Ideas for restructuring the US Federal Government
I try to present facts and logic and solutions rather than just opinions.
|Please send any reasoned disagreements to me.
If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !
Split the Executive branch in two section
Change to Parliamentary system section
Direct Democracy section
Ideas I Think Are Wrong section
Split the Executive branch into domestic and foreign halves (two presidents)
Domestic half has Education, Interior, FBI, IRS, Justice, Agriculture, Homeland Security, FAA, FCC, etc.
Foreign half has Defense, CIA, NSA, State.
Could even have three pieces:
Security (FBI, IRS, Justice, Homeland Security),
Domestic (Health, Education, Welfare, Interior, Agriculture, FAA, FCC, Social Security, etc),
Foreign (Defense, CIA, NSA, State).
Or a different three pieces:
Regulation (FBI, IRS, Justice, Homeland Security, SEC, Environment, Interior, Agriculture, FAA, FCC),
Welfare (Health, Education, Welfare, Social Security),
Foreign (Defense, CIA, NSA, State).
Advantages: get to vote more directly on issues when voting for each President; tremendous burden of
Presidential duties now split among two or three people.
Disadvantages: increased costs of having two or three Presidents; hard to draw lines between pieces in some cases;
some issues cross boundaries. All are tied together in taxes and budgeting.
Change to Parliamentary system (leader of dominant party in Congress gets appointed to be President)
Advantages: eliminate gridlock when Congressional majority and President are from different parties.
Disadvantage: more frequent turnover in Presidency; if still have bicameral Congress, which house gets to choose President ?
(Interesting item from NPR "Talk of the Nation" show 2012/02/13 about the Constitution:
The Framers were comfortable with the prospect of "gridlock" in the federal government, since
they focused on limiting government. They were reacting against an oppressive monarchy.)
Various alternative forms of DD:
Dominik Schiener's "Liquid Democracy: True Democracy for the 21st Century"
- "Full" DD: Voters vote on all bills directly; no Congress ?
- Voters vote on national policy directives (e.g., should marijuana be legal ?) which Congress
then has to follow. Most things still done by Congress.
(The New England town meeting seems to fit in this category: each meeting operates with a specific agenda,
lots of comments but few votes, mainly vote up/down on whole budget or a new zoning rule.
Wikipedia's "Town meeting")
Cadell Last's "Distributed Digital Democracy"
(same in PDF)
- Voters vote on non-binding national policy advisories (e.g., should gay marriage be legal ?)
which Congress then can ignore or follow. Most things still done by Congress.
- Voters have a few specific direct actions: initiative, referendum, recall. Most things still done by Congress.
(Problems with initiatives:
Peter Bozzo and Andrew Irvine's "The Dangers of Direct Democracy")
Some people claim Switzerland has a direct democracy, but it doesn't; it really
falls into this category. Parliament makes most laws; citizens have rights of initiative, referendum, etc.
Wikipedia's "Politics of Switzerland"
- Political party (or candidate) which pledges to vote, if they get into office, as directly ordered by voters.
Legally, no change to government structure.
Wikipedia's "List of direct democracy parties"
What gets replaced (in federal govt) under "full" direct democracy ?
- Not the judicial branch; still need to have courts, judges.
- Not the executive branch; still need to have president and agencies to execute the laws (regulate business,
operate the military, investigate crime, regulate the borders, conduct foreign policy, etc).
- Not the quasi-independent agencies or corporations: still need Post Office, Federal Reserve, SEC, etc.
- Not all of the Congressional functions; still need to have oversight of executive branch,
impeachment functions, constituent services. (Probably need to keep the staff that draws up bills, too;
that takes a lot of specialized knowledge. Maybe that staff would be moved outside Congress, but
the function still is necessary.)
- So I guess only the legislative-decision function of Congress gets replaced ?
Dialog I had with a DD proponent:
Under DD, would there still be a Congress ? Still be a President, and executive branch, a judicial branch ?
In fact, most of the federal govt would still exist ?
First of all we can set up the government we want under DD, however based on what I see forming ...
Under DD, would there still be a Congress ?
No. Although we might have to employ legal writers to interpret the will of the electorate into legal language.
Still be a President, and executive branch, a judicial branch ?
Yes but instead of answering to no one and trying to balance that power out between themselves those branches
would instead start answering directly to the people who participate.
In fact, most of the federal govt would still exist ?
Yes. As much of it would exist as the participants needed to effectively conduct the business of government.
Congress does a lot more than just vote on bills. They check the power of the Executive branch,
by investigating and holding hearings and impeaching high officials. And they do a lot of constituent
services, beating on the Executive branch agencies when their constituents aren't being served properly by govt.
I think we'd still need a Congress.
How would Executive branch be any more responsive to voters than they are today ?
There are lots of laws about this, national security laws and transparency laws and citizen privacy laws.
