Thoughts on democracy

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Thoughts on democracy

Roxanne: This is an excellent essay by Craig Carmichael, one of our NEC subscribers, on ways of improving Democracies. (from the letter)


Hands-On Democracy

Proposals for How to Run a World
by Craig Carmichael

  • Do We Have Systemic Problems?
  • Why do basic problems never seem to get addressed?
  • Why do our political leaders often behave like autocratic rulers instead of representing society's best interests?
  • Why are our legislatures not the representative cross-sections of society that they were intended to be?
  • How can we prevent unelected "corporate entities" representing the personal interests of a corrupt, greedy social predator class from wresting overcontrol of society to suit themselves, from behind the scenes?
  • How has wealth, income and power distribution become so grotesquely unequal that 62 individuals have as much wealth as the lower half of the population - 3.6 billion individuals?
  • Why do our governing institutions and methods not adapt and progress as society and technology change, enlarge and progress?

Contents

(Ten "Hands-On Democracy" Proposals)

  1.  Basic Structures of Government
  2.  "Instant Runoff" or "Choice Ranking" Vote (CRV) Must Replace the "Illiterate's X" Vote, On All Ballots
  3.  Internet Voting Resources in General
  4.  On-Line Election Resources
  5.  On-Line "Initiatives" or Referendums
  6.  On-Line Citizen Ratification of Legislative Enactments
  7.  The Department of Progress
  8.  Modifications to Universal Suffrage and Qualifying to Run for Office
  9.  Size and Qualities of a Legislature - Some Thoughts
  10.  Democracy in the Workplace - Some Thoughts

Discussion

Foreword

   I have long pondered the problems with our institutions of governance, as various usually unfair and unsatisfactory situations, events and outcomes have arisen over the decades. And these outcomes rarely get fixed. New prohibitions and problems become part of the fabric of society. Even as we advance technologically, it would seem western society itself has gradually been sliding downhill for over a century. One can blame key people involved and technically be right, but one may also note how various unsatisfactory aspects of the system have interacted unfavorably to promote such unsatisfactory people to such key places to make such unsatisfactory choices. One may observe that not only unfair selection processes need revision, but often that the nature of the key positions themselves ought to be modified, often so as to provide for more co-ordination of functions or further input by others in the decision making process, rather than relying on the dictate of one individual with little input or feedback from others. Such improved positions will also attract those problem solvers who wish to serve their society rather than to rule or gain selfish advantage, magnifying benefits even of small improvements which might at first glance be thought to be trivial.

   As a life-long inventor, I often attempt to break out of molds of existing technical or enculturated assumptions and habitual thinking to tie seemingly distant or apparently unrelated ideas together for creating potential solutions to problems, here to visualize new cultural or sociopolitical potentials, new ways of doing the business of running societies.

   Some say change will never be permitted, why think about it? They may have a point, but only from the perspective of their experience. Major change quite soon has become inevitable. Others have thrown out ill-considered counter-proposals the moment they have heard one these ideas expressed verbally, or simply negative opinions about why such a plan won't work. Of course all ideas and proposals should be critically examined. Are the underlying assumptions valid? What results are desired? Are the proposed ideas likely to attain the desired results? Will attaining such results actually be beneficial? But the carelessness of the responses indicates the ideas are simply being dismissed out of hand. The listeners aren't really listening and thinking, and would rather change the subject. This is disappointing. The ideas or proposals presented here represent inspirations born of considerable background study and thought, the "winners" after gradual selection and then rejection of many earlier inferior ideas, and further thought as to implementation. And when potential solutions to very real social problems are dismissed out of hand, when people refuse to examine the subject, nothing gets fixed. The juggernaut lumbers on toward destruction.

   But the future holds much promise, because the problems are becoming so gross they are rapidly disrupting the whole fabric of society. When it becomes plain to all that the old society has collapsed, that the old ways of thinking and the institutions built around them have failed, the majority of the remaining population will at last, however belatedly, be searching for ideals and fresh ideas and will be willing to examine and try out new solutions. We are about to be confronted with the need to rapidly make more adjustments of human values than have been made in the whole of the 2000 year post-Christ era.

   I must add some notes of caution: The inspiration of and thought on each idea-proposal has not been combined to the extent of forming a necessarily unified system overall. And they are derived to a considerable extent from one person's necessarily limited viewpoint - personal thoughts and opinions. Some of the ideas have been tried or are in present use in more limited forms in various jurisdictions. Others are untried or at least are untried in their presented form and scope. None of them have been tried as internet based systems, with the far greater interactivity and flexibility that that promises.

