Good points, Robin. I've long thought about this topic of how to get better governance be getting rid of the problems that democracy creates. Not being a political scientist, I might be going over well known ground, but it seems obvious to me that democracy has the huge benefit of eliminating extreme civil unrest. People riot and revolt when they want change but can't make it happen, so they get angry. The more people feel like they are in control the less likely they are to cause extreme civil unrest (any free society will always have visible unrest because some people are going to try to gain status by being outsiders).

What I've thought would be a good system is something akin to what China does nominally, even though in practice their governmental process is far more controlled from the top than what they want to make it appear. At the local level, people elect representatives who have the job of voting for them. The few hundred people in a village pick someone to represent them at higher levels of government. From there on up it's the job of the representatives to vote for higher level representatives (think congressmen), who in turn elect the top representatives (PM, cabinet positions). And those people have the job of controlling the civil service indirectly by setting policy and forcing out high-level administrators who are acting in ways opposed to what the representatives want.

Not that it really happens this way, but it seems like a pretty good system to me: you just have to pick someone who you think would vote the way you would if you had time to really think about the issues, and then pass the job up to someone who will dedicate the time necessary to make that decision.

Just my arm chair thoughts on political reform.

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It's easier for people to think of prohibition as something government is supposed to do. Outlawing spending on X seems like a normal kind of law. You can't murder, steal, put lead in paint, or pay more than $x for ads with a candidates name in within 6 months of an election.

It's hard to consider changing the way votes are counted as a normal kind of law. (and It probably would require a constitutional amendment) So it's a big scary change.

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Perhaps it is not the ads themselves directly. as many tend to believe the same things as the other people around them. A community of such persons will be unlikely to have independent thoughts of its own; instead they will draw on the environment. To the extent that such a trait prevails in the general population, any individual or group that has a) the capactity for independent thought and b) resources will have considerable power to influence how the public votes on any particular issue, or even to influence whether or not the public even perceives an issue in the first place.

I think it unlikely that anyone holding such power would be much interested in encouraging the public to make informed decisions, and this may explain why the public so seldom does so.

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I'm also confused by the term shallow voters.

If they're not much of a problem, why offer all these other "solutions" when you can eliminate the problem by banning corporate (and union) money being used in campaigns?

Also, aren't those people who only ever vote for one party the most shallow? They'd never consider the other side's opinion, even if it is in the best interest of the country.

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Maybe. However, I am worried about private armies built by and for corporations. Ever hear of , um…. Blackwater. yea I’m pretty sure that’s the name.

Are you equally concerned about public armies? If not, why not?

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Actually, I support executive appointment of judges with legislative approval also, but, in the world we live in, we do have judicial elections of judges, at the state and local level. You might also consider whether pandering to the voter is any different than pandering to the governor for an appointment. But, that is another matter.

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Everyone has merit to speak, but not to run the conversation. I think limiting corporations is an obvious step because- by definition and legal obligation- they only have interest in increasing their own value.

Again, I have no illusions that you could or should compel "honest" speech, but I see no problem with putting a cap on the "volume" of speech by limiting the amount of money that can be spent.

How do we decide who has merit enough to be considered a non-shallow voter, eligible for participation in your alternatives?

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Bill, I'm worried about judges pandering to you. That's why I want to remove your right to vote for judges. The job of a judge is to correctly interpret the law; with judicial elections, a judge might lose their job because they correctly interpreted an unpopular law.

This gives judges the incentive to incorrectly interpret the law.

This has nothing to do with how easily persuaded you are by campaign commercials.

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This would make the system more majoritarian.

A good system would allow fresh ideas to travel upwards and have lots of competing ideas on the decision level.

Not a two-party system where there are few realistic alternatives.

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And how do we decide who has enough "merit" to be allowed to speak?

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In a national election, "small" could be 100,000. And we don't have to publish their names, or give people a way to verifiability prove they are a juror.

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My thoughts would fall along the same theme of individuals voting for a more local representative and then those representatives voting for the larger aggregation. "Local" is a detail but one possibility is:A) Individuals vote for their country representativeB) County representatives vote for their state representativesC) State representatives vote for their federal representatives

Now, to take this even further I would propose that individuals ONLY pay taxes to the county; the county then pays the state and the state pays the federal government.

The legal and judicial side of things things would probably stay generally the same but all funding and voting would be one-way: from the county (local) level through the state and onto the federal level. The federal and state governments would never be in a position to withhold funds from the levels below them. And each vote would have a larger absolute influence on the election.

Basically expanding the concept of the Electoral College that we currently have. The risk of not-electing someone who would have the popular vote is worth the overall benefit of more influential voting. Besides, if we don't end up having a popular election then there would be no way of knowing who would have won the popular vote anyway.

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Also, I think there was an Asimov short story about a world where each election only one voter was chosen by a super computer.

The Voter would then answer a series of questions which the super computer would use to figure out how policy should move forward.

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Robin, have you read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein?

A lot of your very refreshing thoughts on variations we could use in our political/social/judicial/economic/academic processes remind me of a speech given by Professor de la Paz to the Lunar constitutional congress about the dangers of following the past. he'd suggested things like having a bicameral legislature where one house could pass legislation and the other could revoke it, but neither could do both, or for electing representatives based on alphabetical order of names.

Could you do a post about whether and how we should use the past not only as examples but also as a way of categorizing thinking. For example, Plato set us thinking of government as a question of who is in charge, but this is maybe not optimal way of approaching the question.

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To the extent possible, have a totally independent "free" press.

If you want people to make informed decisions don't you have to provide a means for them to get "non biased" information? If people doubt the information, why would they even bother trying to study it and make a decision?

Perhaps the solution is to educate people to be selective of their information sources and make sure that excellent sources of information are available at no cost (since we are cheap and usually will substitute a freebee without regard to quality - hey man! it's free!).

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This seems like an oversimplification, to say the least. There are precisely two categories of voters- the shallow and the non-shallow? It's really that simple?

It seems more likely that we can all be influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the application of cognitive pressure over time. The goal of most political ads isn't to convince outright, but to define the conversation and apply cognitive pressure. While we (probably) can't reasonably or fairly enforce the honesty of political discussion, we should be able to modulate the volume so that people have a chance to hear other points of view (if they want to, which is another problem).

Juries – randomly select a small jury of voters to participate in each election. Each juror chosen would know they have a much better chance of making a difference.

...And since they don't necessarily have a vested interest in the major issues at stake, they would probably be more susceptible to social pressure or bribery. Ditto for 'Rotation', and 'Foremen'. 'Topic' seems likely to attract more activists than specialists.

I don't really understand the desire to contrive Rube-Goldberg political devices instead of just admitting that there is a possibility for undue and unwanted (but very persistent) influence from well-financed groups with solely self-serving interests, and then taking steps to encourage a more level playing field. Encourage ideological competition on merit, not volume.

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