Table of Contents
We Need to Modernize our Governments -1-
Getting Along with Merchants -2-
The First Postulate: We Think -3-
The Right to Pursue Property -3-
Balancing the Level of Detail -4-
Proving Communism -4-
The Value of Money -6-
The Need to Know -7-
An Overview of Resource Distribution -8-
Getting Along with Neighbors -8-
Dynamic Districting -8-
Let Residents Choose Among Localities -9-
Let Localities Specialize -10-
Let Localities Choose Among Regions -10-
Taxing Property -11-
Unconstrained Legislatures -15-
Install Secure Networks -15-
Introduce Timely Weighted Voting -16-
Publicize Debate -17-
Help Voters Choose -18-
Handling Constraints -18-
Separate Civic Information and Elections Duties -19-
Share Time -19-
Stranded Pillars -22-
Predictable Harms -22-
When to Disallow Locality -23-
Enforcing Morality -24-
Executive Branch -24-
Judicial Branch -25-
What next? -26-
Intuitive knowledge of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand and of US English recommended.
Copyright © 2000 Alan M. Robertson. All rights reserved.
Our governments are fatally flawed; their designs are out of date. We no longer live in a day when all voters can speak at town meetings for five minutes each - and have the meetings end before midnight. We no longer spread ideas at equine speed. We are replacing the rule of law with the rule of political insiders and high-priced lawyers. Politicians have continually updated their poll driven politicking. We need them to update our governments to reflect current and emerging technologies.
There is no easy way to guide such updates. This document is not an easy read. The difficulty is not multi-syllabic words and long sentences. The difficulty is obscure and complex ideas. These interconnected ideas must be presented sequentially. This document moves quickly through many topics. The document is not meant to be the last word, but the first words of a new conversation. It does oversimplify. It does ignore serious concerns. It is hoped that readers will expose these points in future discussions.
This document is an attempt to outline a framework with which to update governments. Governments are significantly broken. General principles dominate the early sections. The creation and use of frying pans demonstrate the importance of tools. The placement and operation of firehouses suggest how we can best cooperate with neighbors. Specific plans are discussed in later sections. We need a better system to enact laws. The executive and judicial branches can better serve legislative wishes.
We Need to Modernize our Governments
Instead of living in the day of town meetings, we live in a day of dense population. Back then, one's life centered on one's village. Residents of such a village would tend to agree on various issues. It made sense for them to elect one person to represent them. Now, we live in virtual villages which transcend geography. We travel to work, we travel to study, and we travel to play. We need governments which reflect our virtual villages.
Instead of living in the horse and buggy era, we live in the electronic age. Then, citizens eked out existences with few mechanized tools; elections were scheduled after the harvest but before the winter. Now, elections may interfere with retailers' needs to update decors from Halloween to Christmas. Politicians no longer ride home to discuss issues with their constituents, they find a camera and preen. While government's design stagnated through the industrial revolution, politicians learned to fly out for a quick fund-raiser. As the information age dawned, politicians were quicker to computerize their political machines than the civic institutions they swore to serve. We need governments which reflect the information age.
Instead of gathering information from a small circle of friends and hand printed newsletters, we now gather extensive information from opinion polls and computer compilations. Concentrated information can be abused as part of a smear campaign. It can be abused in financial markets. It can be abused to extort. But it can also be helpful. Criminal histories increase public safety. Credit ratings help maintain an ample flow of credit to worthy borrowers. Driving records help encourage safe driving by exposing bad drivers. Opinion polls help improve the supply of goods and services. We need governments which protect our privacy and help inform the populace.
Our society is falling apart. In some communities, it is impossible to find competently operated fast food outlets. We retain election systems that routinely indicate disenfranchisement. Duly passed laws are routinely ignored, effectively allowing random searches. Civil servants are expected to manipulate public activity for partisan gain. Faced with unflattering truths, politicians are expected to equivocate at best. The combined failures of our educational and legal systems compel warnings like "remove baby before collapsing stroller." Breast implant makers have been pilloried despite a lack of definitive evidence. Governments profit from nicotine and alcohol addictions. We need governments which demand and respect individual responsibility.
Getting Along with Merchants
In 1776, Adam Smith foresaw individuals participating in a free economy. They produce the right goods at the right prices, as if guided by an invisible hand. Unfortunately, the need to let private citizens freely engage in commerce is underestimated, as is the need to let citizens govern themselves.
The First Postulate: We Think
People host a stream of thoughts; happy people host happy thoughts. One simplified stream of thoughts leads from pangs of hunger to food preparation to consumption to clean up. People pursue more pleasant thoughts; they tend not to burn food as that leads to less pleasant thoughts during the consumption and cleanup phases. People observe reality and what possible actions they may next take. They continually hypothesize which actions are more likely to lead to good thoughts and act accordingly.