   There are also dangers with democracy as a whole, and even more so with one that can "turn on a dime" and perhaps make hasty almost sudden "angry mob" decisions that probably wouldn't be made given more time for reflection. The decision making process needs sufficient time for debate and scrutiny, and then a further time for people to change their minds based on that.
   One can also get into slavery to current public opinion, "political correctness". The majority is not always right. Freedom of speech, thought and expression have been under attack almost since the USA enshrined it in their constitution whenever someone says something that the majority - or those in power - disagree with. Freedom of speech "unless" one says things that are unpopular or that the majority think are wrong is censorship. While deliberate telling of lies is wrong, no one should be punished for expressing their sincerely held opinions and beliefs. They just might be correct, or perhaps there may be some truth contained within a seemingly strange belief, even if the majority presently think otherwise.

   Also, obviously, an uneducated and indolent voting majority can ruin everything.

   There can be of course no guarantee that all the proposed idea-tools will work out well as presented, especially ones so far untested, and perhaps some of them may overlap in scope and function and conflict with each other. But it is expected that they will at the very least serve as starting points to inspire discussion into otherwise murky, unexplored areas to help move "the narrative" forward.

Introduction

   There are surely orderly, civilized ways of running societies that are vastly different from the half-evolved ones the present population has become accustomed to on this planet. Our habitual thought patterns are limited by our experience of how things have been run in the past and how they are run in the present. We grew up "knowing" how things are "supposed" to work. We even "know" that the way it works in our country is better than the way it works in other countries. Our whole view of reality is seen through this distorting lens of enculturation. Countless problems stem from deficiencies, omissions and built-in errors in our methods, procedures and institutions. Some are obvious if scrutinized rationally, and yet we don't see them because we are looking through the lens.

   Instead we blame individuals for the problems. "If our leader had eyes, he'd realize he's taking us down the wrong path. We need to elect a new leader to solve the problems." And yet unless fundamental changes are made, the new leader will be selected by the same flawed processes, subjected to the same corrupting pressures, exposed to the same environment and temptations, and work within the same problematic framework as his predecessors.

   One of the things necessary in the solution of the problems is an underlying philosophy of what we are working toward. Determining the worthwhile ideals we are to espouse is necessary in order to have standards by which to evaluate new ideas and plans. There are three 'cosmic' core values, simple fundamental ideals that are said to be innate, built into our species, and acknowledged as desirable by all regardless of race and culture: Quality of Life, Provision for Growth, and Equality*. Hand in hand with these are emotion-core values which have been stated as: Empathy, Compassion, and Love**. As the American Declaration of Independence said, "We hold these truths to be self evident."

   But much more needs to be done - and will be done - to bring these core things explicitly into the conversation at the societal level - at all levels. Any institution that is to be created must be tested for harmony with all these values. If it isn't in harmony, it's not a socially sustainable institution. It isn't a case of putting oneself ahead of others, nor of putting everyone else ahead of oneself, it's a case of putting others at the equal level to oneself. If something isn't fair to the individual, it isn't fair to all, and vise versa. The core values enact the golden rule at the sociopolitical level: Treat others as you would have them treat you, inclusive of everyone.

   Another excellent principle of governance is: "A moral society should aim to preserve the self-respect of its citizenry and afford every normal individual adequate opportunity for self-realization. Such a plan of social achievement would yield a cultural society of the highest order. Social evolution should be encouraged by governmental supervision which exercises a minimum of regulative control. That state is best which co-ordinates most while governing least." (my emphasis - The Urantia Book, Paper 71:3.9 - Development of the State)

   For the most gross examples of social unsustainability in play today, war isn't sustainable because it passes none of the tests: it degrades quality of life for all, creates a poor environment for growth, and there can be no equality between invader and invaded. Overpopulation is unsustainable: it degrades quality of life for all, reduces opportunities for growth and change, and resource scarcity causes cooperation to give way to competition for resources, which creates inequality. "Me first" competition is also out of harmony with the emotion-values. The global financial system is unsustainable: it has been carefully designed to enrich a parasitic "banking class" at the expense of everyone else, hence it promotes inequality. Tolerance is essential when it's part of empathy, compassion and love, but the full price for tolerating or abetting these unsustainable, unloving activities and institutions will soon have to be paid, and new, sustainable institutions will have to be created.

   When the problems caused by present ways of "doing business" are examined objectively, possibilities are studied, and creative imagination is applied, it may be seen that seemingly intractable problems have systemic solutions - improved structures, methods and techniques for conducting affairs - that will prevent the troublesome situations and circumstances from arising  in the first place - situations that today may seem "normal", "intrinsic" and unavoidable, or that may seem to be personal failings of those placed in positions of trust.

