An anonymous reader writes: Political discussions frequently conclude that democracy is at best a symbol. It is widely understood that lawmakers and politicians generally serve special interests more than they serve the people. This is no secret: everyone knows about lobbyists, campaign contributions, kickbacks, pork, earmarks, and the classic "smoke filled room" where political deals are made in secret. All of these problems can be summed up in the simple phrase, "power corrupts," and empowered individuals are a necessary component of representation-style democracy. We have never had another means of instituting democracy as a broad and general system of governance because it has simply been impractical. But social internet tools change everything. There are now scores of projects building creative and diverse systems meant to apply the principles of open source to the procedures of lawmaking. Can we eventually create real democracy, instead of the cheap imitations we have had to date? Or will we forever be reliant on empowered leaders to guide and protect us?