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  The Tree of Authority
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Now I have a surprise for you: this whole crazy scheme, which seems like it ought to require a revolution, or least a few amendments to the Constitution, could actually be implemented on top of the existing political system. I'd do it in three steps.

First, I'd set up the database of issues and the tree of authority. The tree wouldn't actually have any authority, but people could still describe their views, and the results would be at least as compelling to politicians as a good poll.

Second, I'd create a new political party, with a very simple platform: any party member elected to office would abide by the results from the tree of authority. Ideally, I'd like to have an enforceable contract, and have all candidates for office sign it, but that might not be possible.

What would I name the party? Well, its goal would be to give more authority to individual voters, i.e., to let the people rule, so obviously it should be the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, that's taken. I'd also be tempted to call it the Radical Party, since the dictionary definition of “radical” is spot on,

Favoring or effecting extreme or revolutionary changes, as in political organization.

but that seems to be taken, too, and in any case it would be nice to have the initial not be “D” or “R”. The letter “Z” would make a good initial, so maybe I'd call it the Ziggurat Party, since that suggests something of the hierarchical structure.

Then, third, I'd try to elect party members to office. I imagine I'd start at the local (city) level, but eventually I'd want to operate at the national level as well. At each level, as more and more party members were elected, a shift would take place. At first, the elected members would have little influence, and would mostly just vote on whatever was presented to them; but soon they'd help determine what was presented, and eventually they'd be able to enact exactly the desired policies. In the end, those amendments to the Constitution might actually be possible. The existing system has worked well, though, so it might be a good idea to keep it around as a backup.

I don't even think it would be necessary to require people to become party members before describing their views. They'd have to get a unique ID, of course, but I don't think anything else would be necessary … mainly because I can't imagine why they would ever want to vote for anyone else.

So, that's the second solution. I hope you'll agree that although more detail is necessary, the idea is not completely unimaginable.

Finally, as with the first solution, I'd like to say a few words about disenfranchisement.

Technically, I think, there would be no problem. If we create a new party, and require that in order to participate fully you have to have access to the internet, well, so what? Nobody is required to vote for us. Still, I think it would be better if everyone could participate. I don't have any specific ideas, though, except that we could keep improving internet access at public libraries.

Actually, I do have one idea, but I have mixed feelings about it. The idea is, we could allow people to delegate their authority on an issue-by-issue basis. Then, if you didn't have access to the internet, you could go to the library just once and delegate your authority over health care to one person, your authority over foreign policy to another, and so on. And, of course, you could always re-delegate if you changed your mind, or un-delegate if you got internet access.

Actually, even if you did have access to the internet, you still might want to delegate your authority. That would create a whole new kind of representative government … and there's the problem. The more authority a representative acquires, the more profitable it becomes to corrupt ver. It's like the old saying,

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

except it's not the power that corrupts, it's other people.

I should point out that Bartlett's disagrees about the saying, and that I don't care. Also, I'm reminded of a little joke I once made.

Hydroelectric power corrupts hydroelectrically.

Now, here's the very last thing. I didn't want to get into this earlier, in Issues, because I thought it would be a distraction, but it seems to me that the “big database of issues organized into categories” is going to end up being another tree, a tree of issues. For delegation to work, it almost has to be … you want to be able to delegate on an issue-by-issue basis, but in practice you'll almost always want to delegate by category, and then by sub-category, and voila, you have a tree.

So, maybe I'd call the party the Two Tree Party.



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@ May (2002)