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Wednesday, September 23 - 12:26amSanction this postReply
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     Its been very thoroughly debated, in this forum, who should be permitted to vote. While electoral issues partially evade the core issues concerning limited government, they are still important for a future functional constitutional government. Elections are needed for a government to be made accountable for its actions and for legislators and executives (and maybe even judges) to defend themselves to the citizens rather than to a small group of selectors or a dictator (argumentum ad populum at least creates a need to argue for ones ideas, while the alternatives devolve into pure corruption).

 

     However, whether you live in California where almost all state officials are elected or if you live in Canada where only legislators are directly elected, an electoral victory for socialists will always translate into a socialist government. You can draft a water-tight constitution, but it will be interpreted by their judges, amended (legally or illegally) by their legislators, and if they do not fear backlash, outright ignored by their officials. You can try and move the culture in your favour, but that doesn't guarantee voters won't make a mistake, and that doesn't consider the influence over the culture political leaders already have, both through the law and through their undeserved fame. Another issue is the overly high re-election rates for elected office (91% of federal representatives re-elected in 2012). This is due to a combination of factors (party primaries, gerry-mandering, plurality voting, etc.) and as a result elections are functionally useless as tool of curbing the power of the state. Does the majority even have control today?

 

    Here are four ideas that merit some discussion, but have yet to be discussed on this forum as far as I know:

 

1.) Make all elections non-partisan. Many people confuse the notion of non-partisan elections with restrictions on party campaigns (as with some "non-partisan" judicial elections) or even an outright ban of political parties. In reality, a non-partisan election simply means that all candidates are treated as independents and are required to go through the same process as becoming an independent candidate (no party primaries). The obvious benefits are that voters vote for the candidate not the party and major party candidates cannot ride off of the support for their party. Any other form of election is a form of cronyism for political parties.

 

2.) Range voting. Makes elections much more fair for less popular candidates and more competitive.

 

3.) Tougher qualifications for elected office; testing, phycological examination, etc. Don't just limit the number of voters, but the candidates as well.

 

4.) Limit voter participation through lottery. People may register to vote, but only a certain number of citizens will actually be giving the power to vote through random selection. By limiting the raw number of voters, each voters ballot has a greater effect and voters are more likely to give more thought into their choice. Also, voter fraud would be almost impossible.

 


 

 

     As a side note, this threat might have been more properly named "a more rational system for all elections".

 

(Edited by Liam Joseph Thornback on 9/23, 8:11pm)



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Wednesday, September 23 - 11:42pmSanction this postReply
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The key problem is the lack of knowledge in the voting public.... I mean have we ever seen a better example than what is going on now.  The most popular candidates for the main parties nominees include the scandal-ridden Clinton who is on the edge of being indicted and who the polls show that most of the people in the nation think the best word to describe her is "Liar," a self-declared 73 year old socialist, and Donald Trump.  Seriously?!

 

The Pope is here, and is being accused of making political statements (which is true) but his spokeman says, "No, he is only touching on what is in the realm of morality, and because anything that effects human flourishing is moral."  So, he is finding a way to speak to the president, and to address congress, and to claim this isn't anything political.... just moral.  Clever philosphical trick that.  But no one will notice - they are all enraptured with ritual, pomp and circumstance.  They don't grasp that if you took away all the robes, and props, and he was just a guy in suit, sitting next to others, all who were trying to say something worth hearing, people would be saying, "Who let him in here?  Anyone understand what he's saying?"

 

So... to get better legislators, we should have better voters.  But why not jump to better legislators right away?  (After all, it takes generations to raise the level of education among the population.)  I'd advocate that we revert to the election of our senators by the state legislators, and that a 2/3 vote of those state legislator can remove a senator.  Then there should be 2/3 vote of the people in a congressional district to remove a congressman.  And term limits.  Give a member of congress a single term of 4 years (no re-election).  Give the senators a single 6 year term.  And give the President a single 6 year term.  And modify the constitution where the president can be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" so as to include that he shall be impeached by congress should he fail to carry out existing laws or fail to act within the constitution.  If special interests didn't have professional politicians to work with, we'd have better and more honest politicians.

