Cyberdemocracy Cons

Robert Wright, in his 1995 article for TIME magazine titled "Hyperdemocracy",, said he believes the problem with our government is not that it’s disconnected, but that it’s already "too plugged in for its own good."

Calling C-SPAN’s cameras "the electorate’s virtual eyeballs," Wright blames new information technology, such as e-mail and fax machines, for allowing more informed interests groups to strangle Washington’s ability to function.

"Intensely felt public opinion leads to the impulsive passage of dubious laws; and meanwhile, the same force fosters the gridlock that keeps the nation from balancing its budget, among other things, as a host of groups clamor to protect their benefits," he said.

Cyberdemocracy or Cybertyranny?

In response to individual citizens participating in government over the internet, Wright quoted James Madison who, in the Federalists Papers, said there is a need to "refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations."

Wright pointed to newsgroups as an example of how the population could not converge on issues over the internet because, in cyberspace, the distances which have kept factionalism at bay in our large country don’t exist.

"There's alt.politics.greens, alt.politics.libertarian, alt.politics.radical-left, alt.fan.dan-quayle, alt.politics.nationalism.white, alt.fan.g-gordon-liddy, alt.rush-limbaugh.die.a.flaming.death," Wright said.

With the increasing number of cultural wars in the United States and with so many divergent issues gaining exposure, it is "not a wholly encouraging glimpse of the future," Wright said.

America: A wired democracy?

In the article, "Teledemocracy: Can wired democracy work?", Rob McTavish of the on-line magazine Critical Mass, questions how the validity of messages or votes over the internet would be confirmed.

The main difference between Athenian democracy and electronic democracy is the difficulty in verifying the source of information, McTacish said.

"When you see a message posted by the Pope denouncing Christianity, or Bill Clinton criticizing his own crime bill, you know that it’s likely a prank," McTavish said. "But, in politics, the difference between truth and lark can be nearly indistinguishable."

McTavish also questioned whether individuals will want the responsibility which would come with such political input, since officials have traditionally performed the "role of the concerned and knowledgeable citizen for us."

"People have pressing day-to-day concerns that take their attention away from the in-depth ramifications of sewage systems, land development issues and the intracacies of the taxation system, especially after a full day of working, attending classes, or raising a family," he said.

Cyber Roadblock

Stephanie Haye, in her article "The Cyber-Roadblock", calls cyberdemocracy part of society’s "blind lust for technology" which would stress the differences between a country’s haves and have-nots.

Low-income families who can’t afford the technology are not likely to rejoice when it is announced that the public can now vote, protest government legislation or receive information on an important bill, all on-line from a home computer, Haye said.

"The end result is a polarized human world where those who can afford to get ahead have a voice, and those who are financially disabled lose out at no fault of their own and are once more silenced," Haye said.

[Cyberdemocracy Index USA On-line Pros Cons]