Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take the Politicians out of Politics

A friend of mine, Justin, recently posted this quote on his blog:

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." -Douglas Adams

I took this to mean that in order to be a successful politician, you must be inherently incapable of making good policy. Taking campaign donations, making broad and impossible promises, and changing your stances based on their current popularity are all useful in getting elected, but are actually obstructive to good policy. Justin's suggestion was somehow getting rid of the two party system, but I don't think that's the answer. In fact, that "us-them" mentality may actually keep both parties fairly moderate and work to keep the size of the government small. Instead, I suggest something a little more audacious. Instead of getting more choice in our politicians, why not get rid of them all together?

My proposal is Online Direct Democracy. Instead of having representatives that vote on issues for us, we could allow each and every willing citizen vote issue by issue. This idea could start with a single representative, who vows to vote as his constituents do online (as this Australian political party strives to do). Then move to allow citizens to vote on all local, then state, then national issues.

The main benefit I see is the elimination of the major flaw with democracy, special interests. Lobbyists would no longer have the incentive to solicit an elite few. Granted they may still advertise and promote their position to sway voters, but there would be no backroom deals. It also limits the influence financial donors have on the election, something campaign finance has failed to do. As long as the sale of votes is prohibited, money can only be spent convincing citizens.

To ensure that the tyranny of the majority is not too great, I propose having a large percentage needed to pass legislation. If 75% of the American public is needed to pass a law, then we will simply have fewer laws. This from my perspective is probably a good thing. To decide what bills make it to the ballot, you can require a certain amount of signatures, keeping the list to 50 or so. Then once or twice a year you sit down at your computer and vote yes or no on the 50 topics or so (with maybe emergency elections if needed for war or major pressing issues). Now basing your vote on issues, not predictions of how politicians will vote on issues.

Here are some details I need some help working out:
-Who appoints judges? Are they now elected and not kept non-partisan?
-Who chooses military leaders? Are military officers going to be elected now?


  1. Interesting idea! Everything else is going the way of the internets, why not the government? I've never heard of the Australia Senator On-Line, that's really interesting. But back to your idea, there may be a few a few more details to work out:

    Not everyone has access to the internet.

    Can anyone write a bill? If so, and if they only require 50 signatures, can you imagine the number of bills you'd have to wade through? Which brings me to my next point...

    Who has time to wade through and consider all the bills? Isn't that what we vote for politicians to do?

  2. "Not everyone has access to the internet."

    Very true, but probably almost everyone has access to a public library with the internet. And to get the rest of the people you can set up polling places with internet access for people who don't have access or don't trust the internet.

    I think my sentence about the required signatures was a little unclear. The number of signatures is not 50, it would surely have to be more. The number of bills allowed on the ballot would be about 50, because as you stated how can you possibly become educated on hundreds of topics.

    As for wading through even 50 bills, yeah that would be tough, but I'm sure beneficial sites would pop up discussing each of the topics thoroughly.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.