 

Next would be a constitutional amendment creating an agency like the FBI but its sole area for investigation would be of any corruption or law violation by any nationally elected official, or any national figure who is appointed by a nationally elected official.  This new agency would be funded by a pro-capita contribution by the states and administered by a board made of, say 13 state attorneys.  No money from the federal government and no federal control or federal laws can be imposed upon this agency.  Its sole purpose would be to catch any top national official who violates the law. 

 

If we get the corrupution out of national politics, it will be easier to focus on stupid ideology and stupid policy.  But long term, nothing can fully replace an intelligent voting population (and an honest media).



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Thursday, September 24 - 5:39pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

 

     Those are all great points and ideas for reform. However, they are not a perfect solution (nether are mine). Firstly, to pass those constitutional amendments, you would need the support of 2/3rds of state legislatures and of the voters who elect those state legislators. Secondly, even if you could have senators elected by state legislatures, state legislatures are still ultimately elected by the same voters. Here in Canada, senators are appointed by the Prime Minister and are usually just higher ups in the political party (the UK and France have the same problem), an it is likely state legislatures will elect their senators in the same fashion. Term limits are good, but there is no limit of stupid people to fill vacancies.

 

     Three of my four reforms directly effect the way people vote. You don't like the limited selection of candidates? Non-partisan elections and range voting can help that. Uneducated voters? Lottery for registered voters would increase the incentive to be educated. Also, something like a phycological test that can detect sociopaths (Clintons) and delusions (Sanders) would do a lot of good to.

 

    No system of elections can be perfect (as if fundamentally relies on the fallacy of majority rule), but maybe the combination of the term limits/ limits on voting/ range voting/ etc can at least make uneducated voting less likely.



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Thursday, September 24 - 6:32pmSanction this postReply
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Liam,

 

"Term limits are good, but there is no limit of stupid people to fill vacancies."

 

There are three problems.  Stupid people being elected AND the system that prevents anyone elected from escaping the pressures of getting reelected and running the gauntlet of special interests AND getting reelected for continuing power and/or corruption.  Term limits don't address the stupid problem, but they do address the other two.  And the ability to recall politicians would help.

 

Having Senators elected by the state legislators does, partially, side-step the stupid voter problem.  State appointment of Senators is about returning more power to the states as a way of a powerful check on the power of the federal power.  And the workings of each of the state legislations is likely to be more focused on the rational interests of the state instead of a nutty ignorance.

 

We want to find a way to turn around this terrible decline in our nation's culture, economy and our political system.  We see that things are getting worse, faster and faster and worry about how much time is left before we are beyond holding on to a nation of laws, much less good laws, much less good law makers.  And these things are also taking our economy to a brink.  But I can't think of ANY quick fix. 

 

I've looked for something that would work - and not take generations.  I agree that constitutional amendments are not the quick answer - they are too hard to pass (I mentioned those examples, and there are others, more out of academic interest than a practical approach).  Electing just the right set of people is also a wishful quick-fix that isn't going to happen.  The voters are caught up in their ignorance of what liberty requires and elect the wrong people.  And state-nullification, another interesting idea, is also wishful thinking.  Organized civil disobedience has also been proposed, but I don't see it as a good path to getting the right system.  And I don't see any way to make a change to who votes, or how they vote, that would fix our problems.  

 

People propose lots of things: Civic tests to be able to vote, tests on the constitution and economics to be a candidate for office, poll taxes to get rid of people who value, say $10, more than exercising their franchise, etc., etc.  But there is no way to get these things passed, and if they were passed it still doesn't stop people from being stupid.