One could more closely analyze people as animals that think. It is hard for a starving animal to be happy. That said, there is no finite level of possible good thoughts. If one person suddenly becomes more happy, there is no truism which states that there must be some equal and opposite lessening of happiness elsewhere. Sadism aside, thought improvement is not some jungle law win-lose proposition.
The Right to Pursue Property
Tools are an important part of improving thought quality. People invented cooking utensils to better prepare food. People wear body armor to diminish the pain of bruising blows. People invented weapons to more reliably catch better food. People invented massage oils to increase the pleasure derived from massages.
Using a tool to better one's thoughts is a two step process; the tool must first be created and second be used. Initially, tools were created so the user might achieve better thoughts. Most tools are not picky though, many people can improve thought quality from the same tool.
Some people would use a tool such as a spear to incapacitate the maker of, say, a frying pan. That done, the spear wielder can gain exclusive use of that frying pan. Notice that this is not a free market win-win situation. This is a jungle law win-lose situation. If frying pan makers come to expect that they will never be able to use those frying pans, they will stop creating them. This is true whether the spear wielder keeps the frying pan for personal use or selflessly gives it to someone else. If society as a whole wants to use frying pans, they will need to prevent frying pan theft. That is, only societies which band together to protect property rights prosper.
Balancing the Level of Detail
If this document has any single moment of truth, this may be it. The previous paragraph's logic is literally flawed. It hides the fundamental value of communism. But it does express a fundamental truth which is crucial to the next generation of government.
That logic is flawed. Currently, frying pan makers tend to make frying pans for others, not themselves. They tend to be rewarded with a virtual tool, cash (more on cash later). Most products are more complex than frying pans. Many people create wealth by providing services, not products. And some frying pans are created not to gain better food, but to avoid unpleasant spearings. We need a balanced approach. We need to avoid errant assumptions as much as we need to avoid fixating on details. We can revisit controversial assumptions - and the conclusions drawn from them - later.
Property rights are not the only way to reward tool makers. Tightly knit communities do not need property rights. In tightly knit communities, such as idealized American Indian tribes, people care for others as they care for themselves. Such spear wielders choose to not steal frying pans because the unpleasantness of guilty thoughts overshadow the improved gastronomic thoughts. Such communities do not need property rights to retain motivated tool makers.
Instead, property rights can lessen the quality of life. Tracking ownership rights takes effort which could be used to create other tools. Communities which informally share their frying pans will not need to create individual frying pans for each cook. In tightly knit communities, communism encourages the creation of wealth better than capitalism.
Not all communities, including the community of man, are tightly knit. We live among too many would be spear wielders. If we err and impose capitalism on a commune, we may breed disrespect for the rule of law. We may create a joyful society unable to defend itself. That said, because a commune's members can continually share tools and give gifts, the overall harm of imposing capitalism will be small. But if we err and impose communism on uncaring strangers, then we will inevitably create a society where the most important tools are those which inflict bad thoughts on others. The overall harm will be large. If we are unsure which economy to impose on ourselves, we should select capitalism.
Again, people garner better thoughts by building tools. People garner better thoughts yet by better learning to use the tools they already have.
One can break the process of food preparation into three parts: killing, cleaning, and cooking. For a small group to have the best food, they will need to have the best killers, the best cleaners, and the best cooks. But practice makes perfect. Killers tend to become better killers with experience; cleaners and cooks also get better with experience. For this reason alone, societies should encourage citizens to specialize.
There are other reasons. First, different people are better suited for different tasks. People with strong arms will be better able to hunt; people with nimble fingers will be better able to clean. There are transition costs. For a single person to clean and cook much food, they may have to continuously swap tools, dropping a paring knife for a frying pan and vice versa. With one person cleaning and one person cooking, no time will be wasted swapping tools.
The society which best allows their citizens to specialize in their professional skills will be the wealthiest.
The Value of Money
Cash is valuable because it encourages people to specialize. It rewards people for producing tools which help others improve thoughts. Cash is also valuable because it tells a society which goods to produce.
Consider two pan-frying societies. In the first society, too many people make frying pans. The housewares merchant always has ample stock. When frying pan makers try to sell frying pans, the merchant will not pay much money. When youngsters decide what trade to learn, they will see impoverished frying pan makers with low incomes. They will be less likely to make frying pans. Over time, the glut of frying pans will disappear.
In the other pan-frying society, there are not enough frying pan makers. The housewares merchant rarely has frying pans on hand. When frying pan makers sell frying pans, they can expect large amounts of cash. When youngsters decide what trade to learn, they will see wealthy frying pan makers with high incomes. They will be more likely to make frying pans. Over time, the scarcity of frying pans will disappear.
