Is blockchain startup Flux the answer to direct democracy?

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We certainly live in interesting times. This morning Australia woke up to a hung parliament and continuing uncertainty about its political direction. Flicking on Sky News this morning, commentators were already referencing ‘Senior Labor Sources’ as whispering about a possible leadership challenge to the man who’d just bought the party back from the brink of irrelevance, Bill Shorten. Others were speculating it was no more than a clever, first mover tactic from Shorten’s camp to flush out the non-believers from amongst the party elite. Certainly Labor Senator Sam Dastyari’s appearance on Sky News suggested the latter.

The news of another potential leadership spill will unleash yet another collective groan amongst Australian voters. After churning through 5 prime ministers in 5 years, many globally must wonder how anything gets done at all down under. After years in the political wilderness, plus a stint in jail, the potential reinstatement of fringe right wing candidate Pauline Hanson suggests Brexit like undercurrents of disillusionment and democratic disenfranchisement may indeed be simmering away in the lucky country.

It certainly feels like the world is on the cusp of an era of unenlightened politics. The irony is, with technology and finance undergoing such a renaissance, the failure of our leaders to understand the gravity of this shift and its potential to stimulate the economy from the ground up speaks volumes of the lack of connection and understanding our leaders have with real voters.

That’s why I’ve been following with interest the rise of Flux, a party that wants to allow all Australians to have a direct say on what decisions are made in parliament by leveraging blockchain technology.

Through their mobile app, all registered Australian voters will be able to have a say on how their Flux representative should vote on pieces of legislation. Don’t care about a particular issue? Flux let’s voters trade their one-off voting token with another voter so they can save up more votes for issues they really care about. It all takes place on the blockchain, which provides the end-to-end transparency and verification required to make a system like this work.

Of course, getting a representative into parliament via the Senate is the only way Flux will be able to realise any of the above. It will be interesting to see if they achieved this come Tuesday, when it’s expected the voting dust will start to settle.

Flux has its detractors and its unknowns –  from the way initial candidates are selected to how the voting system and technology itself will relate to the Flux Party entity. Can or should the two be mutually exclusive? If Flux is successful in electing a senate representative, then any Australian will be able to direct how that representative should vote. Some see this as a disconnect – others a benefit. The jury is possibly still out, and may not be able to return a verdict until this social experiment has run its course. I have to admit I’m still trying to get my head around the concept – but the discussions in the Flux Community forum are a great place to start.

In simple terms, the core philosophy of Flux is to hand direct democracy back to you and I. While many people have lamented Brexit for doing exactly that, others have pointed to the fact that either outcome was a result of democracy in action. My view is that we’ll see more and more platforms like Flux emerge in the next few years, providing a voice for those who feel the current system fails them.

Ultimately many of us do want to trust our elected representatives to do the due diligence on economic reform and policy changes on our behalf. But when that trust is broken and corruption and vested interests appear to hold more influence and sway than the public, ideas and concepts like Flux come to the fore.

Whatever happens, Flux shows us a potential way forward for how technology could be leveraged for greater political enfranchisement. And, the fact it is built on principles and technology core to blockchain signifies the deeper undercurrents of the fintech movement, a place where politics, social transformation and economics intersect in order to forge a path towards greater prosperity for all, not just a few.

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