   Sometimes such solutions haven't been thought of, other times they have been rejected because they seem just too obvious and simple "Surely that can't improve things or we would already do it that way." - or they may seem too frightening to contemplate "That surely would lead to insurmountable problems and chaos!" Until there is sufficient will to change on the part of enough people, and sufficient thought given to the possibilities, tradition, unreasoned (or valid) fear and a desire for stability, to "not rock the boat" and potentially make things worse, assert themselves and prevent it. And indeed, willy-nilly, ill considered attempts to improve systems can make them worse. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if any power vacuum is left open by an incomplete, poorly considered structural design, someone will step in and assume that power. Once attained, power is rarely willingly relinquished. Communism was supposed to be an improvement over rule by a hereditary monarch, but the underlying systems and institutions weren't thought out, and it quickly became an overbearing form of dictatorship that blighted the lives of generations of people. Communism's first dictator, Joseph Stalin, said something to the effect that 'These fools don't even realize what they've done. They've handed me, the party secretary, all the power of the state.'

   The idea of democracy itself was no doubt once thought to be madness: if commoners were permitted powers to decide things, civilization would be rapidly destroyed. Even today, it is common instinct that common people should be kept away from the reins of power once they have done their electoral duty, despite it now being long proven that democracy does after all work better than autocratic rule. It seems counterintuitive to most people that their relatives, friends and neighbors, and they themselves, should have a real say in the running of the country. That should be left to wiser men who have studied and understand society's challenges better. But such unreasoned subconscious philosophy needs conscious scrutiny. We have no omniscient gods or supermen we can elect. Those placed in positions of power are not necessarily better qualified or better motivated to make decisions that affect peoples' lives than the people affected are themselves. Either way mistakes can be made. But once a poor decision is made by a leader, will he listen when he's told it's a mistake? Will he admit it and take corrective action? His ego is now involved and changing course becomes difficult. And the next leader has his own ideas of things to do, and doesn't want to revisit decisions made by his predecessors. And some are there deliberately wanting to increase their own power by removing peoples' free choices of how to live their own lives. Letting people have what they ask for or need isn't what they're "in it" for!

   Mistakes, with thousands of silly laws and petty restrictions designed to solve one petty problem or even a potential problem that doesn't actually exist, or even deliberately designed to increasingly regiment society, are created one atop the other, and then enforced in all circumstances, often far outside the limited, shortsighted thought and intent of the originator. People have gradually lost their rights and freedoms over a century and more, until stepping out one's door is in violation of one ordinance, while staying inside is in violation of another, and we gradually become police states, with government and the police working against an increasingly agitated and finally "up in arms" citizenry instead of serving it. But mob rule is also destructive.

   Now that the internet can connect the members of any related group or even the whole world, we can make our control over our societies much more "hands on" and interactive than it ever has been before. This can and will prevent all sorts of problems that come with losing effective control over our governing and societal institutions, which have presently been more or less hijacked by greedy vested interests and power hungry would-be dictators, heading us down roads toward war and a global collapse of modern civilization.

   The "hands-on democracy" approach is antithetical to both police state and mob rule. With the simple ability for everyone to propose an action - including a repeal of an odious law, restoring a lost freedom - a mistake should be much easier to correct. When people have good control over their society, there is no reason or sense to protesting or rioting in the streets because anything that's happening is what they themselves have brought about. Any change someone feels would improve things can be proposed, and either they can make a convincing case for it to everyone else, or not.

--------------------
* Joseph Stiglitz speaks at length and in various venues about how inequality not only adversely affects quality of life and prevents people from living up to their potential, but he details the many ways in which it is ruining the whole economy and society. Stiglitz is a Nobel prize winning economist and author of a half dozen books including The Price of Inequality and Fair Trade for All. His presentations, discussions and interviews can be found as videos on Youtube.

** "Of course, without a standard to measure social growth and progress, and give direction to your efforts to bring about positive social change, you live in chaos; your live in uncertainty, not knowing how or what will be the outcome of developments that you generate, whether as a corporation, a non-profit organization, or as a government.  Without the use of the 6 core values of social sustainability as a basis for a social morality of decision-making, there is no uniformity among the nations, and never will be.  Because of the innate nature of these values for all human beings, they are applicable to all human societies, all human governments, and all organizations.  Therefore, they provide the basis for uniformity of social action, planning, and policies for all organizations."

"It is important that these values be used as criteria for decision-making in all regards to an organization, whether it is the family unit, or government, or corporation.  Yet, there must be an overall intention established within these organizations for their sustainability.  And in order to become socially sustainable, they must become learning organizations.  In this regard, a learning organization would develop as problems are generated in the existence of a government, or corporation, or foundation, or family, where they would come to recognize the problem and then seek answers to that problem, and then discover and discern the causes for the problem, and then to heal those errors.  This is a type-2 learning organization, which we have discussed in months and years past.  Without the prospect of learning from experience, even decision-making using the 6 core values would be a slow process, but when you combine the 6 core values with the intention to become a learning organization to eliminate repeated failures and tragedies of the past, then you have social progress that becomes very rapid.  Then social evolution progresses rapidly as well."

