Some stream-of-consciousness rambles on a new system of government written on the subway the day after the election.
I’m not sure if the entire system is broken and we should throw it out or if it’s primarily the election process. We have a situation where only picking between two parties seems insufficient — not inherently, but because they don’t fully (or even adequately) represent constituents’ views.
Speaking in silly analogies, if we think about a political party as a mixed fruit basket, the electorate are only given two fruit baskets to choose from. And unfortunately there are a few fruits in each basket (ie agendas or policies) that you may not like. Instead of providing the electorate the ability to switch out the fruits and create their own fruit basket, we act like there can only be two baskets.
We need more baskets to choose from. More fruit baskets. You get it.
So how do we better elect candidates that are competing based on issues that constituents care about and not competing based on who’s a sexist bigot and who is corrupt with private email servers. It’s mud slinging and a failed opportunity to focus on issues. The schism between the two parties is so big that elections can be nothing but insult filled exercises in psychology and rhetoric (with Trumps experience in reality TV, he’s right at home and scary good. He essentially speaks in tongues and it works).
The President at this point has started to feel like an unnecessary middle man in a world where I can inform myself on issues that need deciding on. Sure, he or she as President should have the nuclear codes but for Supreme Court justice why is the President our guy? Can’t we take more ownership of the decisions and process?
Our current system — namely the representative vote and the electoral college — is pre-internet. I have a supercomputer in my pocket I don’t need to give my vote away to someone in a room in Washington who by definition has other interests in mind.
This line of thought makes me want to dissolve the government almost entirely and replace it with a software program that allows constituents to vote, pay taxes, see where their taxes are going, and get healthcare.
A system like this could allow you to vote on issues directly, or even align with a party rep that you “follow” — the way they vote, you vote also. Simple and powerful.
So imagine a system where you can be as involved as you’d like, and the “representatives” can represent any number of people — from their small group of friends to their local community to an entire state. You’re busy and you think your friend Shirley is up on the issues? Let her be your rep (and your votes align with hers).
What are the flaws in this system? Not sure there are any at it’s core but plenty of operating concerns. How do you make the platform secure, free, and unbiased? Maybe it’s financed by taxes the same way our government is.
So in broad strokes we replace our government with a software program that’s financed through taxes.
But we need people to build and maintain this software. Definitely. So we use the software itself to elect people to work on the software.
So the software enables a democracy and the democracy enables the software to be managed by a representative group of people. Those who’d work on the software wouldn’t actually be responsible for legislation, they’re responsible for maintaining the system that allows for legislation. Stewards, sort of. We’d pay them tremendously and could have it be a term-limit position. We’d compartmentalize the work they do so they can manipulate the system from the inside.
What makes this idea strong is that it abstracts the “government” (in this case software) from the issues while bringing the issues closer to the people.
Once we have the electorate voting directly for issues, the question of regional legislation emerges. Do we need states? Do we need a country? How do we define shared infrastructure and national interest? Highways seem like a national issue along with trade. Does healthcare and reproductive rights need to be? Can they be local to states or counties or even cities? Is population density actually an indicator of different outlooks and lifestyles and therefore should be the dividing line?
Would it be possible to split the nation by urban and rural and have those two “factions” live in harmony? I don’t really know. Eliminate that friction by dividing those interests. However, this maybe a dangerous separation between the wealthy elite and the middle class. Would need to know the urban / suburban economic make up to know the viability. Perhaps the economic and social ties between cities and their suburban and rural surroundings are too strong or lines too blurry to separate. On the high level dividing the governing lines along social and “lifestyle” lines (rather than geographic) seems to make sense.
The key question? How do we align the ideology of the people with the ideology of the system within which they live? How do we create a government that truly caters to its constituents? Government should be active, effective, reflexive, and participatory.
Or in rebuttal to that, is it even the solution? Maybe what happened in the latest election is what’s supposed to happen. The educated elite were apathetic and complacent and were overtaken by the angry and disenfranchised (but passionate!) Are we supposed to swing back and forth and over decades head the right direction — like a sailboat heading upwind that has to tack east and west when heading into wind from the north. Maybe this is democracy working.
And here we get into ideas of individualism vs populism and whether my self interest is best for me or whether the collection of self interests is better.
Intrinsically tied into our society are businesses and institutions — employers more generally speaking. Aren’t they some of the primary drivers of both social and economic livelihood of the population ( i.e. Having direct control of the economics and lifestyles of their employees)? It seems they have a unique opportunity and responsibility here to be deeply ingratiated in whatever governing system is optimal.
If we assume work and maximizing your skills and utility is fundamental to happiness, how do we lean into that using corporate entities. Already they’re linked to taxes and healthcare and geography and housing and social impact. Could full employment by micro corporate “nations” result in the right social economic climate at large? Corporations are already relocating employees and sponsoring meals, healthcare, continued education — what’s the logical extreme of that?
In this thought experiment, where you work can define your lifestyle and governing body. Companies become the levers by which policy is implemented. There are lots of interesting questions here. Do you work for a company based on your role or the company’s policies (policies = company’s politics)? Interestingly, I believe the companies that will continue to be successful are those that are truly mission driven, what if we gave them the tools to more fully govern employees? What if you work at a pro-choice company or a pro-life company? It’s not a geographic one but an employment one. The companies who want to have a certain culture will define their politics accordingly.
In this way there seems to be a bit of clarity and purity. Let companies govern on the micro and let the software govern the companies on the macro. Or maybe these are two separate governmental options.
The checks and balances are established because the employees set the rules under which businesses can operate (by voting on a national and state level) and then the business manage the employees social rights, healthcare, etc. The same rules that apply to business — in the competitive sense — then apply to the rules they implement socially. The companies that want to retain the best employees with continue to implement the best policy. This feels messy and lot would have to be worked through.
The danger is each company becomes a homogenous subculture — but I suppose that’s already the case in many ways.
If people love their work they’re happy so how do we more strongly align that with our system of government.
So in this model we’d want stricter control over companies, who then define civil liberties. The companies are then policed by laws and regulations that are voted on by their employees in some sort of regional sense. There are still lots of open questions on regions or territories of governing here. But maybe it could be as simple as the company? A company is a governing entity whereby the employees have direct control over policy and leadership? The employees that take advantage of the system then drive their company into the ground and eliminate themselves. Could this be a way to both maximize profit and happiness and quality of life? The model may shatter for smaller companies — they may not have the infrastructure. Small companies could band together as coalitions to provide infrastructure and benefits. That could work.
Maybe this is a version of the coop / kibbutz model. Ideally keeping upward movement as real tangible possibilities (as well as preventing cohabitation and pooled income) prevents the downfall here.
Public infrastructure is an open question — but perhaps private companies could fill those gaps. Then they’re competing for the business of the other companies. Roads are always an interesting example — maybe they could all be toll roads? Or some amount of government is preserved for infrastructure and public safety. Taxes go there. Or perhaps more in the vein of public utilities. Private companies with strong regulation providing infrastructure level services.
Definitely lots of open question but fun to rethink things from the ground up. Need a longer subway ride.