Sure, maybe more govt transparency would be a good thing, but I don't see what this really has to do with DD.
Re: "most of the federal govt would still exist": let's get a little specific. FBI and DHS and CIA and NSA and DOD would still exist ?
CDC and NASA and FAA would still exist ? SEC and Fed would still exist ?
All needed to "effectively conduct the business of government", right ?
Or would you use the umbrella of "direct democracy" to get rid of the parts you don't like ?
How would Executive branch be any more responsive to voters than they are today ?
Because the position would be and employee position, not an elected official.
Did you just say the President would be some kind of hired bureaucrat ? As Commander in Chief of the armed forces ?
As chief spokesman of our national policies and foreign diplomacy ? Somehow I think that has to be an elected position.
I can't think of another country that runs that way, can you ? Maybe there's a reason for that.
This is starting to sound like a bureaucracy or technocracy run amok. A two-class America: you're either
inside the govt or outside. And if inside the govt, the only way to be fired is if you violate some civil-service rule ?
There's a reason we have elected officials; they live in fear of getting un-elected.
Is this stuff actually written down somewhere ? All of the DD docs I've seen just have a BIG section
railing against the current system, then start talking about data structures for voting.
Is there something that lays out how the govt actually works ?
Yea. There's a couple of models to draw ideas from but the PDF link I posted 3 months ago has the
basic structure we're assuming in development.
The only group that I know of that is approaching it exactly the way we are is, well us,
'Direct Democracy - Let's create one'. All the others who are moving in a similar direction
have some specific fatal flaws that we hope to avoid or don't quite address setting up a parallel governmental tool.
"What would happen to the oversight and constituent-services parts of Congress ?"
They would remain in whatever form they are needed in. We could actually hire oversight folks who could
report, or set up a smaller focused branch ... Doesn't sound like anything that can't be addressed.
Our 'representatives' don't have magic pixie dust that only allows them to address issues of governance,
just a system set up before they showed up.
"Did you just say the President would be some kind of hired bureaucrat ? As Commander in Chief of the armed forces ?
As chief spokesman of our national policies and foreign diplomacy ?"
Yea. He/she does what he/sbe's told to do in all those critical areas or he/she's fired.
"This is starting to sound like a bureaucracy or technocracy run amok."
Democracy isn't for wimps. It's everyone getting an equal say (which is supposedly one of the main goals of
our Constitution). If you can figure out a way to make THAT look prettier, god bless you.
"There's a reason we have elected officials; they live in fear of getting un-elected."
Why have them at all? Where's the value added? I don't really need them to show up at a remote site
to represent me. I can represent myself. I can even participate from home in my underwear,
the same way I do my banking. So can you. So can everyone in this group.
What politicians should fear is getting phased out completely.
I read that document you gave a couple of months ago, and as I recall it said NOTHING about all of this
stuff you're saying now, about how the govt actually would work. It was one of those that started
with 20 pages of why corps are evil and politicians are evil, then dove into computer programming
of voting. Has it been updated to include this stuff about president being a bureaucrat, which agencies would still exist, etc ?
I'm not hearing a lot of answers from you. Just things like "whatever we find to be necessary
when we get there". That doesn't sound like a good way to design a govt.
You seem to be waving away the whole checks-and-balances structure the Founding Fathers set up.
And I guess you'll have a complete new Constitution, rewritten from scratch ? Any draft of that available ?
Or is it one of those unimportant details some bureaucrat will write some time in the future ?
I'm not designing the government, I'm designing the technology to support the creation of a direct democratic government.
You want me to guess at what the voters will decide will be the actual institutional system and I'm going to keep not knowing.
You need assurances everything is going to be the way you think it should be but democracy doesn't work that way and I'm respecting
that reality while doing my best to answer your questions.
That "I'm not designing the government" sounds like everything will be left up to the voters in a huge Constitution-writing
convention or something ? They'll decide such things as "do we need an NSA, FBI, SEC, Federal Reserve, etc" in one big vote at the start ?
That sounds pretty unrealistic to me, and a bad way of doing things. Design by committee, with the largest possible committee: all voters.
Helene Landemore's "Five lessons from Iceland's failed experiment in creating a crowdsourced constitution"
DD proponents have the wrong idea of "what the people want":
Opening paragraph of Robert Nielsen's "A Proposal For Direct Democracy"
It's fair to say that almost all people value our democratic government and are thankful we don't live in a dictatorship.
We value the ability to choose our leaders and influence our nation's policies. However, it is also fair to say that
almost all people know there are many flaws in our system. We complain about the distance between our leaders
and the people. Every election raises the question of how much influence ordinary people actually hold and
there seems to be an endless list of broken promises. The people's voice is easily ignored and unpopular
policies are often pushed through. So allow me to propose an idea for direct democracy that would solve
this problem and bring the people and the government closer together.
