Saturday, June 23, 2007

Electoral Reform--Restructuring the Government

Electoral Reform--Restructuring the Government

While making the new regional governments direct democracies will broaden the distribution of power by many thousand-fold, we need also to restructure the national government (and, similarly, also, state and local governments), while keeping them as representative democracies, so as to redistribute the power, make the distribution fairer and more beneficial, by broadening it several-fold, maybe up to ten-fold. Most people are now excluded from electoral office not because they lack the necessary knowledge of society or leadership abilities to succeed in such positions, but because they are less proficient at fundraising. We need to make it possible for all--or at least, for many more-- who are willing and able and dedicated to public service, to run for office and win a share of the power.

Sharing the Power

The way to do this is to share or rotate each office among all or at least 2 or 3 or more of the candidates who compete for it, distributing the power among them proportionally to their popular vote, instead of, as now, giving it all to the top vote-getter. (Incidentally, this will also help motivate people to vote, because every vote will count, and it will eliminate the old problem whereby, for example, every vote cast for Nader is a vote for Bush--about the last thing most Nader-supporters wanted.)

For example, if , say, 7 candidates run for an office, and receive, respectively, 34%, 23%, 14%, 11%, 8%, 6%, and 4% of the total vote, then they should share the power and perquisites of the office in that proportion. One way to divide up the power would be for each of these 7 legislators (assuming that they were running for seats in Congress, state legislatures, or etc.) to vote their share on each bill--for example, this district's one (1.00) total vote might be recorded as 0.54 votes in favor, 0.46 votes opposed [from that, you can deduce which 3 voted Aye and which 4 voted Nay!]. But when it comes to dividing up the time, the hours each serves in office, this should be up for further study and discussion. The result should be that the total time, number of hours worked, by the 7 office-holders would substantially exceed that which would be worked by one, but obviously, the hours served by any one of them would be less than that which a single official would work. There would be a potential for better government, in that they in total would have more time to give to studying the issues, attending hearings, helping their constituents deal with government bureaucracies, and so on. Also, more points of view would be able to participate in the legislature's debate--such as socialist and libertarian, which might each in their own way have important ideas to contribute to the making of pollicy, but which are excluded by the present winner-take-all system.
As for the salary to be paid each of the electees, there are three main considerations. (1) The most novel one is that there should be merit pay for politicians, rather than all senators, etc., being paid the same. (2) But in addition, as I advocate in the blog on solving unemployment, the principle of "full promotion" means that everyone's pay should largely depend on their age--so that older politicians should be paid more than young ones even of equal or greater merit (note that this does NOT imply that we should pay any less heed to what the young are saying!). This type of seniority system is designed for the purpose of maximizing happiness by giving everyone the experience of income, life, and prospects continuously getting better with time, though it also relates to our natural inclination to respect older folks, and to acknowledge the value of years of experience. (3) The third consideration is that the hourly pay to be given any politician should be proportional to the number of votes they received, since for each hour worked, presumably the higher-vote-getters are representing more people than the lower vote-getters--and also, supposedly, that the higher vote-getter was judged by the electorate to be--and therefore might ACTUALLY be--more highly qualified to wield governmental power.
These three considerations must be combined to determine the pay rates for each politician.

What about candidates who get too few votes?

Any candidate who gets too few votes to share in the power in this way could donate his votes to one of the higher-vote-getting candidates, or accumulate votes from election to election until at last his or her total reaches the threshhold. For example, we might set the cutoff at 5%, or we might say that only the top 5 vote-getters can share the office, or we might combine the two criteria, like a rule that the candidate's percentage share of the vote must exceed their ordered rank, like a 6th place candidate can share in the office only if they get at least 6% of the vote, etc.
Erasing district boundaries

One of the evils of our current system is the arbitrary drawing of district boundaries, which mean that the number of votes a candidate receives depends not on his or her total support, but on how their supporters are geographically distributed. (One example of this may have been the Rev. Martin Luther King, who had millions of supporters, but might not even have been able to win a senatorial race because his supporters were so widely scattered around the country, probably a minority in every state. ) It must be made easy for people to run in numerous districts, and for their vote count--and hence their share of the power--to be the total of the number of votes they receive in all districts.