Machiventa Melchizidek,
planetary manager
(New Era Conversations #64)

Proposals

   Here we will examine some ideas for governing structures and techniques for achieving such effective control over our societal institutions that civilization becomes sustainable for the entire future time of the world, which it is certainly not today. In all such developments, we must aim to satisfy the six core meaning-values which all the worlds' peoples can agree on: Quality of Life, Provision for Growth and Equality, plus Empathy, Compassion and Love.

1. Basic Structures of Government

   There are basic features of sustainable government, and no land or jurisdiction has ever implemented all of them. I have outlined these in my 'booklet', "Fundamental Principles of Democratic Government - Towards Utopian Systems of Governance".

   The reader is encouraged to read that work, but to detail perhaps the most key point from it: There is a natural division of government into three separate branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Attempts to merge any two of these, or for one to have powers belonging to another, cause systemic problems.

   The way these branches are constituted need not be how it's done today. In the USA, local judges may be elected. In other jurisdictions they may be appointed by the executive or by the legislature. In many areas citizens are impressed into judicial duties against their will for undetermined terms of service. While judgment should always be a group function rather than reflecting any one person's limited viewpoint, there obviously must be better ways of choosing judgment groups.

   Then, most legislatures have simple area based voting constituencies, but many other types are possible. For example, once colleges and universities elected their own legislators to parliament in Britain. These naturally had different points of view from the area-riding based candidates. Instead of banning such diversity of representation, it should be encouraged and expanded in many more ways. A legislature is supposed to be a cross-section of the society it represents, not a regiment of identical clones.

2. "Instant Runoff" or "Choice Ranking" Vote (CRV) Must Replace the "Illiterate's X" Vote, On All Ballots

   I speak on this subject also in Fundamental Principles of Democratic Government - Towards Utopian Systems of Governance, but I believe it is important enough to be worth restating here.

   In order to ensure fair results from any ballot with more than two choices, the winning choice must have over 50% of the vote. When it was first conceived, marking an "X" on a ballot was a quantum leap improvement of previous methods of having the public choose between two alternatives, which often involved armed conflict. It was socially transforming. But as soon as there are more than two choices, it is no longer a fair system. This fact has been very slow to enter conscious public awareness. Even more slowly do a whole host of unintended and mostly unrecognized or hidden negative consequences become apparent. Let's explore the details.

  Many who obviously do not have the support of the majority are elected via the unfair single ballot "X" vote, by so-called "vote splitting". A candidate who is the most distinct from the rest has an unfair advantage. If there are two (or more) rather similar candidates, A and B, it may be that 60% of the voters would prefer either one of them to candidate C. But the minority who desire the markedly different candidate C have a united vote. The single "X" vote will often split along the lines of:

A - 36%
B - 25%
C - 39%

   Candidate C is elected to office, even though the majority didn't want him. Whole governments are routinely elected this way - not the peoples' real choice. Candidate B may even be told he is doing a disservice to the community by running for the office! because his presence on the ballot prejudices A's chances of winning. But that's just beginning of the unfairness.
   There may be still more candidates, who get almost none of the vote. Some of them might be more popular as people, or better qualified for the position - but they are not members of the few most popular political partisan factions, political "parties". They may not be members of any "party" at all. Voters may actually like one or more of them better, but they feel there is no chance they will be elected. If they mark their single "X" for anyone but major party candidates A, B or C, they will feel they are "wasting their vote". Hence it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: regardless of popularity or qualifications, those who it is expected will probably lose get almost no votes at all, and so they do lose.

   It gets worse: Realizing all this, many or most of those who might really be the best for the office, don't bother to run. They are eliminated even before the ballot. It becomes a fear-based system: instead of voting for the person one actually thinks is best for the position (who doesn't even run because he has no real chance), one votes for the "major party" candidate who is perceived to have the best chance of beating the one running for the "major party" who the voter likes least. The entire political landscape, the whole narrative, becomes small and highly polarized.

   Thus, those who would be elected have to "tow the line" of a sponsoring major "party". The power of "parties" is enshrined in the narrative, and the actual qualities of the candidates recede from consideration. It compromises the candidates before they can even begin. A fresh face with fresh ideas and ideals can rarely simply appear and refresh the political landscape, to govern progressively and correct problems that have worked their way into the national life. He must first have been indoctrinated into and worked his way up the ranks of a political "party", surrounded by corrupting and vitiating influences, with all the freshness and originality sapped out of him. It is my present opinion that "parties" are a political disease, so endemic and entrenched as to be unrecognized as such. They have been created by unfair systems of voting and unsound techniques and institutions of governance - especially by the combining of the executive and legislative branches. The real leaders, the creative, the caring, the true elite of society, usually find themselves shut out of the political system.