I think this is misguided:
"It's fair to say that almost all people value our democratic government and are thankful we don't live in a dictatorship."
No, I think the American people value their freedom and prosperity.
They don't value "our government" per se. If a dictatorship took hold in govt, yet people
still had freedoms and money, most people would accept it.
"We value the ability to choose our leaders ... many flaws in our system ...
the question of how much influence ordinary people actually hold ... broken promises ... people's voice is easily ignored ...
bring the people and the government closer together."
No, mostly all the people care about is their own personal life and well-being.
Which mostly translates to jobs and crime.
In periods when the economy is good, people don't care which party is in power, what their
policies are, how "close to the people" the govt is, how democratic the system is.
The "people's voice" mainly is saying "jobs !".
It is mainly the activists who are saying "the people's voice is being ignored" and "corporations
have too much power" and "we live in a fascist state" and such things. The ordinary people don't
really care about any of that. And the LAST thing the ordinary people want is to vote directly
on every little law and policy choice; they just want someone to promise JOBS, and deliver on it.
Wikipedia's "Direct democracy"
The Co-Intelligence Institute's "Direct democracy"
Jeff Wattrick's "On Bridges And Ballot Proposals: Direct Democracy Is Always A Bad Idea"
Tyranny of the majority.
Under Direct Democracy, suppose some of the first votes were on:
- USA is declared to be a Christian nation.
- Abortion is illegal.
- The government will not restrict, regulate, monitor or study private ownership, sale or carrying of firearms in any way.
- The government will spend no money to study climate change or promote alternative energy.
- The price of gasoline will be fixed at $1/gallon.
- The IRS will be eliminated.
I could see many of those bills being approved by a majority of the voters.
Some practical problems:
- Who gets to write the bills that are voted on ?
- Who decides which bills get voted on, and which don't ? Which are "policy" and which are "minor" ?
- What happens if two directly contradictory bills get approved ?
- What happens if an obviously disastrous bill gets approved ? (E.g. "The entire national debt
of the USA is repudiated")
- What happens if an impossible bill gets approved ? (E.g. "The government will require China to pay the USA $1 trillion")
From discussion on MacRumors politics forum:
Would it be practical? Can 30 million people find time enough in their day to keep track
of issues large and small? Or limited to just 2-3 dozen propositions every year or two,
would the powers that be control such a process, nullifying the results or worse?
People don't have time to keep up to date on all of the issues and we shouldn't give them the power to have a say in something they don't understand.
When the time comes to amend our treaty with Montenegro to update the section that discusses their
economic development and how it relates to US aid (since it will change when they accede into the EU),
how will you vote on that? Do you really want to have to keep informed of the current state of
economic development in Montenegro? And that's just 1 small issue.
My point is that direct democracy sounds good in theory, and we probably do have the technological
infrastructure to support it, there are SO many issues that are discussed and voted on that it does
actually make sense to elect someone whose full-time job it is to be briefed on these issues,
evaluate them, and then vote in the best interests of his constituents.
I grew up in Muskingum County, I've seen the average constituent. They're armed, barely high-school educated,
poor and white, exactly whom the current GOP is catering to.
Personally, I'd be terrified of how quickly the US would regress when it comes to things like civil rights,
if we were to go to a direct democracy.
The initiative process, in states that have it, is an experiment with "direct democracy". It turns out
to be a bad idea, despite the occasional successes. People vote for all kinds of mutually contradictory
initiatives all the time. Tax cuts. More pay for firefighters. Tax cuts. Longer prison sentences.
Tax cuts. Smaller classroom sizes. Tax cuts. It just doesn't work because there is no way a huge
number of people can understand all the issues enough to put together a coherent package that works.
From /u/RealRichardDawkins on reddit:
> Where do you stand on Brexit?
I am not entitled to an opinion on Brexit since I don't have a degree in economics or history.
It is an outrage that ignoramuses like me are being asked to vote on such an important and
complicated question which is way above our level of expertise.
Nevertheless I shall vote to stay in Europe, applying the precautionary principle and because
the arguments for leaving are mostly emotional, those for staying mostly rational and evidence-based.
But I repeat, it is a disgrace that this important question has been put to plebiscite, apparently as a
sop to UKIP-leaning members of the Tory party. I believe in democracy but in parliamentary,
representative democracy, not plebiscite democracy.
From /u/NotAsSmartAsYou on reddit:
It would NEVER work well, because you can't give everyone access to the classified data needed to make good decisions.
True for many but not all issues, I think. Military, security, intel, law enforcement, tax enforcement, some foreign policy, more.