Evaluative voting

Each voter should be able to not merely vote for one candidate in a field, but to cast differential votes for each of the candidates, such as by rating them on a scale of minus 100 to plus 100. There would be, for example, a big difference between a candidate who receives an average of +60 from all voters and one who receives an average support level of only +20, even though they might get an equal percentage of the vote in an election where each voter could only pick one candidate.

Election results that give everyone reason to be happy

The singular, executive offices--like the President of the United States, which are traditionally held by one person, must be similarly shared by two or three or more. Think h0w much happier it would have been in 2000, for example, if the election had resulted in the triumvirate--Bush, Gore, and Nader, becoming our leaders, rather than Bush alone! We would all have had reason to be at least a little bit happy about the results then! And Nader would have received a far larger share of the vote, because the main reason he got so few votes as he did was that most people who really wanted him felt they had to vote for Gore instead.

Political Capital

You could think of the number of votes a candidate receives as being an amount of capital that they have been given to spend by the voters. In this case, they might be allowed to spend some of it in fighting for unpopular causes. If a bill comes before the legislature that this politician considers particularly vital, they might be allowed to cast 2 or 3 votes in favor, for example, although this would reduce their political capital such that they might not be allowed to cast full votes on later bills. But in this way, politicians who had been elected with high vote-counts would be able to have more power than those elected with fewer votes.

This raises a lot of mathematical questions that would need to be settled, like exactly how many extra votes could a legislator cast on a particular bill, etc.

Weigh the degree of support for a law, not just Yes or No

When a legislature votes on a bill, in many to perhaps most to perhaps we could arrange to make it on ALL bills, the result should not be simply yes or no, does this become law or not, but should be a matter of degree, in particular, a matter of how much money should be allocated to the given project. For example, not Should we or should we not provide prescription drug benefits for seniors, but How much money ought we to spend on such benefits? The bill may be written with an amount--say, $50 billion a year. Under the current system, if the vote is 215 to 214, then it passes and provides $50 billion; if the vote is 214 to 215, it fails and no money is allocated. It is preposterous for one single legislator to have this enormous power! A single legislator should only have a few billion dollars worth of power, of say-so in how and how much money is spent. Therefore, there must be a sliding-scale--something like this:

Ayes minus

----Nays--------% Funding

--minus 50----------0%

--minus 25---------40%

--minus 1-----------70%

--plus 1-------------75%

--plus 25----------100%

--plus 50----------110%

That is, for example, if the vote on this bill were 200 Yes and 225 No, we should still allocate 40% ($20 billion) for the program, because probably the main reason some voted no was just because they felt that $50 billion was too much money. On the other hand, if the vote is nearly tied, it probably means that many legislators are not sure whether we should spend so much, so it may be wise to pare it down a little, to $35-37.5 billion. And at the other extreme, where the bill is wildly popular, it probably means that we should spend even more on the program, like 110% ($55 billion) if 50 more vote Yes than No.

Getting People to Vote

The fact that under these proposals every vote will count will help motivate citizens to vote, but also, people should be paid about $10 (or about the minimum wage for however many hours we might expect them to spend on it) to vote. They should also be paid to study the issues and candidates. For example, courses should be offered which people would be paid to attend, and tests of relevant knowldege should be given, with, say, a reward of 50 cents for every correct answer up to perhaps $50 for a 100-point test. This program might cost $10 billion a year (say, $50 [perhaps consisting of $10 for voting, $10 for attending class, and $30 for scoring 60 on the test--nothing to be ashamed of, it's a fairly hard test] times 200 million voters), but it would be worth it to encourage civic interest, involvement and participation.

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