Societies tend to produce just enough frying pans for other reasons. Frying pan makers can move from the first society to the second, helping to address the former glut and the latter shortage. Traders will transport frying pans from former society to the latter. People skilled at, say, cooking and pan making will tend to cook in the former society and make frying pans in the latter society. Cooks will more likely specialized in fried foods in the former society; cooks will more likely specialize in raw foods in the latter society. In the former society, people are more likely to cook with sticks. In the latter society, people are more likely to use frying pans to hunt.
This is another literally wrong but instinctively critical argument. The communist exception still exists; squaws need not become poor to redirect their efforts from, say, cooking to cleaning. That said, prices determine how a society should allocate resources; high prices indicate a need for higher production and lower consumption. Low prices indicate a need for lower production and higher consumption.
The Need to Know
People can only react to prices if they are informed. People can't directly pursue good thoughts. People pursue the perceived sources of good thoughts. Knowledge itself is a tool. People use knowledge to improve thought quality.
Frying pan makers that do not know of communities in greater need of frying pans will not know to help those other communities. Instead, such artisans may change careers, adding less value to their communities and enjoying their work less. Knowledge of foreign markets is a tool which artisans can use to find more motivated buyers.
Reputations matter. Some frying pan makers may use imperfect materials, perhaps poisoning food so cooked. Consumers have a right to know which artisans tend to create low quality products, lest all artisans get shunned. Cooks would use frying pans less often; these home made frying pans would be of lesser quality. That would lead to fewer good thoughts.
Information is important to provide for the common defense. Unless good people communicate with each other, bands of thugs will be able to travel from village to village, spearing the innocent and stealing tools at will. Or swindlers may travel from village to village, gaining tools in exchange for empty promises.
We need to assure free and full communication.
An Overview of Resource Distribution
It may seem that the above does not have much to do with government. It does. It represents the foundation of knowledge from which we should derive government. Because Adam Smith and Karl Marx disagreed about the corrupting influence of power, they promoted sharply different governments. So I repeat myself here.
People naturally pursue their own happiness. Pleasure is not a win-lose proposition; it is possible for everyone to gain. Among strangers, property rights encourage the formation of wealth. People need to conspire for the common defense. Among friends, the red tape of property rights hinders the formation of wealth. For a society to prosper, citizens should learn specialized skills. The love of money encourages specialization and the best allocation of resources. Free markets need accurate information to succeed.
Notice that there are two fundamental ways to allocate resources here. The benefits of capitalism are indirect and difficult to communicate. The benefits of communism are direct and easy to communicate. With capitalism, identifiable resources are individually owned; it is in the selfish best interests of these individuals to manage these resources well. With communism, no one owns any resources. Resources are well managed because people care as much for the community as they do for themselves.
Getting Along with Neighbors
We need a third way to allocate resources. We need a system in which societies select qualified strangers to allocate public resources. We need good government. To be good, governments must balance the oversight of local control with the economies of regional scale.
One reason people form governments is to protect all buildings from fires. Fire protection equipment is relatively expensive to buy and relatively cheap to operate. The costs of fire protection should be shared by community members.
To best minimize fire damage, firehouses should change associations on occasion. Some property owners should contract protection from more distant firehouses. Some firehouses should share risk with more distant regions. And some firehouses should obtain equipment and supplies from more distant sources. Neighbors should also conspire to connect homes to local networks.
Let Residents Choose Among Localities
Property owners need to be able to select between nearby firehouses. Sometimes, one of these firehouses will provide greater protection at a greater cost than other nearby firehouses. This will mean ordering firehouses to sometimes allow property to be destroyed by fire. So long as they protect neighboring homes, such property owners should have the right to obtain lower cost fire protection. These property owners may use their untaxed money to better prevent fires with, say, smoke detectors. Removing the right of homeowners to select less able firehouses may increase the likelihood and severity of fire damage.
We should allow property owners to select the firehouse with which to contract service. As fire stations vary in their effectiveness over time, so will their support. As incompetent firehouses lose support, neighboring firehouses will be encouraged to expand their operations. They may station a fire truck in a local parking lot. Or a new firehouse may arise to meet demand. Either way, property owners will be able to select a firehouse which meets their needs. Either way, bad firehouses will be motivated to improve.
This is an important yet obscure point. With the luxury of time, it would be better to have $10 and receive $10 per day than to have $100 and receive $1 per day. That is, it is better to have low wealth and high income than high wealth and low income; the highest wealth will come with time. Having the protection of nearby firehouses is a form of wealth. Allowing property owners to select less able firehouses creates a form of income. The safest communities will be the communities which will have allowed firehouses to ignore nearby fires.