From discussion on RevLeft forum:
The internet offers great prospects for publicizing debates and information, rationalizing procedures, and saving time,
thus contributing to the realization of democracy. The best thing about the internet is that meetings are no longer
necessary on every issue; in the workers' councils of the future, all members of a community or workplace
could debate online about day-to-day issues and vote at their computer without having to spend hours and hours
going to public meetings where a handful of conniving regulars dominate, and you need to rally your friends just
to come to the meeting to have a voice. I have relatives from Yugoslavia who tell me, "would you shut up about workers' councils,
they were a waste of time, everyone just yelled at each other, the same people still ran the show and got rich off us."
But I think the modern advances in communication infrastructure would get rid of some of those problems.
Direct Democracy alone isn't enough. You would have to change the whole economic and social system too.
I mean, if you kept the capitalist system in amerika and got some direct democracy the upper classes
would still rule through propaganda. And there would still be people who wouldn't bother voting.
If however you completely change the socio-economic structure so the means of production are collectively owned etc,
then the situation changes entirely. You can't just have direct democracy on its own with no other changes.
That's why we're communist revolutionaries and not just direct democrats.
From discussions on Yahoo Answers:
The general public is easily swayed by demagogues and the media. ... look how everyone jumped on the bandwagon for war after 9/11,
after it was hyped by the media and govt. Then a year or so later, many of those who had been caught up in the hype
had time to cool down, and they rethought their opinions.
The opinions of the public are very volatile, and much of the public is sheeple that can be led by their noses
by anyone who is clever with rhetoric and hype ... and thus those people make rash decisions.
Be careful what you ask for ... because the majority of the citizens may decide that they do not like you,
or something you represent. You will learn then what Tyranny of the Majority means.
As Ben Franklin said: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch".
The founding fathers said that Democracy has been tried and it has failed. What they worried
about was that a majority could violate the liberties of a minority. They wanted a nation of laws.
Read the Constitution; the word Democracy (or any form of the word) is not in there anywhere, not even once!
The hyper-vocal idiots would be the most likely to vote, do you want your fate in their hands?
The major con that the founders were concerned with was that once the populace determines
that they can vote money to themselves that would be the end of the democracy. ...
A democracy doesn't even work in social clubs. That is why there is some sort of governing body to make specific decisions.
Also the things that need to be decided are too numerous. Even those of us who have followed politics since
we were 14 get tired of following it on a daily basis. It's worse for those who don't care.
... there is no room for any debate or discussion, and there cannot be amendments to the proposed law. ...
From TED conversation "Why don't we use technology to have a real Direct Democracy?":
The basic flaws with the idea of direct democracy stem from old warnings. Democracy in and of itself a beautiful concept,
much as Communism as written. Neither are truly practiced; democratic republics, representative democracies etc
abound but very few true direct democracies exist. When you ask why is when you arrive at the answer.
1. Direct Democracy is a true mob rule. The most popular idea, regardless of the harm it may impart to the under-represented,
will become the policy.
2. Most people in society do not have the passion or drive to be truly active on all the issues that they will be asked
to form an opinion and vote. For a direct democracy to be effective the onus would be on the population to have as high
a representative vote as possible for equality. Currently in the US we have voter turn out in the 35% range and consider
that a good turn out. The problem is that the 35% figure is of registered voters, not total population. In the last presidential
election, President Obama was elected by 20% of the population.
3. The average voter is too ignorant (not stupid, there is a distinction) on the issues to make an informed decision
and will be very easily swayed by the "American Idol" style of lobbying that would become standard. An uninformed voter
would be more dangerous than a truly malicious voter. The uninformed voting block would be very easily manipulated by the
best lobbying, regardless of the impact of the legislation.
Let's say the issue is a proposed tax hike by the state of X. All residents of X have the opportunity to vote to
either pass or decline this proposed tax hike via their smart phones, tweets, etc. How do you inform the public
of the details of said tax hike in a manner that someone other than an accountant can understand? I am not politically minded
at all. The whole mess gives me a headache. If you asked me on the spot to vote for/against this proposed tax hike,
I would have about 50 questions that would need answering before I could cast my vote. Every person has the ability
to vote now without using their smart phones or the internet. It is a matter of getting to the polls and filling
out your ballot. Some can't make it, you say. Some don't have the time, the energy, the passion. Good. If you can't make the time,
find the energy, generate the passion ... I'd rather you not vote. The last thing I want is some citizen spamming "yes"
to everything because his friends are doing it on Facebook. I don't support enabling the ignorant any more than
I have to via the Constitution. ... The [electronic direct democracy] concept is wonderful, thought up by a man
of average or higher intelligence and I applaud it. Were we living in a society that was predominantly full of proactive
citizens that actually cared, I would support this 1000%. Unfortunately we are not, and for that reason I am casting my e-vote for no.
Make voting for issues as easy as liking someone on Facebook and the idiocy level will increase dramatically.
The number one reason against a direct democracy and the reason why I am against it: fear.