   Somewhat hypocritically, political "parties" themselves do not elect their own leaders with a single ballot "X" vote. Commonly, they have multiple successive "X" "runoff" ballots, dropping the least popular choice(s) after each one, until on a final ballot the choices have been narrowed down and one choice gets over 50% of the vote. But this exact same result can be achieved quickly and easily simply by having the voters rank their choices on a single ballot, 1, 2, 3... for 1st, 2nd and 3rd... choice, instead of a single "X". Those ballots which initially chose the least popular candidates who are eliminated on the first count, are simply recounted for those voters' second choices - instantly done via computers. The result is exactly the same as having successive ballots - except of course without the tiny chance that people might be persuaded to change their minds between ballots. Thus Choice Ranking has also been called the Instant Runoff voting system. The ballot is the same as any ballot a voter might see today. These two voting systems, multiple balloting (slow, unwieldy) and ranking the choices (fast, simple), are the only systems known to me in which there appears to never be any reason to vote except in order of one's actual preferences. The simple, seemingly almost trivial, change from voting "X" to "1, 2, 3" turns it from a negative, fear based, unfair system into a positive, fair voting system. It makes all the difference in the world.

   In jurisdictions where this "instant runoff" vote has been or is being used, it has come under criticism. One main problem is that it has been applied to jurisdictions where the legislative and executive branches of government are mixed together, to electing "parliaments". Ideally a legistlaure is a representative cross section of the society, but in the case of mixing the branches, the executive director or "prime minister" has a hard time fulfilling his functions unless the parliament is filled with a majority of his party cronies who will rubber stamp his directives. I believe properly separating the two branches will solve much of the criticism. But having a legislature of party crony clones of any ilk is a divisive thing. Means should be found for electing legislators representing of various societal divisions, not just land areas. Why should representatives not represent academia, trade unions, business, families, and so on, and be elected by groups of people who register to vote in such categories?

   I first heard of the technique for making elections fair from the British Columbia Citizen's Committee on Electoral Reform (2002-2004). They selected it and called it by the odd title Single Transferable Vote (STV), which made it sound contrived and strange. At first I wasn't attracted to it (because of the name?), but I gradually began to realize it's essentially the proper way to hold any vote. It was nearly adopted in British Columbia, achieving 59% approval in a 2004 election referendum. 60% was required. Apparently it is in limited use in Australia and New Zealand. It was used in British Columbia for just one election in 1952, titled The One Two Vote, having been chosen in a province wide referendum.

   (The leader of the victorious "party" of that election didn't want such a system diluting future "party" power, and repealed it before it had a real chance to make its effects apparent. Again referendums were only at the convenience of the government in power and subject to being overturned by government without further reference to the populace.)

   I prefer to title this voting system the "choice ranking vote", "CRV". "Instant Runoff" also describes it well, better than other names.

3. Internet Voting Resources in General

   Something fundamentally needed for "Hands-On Democracy" is internet voting resources for each voting jurisdiction. One should be able to go online to cast one's choice ranking vote on issues as they arise, the same sort of way one goes online to do banking. Here with one's identity ascertained, one is free to vote instead of to bank. No more disruption of the day, waiting in lines, and considerable expense to hold each vote. When voting becomes simple and counting is by computer, far more things than at present can be decided by popular vote.

   In thinking of the internet as a tool for official vote casting and other forms of secure information transactions where the authenticity and eligibility of the source must be verified, one may think of various forms of "hacking" the system such as sometimes make the news: logging into sites under multiple assumed names, lying about one's identity or location and so on, or automatic "robot" log-ins, to obtain various illegitimate advantages. The possibilities for scamming may seem endless. But consider that one can also do on-line banking and other monetary transactions which are secure enough, and can log into a tax department web site without "identity theft" issues. It is of course vital that the identity of a citizen be verified to ascertain their voting and any other rights, but provided a system is adequately organized, this is not the insuperable problem it might seem to be at first glance. In fact it will probably prove easier to maintain an up-to-date voters' list on-line than by periodic mailings to households.

   Plus, if a system is "hacked into" somehow, it will inevitably soon be discovered - and probably the perpetrator(s) will be found and dealt with. Then any decisions falsely made can easily be revoted. It would be a temporary, probably one-time "teething" glitch -- versus hands-on democracy for all, for all future time.

   Thus we see that vague fears of "hijackings" of internet voting services are in general not to be taken into consideration. Only those setting the system up need concern themselves and say "What if? - and "How do we prevent it?" We must assume of course that the services are honestly administered, but that is true for any form of polling.

   Internet voting makes casting of votes by citizens very cheap instead of very costly. There is then no real reason not to ask for a vote ensuring that any plan is in fact approved by the populace. No politician can say "I have a mandate to do this." without actually finding out whether he does or not.

4. On-Line Election Resources

"CampaynCentral.com" (or other similar site(s)) can become "the" key resource for elections. Anyone running for office will put their information and promotions - video, audio and written - up there, and other features will permit comments, questions and discussions. When this site or sites becomes "the" place to look for candidate info and comments by others, it will begin to take money out of the equation of running for office. Everyone will have an equal chance to have their say at a trusted, impartial and respected web site.

