This is my attack on the idea of the current legislature. Before I dive into the substance of this post, let me share my political and economical evolution.
It is frustrating that our public education system, at-least in my experience, does not teach politics, economics, and philosophy. I signed up for an AP class in Comparative Politics in high-school. Up until that point I was a republican and very libertarian in view, before I looked into the author of Atlas Shrugged I would say it was a very influential book on my world view at the time (damn that scholarship opportunity). Early in my college career I took most of my electives choosing survey and introductory courses in the three aforementioned subjects. It was awakening, I dropped Ayn Rand for Aristotle, and learned from various philosophers and their ideas. The S-word (socialism) was very much still seen as an evil word, and up until the financial crisis of 2008 I believed that capitalism was the greatest invention since sliced bread, but I know now I was wrong. The crisis drove me to read Carl Marx‘s Capital and various texts on the history of Anarchism as well as Proudhon, Rosa Luxemberg, and others. I believe that socialism is the only system that we may subjugate ourselves to and still be able to call ourselves human and that society will slowly evolve into socialism, followed by the C-word, which I still have an unnatural reflex to. If I must label myself, then I would call myself a libertarian socialist!
I have no interest in seeing Social Democratic reforms that only serve to let capitalism limp along by placating the proletariat, if societal evolution is to occur, the first branch that needs to be trimmed is the legislative.
For the duration of the history of the United States as well as other nation-states the representative institution of the people has been administered by a small group of, for the most part, elected officials. Our economic system is capitalistic and allows for individuals to amass wealth. Not a bad thing, if you are able to get to the trough first! Alas, most of us are not and this is where the cyclical nature of capitalism comes in. Boom and bust. If you have the capital you can ride the waves , until the tsunami comes and the government has to step in/on the backs of the poor and middle class. Capitalists cause these game-ending events by buying politicians to change laws in their favor. How do they do this? Well, our politicians are human, and corruptible. The fact that there are so few makes buying them a very profitable enterprise. I make no assumptions on human greed other than that we all can succumb to its promises. How do you defeat a capitalists in their unbounded desire, you make whatever they are aiming for unprofitable. This results in the following and by no means unique idea.
Allow representatives to propose legislation, and be forced to propose legislation that a majority of their constituency agrees upon. Allow representatives to become a filler-vote, they vote, but their vote is recorded as the vote for those constituents that do not vote. The voting citizens then decide to tip the scale in favor of the representative vote or over rule it. Replace the vote of a few with the vote of even half the population, and suddenly corporations are unable to infect this branch of government. If they try, they will surely bankrupt themselves, and I say good riddance.
Finally, tie the other two branches to this new form of legislature and perhaps our tree will grow whether than wither away. We all know that the SCOTUS is not holding to its virtue, and the office of the president can swing either way but is often chained by the other branches when it tries to correct wrongs.
The back bone of this new system of mixed direct and representative democracy would be the internet. One person I have talked to argued that the internet is not secure enough, which is nonsense. It is used for business every single day, if it is secure enough for the financial markets, then its must be secure enough to send a single boolean for a bill. I would appreciate hearing what the PlanetPOV community thinks.
- “The Gospel of Selfishness: Libertarians of the right and left” and related posts (reidreport.com)
- States consider legislator layoffs to trim budgets (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Internet not secure? Nonsense.
Estonia has done it since 2005.
Oh, and they’re the most connected nation.
Can you say “forward thinking infrastructure policy” in Estonian?
I agree with some aspects of the above comments. The chief weakness of your proposal that I see is the lack of education and understanding on issues, and I don’t just mean complex ones. I guarantee the majority of people opposed to gay marriage have never had a gay friend, and that radical opponents of abortion haven’t spent much time with struggling single mothers in the inner city, for example.
