Sketch for a new Constitution

The governmental structures dictated by the current Constitution of the United States, together with certain extra-Constitutional traditions that they have accreted, are a disaster for responsive government. I won’t go into specifics in this post, although most of them are clear in my mind, and I’ve summarized them in emails to various people involved in political advocacy.

The odd thing is that, despite widespread disaffection with ‘Washington’, one gets the impression that most people don’t blame the Constitution, as they should. Education is needed so that people realize that there really is a big problem (and that tweaks like attempting to ‘end Citizens United’ are just a distraction).

Here is a sketch for a governmental structure that could actually work.

Legislative power is vested in a body which I will call the ‘Governing Council’ (GC). This would comprise about 24 members, though this number could be tuned based on experience.

Each member of the GC would represent the votes of at least five million Americans (again, this number could be tuned). This is the same kind of representation as occurs at corporate annual meetings, where most shares are voted not directly by their owner but by someone who holds the owner’s proxy. So when the GC takes a vote, members have different voting strengths: note this well. The GC would select the President from among its number.

The intention is that each political point of view held by a reasonably large subset of Americans should have a representative on the GC. My own vote would go to someone who would advocate a large and gradually increasing carbon tax, along with measures to mitigate the economic disruption this would cause; but the GC might also include a would-be theocrat, or a hard-money advocate for whom ending the Federal Reserve is Job #1.

A big part of the mandate for the GC would be to create and maintain a lively political discourse that revolves around policy rather than personality. For example, there would be substantial budgetary support for town meetings, and for focused debates, each one involving a small number of GC members or their designates. Thus, my carbon-tax proponent would have the resources to try to persuade more Americans that the current cheap-energy policy guarantees a miserable future for their children.

In addition to the GC, there could be a much larger (seriously, much larger, maybe 100,000 or so) group of public servants representing small geographic districts, more or less as ombudsmen: receiving and investigating citizen complaints. They would, of course, never all meet in one place, though regional subsets might.

Okay, that’s as far as I’ve gotten right now. Food for thought, I hope.

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2 Responses to Sketch for a new Constitution

  1. Tim Heilman says:

    I know so little of politics, I ought not to be commenting. Nonetheless: I often try to contrast ancient to modern cultural phenomena (apply the Lindy effect), in order especially to detect and filter out those aspects exclusive to modernity from consideration as tools toward achievement of ends, and my consistent stumbling block is that large cities are ancient. So often I’ll find myself mistakenly attributing something to modernity that, in fact, is simply urban, and so still may have some role to play in understanding the human experience as decision makers. (Modern things, in their ephemerality and from my perspective, cannot play a significant role in that understanding.)

    In this same vein, nation-states are exclusively modern; city-states are ancient. (Aside: Slavery is ancient; employment is modern). The predicament is in bigness itself and the speed of information transmission. The Hellenistic confederation of Switzerland, being the closest modern nation-state to retain city-state dynamics, has a very good track record in terms of stability (though not in ethics). Almost all of this is parroting Taleb.

  2. Ken W says:

    As Whitman wrote, each of us contain multitudes, and we sometimes contradict ourselves. How about a system where people can distribute votes among multiple candidates (or one, or none) to reflect proportional support for a variety of candidates and viewpoints?

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