Arriaga: Democracy Does Not Live by Tech Alone

Manuel Arriaga‘s Foreign Policy magazine article is a well-aimed, much needed corrective to the techno-progressivist formula of popular political theory:

Democracy Does Not Live by Tech Alone

Democracy is in crisis — and more apps won’t save it. Instead, bring decision-making back to the people.

Enthusiasm for reforming our democracies has been gaining momentum. From the pages of FP to the colorful criticisms of comedian Russell Brand, it is evident that a long-overdue public conversation on this topic is finally getting started.

There is no lack of proposals. For example, in their recent FP piece, John Boik and colleagues focus on decentralized, emergent, tech-driven solutions such as participatory budgeting, local currency systems, and open government. They are confident that such innovations have a good chance of “spreading virally” and bringing about major change. Internet-based solutions, in particular, have captured our collective imagination. From Pia Mancini’s blockbuster TED presentation to New Scientist‘s recent coverage of “digital democracy,” we’re eager to believe that smartphone apps and novel online platforms hold the key to reinventing our way of governance. This seems only natural: after all, the same technologies have already radically reconfigured large swaths of our daily lives.

To put it bluntly, I believe that focusing on innovations of this sort is a dangerous distraction. Continue reading