Let Localities Specialize
Sometimes different properties will pose unique and difficult risks. Specialized firehouses should evolve to handle such risks. Firehouses which specialize in house fires should be common in residential neighborhoods. Firehouses which specialize in chemical fires should be near chemical stores. Where firehouse specializations can readily provide protection against other hazards, specialized firehouses should grow in duties. Firehouses which specialize in chemical fires, with such tools as breathing apparatuses and chemical neutralizers, should expand to contain chemical spills.
Let Localities Choose Among Regions
We can also improve fire protection by allowing firehouses to associate with neighboring firehouses. This best applies to unspecialized firehouses in large areas. Here are some assumptions. Firehouses will contain two trucks; it takes one truck to contain a fire and two trucks to extinguish a fire. Nobody wants to lose fire protection when a neighboring house catches fire. Nor does any locality want to have to pay to maintain the third truck it would take to contain a second fire.
So fire houses enter into associations. When the trucks of one firehouse respond to a call, a single truck from another firehouse temporarily relocates, providing the ability to contain any fire in either locality. All buildings retain fire protection at low cost. Over time, some firehouses will demonstrate superior abilities to fight fires. When neighboring firehouses request assistance, they will tend to contact their more competent peers. If we allow firehouses to charge other firehouses for assistance then the more competent, busier, firehouses will be able to finance more or better equipment.
This bears repeating. We should break governments into localities, allow citizens some freedom to freely select localities, and allow localities to freely associate with each other. This will effectively direct resources to the most effective localities and, over time, provide citizens with the best possible government.
Finally, we can improve fire protection by allowing firehouses to obtain equipment from different sources. Such equipment will need occasional maintenance, repair, and equipment. Just as consumers can obtain and maintain the best tools with which improve thought quality, firehouses can thus obtain and maintain the best tools with which to fight fires.
A compassionate society may deem some services, such as the common defense, education, hospitalization, and fire protection, as mandatory. To ignore such problems would seem cruel. Charity aside, those who use services should pay for those services. In societies that impose compassion, everyone should pay taxes.
As an aside, compassionate societies are not necessarily those with the most imposing governments. A compassionate society is a collection of mostly compassionate citizens. A society that taxes citizens in the name of compassion lessens the ability of those citizens to individually help their less fortunate neighbors. Just as societies which do not regulate frying pans best empower cooks, societies which do not regulate compassion may best assist the less fortunate.
We get the best use of frying pans (and the raw materials from which they are made) by balancing opposing needs. Consumers need to pay enough for goods to goad production; this tends to increase prices. Consumers need to have other places to spend their money; this tends to lower prices.
We need to get the best use of land by balancing opposing needs. Property owners need to pay enough taxes to pay what the community thinks is their fair share of government's costs; this tends to raise taxes. We need to let property owners that seemingly understate their fair tax burden extract fair value in exchange for their land.
We should let localities set their own tax rates and let property owners set their own property values. We need an autobuy feature to let outsiders purchase seemingly undervalued properties. To do this, localities would also have to set an autobuy rate. We would have high autobuy rates where we want stable neighborhoods. We would have low autobuy rates where we want dynamic neighborhoods. With an autobuy rate of two, if a property's value is $100, then anyone can buy that property for $200.
It may seem heartless to throw a family or a longstanding business into the street. But such can only happen when, by the property owner's own declaration, the property owner receives more than fair compensation. With this, bureaucrats will not need to value properties. Nor will they be able to profit unfairly therefrom. Sclerotic businesses would be expunged from dynamic business districts. Too, we make it easy to assemble land for highways, landfills, and factories.
Just like neighbors will need to conspire to fight fires, they will need to conspire to connect buildings to local and regional networks. Most neighborhoods should have networks to carry cars, water, and sewage. Most neighborhoods should have networks to carry electricity and electronic information.
As tools, such networks have different cost structures than frying pans. Networks have a high up front cost and a low marginal cost. They are natural monopolies. Owners of networks can often charge high prices until they receive competition. They can lower prices until they drive their competition out of business. Then they can raise prices again. This is closer to jungle law win-lose than free market win-win.
Roadways, for example, should be owned and managed by local government. To get the most value from scarce resources, governments should mimic free markets. They should charge users of goods and services for those goods and services. Roadways should be built by those that use the space (mostly cars) and repaired by those that do the damage (mostly trucks during the freeze-thaw cycle).
Phone networks should be a hybrid system. At the most local level, it would be too costly to have two companies wire homes to local telephone poles or even the neighborhood telephone poles to regional networks. Just as different cooks should be able to purchase frying pans from the merchant of their choosing, different neighborhoods should be able to grant their neighborhood monopoly to the phone company of their choosing.