Your proposal to use technology to reform our government is laudable. Why not take it a step further? We can use concepts of the so-called “web 2.0” to craft a government that is more social and contextual than a simple direct democracy. Everyone could have a say in things that affect everyone, such as taxes or the federal budget, whereas other decisions would be the purview only of the people involved. Do you really want anyone other than nuclear physicists and experienced engineers making decisions on nuclear power regulations? Why should people with no children or other connection to the school system choose who the superintendent is? Naturally there would have to be oversight and accountability between and across different groups and categories, but we have the tools to be able to accomplish all this.
Really appreciate your taking a swing at this.
It has become obvious that our current form of legislation is broken. How to fix it? I would agree with AD that The House basically works as was reflected in 2009-2010 and since, proves how a simple majority there can reflect the latest election.
I agree that it is The Senate’s undemocratic design that has become intolerable. Any supposedly representational body where a single member’s desire to sabotage progress can outweigh a majority vote is anti-democratic and dysfunctional. Also, in modern America, the concept of giving a state with 200k citizens the same power as a state with 30 million citizens is unjust, diminishing the power of the many and exaggerating the power of the few.
I too would suggest that the most doable and viable solution would be to reallocate how Senators are assigned to states and strip the filibuster from use in nearly all cases. For example, all states could receive 1 Senator and the balance could be assigned based on population. Or there could still be 2 per state but an additional 50 senators could be assigned based on population.
Then you have something at least resembling a democracy.
Bottom line though is reforming campaign financing. Until the unlimited spending of corporations is reined in, our democracy and Congress will remain corrupt and unrepresentative of the citizens they are supposed to represent.
I don’t think direct democracy is agile enough to replace representative democracy. Some bills and issues are very complex and require a degree of explanation and research even to Congresspeople, they have testimony, analysis, CBO reports, bills are debated and amended, I don’t see any practical way for regular Americans to be able to supplant representatives on any of that.
Direct democracy only works on binary propositions, voting yes or no on already composed propositions or voting for a candidate for office. If you’ve ever tried to get a small group of people to agree on all the details of anything…then multiply that by hundreds of millions…so giving an entire citizenry of this size the responsibility of legislating would seem a tough proposition.
Representative government has been proven the most effective and efficient form of government historically but when gunk is thrown in the gears or their mechanics begin to fail, repairs and cleaning up are required to get it running properly again.
I agree with you on everything. Direct democracy, as the only system, could not function logistically (well it could, but on geologic time frames). The best first step may be to some how get the Senate to function or to eliminate it… but for some reason I think if the House passes a bill for that, the Senate will not :P! Also states like Wyoming would not enjoy a move to disband the senate.
If that does not heal our woes, then maybe the next natural progression is into a combined Representative and Direct democracy system as I proposed. The Direct democracy component would be binary in nature. Voters would have the power to vote on amendments proposed by their representatives, and be able to vote on bills in their final form. There is no extension to the citizens of legislative duties. If you do not vote, well then your representative’s “passive vote” becomes your vote. This should give an incentive for everyone to vote, because it really will have an effect. Nothing really changes besides allowing citizens to vote on the bills, and either reinforce the vote of the representative or possibly over ruling it. In my mind I see it as an ultimate check on my representatives power, and makes me directly liable for the laws in my country (hence the incentive to vote increases).
I agree entirely with you about campaign finance reform. The system does not fail; money causes it to fail. Representative democracy – a republic – has done fine until you factor in corruption. I think if that were to change, votes would count MORE than money by a long shot.
Of course – beware the suggestion some years back that votes should be predicated upon money in the bank. The two wacko Hunt brothers made that proposition. Yikes.
As far as direct democracy, one has only to look at California and its legacy of stupid outcomes to know that you are correct about that, too, AdLib. The polls reflect the self deception of voters who STILL think we make better decisions than the legislature will. But, then, we all think we’re better than average drivers, too. Any rush hour, any election, we can see how well our delusions are working out.
I resist “baseball bats to kill a gnat” strategies; big solutions to easy problems are also part of the problem such as killing Medicare to lower the deficit. Counterproductive and MORE costly, this is NOT a good idea. Changing the makeup of the House and Senate seems overkill when what is needed is rule changes (filibuster and individual challenges to bills) and finance reform to make things much more responsible. Democracy works if we let it. Remove the impediments to honest elections, honorable governance, and I think you would find we actually liked America again.