5. On-Line "Initiatives" or Referendums

A "petition" is a means for demonstrating support for a proposition. A "referendum", or "initiative" as it has been recently titled in the USA, is a means of fairly tallying support both for and against an idea. (And with the CRV, any useful number of alternative options and variations may be placed on the ballot without prejudicing the result towards or away from any option.)

"DirectVotes.ca" (or other similar site(s)) can become the place(s) for people to initiate referenda on any topic. Such a site can be official and binding, sponsored by government, or unofficial and sponsored by a trust or even an individual. Even if unofficial, a clear expression of public will would effectively have to be acted on by government if the politicians want to keep their jobs.

Would ability to initiate referendums rather freely result in a huge rash of referendums of all manner of subjects? No doubt it would. Let's try another question: Are there not a whole pile of things "out of whack" in all sorts of areas? Of course there are. A rash of referendums are badly needed to start setting things straight. Once many things have been set straight, the desire of people to make referendums will wane. Things will settle down and one won't be inundated by them year after year.

   Various modifiers may be employed in the aid of this. Time delays for alternative proposals and discussion of the issue will tend to reduce the number of ill considered "spur of the moment" proposals. Regular "referendum days" for voting would allow for going to the referendum web site once to cast several votes. And no doubt a minimum number of interested persons must speak to an issue before it will make the "main list" of "important" referendums to be brought to everyones' attention.

   An example use of on-line referendums might be for daylight savings time (DST), where the clock is advanced, generally by an hour, in seasons when the daylight hours are longer. This also becomes an example of why the single ballot choice ranking vote is so superior to the single ballot "X" vote.

   There is obviously no point to having DST in the tropics where days are always about the same length, or indeed near the poles. It is only potentially useful in temperate zones. Preferences therefore are bound to vary by latitude.

   When I was quite young, there was no DST in Alberta, just standard time. Solar noon was at about 12PM and midnight about 12AM (in fact 11:30 to 12:29 depending on longitude within the time zone. With DST, actual noon can be as early as 10:30 "AM"). The government held referendums on whether to have DST each election, which (as best I recall) failed twice. The third time it passed by a narrow margin. There was never again a referendum on DST. No finding out if people actually liked it, no provision for future adjustments. It was a government agenda to have DST, not the peoples'. Once it was implemented we had no further say. Later it became Canadian practice to automatically follow whatever the USA did (as far as I know without even a Canadian vote on the issue), which has been to extend DST twice until it is presently in use 8 months of the year instead of 4, everywhere except in Hawaii where it isn't used.

   It is my belief that there are a lot of people who don't want DST to cover so much of the year. And that there are in fact a lot of people at all latitudes who don't want DST at all, just "real time". It's just one of many possible subjects that could hardly be brought up and make the agenda of political leaders, yet it does affect lives. With easy on-line referendums, anyone could propose a referendum about it for their region. (Okay, I myself have a derogatory name for DST and another for today's extended version, and I would love to propose a referendum on it!)

   The final ballot choices - and different people should be able to add significantly different choices other than those the originator proposed - might look something like:

a) Keep it as is, almost 8 months of the year
b) Have DST from the Sunday after the vernal equinox to the Sunday before the Autumnal equinox - 1/2 the year
c) Shorten it to the original DST season ~4 months per year
d) Have no DST at all, just standard time

   With choice ranking voting, those who can't get their favorite way still get their second choice vote, or even their third. So if one doesn't want DST at all, but too many people do want it and option "d" fails, one's second choice vote for "c", 4 months DST, is next counted, and if necessary their third choice of 6 months will be counted to help prevent the outcome they least desire. One doesn't "lose" or "waste" their vote by choosing first an option that doesn't win. And with preferences doubtless varying by latitude, in some regions preference "d" is going to win. In others it might be "c" or "b". Personally I doubt if "a", "keep it as is" almost 8 months long, is going to win anywhere. Its imposition was a narrow-minded choice by the US Congress, admittedly taking into account only supposed overall national daily energy usage instead of quality of life factors. (It fails the "quality of life" core value test.) Even that supposed energy saving will vary by latitude - I think they were looking mainly at air conditioning in the south and ignoring heating needs in the north - so the effects also mitigate against the "equality" value IMHO.

