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Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Government You Can Love



Citizens feel powerless and disconnected from their government. 
The government continues to act without the will of the people. 
Grotesque compromises are made in order to get any legistation completed. 
Your representative votes, but is your "vote" counted or considered! 


Currently you have four federal representives, your Congressman, two Senators and a President. But their objective is to get elected, by following party rules and not necessarily voting the way you as an individual would prefer.

But citizens can take charge of their government.

A new process is outlined below, and how to get it.
  
The process requires a radical change, and you will have a lot of questions!  Some are answered if you read the FAQ below, after reading this short outline.

The key idea is:

Each citizen has a direct vote on all proposed laws via his/her own Lobbyist/Hired Representative (HR). 

Lets call it Hired Representative Democracy  (HRD)

1.    The HR has your voting authority (a legal document with signatures) to vote Yea, Nay or Abstain on proposed laws.
2.     The HR uses your directives/conditions to vote on proposed law.
3.     The HR may be the same person or a different person for each proposed law.
4.     The HR casts the number of votes equal to the number of voters the HR represented (some would be yea, some nay, some abstain)
5.     The HR has US citizenship (can be prosecuted) but is not an elected official.
6.     The HR is hired and/or fired by you (at any time), and based on ability (see below).
7.     The HR is paid by you for each vote, but you are reimbursed with a government tax credit or refund.
8.     The HR is highly informed on the issues surrounding the proposed law, and is articulate, persuasive, and a savvy negotiator (your lobbyist, with your vote!).
9.     The HR has your directives/conditions regarding the law, but must interpret the actual wording in the proposed law and decide whether your directives mean a Yea, Nay or Abstain. (You don’t need to be involved in the details).
10.   The HR alerts you to compromises and exceptions in a bill and how they match your directives. You may also stipulate conditions for compromise ahead of time. Or, you can be on call to decide choices as they come up.
11.    The HR is in contact with you though a secure link, just as you are with your online bank account or stock market account (similar to how you vote on company business issues on stocks).

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:
(Sorry for the formatting errors, Blogger/edit won't cooperate)


Understanding all issues and voting is a full time job. How do I function?

1. You develop a general directive (below) on how to vote.
2. You select an HR
3. In specific areas you could form an opinion and select another HR who covers a specific area (similar to a medical specialist, e.g. a surgeon)
4. Or you could elect not to vote, (see Citizenship Metrics Blog)

How do I become sufficiently informed?
  1. You don't need to examine every bill in detail, as your General Directive has criteria to ensure good legislation before you would vote yes.
  2. But getting details can be done by:
        1. Getting your HR's recommendation based on your General Directives (described next) as the HR does the detail work.
       2. Reading summaries or digests on the bill.
       3. Reading the positions of advocates and opponents.
       4. Reading the pros and cons of a bill
       5. Reading the full text of the bill.


What does a directive to the HRD look like?
      1. For informed voting, it would have multiple criteria: 
      2. The bill must be of limited scope (pages) so that nasty compromises are avoided. 
      3. The costs and the benefits should be enumerated and weighed. This implies detailed studies, probably provided by both advocates and opponents. 
      4. The studies must be transparent and allow suitable changes in the assumptions. 
      5. The distribution of the benefits should meet general rules of fairness. i.e perhaps for rich people, homeless people, homeowners. and other public policy entities. 
      6. The weighting of criteria can be provided by the voters. For example, if smaller government is highly valued, then the cost of the bill would be more highly weighted than the benefits. 
      7. At least there would be an alternative to single criteria voting, which is prevalent with elected representative democracy. 
      8. Deciding might be easy with all this information, and the benefits and costs would be defined.

What is a typical HR Directive? 
Vote NO if: 
  1. There are insufficient studies (including the assumptions) with costs and benefits.
  2. The study is not available on the web. 
  3. The bill is ambiguous or lacks specificity (for example; justice, penalties, outcomes).
  4. Risks are not listed or estimated (similar to a prospectus for an investment).
  5. The bill is too long, say 30 pages. 
  6. There are too many exceptions or exclusions.
  7. The recipients of benefits are not identified.
  8. Cost estimates are not provided or referenced. 
  9. The studies, cost estimates and assumptions have no source references. 
  10.  There is no list of advocates or opponents.
  11.  Large compromises are embedded.
  12.  The studies (results) do not allow estimates with modified assumptions. 

How does the HR decide how to vote my vote? 
 1. Given that all conditions of the HR Directive (above)  are satisfied, then
 2. Voter criteria, voter weightings, the study results and general feelings are combined into a metric.
 3. The metric is compared with other proposed legislation to decide where to expend government resources. 

