What requirements should we have for a new system of democracy that would better serve the American people?
Good government must be our highest priority. Government must respond to the needs and concerns of the people and work in the public interest. This means, all voting/hiring decisions must be made within a context where citizens are able to connect with candidates and can make truly informed voting decisions. Citizens must also be able to maintain two-way communication with their representatives throughout their terms of office so they can tell their representatives what they need and hold them accountable. This requires that elections take place within groups where the ratio of voters to representatives is small. In order to accommodate a very large population, a hierarchal organization with layers of representatives is needed.
Communities and Local Electors
Our solution is what we call Local Electors. Citizens throughout the country would be grouped into geographic communities of about 150 people, which could vary to accommodate change and various situations. 150 is known as Dunbar’s Number, which is the maximum number of individuals a person can maintain social relationships with by personal contact. When groups become larger than 150 they tend to fragment as people become increasingly likely to be strangers to one another, relationships become less and less based on friendship and trust, and divisions within the group appears. (See “What Size Should Local Elector Communities Be?”)
Every year, each community would elect someone in the community to the full-time, paid position of Local Elector. Once elected, Local Electors would be delegated all political responsibility. They would be expected to be informed about issues the government is dealing with, responsible for electing candidates to public office, setting their agenda, and holding them accountable. (See “Electing Local Electors and the CLB”)
The structure of elected government offices would remain much as it is today, but so that the ratio of office holders to the constituency that elects them is small, offices would be arranged in a hierarchy. Local Electors would only elect office holders where the ratio of Local Electors to office holder is no more than about 150 to one. Where the ratio is larger, lower level office holders would elect higher level office holders.
For instance, in cities with more than 22,500 (150 citizens x 150 Local Electors) voting age citizens, Local Electors would elect the city council, and the city council would elect the mayor. A similar arrangement would exist at the state and national level, with Local Electors electing representatives to the state legislature, who would in turn elect the governor and members of Congress. The President would be elected by Congress. The structure of hierarchies vary considerably from place to place to accommodate different situations.
In an arrangement such as this, communication could flow up and down the hierarchy with ease. This would allow representatives at all levels of the hierarchy to be held accountable by the representatives who elected them at the next lower level, and for the entire government to ultimately be held accountable by citizens. This is similar to how large businesses are structured with employees being held accountable by their manager, those managers being held accountable by the manager they report to, all the way up the hierarchy to the CEO. Just as the CEO of a large corporation is able to manage large numbers of people by working through a few top managers, a hierarchy of representatives would allow citizens to manage the government by working through Local Electors.
These small ratios would allow constituents at each level to truly get to know the candidates, their work history, values, competencies, etc., which would allow them to make well informed voting/hiring decisions. Candidates for each office would likely consist of people currently holding an office and would therefore be well known to everyone doing the voting/hiring. All candidates would be nominated by those doing the electing so campaigns would not be needed. Elections would essentially be a process of promotions from within the organization, which would allow the best people would rise to the top. It would be the ideal hiring situation. (See “Electing Office Holders.”)
Each community would also have an elected Community Leadership Board (CLB) of between 6 and 12 people who would be unpaid. The CLB would be responsible for maintaining participation and cohesion within the community and would work closely with the Local Elector—helping her maintain a connection with members of the community and helping members of the community hold her accountable. (See “Job Description of the CLB.”)
How Citizens Would Participate
Local Electors would be the personal government representative for everyone in their community. They would be required to hold frequent community meetings—a forum where members could make their needs and concerns related to public issues known. If a community member has an issue he would like addressed, he would first discuss it with other community members in an effort to build support for it. If others support it, the Local Elector, with the aid of the CLB, would be responsible for ensuring that it is evaluated appropriately within the community. The community would then discuss it and hold one or more votes to determine whether it should be dropped, addressed within the community, or escalated to a higher level of government. If the issue is escalated, the Local Elector would be responsible for working to build support for it among other Local Electors and presenting it to the appropriate office holder in an effort to get it on the government agenda. Issues that gain support at each level of the hierarchy would rise to the top and become policy. (See “Job Description of Local Electors.”)
Issues arising from communities would determine the priorities and agenda of office holders and thus the priorities and agenda of the government. Local Electors would monitor their office holders and hold them accountable, ensuring they are responsive. Communication and accountability at all levels would be an ongoing and inherent part of the process, just as it is in a business.
Local Electors would also serve to shield office holders from a public that is not informed or has been misinformed, allowing them to make tough decisions. When dealing with controversial issues, office holders could disseminate information through Local Electors, who could then reason with their own constituents and explain first-hand why their government is doing what it is, and get feedback.
Participation in politics would consist of doing the one thing we do more naturally than anything else—talking about issues that concern us with the people around us. But in this case the people around us would be neighbors, organized in such a way that would allow political talk to become political action. No longer would people be expected to be informed about things a distant government is doing that have no clear impact on their lives. Instead, people could fully participate in government by only worrying about things that truly concern them. Their Local Elector would be delegated the responsibility of monitoring the government and ensuring all decisions are fair. Being part of a community that is rooted in government would draw people into the process and compel them to want to be informed.
This is similar to how large corporations operate. The CEO of a corporation does not need to concern himself with the actions of each individual employee—that would be impractical. Instead he works through a small number of managers who are accountable to him. If he objects to how something is being done at the far reaches of the organization, he works through his management team to deal with it.
The New Public News
To ensure that Local Electors have good information about what is happening in government, a new professional-level public news organization (PPN) would be created. Rather than covering only what is fit for popular consumption—as the commercial news does today—the PPN would cater primarily to the professional needs of Local Electors and other representatives, enabling them to monitor government activities at all levels. It would function as a true reporting organization, covering all issues being addressed by government that need to be communicated. Decisions made in government would be reported with a description of how all interests were weighed and why the decision is in the public interest. As with court decisions today, dissenting government officials could publish their own opinions. The PPN would be run by elected officials who would be arranged in a hierarchy with local, state, and national office holders, ensuring that the PPN serves their needs and is accountable to them.
A citizen-oriented public news organization (CPN) would be created to serve the needs of citizens. One of its primary goals would be to connect citizens with the government by showing a connection between what happens in communities and the results produced by the government. (See “The New Public News Media.”)