It may be cost effective for competing companies to provide regional networks. Regions should be able to break up regional phone monopolies. Just as different cooks should be able to purchase frying pans from the merchant of their choosing, different neighborhoods should be able to select the regional network to which to connect their neighborhood network.
The localness concept can be extended to the personal level. It makes sense for public laws to be more restrictive of activity in public than activity on private property. Still, some activities are so egregious that civil societies feel compelled to intervene. Hugs, for example, are ok in public. More passionate embraces should be reserved to more private settings. The public should intervene to prevent involuntary embraces.
The most local level of government has only one person. As a collection of a whole number of people, government can be no smaller. And considering one person allows us to apply general principles of locality. If DNA defines which body parts belong to which person, then an expectant mother becomes a community of two or more. Smoking during pregnancy becomes a criminal assault. Abortion becomes murder.
Demanding that an expectant mother support her fetus violates the principle of local control. The right of local control should be balanced with the right to emigrate. Barring some sort of eviction process, abortion should be outlawed. After learning of such eviction notices, pro life groups should either extract and care for fetuses or find another soul to save.
Some citizens will demonstrate the inability or unwillingness to respect the rights of others. We should try to help criminals. Criminals should learn or die.
Citizens have a right to band together to protect themselves from criminals. It is more efficient to remove the worst perpetrators from society than to recover from continuing crime sprees. We must balance this efficiency with the need to not wrongly punish falsely accused or reformed criminals.
We should rid society of the hardest criminals while protecting the innocent from the harshest punishments with a policy of three-strikes-and-you're-out. To receive a strike, a person would have to be convicted of a crime. After each strike, victims should have the opportunity to vent. After the first two strikes, criminals would be restrained, retrained, and retaught. After the third strike, the criminal would be executed.
The most problematic usurpation of local control may involve insanity. Apparent insanity can include the use and abuse of mind-altering substances. The ability to control drug abuse lessens as the need to regain control grows. There are compelling reasons for a society to remove the ability of drug abusers to obtain drugs. But some of these drugs can be used to control otherwise unbearable pain. Some drugs can help heal. Before Christopher Columbus, Americans used peyote to improve their spirituality.
Government is neither a guarantor of sanity nor the sole source of salvation. The results of people who wrongly blaze their own trails can be tragic; it is difficult to watch someone destroy themselves. There are many people who seek the opportunity to help others overcome difficult problems. The results of people that rightly blaze their own trail have greatly enhanced our lives. The Earth does revolve around the sun.
Moreover, government attempts to impose sanity are harmful. The combined efforts of drug dealers to profit from the drug trade far exceed the ability of governments to eliminate those drugs. Attempts to outlaw drugs inspire disrespect for authority and empower criminal organizations. The economic harm of the drug trade exceeds the combined physiological and psychological harms of the drugs themselves.
People tend to ignore civic concerns they cannot control. The economy improves when consumers make marginal changes in buying patterns. Government will improve when voters can make marginal changes in legislation. It is better to trust voters with this power than to entrench elites.
We need to update the way voters control legislation. We need to replace occasional elections at polling places with continuous elections on a secure computer network. We need to improve the way that voters select legislators. In a similar manner, we need to improve the way that legislators select legislation.
Install Secure Networks
We need to replace current elections with a secure election network. Current elections approximate the wishes of motivated voters on election day. It is too easy to stuff ballot boxes. Votes which have been cast are too often not counted. Voters are too easily swayed by last minute electioneering.
Our secure election network should retain the list of candidates supported by each individual voter. It would also maintain a list of other declarations made by voters. We would need extremely reliable administrators to operate this network, more on that later.
Voters would need to identify themselves twice. They would first identify themselves to a clerk. The clerk would initialize a secure workstation for the voter. They would then identify themselves to the computer network with an electronic scan of some unique physical characteristic such as a retinal scan or fingerprint. Once inside the booth, voters would be able to cast their votes and make other civic declarations.
There should be a poll tax. The right to live in a free nation is a service bestowed by good government. Good government provides this valuable service by maintaining a system of free and fair elections. Those that cast vote should pay for the system that assures that their votes count.
Just like we need a secure network to distribute electoral power, we need a secure network to distribute legislative power. To help balance the number of legislators who compete to represent voters, legislators should pay for the right to legislate. Voters would have the right to anonymously subsidize their legislators when they vote.
Introduce Timely Weighted Voting
With secure computer networks, we can let every vote count when voters want them to count. We can have a system of proportional representation.
We should enact a system of proportional representation. If, for example, candidate A receives twice as many votes as candidate B, then both candidates become legislators, with legislator A's votes on bills carrying twice as much weight as legislator B's votes. We can let voters change their vote when they change their mind. We should have an electronic system to let people transfer support among candidates just as we have an electronic system to let people transfer money among accounts.