   With the single "X" ballot, the voter who doesn't want DST has a hard choice. If he thinks there are few others who don't want DST, he is likely to cast his "X" for the 4 month version - which is in fact not his real preference. Again it's the negative "fear based" vote: trying to prevent the least desired 8 months outcome, instead of the positive vote, simply selecting that which is most desired. In fact, the vote might split something like:
 a) 33% (8 months DST)
 b) 23% (6 months)
 c) 30% (4 months)
 d) 14% (no DST)
 
   We find that "keep it as is" has won(?) despite only 1/3 of the populace liking it - or really because, having become used to it, people simply dislike change - despite 2/3 wanting to shorten the months it's in use. "Obviously" - or so it would seem - over half the population would have preferred shortening it to 6 or 4 months. But we also must realize that an unknown number of people have avoided choice "d", no DST at all, even if they liked it best, simply because they thought it couldn't win and they would be wasting their vote, so they voted "c" or even "b". And indeed in spite of the extra votes for "c" instead of "d", "a" "won" the referendum, where c+d is a much larger 44%. Given the weight for option "c", we may wonder if in fact "d" would actually have won in a multi-ballot or choice ranking vote, and that the belief that "d" couldn't win became a self-fulfilling prophesy. That is why we should vote that way in the first place.

   Once any one "most acceptable" DST (or no DST) option has been chosen and in use for quite a while, unless something changes it is unlikely that a new referendum will succeed in changing it. People do tend to choose what they are familiar with, the established pattern, unless there's a good reason. But even if a new on-line referendum on DST were to take place every few years for several decades, even if they all fail to change anything, they would cost very little and would at least reaffirm that the previously chosen way is in fact the compromise most acceptable to the most people. And maybe sometime someone might come up with a bright new idea of how or when to implement daily time that people will choose as being better -- and a referendum will allow them to choose it.

6. On-Line Citizen Ratification of Legislative Enactments

When legislation is passed by a legislature, it must be posted and then ratified by a web or e-mail vote of the people. If the legislation isn't clear and useful to the public, they can turn it down. This way, even a corrupted legislature couldn't railroad the public into a course of action they don't approve of.

7. The Department of Progress

The present systems are broken and collapsing, and we need to fashion new ones that work for us now... and also we must recognize that they will have to adapt to new times and social progress so they don't gradually break down again. To that end a permanent "oversight" body for study and learning lessons from the past and examining new ideas, a respected independent body to propose amendments when changes are shown to be needed or just desirable, so that they will actually be, not just "theoretically can be" (but rarely are), implemented. This body might be a small department of the government perhaps titled the "Department of Progress", or the "Department of the Future". It should test all proposals submitted from any quarter against the core values citeria of sustainability. Nor should its scope be limited to political systems. If electric rail infrastructure is better than individual vehicles and aircraft for many purposes, this should be a guiding body in deciding what priorities are and what actions to take to achieve the end of making it more and more available. It might support and sponsor inventors to free them to pursue their inventions. (This should become a self-sustaining or even revenue generating enterprise.) It should function in conjunction with citizen ratification of legislative enactments, so that whenever a change in rules or course of action is determined upon and recommended, it must be accepted by the people themselves.

8. Modifications to Universal Suffrage and Qualifying to Run for Office

While "universal suffrage", one vote per person, is considered the ideal today, certain modifications would doubtless be valuable. (These are also mentioned in Fundamental Principles of Democratic Government.)

1. There should be basic tests administered to ascertain that each person who is allowed to vote understands the concepts and systems of democracy (and their own democracy in particular), is mentally competent, and is literate. Like a test for getting a driver's license, it would be a test that normal, basically educated people can pass with a little study. The uneducated and the mentally impaired can't be relied on to make good choices for society.

2. It also seems fair to give the opinions of more experienced or accomplished people more weight than the average person "fresh out of school". More votes than one would be awarded as distinctions for accomplishment and service, perhaps similarly to the ways degrees are granted, or as persons of distinction are knighted in Britain. I won't go into the many possibilities for when or how to grant such civil honors to those who are deserving of respect. There should be a limit to the number of them one may receive. They should not be awarded so stingily that it's a rare thing, but rather it should be expected that many reasonably accomplished elders would be likely to have two or three votes.

3. Additional tests should be given to those who wish to qualify as candidates to run for any political office. I won't try to suggest just what material such tests should cover, but again it should be ascertained that those who wish to guide society have the prerequisites to do so. (This would also eliminate those who may be politically zealous but mentally unfit from the ballot, which for some offices they may be on for election after election today.)

9. Size and Qualities of a Legislature

    Today it is common to have parliaments or legislatures with hundreds of representatives. Often the time of many seems to be consumed in various unproductive or marginally useful subcommittees rather than proposing and hammering out legislation to become law. Others may do little besides rubber stamp bills proposed by their party leader or even originating externally, and collect a salary and benefits for that. Most of them spend much time in travel across the country between home and the legislature.