For example the fear of the Swiss of Muslims which led them to forbid building of minarets in some parts of Switzerland.
This is for me against human rights, and it was only possible, because a right-leaning populist party raised
the fears against Muslims in the population.
Also a big problem is, that MANY people just didn't care about it, and they don't vote.
So it was (for me) Muslims against people that fear Muslims. And in respect of the association "Terror = Muslims"
these days, the result of the elections is clear. I am quite sure, that many of the people voting there did not even know
what a Minaret is, but voted against it, because people fear what they don't know.
So as a conclusion, my main points against direct democracy:
1. Fear of the people is much easier to produce than comprehension.
2. People who are not interested don't vote, so you don't get "the real" opinion of the citizens.
3. Not everybody can get into every problem (I mean its a full-time job for politicians [should be]).
The more specific an area of knowledge or specialty, the smaller the minority who hold it.
"The people" are great at identifying problems. They are the best people to decide who to hire to solve these problems.
They are not the best people to ask how to solve the problems. The majority are not economists. They are not criminologists.
They are not diplomats. They are not defense experts, or intelligence experts. They don't know what the best scientific data
says about many health issues, or about environmental impacts. People in general shouldn't be expected to be experts.
That is why we hire representatives. We hire them, via our votes, to bring their expertise at seeking out and aggregating relevant
information, and to turn those into relevant policies. We hire them to recognize the pitfalls of proposed policies and bills,
and to point them out.
It's far from perfect, but representational democracy far exceeds direct democracy in terms of ideal operating conditions.
From /u/OliverSparrow on reddit:
[In response to a "decentralized" DD proposal, but still it applies:]
Come on, get real. The one thing that we know about open outcry is that it creates a logjam in which much is said
and nothing is heard. The same points are made over and over. Loud, half-baked voices dominate the debate.
That is why representative democracies were invented the first place place.
The embedded assumption - other than the jejune waddle about elites and corruption - is that politics is only
or chiefly "about" decision-taking. It isn't. Politics exists to solve issues where incompatible groups do not share values.
I want a road, you want greenery, we cannot agree. So professionals find a compromise, and we do not knock each others' brains out.
Where formal law making is involved, immensely complex, detailed processes run to draft legislation, take opinion,
test what is proposed against extant law, international accords, costs, risks and foreseeable collateral in other arenas.
The elected officials also oversee and limit the executive, in ways that vary between nations. They can call the executive
to account and limit its powers.
Now absolutely none of that can be done through the equivalent of reddit, or electronic polls. Plebiscites are notoriously dangerous,
as a vehicle for populists and as gross oversimplifications of complex issues. The difference between open-ended
debate - "what would you like to see change in our relations with the European Union" versus "Leave Europe, Yes or No" - is obvious.
Most people are grossly ignorant about the very basic issues of their society. About a third of sixteen year olds seem
not to know where milk comes from. Engagement with politics is extremely weak, and virtually nonexistent where the
issues are technical and complex. Indeed, discussion of economic subjects becomes impossible when the people engaging
in the discussion do not understand the basics - "what is GDP? How big is your country's GDP? How many kinds of deficit
are there in an economy?" - and anyway can't be bothered to think about or learn about the issues.
Just because everyone lives in an economy makes them no more competent to comment on it than people can talk sensibly
about medicine by virtue of being sick from time to time.
Still worse, you get media enthusiasms, where everyone is supposedly concerned about this or that issue - Syria, elephants,
rapes in India - for thirty-six hours, and then the issue is never heard of again. Utter triviality can dominate,
notable when vocal pressure groups push their tiny focal issues to the front of the queue. What open outcry gets you,
therefore, is ill-informed chatter about fashionable issues, daft extreme views that are promoted by a tiny clique
of people who shout a lot, and a total disintegration of process and continuity. If you did go to such a process,
the loud voices would be the well-funded ones, who would tend to bore everyone else off to bed before getting
through what their paymasters want.
From /u/JoseJimeniz on reddit:
> wants to replace the nation's elected representatives
> with a software system that votes on every bill
> according to the public majority online
That's exactly what we don't
want. We don't want a democracy, we want a republic
People don't make decisions: we choose people to make decisions for us. It is a bad
if our representatives do what we say, rather than what they believe to be right.
It was Edmund Burke who said:
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
The majority of the electorate cannot possibly educate themselves of all the nuances of every bill. That is why we choose people who have the job of learning all these things, and then deciding what is best for everyone.
Democracy is a horrible form of government. It was obvious enough that 200 years ago the framers of the constitution shunned it. There are plenty of examples where the constitution tries to thwart majority rule:
- One that has comes in for frequent criticism, and calls for its elimination,
is the Electoral College. Heavily populated states could not use their majority to
run roughshod over small, sparsely populated states.
