have the urge to redelegate before a large enough percentage of the votes.

And that urge could come in quite quickly: Without an established practice of election campaigns, it is even harder to decide beforehand if a dRep will vote in a way that suits me. And it is still totally superfluous if I could just vote in a way that completely suits me myself.


Thanks @HeptaSean - all very valid in my mind, and helpful to have it articulated by someone coming from a different viewpoint, and perhaps without my political baggage :wink:

I’m an old-school crypto anarchist, or cipherpunk or whatever you wanna call it - I’m all for smashing the system, but that is not hugely relevant to this debate - the critical question here is - are dReps necessary (technically, what is the reason for them? transaction count? is that the only reason? I would suggest that’s a bad reason).

One of the issues we have, and have had with Catalyst, is that proposals are often too technical for the every-day user to really understand, so they don’t know what they’re voting for (as evidenced by Turbo Daedalus). I understand why dreps would be suggested for this reason, but as you suggest, it sounds like there would be a fair amount of work involved in this role - will there be compensation?
For me, the compensation is a big reason I don’t get involved with Catalyst - if I’m going to devote a serious amount of my time to something, I need guaranteed income, every month, to provide stability for myself and my family. Every person deserves that, and if we’re asking people to commit a significant portion of their time, we should be paying them too.

Coming back to the problem of proposals being too technical for average users - is it such a bad thing if voter turnout is low, and only the people who really understand or care about the issue actually vote?
I realise with lower turnout numbers it becomes easier to sway the vote in your favour, but probably not easier than just bribing or otherwise convincing the 30 or so dreps to support your proposal.

I just think every user should have the right to vote on every proposal, and they shouldn’t have to pay a deposit and become a drep to do so. Democracy doesn’t require that every person vote in every election, just that anyone who wants to express an opinion can, and their vote will be counted. Obviously there should be some quorum threshold after which a vote is valid. Perhaps for major changes the quorum should be higher.
Even if the quorum were 10,000 (which I consider very low), that would still be a much higher number than the total number of dreps who would vote on it in a representative system.


If a crypto anarchist and a boring green-center-left reform believer agree, there has to be something to it. :grin:

My proposal for solving this in a permissionless way was:

That was originally posted in Everything that's wrong with Catalyst (now with poll) regarding Catalyst. But I think, it could also work for Cardano governance if the votes get more complicated than a couple of yes/no decisions.

The Catalyst dRep concept seems even more broken to me. As far as I understood it, the dReps are not even encouraged to vote on all proposals, which then requires for me to decide which “challenge” or subset of proposals I find important, because my voting power would only be used for that, but not for the rest. (If the dReps even publish in that detail what they intend to do. And if they then even do what they said that they intended to.)


Just woke up and was formulating my thoughts on how to word things, but the last paragraph in this post basically covers everything.

Also, because I’m technically in the NFT influencer space, I know for a fact that if an influencer in this ecosystem shills to common everyday users to vote this dRep or something, most of em won’t see the harm and just do it. I think the sheer effort required to understand a proposal and choosing to vote on it anyway instead of just letting someone else do the voting for you will show you the people that care.

I’m from the Philippines where the last 2 elections, the people rather than the elites were able to decide what they wanted instead of letting the “elites” and “smart people” do all the voting. I bring this up because in the last 3 decades, people didn’t care enough to vote because they were taught that it was “too complicated” for them to understand how things work. 100% untrue. People finally woke up and decided enough was enough. I believe the same thing will happen here. Sure it’s too much trouble now, but the community should have the ability to do direct democracy. They might not care now, but eventually when they do, they should have the ability to directly participate instead of relying on a broken system that was made based on participation numbers today.

*Edited for spelling errors


I would tend to disagree. A representative democracy gives the people the right to support someone else after term, or sometimes during term with a recall. One must realize that they are part of a larger population, some sharing the same views, and others not. Representative governments work well when compromise is made, it allows both sides to have their views heard and represented. The downside is one party rule. Take for instance California. Their elections start off by having the top two candidates represented on a ballot. Far from representative of both sides, but an argument could be made that the two candidates represent the majority of the population.
Ultimately a representative who does not vote or represent me will no longer be supported by me. So long as we have a means to change or reverse going forward, and the system allows representatives to be changed or forced out by vote, this could be a well rounded system of governance.

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It may be unrealistic to expect the level of involvement needed for voting from all participants in the ecosystem. Ask yourself why did representative democracy evolve in the first place? At least one of the reasons is that it is additional work deciding how to vote and staying close to issues.

Some is down to lack of information bandwidth in the system, for example a traditional democracy where not all participants have access to the volume of information needed (more problematic pre internet).

So we might expect a continuum between [poor information flow/bandwidth] and/or [low engagement or time available to participate], and [high bandwidth] and/or [high engagement or time to participate].

It seems likely we will land towards the middle of that continuum hence dReps offer a means to optimise for engagement while allowing votes to represent the majority view.

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Can you point to a non-democratic political system that works?

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I completely agree with kieransimkin!! further more i am a bit disappointed that we are trying to copy from this system of representative democracy which is prone to misrepresentation or corruption and that is the weak point in the chain and as we all know the chain is as strong as its weakest point. I really don’t see why we can not have a participative democracy with penalties if not participating. In my case I would go further and call for a blockchain conference of some sort to counter the likes of AIPAC. I think that there is nothing more disgusting than the current political system that we currently live in, I live in Chicago and politics have always been a dirty business here. I suggest that we veer off from copying a system that has failed the world and we implement a more transparent and participative system that is inclusive and on a vote by person style not the current $1 dollar one vote…
just saying.