Steel City Cowboy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Multi-Tiered Relational Republic

There are approximately 110 million households in the United States of America. 169 million registered voters.

One of the huge problems with our electoral system, as expressed by Dilbert creator Scott Adams, is that as voters right now, we don't have any way of actually evaluating the candidates for whom we can vote. We simply don't have the tools. We're guessing and hoping at best, and it shows.

A lament I often hear on righty blogs this year, and from sides during the past several election cycles is "This is the best we get to choose from?" And they're right. The system of institutions, economics and evolved party structure in place lead to the induction of candidates that no one would have picked under any other set of conditions. It is also a fact that an electoral victory, when not influenced by existing views of party affiliation and uncontrollable external events like terrorist attacks or economic collapses, hinges upon a very specific set of sales skills known as campaigning, which skills are not necessarily related to the set required for the position once obtained.

The blogger on “Drumwasters Rants” states that he believes there will be an American civil war sometime within the next fifteen to twenty years (I completely disagree), and solicits advice for the upcoming Constitutional Conventions of the breakaway groups of states. As I've been brainstorming lately about political ideas that are way off the farm, I have one at the ready.

I'm going to suggest a system that would alleviate the first problem mentioned above, in which people have no way of evaluating a candidate, and which could serve to alleviate the later problems in the chain. Now, I'm not suggesting this as a viable alternative right now -- I haven't completely thought it through or gamed it out. There are probably some significant weaknesses involved, and areas for corruption of the system that I haven't noticed.

The Multi-Tiered Relational Republic

First off, the three branches stay. We still have Executive, Legislative and Judicial (which IS NOT a separation of powers, by the way -- they are concurrent entities with overlapping powers, so when one steps on the others' toes a bit it is not a Constitutional crisis as many claim). Under my plan, we still have a chief executive, a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary. That's been working out pretty well, so why change it?

It is in the actual election process that the Multi-Tiered Relational Republic differs. The MTRR operates under the assumption that people only have a real chance at evaluating the suitability of other people in a face to face fashion (cf. the insistence of employers on that little thing called a job interview). Clearly, we neither expect a candidate for the chief executive position nor even one for a legislative district to be able to have face time with each voter in their constituency. And how can we be expected to be able to directly vote for someone that we not only don't know, but have no way of evaluating properly?

For the sake of round numbers, let's say that there are 180 million voters. If we are going to say that a candidate can be reasonably expected to spend an hour or two a year with each of their constituents individually, we can rough it out to say that each candidate should have a constituency of around 300 people. 300. That's it. So what happens is this: as a constituent, you might be visited by two or three people in the course of a year, each running for the position as your Tier 1 representative. With 180 million voters, that makes 600,000 Tier 1 slots.

These Tier 1 Reps in turn actually meet and hang with each of the several people running for the Tier 2 slots. There are 2,000 Tier 2 slots. Each of these 2,000 Tier 2 Reps has as their direct constituency 300 Tier 1 Reps.

At election time, you and I get to cast a ballot for our Tier 1 Rep, all of which candidates we've personally met, quizzed to our satisfaction and evaluated, and for our Tier 2 Rep as well. We may or may not have met the Tier 2 Rep candidates (900,000 voters per Tier 2 Rep), and the odds are that we won't. However, each of the Tier 1 candidates that we've met personally HAVE met the Tier 2 candidates. So, our votes for Tier 1 call the winner for Tier 1 Rep, and our votes for Tier 2 are counted at a fraction of their value and paired with the direct ballots of the Tier 1 Reps who are balloting for Tier 2. The most effective split would have to be determined by modeling and experimentation, i.e., Tier 2 Reps are elected by weighting the constituent votes at 30% and the Tier 1 votes at 70%.

So, you get to directly elect the Tier of Reps that you have actually met, and also have an indirect, though not insignificant, influence on the election of the second Tier of Reps whom you met indirectly through your Tier 1 Rep.

