Much has been said recently that it either is (or very shortly will be) the age of “internet politics” – a kind of renaissance of democracy that will return power to the people. Howard Dean was said to be the first major American candidate to use the internet effectively (and still lost) and this year Ron Paul has broken fund raising records by using very similar tactics (he’ll lose too – good thing given some of his policies).

Anyway, this brings me to CommitteeCaller. This is a newly released piece of software that uses information scraped off the web along with VOIP to let anyone in the US (who installs it) call the congressional staffers of every member of any chosen House or Senate committee (it calls the next one automatically after you hang up).

I’m in two minds over this and it cuts to the heart of the whole republic / democracy debate. In some ways it must be a good thing for “the people” to have better access to those that govern the. However, if everyone started using this then obviously it becomes useless as a political tool as the staffers would be overwhelmed and start to treat it in the same way as email (ie either ignored or for automated responses only).

The paradox is the more access everyone has to their representatives the less well those elected can do their jobs.The most extreme alternative, Direct democracy, is a scary concept leading very quickly to The Tyranny of the Majority and was what Republicanism was invented to forestall.

Obviously there’s no easy answer to this. Perhaps

 can provide thoughtful comment or explain how the concept of a Social Contract, which I know he has been studying recently, is relevant here.