- In order to amend the Constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses,
or two-thirds of state legislatures, to propose an amendment, and requires three-fourths
of state legislatures for ratification.
- Part of the reason for having a bi-cameral Congress is that it places another
obstacle to majority rule. Fifty-one senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators.
- The Constitution gives the president a veto to thwart the power of all 535 members of Congress.
- It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override the president's veto.
And then there's the actual disdain for democracy. The framers saw the unchecked passions of the masses
in France leading to public hangings during the French revolution:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never
a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
- John Adams
Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.
- Chief Justice John Marshall
I don't want a democracy. I don't want every person in the country deciding every issue. I want representatives to act on my behalf:
- not doing what i tell them to
- doing what i would do if i had their job
From /u/Exodus111 on reddit:
I'm actually a believer in this, I filmed a commercial in my living room using my wife as the actress for an online Direct Democratic process.
But boy are there a lot of issues. Foremost of which has to be that this system will enact change TOO FAST.
I know that sounds crazy, everyone is always complaining about change happening too slow, but the truth is a system
cannot survive too much radical change over too short a time as externalizing factors could simply unravel society under such a system.
For example: The people vote a full stop to oil/coal/gas production in favor of wind and solar.
Effective immediately. Now EVERYONE who works in these industries are out of a job, a lot of engineers,
electricians and riggers with 3 to 5 years of education each are done, there are no jobs for them.
Fair enough, in time the new industries will pick up the workers from the old industries. But it's gonna take time.
Many of the engineers can move right over to the solar plants with little to no reeducation, same for most of the electricians.
The riggers will have to reeducate themselves or try for other industries like the service industry. But there won't be
a job for all of them right away, the new industries will require at least a few years of profit to be able to grow
to the size of the old industry.
Fair enough, things take time, reeducation, the growth of a new market, we are probably talking at least 5 to 10 years,
but this is doable, the economy will sustain such a transition.
But then after 3 years Gas is back in popularity. It's safer then Oil and Coal, less impact on the environment,
unlike Oil there is still a lot of it, and enough people working on environmently-friendly means of extraction and production.
They've had three years since the ban to amass better tech, some support and commercials that make the case to the people.
Workers losing their jobs, still a lot of wealth in the ground, it's totally environmently-friendly now.
So it gets voted back in. And just like that a lot of the guys heading over the solar are back in Gas. Solar takes a hit,
now the growth of the solar market is set back maybe another 5 years, workers still figuring out their reeducation go back to Gas.
6 months later there is an explosion at a Gas plant. The people vote, gas is out.
Everyone in Gas is out of a job again. Back to Solar and wind, back to reeducation. But Solar is still set back
another 5 years, now it'll be 15 years until we see a competent market. And so it goes, for every mayfly change
the market takes another hit until it can't anymore and everyone has to pick up the pieces.
The thing about slowing the process down, and even the idea of having representatives is that they are keenly aware
of the damage they can do, indeed they will lose their jobs over it, and so change only ever really comes when it is
well and truly agreed upon, rigorously tested and popular enough that enough people are willing to fight for it.
Why have elected officials ?
Alexandra Bjerg's "Ignorance Isn't Bliss When It Comes to Civic Awareness"
Ilya Somin's "Democracy and Political Ignorance"
Ilya Somin reply to Sean Trende
Not really "ignorance", but: Philip Bump's "12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run Our Country"
From Ilya Somin's "Democracy and Political Ignorance"
Political ignorance is actually rational for most of the public, including most smart people.
If your only reason to follow politics is to be a better voter, that turns out not to be much of
a reason at all. That is because there is very little chance that your vote will actually make
a difference to the outcome of an election (about 1 in 60 million in a presidential race, for example).
For most of us, it is rational to devote very little time to learning about politics, and instead
focus on other activities that are more interesting or more likely to be useful.
Some ways of countering ignorance:
There are people who learn political information for reasons other than becoming better voters.
Just as sports fans love to follow their favorite teams even if they cannot influence the outcomes of games,
so there are also "political fans" who enjoy following political issues and cheering for their favorite candidates, parties, or ideologies.
Unfortunately, much like sports fans, political fans tend to evaluate new information in a highly biased way.
They overvalue anything that supports their preexisting views, and to undervalue or ignore new data that cuts against them,
even to the extent of misinterpreting simple data that they could easily interpret correctly in other contexts.
Moreover, those most interested in politics are also particularly prone to discuss it only with others who agree
with their views, and to follow politics only through like-minded media.
All of this makes little sense if the goal is truth-seeking. ... such bias makes perfect sense if the
goal is not so much truth as enhancing the fan experience.
The problems of political ignorance and irrationality are accentuated by the enormous size and scope
of modern government. In the United States, government spending accounts for close to 40% of GDP,
according to OECD estimates. And that does not include numerous other government policies that function
through regulation of the private sector. Even if voters followed political issues more closely than they do,
and even if they were more rational in their evaluation of political information, they still could not
effectively monitor more than a fraction of the activities of the modern state.