The Tier 2 Reps do the same thing with the Chief Executive. They cast direct ballots for the CE, who has met and spent time with each Tier 2 Rep. Tier 1 Reps cast indirect ballots for the CE, in the exact same fashion as the previous level.

So, the main objection most people have at this point is that regular constituents do not directly vote for the Chief Executive. And my response is: so what? Voting for someone you have no way of evaluating is worse than useless -- it is constrained to the effects of wanton manipulation. I would much rather vote for someone I've met and had some private time with than someone whom I can only judge by how well they give a tele-prompted speech or the position papers on their websites that were focused-grouped and written by marketing surrogates. In fact, under the MTRR, when it's Election time, you will know someone who knows someone who knows the CE.

Now, I went to an Ivy League school, and, even though I'm not aware of all my connections, the odds are pretty good that right now I know someone who knows someone who knows one of the Presidential candidates. But in truth, I don't know what those connections might be, so they are useless to me. Even if I did, the connection is probably of low value, as it's most likely through people I just met once at some party or get together and over whom I have no influence.

But under the MTRR, I know someone who will take my phone call, who can call someone who will take their phone call who could get face time with the CE. And not just me, who went Ivy. Every elector has that relationship. Every. Single. One.

And that, my friends, kicks ass.

The thing that we are most evolved to do as humans in society is to evaluate the other humans with whom we live. And our current electoral system does worse than just throw that ability out -- it warps it and plays it to its own ends.

So, how do we determine who gets represented by whom? Randomization, within geographical limits. In fact, the 600,000 Tier 1 slots are not even set in stone. They change each election. The 300 people in the constituency for Tier 1 slot #598,092 will probably not be the same people in this election as in the next. So there is, in effect, no incumbency. As a Rep, you cannot go back to the same people who elected you last time and say "Look what I got you!" All you have is your resume, so to speak. "Here's how I stuck to my guns for my last group of 300. I did what I said I'd do," which at Tier 1 is pretty much to vote for the Tier 2 slot. And so on up the chain.

And what would your conversation with your Tier 1 rep sound like? You could talk about policy views, scope of government, your own personal financial situation. Whatever floats your boat. You could also say “So, tell me about the Tier 2 Reps who are going for your vote. You've met them. What do you think of them? What do they think about the Chief Executive candidates (who they've actually spent some time with!)?” While you're evaluating them, you're asking them for their personal evaluation of the people up the chain, and asking who they're thinking of voting for, and it's all based on personal relationships.

Now, that's just for the Executive branch. For the legislature, you add a second track of candidates and modify the numbers a bit. We give the Senate back to the States, as originally conceived in the Constitution. It was a body that represented the interests of the governments of the States, and I think that worked reasonably well. So, we only need to elect one House. Let's keep it around 500. We only do two Tiers here, so we need to adjust the constituency sizes. This is where modeling and simulation would play a hand, but I'll just ballpark the Tier 1 size at 360,000 slots, or 500 constituents per Tier 1 Rep. Then, each Tier 2 Rep, who are the actual legislature, are each directly elected by 720 Tier 2 Reps, and indirectly elected by you and the other 360,000 people in your current Tier 2 "district."

On the legislative side, then, the candidates have more people to meet and consequently need to work harder to do so. You power is diminished a little by this, as you are one of five hundred to your Tier 1 Legislative Rep, instead of one or three hundred. However, Tier 2 is as high as it goes on the Legislative side, so you know someone who will take your calls who knows your Legislator. In fact, everyone in the district does.

Does your Tier 2 guy (or gal) do something ludicrous? Call your Tier 1, who has actually hung out with you, and read them the riot act about why they voted for Tier 2 guy (or gal), if in fact they did, which reminds me of the final rule:

Constituents vote in private. All other Tiers vote in public. No secret ballot for elected electors.

Once again, I'm not sure what the ramifications of an electoral system like this would be. Certainly, corruption is robust and money will always attempt to route itself anywhere it can multiply. I think that it would lead to more personal accountability and better choices of candidates up-ticket.


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