We will still need to have our legislators introduce bills as potential new laws. Some now use Robert's Rules of Order to decide when and how to vote on bills. Instead, we should allow any legislator to introduce bills onto the secure legislative network from their own secure workstation.
With this, any legislator could consider and vote on any bill at any time. Bills would 'pass' if and when they gain a weighted majority of legislative support. Bills would 'fail' if and when they gain a weighted majority of legislative opposition. Bills would 'die' if and when they lose all legislative support. A similar system could be used to override executive vetoes.
We could also introduce the concept of the popular veto. Suppose an unpopular bill passes. If we mandate that such bills must wait, say, seven days before implementation, then voters have less than seven days to change their vote. At the end of the seven day period, legislative weights are recalculated. If the bill no longer has a weighted majority of support, then that bill fails by popular veto. A similar approach could be used for popular passage of bills and applied to overrides of executive vetoes.
We need to get rid of oral debate and bring legislators home. With this, we can largely eradicate hidden conspiracies.
We should communicate political opinion as concisely and clearly as possible. The written word is usually much better for this than the spoken word. To listen, one must temporarily cede free will. One must direct their thoughts at the speaker's whim, or risk missing valuable information. To read, one gains knowledge at one's own pace. It is easier to arrange times to read around chores than it is to arrange chores around times to listen. One can quickly scan old news, pause to digest information, answer the phone, or handle food. To foster a citizenry which better considers political debate, we should conduct that debate in writing.
Written debate would also smooth legislative operation. Committees aside, only one person may speak at a time. Robert's Rules of Order is a complex set of rule which, in part, allows legislatures to figure out who gets to speak when - and who gets muted. While legislators do get to speak on occasion, they must spend most of their time listening to the speeches of others - whether or not those speeches educate or convince. Preferable is to allow many people to write concurrently, review others' works as they are able, and more fully consider the issues.
With this, politicians will not be able to hide parliamentary maneuvers to mask activities (for or) against the peoples' wishes. With electronic vote tallies and written debates, legislators will not need to physically gather. Instead, politicians can reside throughout the country. Lobbyists would not have such fertile places to gather.
Help Voters Choose
We could help voters research which politicians they support. Internally, the election network could generate a list of like minded voters; that is, voters that tend to support the same positions in bellwether issues. When searching for a candidate to support in an unfamiliar area, the voter can review the choices of like minded voters. The voter could also learn which politicians are gaining support the fastest among their group. This would make it faster for the voter to find a candidate with whom they agree on a sufficient number of issues.
This would revolutionize our system of politics. I do foresee incumbents having an advantage over newcomers. I foresee endorsements by retiring incumbent legislators helping new legislators. I foresee newcomers getting started with commercial advertising. I foresee newcomers getting a boost when voters notice that that newcomer is gaining support quickly. I foresee a newcomer's measurable loss of sophomore support as a coming of age. I foresee all politicians gaining and losing support as they make controversial statements and decisions and otherwise address controversial issues. Most important, I foresee better informed voters and better written laws.
Separate Civic Information and Elections Duties
As individuals, we perform best when we receive accurate information. As a people, we need to assure that public information is reliably available. Criminals also preform best with accurate information. As a people, we need to safeguard private matters. We need a separate pillar (more on pillarism later; for now, think of a pillar as a parallel government) of government with three duties. This pillar needs to gather, store, and disseminate critical public information. It needs to maintain free and fair elections. It also needs to continuously demonstrate its trustworthiness to the people.
The competent operation of this pillar is the only way a government can withstand the corrupting influence of history's march through time. If the opinions of these legislators also matter, then some voters will inevitably have to choose between a relatively honest candidate with whom they disagree and a relatively dishonest candidate with whom they agree. We cannot invite any dishonesty into this pillar. The other pillars must determine which information to store and when to share it. Legislators and executives should be selected for their competence and honesty.
Lest someone corrupt this pillar when we are otherwise engaged, the focus of this pillar cannot waver from the core duties of information and elections. This pillar needs to remain limited in scope. It should limit itself to critical information like identification numbers, dangerous tools, laws, public diaries of private citizens, and official diaries of public officials.
This pillar would record a great deal of sensitive information about individuals. Individuals would need to pierce this veil of secrecy to access their own information with relative ease. Individuals would need to have information about themselves sent to third parties. Other government agencies will require access to certain information. Yet other information will be gathered and disseminated at the pleasure of the other pillars. Otherwise, private information must remain private.
This plan demands that all debate be in writing; that legislators will never have to take turns. When legislators do take turns, we want to avoid the arbitrary distribution of power. We should mimic free markets to determine who gets to (e.g.) speak when.