Suppose we simplified the government ENORMOUSLY, reducing the burden on DD voters:
- Get rid of local and state governments entirely; do everything at the county and federal levels.
No more town/city police or state police; only county sheriffs and federal law enforcement.
Each county is a single school-district, a single road-maintenance department,
a single court district, a single jail/prison system, a single voting precinct, etc.
One national driver's license. Do professional licensing (lawyers, doctors, etc) at the national level.
(Good: Knocks out two whole levels of government, gets rid of zillions of officials, boards,
committees, districts, agencies, bonding authorities, bodies of law and regulation, etc. Simplifies everything.)
(Bad: Reduces local accountability of officials to local voters.)
- "Spin off" more federal government agencies into public corporations, similar to the Post Office or the Federal Reserve today.
Government would set charters and high-level budgets and policy mandates for these corporations, then they
would operate mostly independently. NASA, CDC, FAA, DOT, DOE, HHS, Park Service, VA, etc. Would work well for "operational" agencies,
probably not for "regulation" agencies.
(Good: Greatly reduces ability and need for Congress and Executive to micro-manage. Gives agencies more stability
in budgets and policies.)
(Bad: Reduces accountability of these agencies to officials and voters, increases
power of bureaucrats.)
- Simplify whole industries to make them easier to govern. For example, get rid of most health-insurance companies
by going to single-payer universal healthcare. Get rid of distinction between state-chartered and federally-chartered banks
and savings-and-loans and such. Charter all insurance companies at federal level.
- Privatize existing parts of the government. For example, make all jails and prisons privately-run.
Privatize TSA, making airports and airlines and other transportation bear the costs and liability.
- Simplify existing parts of the government. For example, get rid of the "services" distinction inside the military
(Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines), which would eliminate a lot of duplicate administration, duplicate weapon systems, etc.
There must be duplication in federal pension systems, federal payroll systems, maybe federal medical systems.
Note: this list doesn't contain policy changes we could do today, without changing government at all:
stop war on drugs, stop invading countries and have a smaller military, eliminate all
energy subsidies, etc. And it doesn't include removing entire functions of government: get govt out of education entirely,
stop govt entitlement programs entirely, eliminate NASA, eliminate spying, etc. All of those issues
are a bit separate from "simplify government", I think.
Arguments in favor of Direct Democracy:
- Problem with today's system is that politicians obey the rich and corporations instead of obeying the people.
But I think this argument is fatally flawed. Each politician today has plenty of people backing
them who agree quite strongly with them. Our politicians are a reflection of our voters.
"The people" are not a monolith, just as "politicians" are not a monolith.
I don't see how direct democracy would take money out of the system. Wouldn't lobbying and corporate money
just turn into advertising aimed at voters and opinion-leaders ?
Sure, our political system has too much money and corporate influence in it.
Sure, plenty of ideologues and idiots get elected. I don't think changing from representative
democracy to direct democracy would fix those things.
- It will end secrecy and spying by the government.
No, there still will be plenty of secrets in govt: intelligence info, military info, diplomatic info, law
enforcement investigation info, citizen data (tax returns, benefit info, justice info, etc).
Those things can't be published to the whole world.
There still will be plenty of spying. Properly regulated, spying is a good thing.
It keeps our govt informed of the intentions of other govts, perhaps giving us a chance to deter
or prepare for a war. It helps protect us against espionage from other govts or companies
in other countries. It helps protect us against crime and terrorism.
Sure, today the spying in USA is not regulated properly; Congress and FISA have fallen down on the job.
Sure, the ability of spying to prevent terrorism is overblown. But spying is necessary, and will continue.
- It will get more people to vote and participate in civic activity.
Increasing the number of voters may not be a good thing. If we add lots of
ignorant, apathetic, or easily influenced voters to the elections, have we gained anything ?
Would it lead to better results ?
Perhaps the people who don't vote today are best left off the voting rolls (by their own choice).
From "American Lion" by Jon Meacham
The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 had not been interested in establishing the rule of
the majority. Quite the opposite: The Federalist and the debates on the floor of the
Constitutional Convention largely concerned how the new nation might most effectively check the
popular will. Hence the Electoral College, the election of senators by state legislatures,
and limited suffrage. The prevailing term for America's governing philosophy was republicanism - an
elegant Enlightenment-era system of balances and counterweights that tended to put decisive power
in the hands of elites elected, at least in theory, by a country of landowning yeomen. The people,
broadly defined, were not to be trusted with too much power.
Ideas I Think Are Wrong
- Get rid of the Federal Reserve (the Fed):
We had plenty of booms and busts before the Fed was created. Other countries (Britain, Canada, etc) had
plenty of booms and busts, too. So blaming the Fed for everything
bad in the US economy probably doesn't hold up.