What is an example of a direct vote decision?
  1. The  California High Speed Rail initiative.
  2. The benefits were an alternate transportation mode from LA to SF.
  3. The costs were estimated to be lower than an airplane and the travel times shorter than with a car.
  4. Another benefit was lower energy.
  5. The costs were based on studies with arguable assumptions especially about costs and traffic demand.
  6. After approval by 52% of the voters. the costs estimates increased and made the cost benefit ratio higher. 
  7. The proposed train is now slower than an airplane and more costly.
  8. The system is not fully funded by the politicians.
  9. This example shows that the voters did not use the type of evaluation outlined here, probably because they had no Hired Representative who would insist on following voter directives.  

What if a bill is too big?
  1. One of the first things to accomplish is to divide huge bills into separate bills, so that nasty compromises are not required.
  2. Suggestion: Vote NO an any large bill

What are the qualifications for an HR in a given subject area? 
       The HR should:
      1.  Be a subject matter expert or highly informed. 
      2.  Demonstrate knowledge of both sides of the issue.
      3.  Provide appropriate criteria for an informed vote.
      4.  Identify benefits, beneficiaries, and costs.
      5.  State study assumptions and their importance.
      6.  Provide sample weighting of the criteria that could be altered/suggested by the voter.

What happens to Congress?
  1. They become HRs, in competition for your voting authority.
  2. They actually work for you. 

Do we still elect a President?
  1.     Yes, he executes the laws, but does not make them
  2.     He operates with the budget that is voted upon by you
  3.     He is evaluated as an executive/administrator, not as a politician.
  4.     He/she will have presidential powers for emergencies. 

Why is there an Abstain vote?
  1.  An intention to abstain during negotiations encourages changes in the bill. 
  2. Typically, straw votes are tallied continuously as the bill is amended, and the abstains are watched closely. 
  3.  Abstains can be the swing votes if their conditions are met.

How is a bill drafted and do I have an input?
   1. The most democratic way to draft a bill is to use a “wiki” with restrictions.
   2. A wiki starts with a proposed law by an HR who has general instructions from several of the HR's citizens.
   3. Other HRs modify the bill by wording changes.
   4. Votes are taken to accept the changes or not (all transparently).
   5. HRs are restricted from participation if repetition or subversion is attempted. 
   6. The bill is ready for a final vote when no more changes are allowed (by a vote) and there are a sufficient number of voters (say 30% of the electorate. In a close vote that would be 15% yea and 15% nay)
   7. Wiki voting allows minorities to register their position (make their point and see the voted result), even though the bill may or may not pass.
   8. Private polls (biased?) would be less influential. Private polls are often a form of propaganda, which is a threat to democracy.
   9. There is some history on wiki voting

Where, When and How is the vote?
1.          The vote is electronic and on a predefined schedule.
2.   Approval of bill wording is voted upon prior to votes to enact the legislation.
3.          There is time between votes for amendments. 
4.          Your encrypted authorization (to your HR) to vote is from any secure Internet device. 
              
Is bribery or coercion of voters possible?
1.     Yes, as it is now with voting by mail. (A briber could watch you vote and/or mail your ballot.)
2.     Bribery would carry penalties.
3.     Your vote would be online with a serial number, known only by you and secured by encryption. 
4.     A voter could change his vote if the briber were not present. (not the case with US mail type voting)
5.     See the security for Bitcoin for a very secure process.  

Will voters vote themselves money/privileges?
  1. The majority probably will not vote for excessive funding, or property grabs, outrageous proposals, etc.
  2. The Constitution and Bill of Rights still rule.
  3. The courts are used to process law suits.
  4. Tax reform and other gridlocked areas could be addressed.

  5. Voters are unlikely to vote for money for other people.

Are voters too dumb for Hired Representative Democracy?

  1. The voters have an actual say in what happens to them and theirs, so most will take it seriously, as in Estonia.
  2. Also, each issue will have a pro con list that can quickly inform anyone who wishes to be more knowledgeable.


Are voters too impulsive for Hired Representative Democracy?
1. Impulsive voting would have to be deliberate, since legislation will take time to prepare, especially if done with a wiki, which allows voting on the wording of the bill.
2. There will be time consuming contention in drafting a bill. The actual vote on the bill occurs only after a bill is satisfactory to a significant part of the electorate, say 30%, Only then will a vote for passage take place.
3.  Note that the HRs will do the “wording” work/negotiation, not the voters.