Three considerations define this. First, legislators with the most elective support should get the most time to speak. Second, legislators should be able to speak on topics which concern them the most, when it is timely to discuss those topics. Third, legislators should be able to select between shorter prime time slots and longer off peak hours.
To implement this, we should treat elective support as a form of currency. Legislators would have 'bank' accounts with specific amounts of elector-days. They would use this currency to bid on time slots. Prime time slots during heated debates would cost the most elector-days. Off peak slots during politically quiet times would cost the least number of elector-days.
This plan would need to be tweaked to allow legislators to pool resources for composite presentations; this would be straightforward. It would also need to allow for a legislator to insist on a longish time slot; this would involve comparing the bid of this single legislator with the sum of the highest bids for the individual time slots.
One way to empower citizens is to break legislatures into parts. Currently, freer governments separate themselves into three parts, legislatures, executives, and adjudicators. We should break the task of legislating into parts based on specialties.
No legislator has enough time to fully consider all viewpoints. Instead, legislators break into committees to more closely consider issues. That way, one person per committee can opine at a time. The various committees would produce reports for the full legislature. Legislators can cast informed votes on all the issues.
We need to break the governments into parts I call pillars. Just as individuals can try to become jacks-of-all-trades or learn specialized skills, legislatures can legislate all issues or legislate particular legal specialties. Most USA legislatures legislate all issues; we also have a system of legislatures, school boards, which specialize in education. And just as everyone gains when consumers select from the wares of many economic specialists in a variety of markets, everyone would gain when voters select from the presentations of many political specialists in a variety of pillars.
Because legislators would be selected, in part, based on their familiarity of that pillar, the best legislative specialists would be more likely to get elected. Duly elected medical doctors are now likely to serve on medical oversight committees. Medical legislation is likely crafted by a select group of such legislators. Vote buying aside, citizens nationally cannot reward such legislators for crafting excellent medical legislation; instead, these legislators may fail some local litmus test.
We do need to balance the need for individual pillars to keep focused on their venue with the need to limit the number of pillars. With too few pillars, voters will too often have to choose between the lesser of two evils, and some issues will be ignored. With too many pillars, government will be too costly to operate. With too many pillars, government red tape will become a burden.
We will need a supreme pillar to help other pillars coordinate efforts. We should have a separate pillar in which voters select one legislator to cast votes in the other pillars on the voters' behalves. This would allow a single person to represent their virtual village or commune. The current congress could morph into this pillar by gradually spinning off other pillars. We may want several such pillars, each defined by broad subject area. As stated, we need a pillar for elections and information. We should have a separate pillar for intragovernmental (interpillar) services such as human resources and hardware operations.
In some circumstances, we would want pillars to operate as direct democracies, not as representative democracies. If it is decided that neighborhoods should select a local phone company to operate their phone network, then neighborhood residents should select that provider themselves.
People improve available tools by trading with merchants. Governments improve available services by conspiring with neighbors. Just as we need to address the situation where individuals cannot access a free market for tools, we need to address the situation where local governments can conspire with a limited number of neighbors.
Stranded pillars are pillars which are associated with a region too small to achieve ideal economies of scale. Residents of such localities should normally expect less effective government service at a higher cost. Geography plays varying roles in determining how easily local pillars may become stranded. Localities can also be stranded through incompetence or malice.
Localities which serve small island will have no neighbors with whom to share fire protection duties. They will likely pay more for their equipment. They will likely receive less able catastrophic coverage. Unfortunately, islanders must choose between higher costs and lesser fire protection. We should balance islanders' right to emigrate with the duty of the remaining islanders to pay the added costs of their stranding.
Some localities are geographically suited for one region only. There is a large concern here. One can define a locality's stranded cost as the added cost of effectively operating a locality without the assistance of a regional government. Consider a firehouse at the end of a peninsula. The stranded cost of this pillar is the cost of buying a third truck. The only neighboring firehouse may overcharge for backup. It would be cheaper for the isolated firehouse to accept this gouging than for the isolated firehouse to buy a third truck.
Those who gain benefits from fixed properties should pay to obtain and retain those properties. Some properties are more likely to be damaged by floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural extremes. Over time, these harms are predictable. Scientists talk about one hundred year storms, the expected most severe storm over a typical one hundred year period. Local residents need to protect themselves from such risks. They also need to accept responsibility for recovering from such harms. Or, they can move to a safer area.
Insurance inspectors would help minimize damage and save lives. They would assure that dangerous properties pay high insurance premiums. This would encourage people to locate valuable tools at safe locations and better safeguard properties at all locations. By placing a monetary value on life, insurance inspectors can help us direct our resources to save the most lives.