From Richard S. Grossman's "Greed destroyed us all":
The [boom-bust] scenario described above aptly describes many nineteenth and twentieth century crises.
For example, England suffered crises in 1825, 1836–39, 1847, 1857, 1866, and 1890.
Each of these was preceded by several years of rapid economic growth, frequently fueled by gold imports
and accompanied by increased speculation. The object of speculation varied from crisis to crisis
and included at different times grain, railroads, stocks, and Latin American investments.
Similar stories can be told about US crises of 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, and 1907, and many others in Australia,
Canada, and Japan, and across Western Europe.
What's your alternative to the Fed and the US dollar ? If we're going to have a currency,
someone has to control it. Who do you nominate ? Congress ? President ?
Someone or something has to set monetary policy (discount rate, money supply, etc).
I suppose you could just make it automatic ? Pass a law containing an algorithm to calculate
discount rate etc, based on economic variables such as inflation rate, unemployment rate, interest rates, etc.
But the Fed does more than just control the currency.
From Wikipedia's "Federal Reserve System":
Its duties have expanded over the years, and as of 2009 also include supervising and regulating banks,
maintaining the stability of the financial system and providing financial services to depository institutions,
the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions. The Fed conducts research into the economy and releases
numerous publications, such as the Beige Book.
Countries and economists seem to agree that a unified currency is a good thing (reduces friction
in economy, trade, labor, etc). That's why EU did the Euro, why US no longer has a zillion currencies
issued by states and banks and whoever else felt like issuing one.
I don't think there's enough gold in the world to support all of the currency needed, if you're proposing
going back to the gold standard or something. And wasn't there a conflict between industrial use of gold
and currency-backing use of gold ? Not sure.
USA's national debt didn't explode as soon as the Fed was created; debt started increasing around the Reagan administration or so.
Other countries have plenty of national debt, without having their currency be the world's reserve currency.
So I don't think that factor accounts for USA's debt.
Mark Koba's "If The Federal Reserve Is Abolished, What Then?"
Daniel Indiviglio's "Why We Need the Fed"
- We need a revolution, let the people take over, they will make a wonderful government:
"The people" are divided into many different factions and groups in their basic beliefs and wishes.
It's nonsense to hold up "the people" as if they're some kind of unified, wise body that will do
the right thing once the politicians and corporations and rich people are swept out of the way.
Plenty of the general citizenry is in favor of more money for the military, and/or teaching creationism
in the schools, and/or outlawing atheism, and/or more guns for everyone, and/or kicking out all immigrants,
and/or letting big business do whatever it wants, etc. There is no one
unified "the people", and many of "the people's" wishes are stupid.
We voters have the Congress we deserve. We voters are polarized, grid-locked, delusional.
We want crazy-enormous military, good safety nets, guaranteed jobs, low gas and food prices,
low taxes. We elect Congresspeople who give us that by running up the debt.
We want low crime and high security, but less-intrusive police and government.
We want guaranteed jobs, but claim to be in favor of free markets.
The divides among "the people" are basic and real. Based on religion, economics, xenophobia,
ignorance, geography, history, worldview.
Some are trying to foster the illusion that "the people" are mostly unified,
and there is some conspiracy of the politicians to divide "the people". I think that's exactly backwards.
The people are divided into many factions, and the politicians reflect that.
That illusion prevents us from addressing the real problems. It paints the politicians as the problem
to be defeated, when in reality it is the ignorance and wrong policies of the people, the voters,
that is the problem. We need to talk about issues and national policies, not how evil the politicians
and corporations are. Fix the voters, and the rest will follow.
- Punish Congress: term limits, cut their salaries, etc:
The main problems with Congress are:
- Lack of knowledge / expertise.
- Influence of money and lobbyists.
- Time spent raising money for next election campaign.
- Wasteful structure (too many committees and sub-committees, too many Congresspeople, too many
bills that are "dead on arrival" at other house, too many votes that are repeats of earlier votes).
William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe's "This is why Congress is a disaster"
Some ways to fix these problems:
- Term limits would exacerbate the "short term" mentality, encourage more partisanship, reduce the level of expertise.
- Reducing Congressional salaries would make Congress even more of a rich-person's club, and encourage
a revolving door where low-paid Congresspeople line themselves up for high-paid corporate jobs
after they leave Congress.
Bob Garfield's "I Luv Big Gov"
From "Monty Python's Holy Grail":
I am your king!
Well, I didn't vote for you.
You don't vote for kings.
Well, how did you become King, then?
The Lady of the Lake, ...
... her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite,
held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water
signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur,
was to carry Excalibur.
That is why I am your king!
Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
is no basis for a system of government.
Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses,
not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because
some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
Shut up, will you? Shut up!
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