Principled Societies Project

Developing the LEDDA Economic Direct Democracy Framework

LEDDA: Innovation for Thriving, Resilient Communities

Communities worldwide face dangerous problems that can include climate change, high unemployment, pollution, budget shortfalls, high debt, infrastructure decay, income inequality, epidemic rates of preventable diseases, biodiversity loss, and other issues. Those communities that thrive in the 21st Century may well be the ones that become smarter, more organized, and more focused on solving local problems in light of global challenges.

The Local Economic Direct Democracy Association (LEDDA) framework is a set of innovations that could one day help communities reinvent themselves as strong, secure, resilient, and prosperous. It is based on the 2014 book Economic Direct Democracy. The LEDDA framework is a prototype project within the larger program of wellbeing centrality. Concepts are presented in the paper Optimality of Social Choice Systems.

It is helpful to think of economic and governance systems as social choice systems. A society uses an economic system to help decide which products to produce, how they will be distributed, how wastes will be managed, how workers will spend their time, who holds decision-making power, who will benefit, and so on. Social choice systems are technologies, in the broad sense of the term, and as such design-level innovation is possible and should be expected.

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Five claims are made:

The relative optimality of a social choice system is a measure of its capacity to help communities solve problems and organize activities such that collective wellbeing is elevated.

Existing systems are sub-optimal relative to need. As an example, Harvard researchers recently gave the US economy a grade of F, for failure. Climate change, poverty, severe inequality, financial crises, environmental degradation, and other serious problems are signs of sub-optimality.

To better understand the design requirements for successful problem-solving systems, it helps to look at examples in nature. Many types of natural systems, called complex adaptive systems, function as problem-solving systems. Over time, these tend to increase in complexity (e.g., become more sophisticated) in order to better solve or address otherwise intractable problems.

The serious problems that societies now face are more difficult than current social choice systems can handle. To solve them, the complexity of social choice systems must increase. New designs that exhibit increased complexity and problem-solving capacity might hardly resemble existing systems.

Innovation of social choice system design is best studied at the local (e.g., community, city, county) level, using volunteer participants, and as part of a scientific program of simulations, field trials, and inquiry. This approach can allow testing by relatively small groups, at relatively low cost and risk, in co-existence with existing systems, and without new legislative action. Systems that demonstrate clear benefits in local trials could grow in size and spread virally to other local areas.


Social Choice System

A formal or semiformal system by which a community or society self-regulates its behavior. Social choice systems include economic, governance, and legal systems. Also known as decision-making systems.

Relative Optimality

As applied to social choice systems, a measure of relative capacity to help communities solve problems and organize activities such that collective wellbeing is elevated.

Collective Wellbeing

The current and anticipated degree to which individuals, natural environments, and ecosystems collectively flourish. A high degree of wellbeing implies vibrancy, resilience, sustainability, diversity, and health.

Wellbeing Centrality

A nascent multidisciplinary program that spans the design, testing, promotion, and operation of social choice systems that place wellbeing measurement, evaluation, forecasting, and deliberation at the center of decision-making activities.

See the glossary for a more complete listing of terms and abbreviations.

LEDDA Framework

The LEDDA framework is a sophisticated wellbeing-centrality project currently in early development. It is a novel local economic system that aligns motivations for economic behavior with a more realistic understanding of human nature and needs. It can be understood from different perspectives as:

A new type of local (community level) membership-based economic system that acts as an overlay to an existing economy

A system of economic democracy that uses money as a bona fide voting tool and that offers all members roughly equal influence over economic decisions

A mechanism to massively fund local schools, nonprofits, small businesses, public works, research, and other beneficial groups and endeavors

A platform to share intellectual property and increase local self-sufficiency in food, manufacturing, and other sectors

A means to achieve higher incomes, meaningful jobs, and a high degree of income equality

An economic system in which job creation and environmental protection and reclamation are highly compatible

A social welfare system that eliminates poverty

A network of transparent, globally networked economic systems that encourage fair trade, cooperation, and collaboration

A new way to understand economic systems and the role of money

In concept, a LEDDA is a (nonprofit) membership-based organization, similar to a civic club. Individuals and businesses voluntarily choose to become members, at no cost. Once the open-source framework is developed, the primary requirement will be a local group of roughly one thousand interested individuals and businesses. Computer simulations based on local conditions can help inform potential members about expected benefits.

Innovation At the Design Level

From John Boik's paper Optimality of Social Choice Systems:

In a type of jagged spiral evolution, social choice systems have been transformed many times over in human history. Feudalism gave way to mercantilism, for example, which gave way to colonial imperialism, which gave way to modern socialism and capitalism. Slavery gave way to modern capitalism. Monarchies gave way to democracies. Capitalism grew more dominant than communism. In all these cases, the complexity of social choice systems increased, and thus the new systems were able to solve a richer class of problems than the ones they replaced.

There is no reason to expect that social choice systems could or should stop evolving, as this would invite failure. Complex adaptive systems tend to either increase in complexity to keep pace with the rising difficulty of challenges, or they succumb to them. The purpose of the wellbeing centrality program, and the LEDDA framework in particular, is to innovate social choice systems at the design level, to discover ones that are ever more capable of helping communities solve problems and elevate collective wellbeing.

Who Should Be Interested

Take Our Wellbeing Surveys

Like your job? Hate it? Too much stress in your life? Life too boring? We want to know! Please take our wellbeing surveys. Your responses help us understand current levels of wellbeing, aspects of social problem solving, and your views on existing and desired social choice systems. This is an opportunity to tell your story. What you think and feel matters! Results will be summarized on this website and in scientific papers, media articles, and/or other venues. Please take all four surveys, and encourage others to do the same. Each survey has about 50 questions.

Survey #1: Home Life
Survey #2: Work Life
Survey #3: Health
Survey #4: Governance and Economic Systems

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