When to Disallow Locality
Allowing localities to freely associate with neighboring localities will normally allow pillars to morph to the best sizes. Some aloof localities may harm their neighbors. War is a danger.
Water and sewer districts, for example, should morph to watershed boundaries. These pillars could exist at two levels, global districts to set goals and local districts to meet those goals. Global districts such as the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds would negotiate goals such as allowable pollution levels. Local sewer boards would build sewers and treatment plants to meet those goals. This would be good.
But watershed pillars may break into coalitions based on population densities, altitude, or rainfall levels. Downstream localities may outvote upstream localities and effectively usurp their property rights. Or upstream localities may form their own region and pollute or otherwise devalue the water streams. War is a danger.
Another reason to override localities is in the face of imminent harm. Some people demonstrate the tendency to do as much evil as their tools will allow. When such people gain new, more threatening tools, neighbors have a right to disarm them. People prone to unjustly spearing their neighbors, for example, should not own guns.
Finally, some activities, such as nuclear power, may be so risky as to pose regional danger. Regional harms deserve regional oversight. If a particular process is too dangerous, ordinary insurance standards should prove so onerous that its cost renders production unprofitable.
To help prevent pollution, sneak attacks, and massive accidents, sometimes neighbors must impose morality on neighbors. There should be clear agreement that such imposition is valid. The costs of this imposition should be bourne by those that demand the imposition. As with any human activity, imposing morality requires specialists and tools. Specialists should be compensated for their efforts.
When amassing lethal force, we need to not concentrate corrupting amounts of power. One way to well regulate militias would be to separate troops from weapons. Small private companies would hire and pay mercenaries. Geographically based localities would own and maintain weapons. Other small companies would coordinate training. We may need carefully controlled national pillars to coordinate these disparate entities.
Weapons could be cached strategically throughout the world or universe. As threats arise, soldiers would travel to and take possession of these weapons. They would be able to impose morality as quickly and effectively as possible.
With the above, we will have better informed electorates and better controlled legislatures. We will also need to reform our executive branch to reflect the reformed legislatures. Individual pillars would hire chief executives. Supreme pillars would hire chief supreme executives. Low ranking executives would audit private activity and report to legislatures.
In this system, supreme executives should not be too powerful. They would not resolve any extragovernmental issues. They would oversee a machinery which would, upon request, determine which other pillars have venue over particular issues. They may take some regal duties such as calming a nervous populace in trying times.
Chief executives would be selected by a weighted majority of legislators, like parliaments select prime ministers. Just as citizens will privately express support for legislators, legislators will publicly express support for their pillar's chief executive. A new chief will be named upon receipt of significantly more support than the sitting chief. We should be careful how much support is needed to unseat an executive; we need to balance between constantly changing, ineffective governments and never changing, corrupt governments.
Some legislation may be bad. Chief executives will be better able to recognize such legislation. Chief executives should have the right to veto bad legislation, subject to legislative override.
We will need for governments to evaluate nearby risks. Written communication is good to discuss ideals. To discuss actual implementations, face to face verbal discussions better expose deceptions and capture nuances. Where we want executive investigators in the field to oversee private activity, we would want those same investigators to report to concerned legislatures. Investigators would travel to personally audit private activity, and travel to regional legislative centers to personally report results. When talking to auditors, legislators will have to share time.
The judicial branch would have three levels: local, appellate, and supreme. The local level would hear all cases from all branches of government to assure local access for all citizens. Appellate courts would be tied to the particular pillars to assure thorough knowledge of the law. The single supreme court would mediate conflicts between pillars.
Ordinary operations would change. One can imagine a case tried at the local level being appealed to different pillar specific courts. Where these appellate courts reach conflicting conclusions, the local court may have to consult with the supreme court.
Just as we would have a system of supreme executives, we would need a system of supreme adjudicators. It may be difficult to find good local and regional court boundaries. We would need a doubly balanced solution. The supreme legislatures will need to define court boundaries to assure the right amount of local control and the right amount of adjudication by pillar specific courts.
I hope to see a dialogue on this issue. I understand that there is a pending USA constitutional amendment which would call another constitutional convention. I understand that this amendment needs the support of just two more states to pass.
I believe that such a constitutional convention would remain focused on inalienable rights and inevitable truths, drowning out the corrupting influences of the special interests. We cannot let simplistic viewpoints curtail our right to freely associate. Only a focused constitutional convention can restore the rule of law.
These ideas may first be implemented in a foreign nation. There is always a need to replace constitutions imposed by petty dictators. A monarch of some city state may wish to be the first. These ideas will most likely to succeed in economically free nations.
That the new millennium is upon us to me symbolizes the dawn of the electronic age. This is not the time to let the forces of evil solidify their control of our civic institutions. We need for this to be the time for the dawn of a new style of governance.