   I submit that a legislature of hundreds, or even several tens, seems too large to be productive. And a large number of voters don't necessarily reach a different conclusion than a smaller number. Rather than a large debating society (or is it an "argument clinic"?), a relatively small "design team" legislature composed of diverse (and better qualified?) people elected from different walks of life as proposed earlier (in 2.) would surely be able to have better, more open and more productive discussions, and so can probably end up making better plans and decisions. In fact, the best size for a "design team" for designing new socially sustainable procedures or systems in accordance with the core values is said to be 7 to 9 people,  5 to 11 being workable*. Why should a legislature of those elected to serve the public not be akin to a design team? And if there is an upper and a lower legislative house, might one of them favorably be so constituted?

   Surely the text of the venerated American Constitution itself was worked out by a small design team of a few individuals, not by a congress of dozens or hundreds, even if it was okayed by many once written.

   Single digits may seem like an absurdly small number of representatives compared with what we're used to. However, if local decisions are made locally, state or province decisions are made at that level, and only decisions truly belonging to the national realms are made by national governments, perhaps government doesn't have to be bigger and bigger at higher levels. Maybe a continental or world government need not be bigger than a national or regional one?

   And, does a legislature need to physically meet to do business, or perhaps even any of its business? What about an e-mail list? What about Skype or "Google Hangouts", or a custom package? How much legislative activity could be handled without the legislators routinely flying all around the country?

   I'm basically throwing the ideas of this section out there. I'm not saying that I have it all thought out or am certain what would work best - just that there seem to be many potential options for positive changes, which may look little like the costly, ponderous systems common today.

* Social Sustainability Handbook for Community-Builders - by Daniel Raphael Ph.D.

10. Democracy in the Workplace

   Someday soon, in accordance with the core value of equality, workers will have to have a stake in the companies they work for - a share in the profits, and a say in their operation. And at some point, the profit motive must give way to the purer service motive in larger organizations. The likes of Monsanto, Con-Agra, pharmaceutical makers, Youtube, Google, public utilities, insurance providers, and various bulk manufacturers must sooner or later become "public trusts" rather than 'competing' "for-profit corporations".

   In Canada we have had this situation in place in certain areas, some for quite a long time. The trusts go under the title of "Crown Corporations" - public corporations created by the government for service to the public rather than to make profits for private shareholders. But set apart from the government itself with their own organizational structures, they have in the past been subject to much reduced political interference. There are both Federal and Provincial (state) Crown Corporations. Generally they either break even financially or the excess goes into government revenues, reducing taxation or allowing an increase in services.

   These trusts have mostly worked out very well, except that in recent times, corrupt governments have given away these treasured public institutions, or most of their infrastructure, assets and functions, to their supporters under the guise of "a philosophy of private enterprise". Nothing could be further from the truth. If the governments believed in private enterprise, they would have created shares and sold the companies on the stock markets for revenue, with the public at least benefiting from the proceeds and having a chance to buy the shares. In fact, they simply stole what the public's wealth had created, infrastructure built up over decades, without recompense, and handed it over to their friends and supporters. Again, governments should have to have the public ratify their decisions, who may vote such actions down if they don't like them.

   Here are some examples of some crown corporation "trusts". The reader will have to pardon my life mostly in British Columbia (BC) and the many BC provincial examples (many now stolen and given away): Canada Post (yes, the Canadian post office, whose service dramatically improved once it was no longer run directly by the government), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Ontario Hydro, Hydro Quebec, BC Hydro and Power Authority, BC Rail, Alberta Government Telephones, Insurance Corporation of BC (not-for-profit auto insurance).

   Now I will simply give a real life example to challenge the mind to the myriads of possibilities for democratic involvement that are surely open in various work situations.

   I once worked for the Greater Victoria School District, in the Electronics Workshop of the Maintenance department. Over the years, various people came, retired, were promoted or otherwise switched jobs, and so on. In more than one shop, the shop foreman was an unsuitable person. And essentially, the shops were stuck with them until they retired. In about 1992 the Painting shop foreman was retiring. According to seniority, a completely unsuitable painter was next in line for the job. Painters told the maintenance supervisor that they would not work under him.

   I proposed to the maintenance department supervisor that shop foremen should be elected by the shop workers for a fixed term. No more "there until retirement" unsuitable or incompetent foremen, with others cut off from any chance of promotion. Surely those who are trusted to elect the country's government can be trusted to elect their immediate leaders as well? And we were civil servants, working for an elected School Board. Surely the elected trustees would believe in democracy, that it was a good idea? This idea was greeted with a blank stare and some brief remark along the lines of "That's not how it's done." and he may have mentioned the union. But why not, other than that he said so? To me it seemed the perfect and obvious solution to many intractable problems.

   This same supervisor later was saying with pride how he had handled the painting shop foreman situation. His immediate performance was good, but the whole problem wouldn't have arisen if the foremen were elected. The same painter he promoted would doubtless have won the election, but more options would have been open for the future when the election term expired. As it was, that painter, regardless of performance or superior supervisory talent appearing within the shop, would have the job until retirement. Until then, no chance for anyone else to take the lead - no equality of opportunity.

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