Sunday, November 13, 2016

Direct Democracy

I believe in direct democracy.

Currently in the United States we have a system of representative democracy. We vote for representatives who in turn make the laws. 

I believe the American people should make the laws directly, rather than relying on representatives. It is only fair that we should be able to vote directly on the policies that will effect their lives. 

Every citizen should vote on every law.

In the past this would have been impractical, because it would take massive time and resources to bring together an entire nations worth of votes on every tiny legislative question. However, now, thanks to advances in technology, it is possible for every citizen to weigh in on every policy choice.

There are still practical challenges to direct democracy. 'Information costs' are the cost of getting information necessary to making efficient decisions. Our government and economy are incredibly complex. The average voter simply does not have the time or resources necessary to learn everything she needs to know to make informed decisions about every proposed piece of legislation. 

Here is what I propose.

My system of direct democracy would deal with information costs through proxy voting. 

Proxy voting is a device currently used in corporate governance. Basically, individual stockholders can appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. Most of these proxies are large investment advising organizations that are able to do the hard work of analyzing corporate plans and voting in the stockholders best interest. 

Under my proposed system of direct democracy proxy voting would be an option: you can vote on each issue yourself, abstain, or you can appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf. These proxies would be professional, non-profit, organizations devoted to policy analysis and policy writing. I envision that under such a system there would be a proliferation of such organizations all vying for the privilege of voting on your behalf. 

Citizens would give their vote to the proxy that best represents their policy preferences. Citizens would always have the right to pull their vote back and appoint a different proxy. Citizens would also have the option to vote directly on issues that they are particularly passionate about, while leaving most of their voting to their proxy. 

To fund the proxies I would give Citizens a tax credit each year (maybe $100) to compensate them for the cost of hiring a proxy.

Because citizens can change proxies at any time, proxies will have a strong incentive to make their clients happy by enacting policies that closely match their preferences. Proxies will be allowed to charge uniform fees, but will not be able to accept additional money from wealthy citizens or corporations. 

My system of direct democracy would replace the Congress. The executive and judicial branches would essentially remain unchanged. The bill of rights will not change--there will be limits on what the populace can do with their votes. Therefore, there will still be checks and balances against excesses of democracy.

My system would be better for the following reasons:

1. Popular sovereignty, legitimacy, and lawfulness--My system best reflects the value of popular sovereignty. The citizens will directly choose the laws that govern them. My system will enhance the legitimacy of government, because the laws will be a direct reflection of the popular will. This would likely have positive effects on law enforcement, because the laws they are enforcing will have greater legitimacy.

3. Complexity--My system would better handle complexity, because professional proxy organizations would be in charge of policy writing and analysis. (Senators and representatives are good at winning popularity contests, not necessarily good at writing policy). Proxy organizations will have a strong incentive to do a good job, because their pay will be directly related to job performance. Market forces and competition will quickly discipline poor performance. 

4. Diversity--My system will eliminate binary voting. Rather than having only two parties to choose from, voters will be able to more accurately express their policy preferences among hundreds or thousands of proxies. For example, a social conservative that is fiscally liberal will be able to appoint a socially-conservative, fiscally-liberal proxy to vote on her behalf. Under our current system, socially-conservative, fiscally-liberal citizens don't have a party that represents their policy preference. 

5. Partisanship and identity politics--My system will help unite the country by eliminating partisanship and reducing identity politics. Two parties will be replaced by a whole bunch of proxies. This will help focus the populace on policy choices rather than personalities and identity politics.

6. Reduced gridlock--My system would permit interesting coalitions to develop. Because each issue is voted for directly, social conservatives and fiscal liberals could unite to pass welfare legislation or fiscal conservatives and social libertarians could unite to pass criminal justice reform, etc. Again, the law will much better reflect the popular will free from partisan distortion.

7. Flexibility and responsiveness--My system would be more flexible and responsive. Voters can change proxies at any time. The system will be able to quickly adapt to changes in global affairs, technology, etc.

8. Elimination of money and corruption in politics--Under my system, there is no potential for bribery--you would need to bribe the entire nation (or at least a majority). Not only would this be extremely impractical, it would also be extremely obvious and easy to prosecute. There would be no large campaign donors to corrupt our politicians, because there are no campaigns and there are no politicians. There is only us, voting on the laws that we think will best serve the country. 

We should institute a system of direct democracy. Every citizen should have an equal voice on the laws that govern us.