How and why will Congress approve this?
1.    By a voter referendum 
2.    By elections of supporting candidates (Third party candidates).
3.    Probably takes several election cycles.
4.    By copying success at the local level (See below)
5.    By a mock version. See How does it start on the Internet? (below)

Violates the constitution?
1.   Not if written and enacted under the rules.

Corruption possible?
1.   Encryption is pretty standard now  (e.g. banking, broker accounts) and getting safer. See the encryption of Bitcoin. 
2.   Your name would be on a public register of voters (as your name and address is now)
3.   Your vote would by identifiable only by you via encryption.
4.   Your vote would have a serial number, known only by you.
5.   You could see your vote and change it.  The total would change to verify it.
6.   Hacker defense would be needed. (like banks have)
7.   If the HR intentionally voted not in accord with your directives (fraud), your diligence would be needed.
8.   HR fraud would be transparent to you and reportable to a District Attorney.
9.    Fraud would be punishable, as the HR is a US citizen and eligible for prosecution by a District Attorney.
10.   HRs make their living off of success as a HR, so would avoid fraudulent behavior. 
11.   Voters could switch HRs, who compete for voters and are paid by voters.
12.   Coalitions are minimized (again, avoiding nasty compromises and parties, very important!)

Why do I need an HR if I specify the conditions for a vote?
1.   Because the wording in the bill will not be a perfect match with your conditions. Therefore, you would always vote no. Your objective is have negotiations that get the words close to what you want. This is the main job of the HR, to interpret your words and decide if your words and the bills words are close enough. The HR then has some negotiating power depending on the wording. So your HR can negotiate on the words to get the final bill close to your wishes. 

How can this help get fiscal order?
  1.   Suggestion: Your HR directive could generally vote NO on all earmarks or "riders" (aka special interests amendments).
  2.  Note that “coalitions” (aka “parties”) are not needed to get legislation completed (extremely important).  Independents would have a real vote.
  3.  Suggestion: Your instructions to your HR could be to generally vote for 90% of last year’s appropriation to Government Departments /Agencies.  This reduces the size of government in a minimally traumatic way. 

Where does it start?
   1.        At local level
   2.        On the Internet

What is the process at the Local Level?
  1.  Local is the most likely place to start, and would show feasibility.
  2.   Candidates run for election on a single item: To vote the way the voters direct them to vote.
  3.   Voters join a web site that directs the elected official’s vote
  4.   Elected officials are now the HRs and vote only the proxy votes that they have from the web vote results. 
  5.  Voters are registered publicly by US Mail address, signature, email account, etc.
  6.   Web log in is protected by password.
  7.   HRs operate as described above
  8.   See details at the blog here "Direct Democracy at the Local Level" 

How does it start on the Internet?
  1. Voting websites exist now and could form the basis for the needed software.
  2. People would sign up and cast a mock vote on current legislation.
  3. Alternative bills could be introduced and mock voted upon.
4. When a web site had enough “mock voters”, it would draw advertising and be self sustaining.
5. When the web site had enough voters it would become a force in politics.
6. When people saw that it worked, it would evolve to "official"
7. This is actually a business model that could be a good “start up" company.
8. Or, just email this to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.



Should there be “voter qualifications for voting on an issue”, not just “one person, one vote”?
  1.     The founding fathers debated this one, and there were various criteria (property owner, gender, slave, etc.)
  2.       Qualifications would make better citizens
  3.       There could be simple criteria, such as, a simple test on facts regarding the bill.

What if we don’t do this?
1.        Government representatives want to stay in power, and do so by raising money for re-election. 
2.   Substantial funds come from lobbyists, and the funds are used in TV advertising.
3.       This effective process is divisive, distracting, dishonest and filled with innuendo and slander.
5.        The influence of money will be more severe since the Supreme Court has removed political funding limits on Corporations and Unions.
4.          The influence of money in politics is systemic, increasing, causing harm and will not change without this radical change to the governing process.

What can I do?
  1.   Do not vote Republican or Democrat. The system is broken.
  2.   Your vote for any other candidate will send a message that your vote is available, but you are fed up and want real change. 
  3.   Improve your citizenship ... see the blog here on Citizenship Metrics
  4.  Take on some of that action!
  5.  Help develop the system by emailing me. 


2 comments:

ras said...

I like the idea- let's talk. Check out PeopleCount.org. My email is Rand, there.

Bryan Kingsford said...

I think it's a fascinating proposal. Perhaps a simpler approach would be a change that allows voting by proxy; however, that seems to expose a challenge with both approaches. Requiring voters to jump through some hoop (voting for reps themselves) helps to keep laws answerable to the people. Your proposal allows them to be even more apathetic than they already are.