 

The only long term solution is an educated majority of voters.  Period.  If the people learn what liberty is and what it requires, that education will include the people who leave the univesities and go into the media, and all of this will only come from the educational system, and that means those professionals who teach will have changed from Progressives to libertarians to a significant degree.  You can see how this isn't going to happen in less than several generations.  Liberty is a situation where the individual is soveriegn.  And that tells us that they, the individuals, must be driving the bus.  When they are educated as to what liberty is and what it takes, only better people will be accepted as candidates, and those elected will be better, and we will be in a system that based on the individual and protected by the individual.  I can't see it happening any other way.



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Thursday, September 24 - 8:06pmSanction this postReply
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Steve,

 

    I would have to agree with everything you said in your post with one exception, range voting and non-partisan elections can be passed without constitutional amendment and are meaningful reforms. There are many cities with non-partisan elections and one state (Nebraska), and while they are not shining lights of liberty, I am still confident non-partisan voting would make politics better. And while range voting has yet to be implemented, all evidence shows it is an order of magnitude better than our current system.

 

     Yes, educating voters is the ultimate reform for a free society to survive. However, we live in a world were our fundamental freedoms are at risk, including freedom of speech. Therefor, we should still be fighting for reforms that will give us the time and chance to make the paradigm shift in the culture we need.



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Thursday, September 24 - 8:53pmSanction this postReply
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Liam,

 

I agree that we should be looking favorably at anything that slows down the march towards totalitarianism.  I was only pointing out that it is futile to look at any of those so-called quick-fixes.  I didn't mean that we weren't still in a battle that needs to be fought.  And, human choice is nearly instantaneous and everyone has the capacity to change their minds.  That tells us that there might be some "quick-fix" but that we just haven't found it yet.



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Sunday, September 27 - 10:55pmSanction this postReply
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"Make all elections non-partisan."

 

A legislature would accomplish little if its members were not organized in some way. That would have been good before things got totally messed up as they are today.  However, while a non-partisan government probably wouldn't make things worse, it probably wouldn't improve things either.  Besides, in and of itself, what is wrong with a group of individuals banding together to run for political office?

 

"Range Voting"

 

There's a lot of that in Europe. 'Nuff said.

 

"Tougher qualifications for elected office; testing, phycological examination, etc. Don't just limit the number of voters, but the candidates as well."

 

Who gets to decide these 'qualifications'?  Are phycological(sic) examinations Objective?  (the current DSM would put a lot of Objectivists in the loony bin).  Who would prescribe the tests?

 

"Limit voter participation through lottery."

 

I have great faith in those who buy lottery tickets.

 

How about we just make the government structure a little more hierarchical?  Before the 17th Amendment, Senators were selected by state legislatures who were elected by the voters - indirect representation.  Changing that, IMO, was a mistake.  Let's reverse that and go several steps further by having a small group (say 25 people) of voters elect a representative who will join a small group of other such representatives from other groups of 25 people.  That group, in turn, will elect a representative to be part of the next hierarchical level, again consisting of about 25 political units.  And so on... 

 

If the groups only number about 25 people or representatives, all in each group will likely know each other and know who amongst them is best qualified to represent them in the next hierarchical level.  This would only require about seven levels to cover 6 billion people (25^7 = 6,103,515,625).  The leader of 6 billion people elected in this way, I predict, would be a pretty smart guy (or gal).



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Monday, September 28 - 10:10amSanction this postReply
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David said:

 

A legislature would accomplish little if its members were not organized in some way. That would have been good before things got totally messed up as they are today.  However, while a non-partisan government probably wouldn't make things worse, it probably wouldn't improve things either.  Besides, in and of itself, what is wrong with a group of individuals banding together to run for political office?

 

Nothing is wrong with people organizing for political office, the issue is how the government treats them. Today, one must either go through a complicated process of registering a political party or an even worse process of registering as an independent (for example, the libertarian candidate of governor of texas almost wasn't on the ballot not to long ago, and there are still states with only two registered political parties). My suggestion is to abolish the party registration process, not the parties.

 

There's a lot of that (range voting) in Europe. 'Nuff said.

 

Name one country in Europe that instituted range voting? your confusing range voting with party-list voting (wrongfully called proportional representation). 