O.K. I’ll go first.
I know I say this a lot, and it will have very little to do with the rest of my comment, but, can’t we just get rid of the Senate? The Senate, the electoral college, and every outdated decision we made over 200 years ago. State’s rights are no longer an issue like they were when this country was founded. I gotta think the Civil War tied up all those loose ends.
In your analysis of the state of the current political system, I saw no mention of the American people. How do politicians do this? Well, before they can be corrupted, they have to be elected. That’s what we do. We elect people. I like representational democracy. I like the House of Representatives. They get shit done. Then that hard work goes to the Senate where it’s put in a paper bag, lit on fire, and left on our doorstep.
We’re greedy though. The people. I hate to get all George Carlin here(Wait…No I don’t) but where do you think these shitty politicians come from? From our shitty communities, our shitty schools, our shitty churches. They are us. The “best” of us? Well, recent events probably call that into question. But we put them there.
Your major problem here is going to be when you realize you’ve been helping the wrong side. Are there terrible politicians? Sure. Probably too many. But there are good politicians too. The system is only as corrupt as the people in it. And “the people” are quite corrupt.(see what I did there? “the people”? No? O.K. Moving on)
The problem with direct democracy is the people are fucking stupid. Sorry, but you are. Politicians and “the corporations man” didn’t bankrupt states. The greedy, dumb shit people in that state did. You know how pissants like Scott Walker get elected? By telling a pack of stupid, greedy people how great they are and how awesome it is that they want everything without paying for it.
“Oh lordy, we’ve been duped!” Yeah, they’re gonna have them an awesome recall election so they can put in the next schmuck looking to make promises he/she KNOWS they can’t fulfill. Good luck Wisconsin. You morons.
O.K., I’m rambling now. In conclusion, I admire your spirit, and it’s obvious you put some thought into this. But changing the “structure” of the government isn’t going to change the fact it’s still run by us. And nothing is getting “fixed” til we stop acting like we’re the victims.
Thanks for responding 🙂
Yes, I did not mention it exactly but the proposal gets rid of both the house and senate, where only the representatives get to keep a subset of their abilities (i.e. propose bills, form committees, ect…). I agree, much would be achieved by ridding ourselves of the Senate, which is far more likely.
I should have mentioned the importance of having an educated people before establishing this new form. Of course this is where your point can be explored. Our society clearly does not value education as much as it once did. The issue this time though is that too many of us have this idea that to be educated you have to go through an institution, which you do not. All you need to know to be able to learn is the ability to read and write, the rest comes with time and effort. Too many of us are distracted by entertainment, we concern ourselves with trivial and useless information.
We are the victims of ourselves. A quote of the day from the Daily Planet was along the lines of “Those who do not vote get ruled by their inferiors.” The people are complacent, and until something like an inadequate response to another “Great Recession” happens, I see no reason why the placid populace would rise. I am no activist, I would however gladly participate if a movement started. It wont though, anyone I ever talk to about politics really just shies aways from it, like bringing it up is some sort of forbidden subject. My brother in law who is the polar opposite of me politically and economically (minus the libertarian view point), likes to say that it is all BS and there is no point in dealing with it. TO hell with that, we have a right and a duty to change the system if it is not functioning, and I say it is not.
I realize that the change will not happen in my lifetime, to much has been engraved in stone. However, I intend to plant the seeds in the hopes that it will take root and break the incessant dogma of inheritance.
ADONAI, I totally agree, except I am uneasy with only one house. I agree with eliminating the
My biggest gripe is with no term limits. Personally, I would like to elect my representative for two years; with an option to extend for two more years. Every representative would face a term limit of a total of eight years.
I would also like to see eight year limits on SCOTUS.
How many incompetent or impaired judges have served for years beyond their capacity, because their ‘buddies’ have covered for them?
And HOW do we the people make these obviously unpopular changes??