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Government Techonomy Events

Sean Parker: Can Direct Democracy Work?

In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., Sean Parker, Managing Partner of Founders Fund and a co-founder of Napster, talks about tensions between the theory and practice of direct democracy.

Parker: I’m not a huge believer in direct democracy. It’s like if you compared me to one of the framers in terms of ideology, I was a little bit more Madisonian, and I don’t necessarily think that the experiments that we’ve had in direct democracy, like the referendum system in California, I’m sure a lot of you would agree, has been a complete abysmal failure. The fact that something like, I don’t know if it’s up to a third at this point of the entire budget is no longer available for legislators to manipulate, it’s basically either constitutionally or kind of quasi-constitutionally enacted by the public, which, you know, we’re all guilty of this. We all—you know, when we go to vote in California, we’re promised things like the high speed rail and a children’s hospital in San Francisco, and we go, “Oh shoot, high speed rail, that sounds awesome! Damn man, I want that. How do I get that? Yes, high speed rail!” You don’t even look at the price. You just, you’re like, “It’s magnetically levitated, it goes between San Francisco and L.A. I don’t have to get on Southwest anymore. Cool!” And then you bankrupt the state.

So there’s a reason that we have representative democracy. Elected officials can presumably look at the bigger picture and make the right call.

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