Loomio: A Voice for Everyone

Your only joy, and your only rest, is to pass from one action performed in the service of the human community to another action performed in the service of the human community...

Aurelius VI, 7

Check out the crowdfunding campaign: http://love.loomio.org

Today I'm going to talk about Loomio, a platform for cooperative decision making. What's Loomio have to do with Stoicism? Well...it is the duty of every Stoic to work towards a just society. The Stoic perspective is a communal one, as I've previously stated. Other than that, I just happen to be deeply interested in technology that promotes cooperation. Loomio does just that, and it's in the last weeks of funding. So here's my personal pitch.

Loomio is a means of making democratic, all voices included, collaborative decision-making fully scalable. The platform allows people to come together for productive problem-solving conversations where every voice is heard and all ideas can be on the table. With Loomio, people anywhere can self-organize and solve the issues that matter to them. That's what I mean by "scalable." Until now, real democratic decision-making has required small groups in face to face circumstances. Now that same process simply requires a mobile phone*.

Why am I excited about Loomio? I work in emergency management. When I was managing a New York shelter during Hurricane Sandy, the hardest thing to do was solicit ideas from our clients. They were the ones who knew what worked and what didn't. They had ideas as to how to make things better. Getting those ideas heard was the challenge. What if every person in that shelter could easily communicate their thoughts, and the best ideas rose to the top of the conversation? It would have been amazing.

All across this world people are being displaced by violence and other disasters and forced over borders into makeshift camps. What if within days of a camp forming, the people could self-organize to solve problems and also magnify their voices in the face of the international organizations that arrive to bring aid? It could change the face of community agency.

And yes, Loomio could also make organizing a local block party all the simpler.

Here's a few final points about Loomio, it's:

  • mobile, so it works across all devices
  • safe, so you can control your own data and privacy
  • accessible, so people of all abilities can participate
  • free and open-source software, licensed under AGPL3
  • as easy to use as email

If you look into Loomio and find it at all intriguing, please think about donating and spreading the word. If it doesn't mean much to you, but you have friends or followers who are interested in community organization, grassroots democracy, or who volunteer for international NGOs, pass the word to them. Loomio is an experiment worth supporting.

Thank you,


*Please don't think that 'mobile phone" means that Loomio is for the wealthy. Most so-called developing nations have mobile penetration levels significantly higher than the "developed" world. In fact, many have penetration beyond 100% (more mobiles than people). Also, Loomio is striving to work through SMS, so users won't even require a smart phone.

Citizen of the World

Let us take hold of the fact that there are two communities — the one, which is great and truly common, embracing gods and humans, in which we look neither to this corner nor to that, but measure the boundaries of our citizenship by the sun; the other, the one to which we have been assigned by the accident of our birth.


The ancient Stoics were the first known Western philosophy to advocate cosmopolitanism, the idea that we are citizens of the world. They insisted that rational beings are bonded through our similar needs and goals and, therefore, we should live for the well being of all. Stoicism is meant to expand our affection for one another until there is no one who is "other." Epictetus states in Discourses 2.10 that a Stoic will, "hold nothing as profitable to himself and deliberate about nothing as if he were detached from the community, but act as the hand or foot would do, if they had reason and understood the constitution of nature, for they would never put themselves in motion nor desire anything, otherwise than with reference to the whole." The Stoic perspective is a communal and universal one. Many of our exercises, e.g. The View From Above, serve to bake that all encompassing worldview into our mind. It is, therefore, the duty of every Stoic to reject the constant othering that society perpetuates and instead accept all people as they are.

When we consider ourselves "right," we consider ourselves better. At least, that's what online conversations about opposing political parties, religious views, and the like seem to suggest. Did you know that everyone else is an idiot at best, evil at worst? Twitter and Facebook sure do. We live in a world that comes together through exclusion. Stoics are not meant to think that way. We should not believe ourselves better, we should believe ourselves blessed.

Actually, I'd prefer to call myself fortunate, but blessed made for decent alliteration. I am fortunate to be practicing a philosophy that brings such contentment. Not everyone has the same foundation to stand on. Marcus Aurelius told himself to, "begin each day by telling yourself: Today I will be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness - all of this due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good and what is evil." Stoics believe wrong action comes from ignorance of a better way.  Ignorance is unfortunate, and sometimes tragic, but it's not worth disparaging those who are ignorant. In fact, Epictetus considered forbearance of others intimately linked to Stoicism's central tenets.

Let me state once again the basic rule of our philosophy: the greatest harm a person can suffer is the loss of his most valuable possession, his Reason. The harm he creates for himself is not transferred to others. Therefore, there is no reason for others to become angry because a person commits a crime against himself.
Discourses 1.18.1-10

I address this because there is a tendency among armchair philosophers to build up their "wisdom" by disparaging others. Practicing Stoics should be outside of that conversation. Aurelius said, "People exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then, or bear with them." Bear with them. It isn't even a high calling. We're not being asked to hold a Free Hugs sign. We're being asked to live as Stoics.

The ideals of Stoicism are perfectly suited for the world in which we're living. They've just been sadly under utilized since 300 B.C.E. Stoic cosmopolitanism demands more than lip service. Stoics engage with the world. Our philosophy was born in the public square, and it's meant to stay there. That engagement has to stem from virtue. We're not meant to be protesters waving signs in people's faces telling them they're wrong. We're meant to be building something true and lasting; adding to the well being of our local and global community. Find contentment in wisdom itself, not in the tangential belief that Stoicism means you're on the right side. Bear this life as a Stoic.