 

Who gets to decide these 'qualifications'?  Are phycological(sic) examinations Objective?  (the current DSM would put a lot of Objectivists in the loony bin).  Who would prescribe the tests?

 

Not all examinations in the DSM need to be part of a phycological exam, are there NO phycological illnesses that we should test for? And there could be other qualifications (age, natural born citizen, property, etc.).

 

I have great faith in those who buy lottery tickets.

 

Your sarcasm is misplaced. I wasn't arguing that winners of a lottery are more qualified or that gamblers are more qualified, I was arguing that a reduced voter poll would make voter ID checks easier and give a greater incentive to vote rationally.

 

How about we just make the government structure a little more hierarchical?  Before the 17th Amendment, Senators were selected by state legislatures who were elected by the voters - indirect representation.  Changing that, IMO, was a mistake.  Let's reverse that and go several steps further by having a small group (say 25 people) of voters elect a representative who will join a small group of other such representatives from other groups of 25 people.  That group, in turn, will elect a representative to be part of the next hierarchical level, again consisting of about 25 political units.  And so on... 

 

If the groups only number about 25 people or representatives, all in each group will likely know each other and know who amongst them is best qualified to represent them in the next hierarchical level.  This would only require about seven levels to cover 6 billion people (25^7 = 6,103,515,625).  The leader of 6 billion people elected in this way, I predict, would be a pretty smart guy (or gal).

 

That is similar to how the Doge of Venice was elected, except some lottery was involved (and that could be a good suggestion). However, that kind of purely hierarchical system has been tried in a thousand different forms (People's Republic of China, Holy Roman Empire, Roman empire, Sparta, ect.), maybe just not with as many levels as your idea.

 

(Edited by Liam Joseph Thornback on 9/28, 12:39pm)



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Monday, September 28 - 12:07pmSanction this postReply
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Here are my thoughts on electing representatives:

 

1. The 17th amendment should be repealed or modified and the Senators elected by the states.  That gives the states more power as a check against excess federal power.  And the filibuster to prevent cloture needs to be changed to ensure that Senators can't use filibuster to avoid taking a position.  There are probably lots of Senate rules that need to be changed to make sure that the simple process of up and down votes on bills can't be manipulated.

 

2. The House elections become the issue.  They are supposed to be representatives of the people in a region.  That means any scheme chosen for their election shouldn't stray from that.  The individual citizens are the true soveriegns.  Stupid or ignoratant voters will get the respresentatives they deserve (the alternatives all involve either a loss of representation or having rule by elites) and trying to build a system that will allow stupidity and ignorance to exist and still have good government isn't a good direction to go.  If I had it my way, I'd have a civics test requirement for voters.  It would make sure they understood the basics of a free market, the nature of liberty, an understanding of a constitutional republic, and our constitution in particular.  It shouldn't be easier and easier to vote, like the progressives want, it should take an effort and be totally fraud-proof.

 

3. The elected Representatives should be fairly easily recallable (not so easy that they are recalled for trivial reasons - say a 2/3 majority).

 

4. I don't know of any psychological testing that would provide good results.  (I was a licensed psychotherapist in California).  The MMPI does the best in uncovering deception and sociopathy, but someone at the level of functionality we see in politicians could easily beat it.  Besides, it isn't psychological characteristics, or intelligence that are the problem areas.  The problem areas are ideology and/or character (corruption).

 

5.  There is nothing wrong with trying to devise changes in the processes and the structures of government that will improve its performance in trying to make the best environment for individual rights, but it is a mistake to think that ANY changes will get rid of the problems we have now, unless the change includes the education of the voting populace. 
----------

 

Right now, we are in a child-like position relative to government.  Government holds to much power and is in the parent-like position.  That makes us far to prone to thinking that if we just had good parents in Washington, then they could fix things.  Instead there is a kind of natural law involved where any responsibility and authority that is wrongfully passed on to another will most often be badly mishandled.



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