[FoRK] 11 steps to democracy

J. Andrew Rogers andrew
Tue Oct 4 11:46:53 PDT 2005

On 10/4/05 3:29 AM, "Damien Morton" <fork at bitfurnace.com> wrote:
> 1. Mandatory Voting - no quorum, no democracy. It will take a few
> elections before you reach the 80% turnout mark, but eliminating
> eligibility for governement services unless you have a
> certificate that you voted will help things along. If youre a
> citizen, then you vote, otherwise you are less than a citizen.

Government services would have to be thrown out and completely restructured
as they stand today.  The last think we need is to encourage voting by those
who extract the most resources from the system while giving no incentive for
those that put the most resources in.  Things are pretty bad now, but this
is arguably worse.

A better result might be achieved by tying taxation to voting.  Institute a
voluntary flat income tax in some fashion (perhaps just enough to cover a
fraction of existing income tax revenue), and only those that pay it get to
vote.  This allows everyone to either opt out or opt in, and ties decision
making power to being a stakeholder of some sort.

All controversial, of course.

> 2 Dispense with single-member districts and go for proportional
> representation.
> 3. No more first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all elections. No more
> allocating all electoral college votes to one side or the other.

This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying political
structure of the United States.  The 1787 constitution would have to be
completely discarded, starting from scratch with 50 separate countries
again.  The President is the Executive of the States, *not* the people, and
one of the stupidest things ever done in the 20th century in US government
was giving the population the illusion otherwise by letting them pretend to
vote for the President.  For most of US history, the States elected the
President, not the people (not that they do now).

It is worth pointing out that for all hand-wringing over the Electoral
College, the US government still has a far more consistent and equitable
mechanism for the representation of its member States than most of the
alternatives (the EU for example).

> 4. Force the merging and disempowering of local governement. Not
> every butt-fuck town needs its own police, school system,
> sewerage, etc etc. Efficiencies and scale savings here would
> save a ton of money, and eliminate a huge amount of pigs from
> the trough.

This is just shifting the problem somewhere else.  Traditionally, the
individual States are responsible for distributing power and resources.  In
the east a lot more of that power is retained by the States, while in the
west much of the power is delegated to the county.  Considering that eastern
States are about the size of western counties, this is a more consistent
practice than it may otherwise appear.

> 5. (HARD) Force small, low population states to merge together or
> with larger states.

I have a hard time seeing the logic in this; I don't follow how a consistent
application of this across the US would produce a useful result.  The
demographics and distributions vary so widely across the regions of the US
that any consistent rule would generate roughly the same outcome, just
distributed differently.

The mountain West is more highly urbanized than most blue states, and with
absolute populations that are firmly median for the US despite low
population densities at a State level.  New England is where all the small
states are, but they generally do not lack for population density.  The
Great Plains has most of the least populated and least urbanized States.
The south, Great Lakes, and west coast regions are kind of demographically
average, though cut up a little differently.

I guess my question is what is the intended result here?

> 6. If you are going to have electronic voting, charging 25c for each
> vote will ensure that each and every penny is tracked and
> accounted for (and therefore also the votes). Put the nevada
> gaming comission in charge, and payout the monies raised to a
> lucky winner, each election. Better yet, buy inexpensive,
> reliable voting machines from India.

I don't know about the slot machine aspect, but Nevada has produced one of
the most intelligent electronic voting plans around thanks to the fact that
they did use the experience of the Nevada Gaming Commission.  Voting
machines are built to the same integrity and custody standards as gambling
machines, a separate paper trail is generated by each machine, for every
election 1-3% of the machines are randomly sampled to verify that the paper
trail matches the electronic record as an additional safeguard against
tampering.  Basically, they are talking about using the same thoroughly
vetted procedures Nevada has developed to verify the integrity of their
famously strict gaming industry.

> 7. Make it illegal to donate campaign funds to individuals. Instead
> channel it all through the parties (who are somewhat harder to
> corrupt than one congressmen at a time). Making campaign
> donations taxable will ensure that the IRS has plenty of
> incentive to track down and account for every penny.

Ugh, no.  This significantly reduces freedom of political speech.  The last
thing you want is to let the party officials decide who is worth and who is
not -- a ripe breeding ground for corruption and cronyism.  Being able to
only give money to specific individuals is a good thing.

> 8. Introduce a political jury into the house of congress. This would
> be 100 congressmen randomly chosen from jury rolls nationwide for
> a single term in office. Shake things up a little, 100 random
> people are bound to be more representative than the fuckers in
> there now.

The devil is in the details (and very difficult to do in practice), but an
entertaining thought in theory.

> 9. Eliminate fixed 4-year terms. Allow the president to call an
> election anytime he wants. This will shorten election campaigns
> and reduce the power of the almighty dollar in them.

Huh?  4-year terms for who?  Only the executive branch runs on 4-year terms.

On the contrary, I think this would have the effect of making it *always*
campaign season.

> 10. Force licencees of the airwaves to give free airtime to
> candidates. The airwaves are a public resource. Hearing what the
> candidates have to say is a public service, maybe even eminent
> domain applies here.

Not a big improvement, and I expect it would be seriously gamed.  As it
stands, I don't really need to hear the same yammering political commercial
that we already get inundated with during election season, only more so and
by more people.  Debates would be far more interesting, but even then you do
not want the government involved.  In case you have not noticed, there is
coopetition between the Democrats and Republicans, and the only way to
genuinely create a reasonable market for ideas is to eliminate the
government from the process entirely.

One thing I would suggest is eliminating the Federal campaign monies.

> 11. Adopt the Parliamentary Democracy practise of question time, in
> which the President must publicly respond to questions from members of
> congress.

Pointless.  Most of the blowhards in Congress already grandstand with
non-questions far too much as it is.  That should be discouraged, not

J. Andrew Rogers

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