Government for the 21st Century - A Proposal To Return Law Back To The People
I would like to make a proposal. This is not a radical proposal though it may be viewed as such. This is a compromise between a voluntaryist-anarchist and his progressive opponents. I hope to hear from devoish, awallerjr, rofgile, leohaas, and the many other adherents of Social Contract theory. This is not a competition or a debate. Just a proposal.
I don't particularly have any interest in good government. I don't think there is such a thing. I especially don't think it is possible when a minority of the people are allowed to dictate to the majority. I don't think voting solves any problems. I will stop here.
I do, however, understand that there is an operational reality, to borrow one of my least favorite terms, to the current system of government. With that in mind, I propose one change, but it's a significant change.
This change will update American government for the 21st century using the technology available to modern Americans. It will make the federal government less barbaric, less arcane, and more responsive to the people it supposedly serves.
This change takes into account the realities of governemnt. I list the most important realities as follows:
1. The federal government will always seek to maximize its power no matter what powers you delegate to it or what limitations you place on it. There is no point in bothering with that.
2. The federal government will pass laws regardless of their Constitutionality. Congress has no interest in determining the limits of their own power. They leave that up to the men in black, the President and the voters.
3. Elected representatives will delegate any matter that could be dangerous to their reelection to other institutions. In other words, if Congress doesn't want to be blamed for monetary/economic matters, it will create a Federal Reserve. If Congress doesn't want to answer for its military adventures, it will stop requiring a declaration of war. Etc.
The Proposal: Remove the Power to Make Law from Congress
Before you reject this, hear me out.
Congress shall make no law. Period. End of Sentence.
Instead, Congress' new function will be to propose law only. Voting on federal laws will be done by the citizens of the United States of America. All federal laws. Voting can be handled securely online without great difficulty. The technology to create and maintain secure user credentials, secure connections, databases for existing and proposed laws, etc, is readily available to the federal government. We don't have to reinvent the wheel here. We simply need to take the existing technology used in online banking, for example, to create a secure method of online voting. I'm sure there is an entrepreneur or two among us that could think of many ways to solve this problem.
1. We will need a time frame for proposing law and a limit to the number of laws that can be proposed.
I'm going to go with abitrary as the answer, since the operational reality of government is that laws and limits are pretty much abitrary anyway. Why are there 9 Supreme Court Justices? Why not 11, 3, or 9347? It's all abitrary.
So we'll say that there will be a one month time frame for proposing laws. We will use a cycle so that you don't have to be voting every day. During that one month time frame, our law proposers can debate and argue and filibuster all they want about the laws that will ultimately be presented to the public for voting.
Or, if there is already a standard number of days it takes for a bill to be proposed before it is voted on, we can go with that. Some Congressional scholar among us might have that answer. Personally, I don't care, as long as it's enough time for the do-somethings to get their heads wrapped around a few proposals to put before the public.
2. How many laws shall they be able to propose?
Again, I go with abitrary. Is there a usual number that gets voted on per year? Fine, stick with that. Whatever that number is, that's what it will be. 100 per year? 1,000? I don't care. Divide that by our agreed upon time frame, and that's how many laws Congress is allowed to propose to the people for voting in each cycle.
I like the monthly cycle personally. This way it can become part of the American experience and it is easy to schedule on your calendar. Every month, with a few clicks, you vote and you're done. If you want to research a proposal (I think many will on topics that affect them directly, but some of our cynics will disagree), you are free do so for a month to come to your conclusion.
Checks on the public
There's that old saying about democracy and 51% tyranny. Well, I've never found a government that is run by 51% of its people so I don't know how it'll go. Regardless, let's look at the checks we can put on the John Q. Public.
We still have the Presidential veto, although he may not want to be so bold if with re-election around the corner and these same lawmakers voting on his job performance.
We still have the Supreme Court, which as before will rule on the Constitutionality of laws when they are challenged.
We stil have the States, Counties, and Cities where nothing has been changed.
And we still have a Congress that can refuse to put forward any laws to be voted on (oh wouldn't that be divine?)
We also have the Republican system (not the Party) still in place and here's how it could work:
Each individual State's vote could be tallied up, with the result being determined by State totals rather than individual totals. No law can pass unless it wins 2/3rds of all States (34 out of 50 if my math is correct.) In other words all votes for Illinois are tallied up and counted as 1 vote for Illinois, and then 1 vote for Idaho, etc. 34 votes of Yes and the law is passed.
So you may have a vote win a popularity contest, something disgusting like all gays must wear a mark on their clothing, but still not pass because it doesn't win in two-thirds of all States.
Will This Prevent Tyranny?
Of course not. Nor is it a libertarian solution or an anarchist solution. It's an attempt to mollify the worst aspects of centralized government while utilizing the technology available to a modern society.
I'll start with my favorite benefit:
Members of Congress could no longer run reelection campaigns on their accomplishments. They'll have no accomplishments!!! All they can say is, "I proposed this law or that law." Their reelection will be decided by the votes their laws get. An opponent could say, "The incumbent proposed 72 laws this year and you rejected every one." What is the incumbent's response to that? "Well, you're all idiots." Yeah that'll get the job done.
Without accomplishments, there is no point in gerrymandering districits. You gerrymander to get elected. You want to get elected to pass laws. You can't pass laws. Why gerrymander?
What is the point of lobbying? You lobby to buy votes. Congress can no longer vote. Why lobby?
Campaign finance reform also becomes a non-issue. Why bother? Who is going to spend millions of dollars to help someone get elected so they can propose law? That's not very cost effective. What will special interests do instead?
Some Negative Consequences
Special interests will lobby you directly. I say, "Great!!" You might say "eff that." If they want to buy votes, well let's at least have them buy votes from us, the taxpayers (if there would still be taxes hehe.) Imagine them trying to buy 20,000,000 votes. Ha! So you will see a rise in commercials and advertisements from special interest groups. Your NFL game will be sponsored by some law firm that wants to see you naked before you step on an airplane. So be it. This is an operational reality. At least this way they are spending money to convince us, instead of a few "elected representatives."
Your online privacy is obviously a concern and that will have to be dealt with. But the governemnt doesn't care about your privacy right now, so having to worry about online privacy is a better arrangement in my opinion. You'll want your voting record to remain secret, I would think. You'll want to know that the system itself can't be hacked. I would prefer open source solutions to the voting application. Nothing proprietary. Etc. These are technological issues that are solvable.
The federal government may lose a great deal of power. Heck, it may even lose the ability to operate. Well, here's a challenge: I am told by social contract theorists that the public endorses a strong federal government and taxation. If so, why would we expect the people to vote for its castration?
I certainly don't expect it. I don't think this idea brings about a libertarian paradise. Heck, the public might turn out to be worse in voting on laws than they are in voting on Congressmen!
Where Does Responsibility Lie
But what really excites me about this idea is that no matter what happens, Americans would have no one to blame but themselves. They can't whine about the law. It's their law. They passed it. They can't complain about their loss of civil liberties. They took it away. They can't complain about how bankrupt the nation is. They bankrupted it.
Politics is the art of screwing up the affairs of private citizens. You might as well allow the citizens to screw it up for themselves.
David in Qatar