Part of the EmergentDemocracy discussion.
The Constitution: Protecting Minority Rights in Democracies (of any kind)
Direct Democracy = Dangerous: I'm always the first person to be in favor of a more direct system. But I'm not sure about direct democracy. Direct Democracy does not respect at all minorities. It's often the voice of the most important group which wins and not necessary the most interesting point of view. A good example of that, has been the "Abolition of Death Penalty" in France. If the decision would have been made with direct democracy, the abolition would have never happened. :/ To Direct Democracy, I prefer the notion of consensus, discussion, which is a process which is lot longer and works only in small community. -- KarlDubost
There's nothing stopping a society from a) polling the entire populace for every decision, b) having a constitutional limitation on those decisions, c) having a judicial branch overseeing the protection of the constitution. If you hem in the voters sufficiently, you can protect minorities. -- SunirShah
A couple people have commented about the scalability of direct democracy. I'm more concerned about the tyranny of the majority. In the US, and probably in many other democracies (and human societies), there's a worrying tendency toward conformism. Bloggers so far seem just as likely to follow the crowd as any other group of humans. So how does emergent democracy protect people with unpopular opinions? Why is emergent government necessarily even democratic? Some countries around the world seem to prefer theocracy, oligarchy, and other non-democratic forms. -- KatherineDerbyshire
The usual political tool for this kind of thing is a constitution. The constitution makes a promise of values to all citizens. All laws passed must then protect these values. There must be an institution to verify this, as mentioned by Sunir above. A lack of such an institution (such as the Verfassungsgerichthof in Karlsruhe, German) weakens a constitution because it cannot be enforced by the law (this is the case in Switzerland). Often the constitution can be changed by some means -- a significant ¾ majority in parliament, for example, or an initiative (in a direct democracy such as Switzerland). Changing (amending) the constitution is a very significant and important act; and this is the second weakness of a constitution. It can be overruled by overwhelming majorities. -- AlexSchroeder