THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 507, February 22, 2009
"Things are crazy and getting crazier all the time."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
OK, I'm already waiting for the Bronx cheers on this one. Who doesn't have their own collection of Menckenalia on this? "The purest form of democracy is the lynch mob." "Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses." Some libertarians go so far as to praise monarchy.
Well, OK. But let's not forget, Tiberius and his nephew Caligula were monarchy. Stalin was monarchy, with the exception of inheritance of title.
The form of democracy (OK, "constitutional republic", whatever you want to call it) we now have is certainly rotten, no argument there. And monarchy on average looks preferable to it. But, is there no form of democracy that would not be better than monarchy? We are talking about having to exceed a pretty low standard, after all. Just for grins, let's imagine how to put together a democracy that works. This is not entirely idle play, since our current Empire obviously has to be replaced by something. Here are some ideas.
First, the structure of government has to have the right incentives in it, such that government has no incentive to grow in size or power. Tough, but maybe not impossible.
Constitutional government is to a large extent a failure (Spooner has published pretty strong critiques of the Constitution), but some parts actually are still adhered to. The Constitution says we have to have a President and Congress, and sure enough, we have them. So, let's put stuff in the Constitution that is likely to be followed, and leave out stuff that is likely to be ignored. Structure of government, yes; Bill of Rights, no. "Rights" will have to be protected in some other fashion.
So, what structure of government should we have? Number one thing, let's get rid of the President. He's just a pain in the ass, always getting us into wars. He also creates a figure for the public to idolize, and the last thing we need is an idol with power. So Presidents just have to go. Good riddance!
Let's bring back the Senate, composed of people elected by state legislatures. Better than what we have now.
Let's have two Houses, a Men's House and a Women's House. First, the more hurdles placed in front of bill passage, the less likely it is that bills will pass. We have way, way too many bills and laws and regulations. But more important, men and women are fundamentally different. A Women's House would have only women members, elected only by women. Its job is to keep us out of wars, and other such manly sports. The Men's House on the other hand, will do a good job of stopping gun control and lots of Nanny State nonsense.
How about asymmetrical voting? Any bill that creates or amends statutes requires 70% approval in both Houses and the Senate. Any bill that removes statutes requires only a majority.
How about all members of both Houses being "at large" in the country, and their voting strength depends on how many voters have given them their proxy? This being the technological age, that proxy can be transferred at any time from one member to another, via the Internet. Voila, no elections. If one member goes too far out on a limb, supporting bailouts for Wall Street for example, he will find it's the last vote he ever makes, because all his proxies will disappear.
How about bills able to be vetoed by the voters? Any bill that does not get 50% (or larger) support from voters who care on the Internet, that bill is null and void even if it passed all through the legislative process. A nullification of bills by state legislature is also possible; every bill that Congress passes must get the go ahead in a given state. If it doesn't, then that bill does not apply in that state.
How about that all bills must be limited in size (say 100 pages of 12-point type) and all must be presented on the Internet for 1 month prior to action in Congress, so people can look them over. No more massive bills that no one, including Congress, has read.
How about no direct federal taxes, with all support of the federal government coming from state governments, with the states individually able to determine the size of the support? We might even have a few bake sales to raise money for our brave federal officers.
How about the Bill of Rights? Well, states have them too. They'd probably be stronger at state level in this scenario.
More government structure: no standing army. Ordinary people will defend this country, and won't invade others. Just like Switzerland.
Of course, hardly any of the current agencies would exist. We are not starting anew with BATFE or Social Security Administration or HEW.
How about a constitutional requirement that supports Assassination Politics? OK, I know I'm dreaming, but it is possible to have government that actually incorporates such a scheme. Of course if proxies for voting rights in Congress could be moved about easily, maybe AP is not needed any more. Still, it is a possible tool, to give incentive for politicians not to be assholes. That's the kind of incentive we want in our system. How would such a constitutional provision remain observed by politicians? Because those who violate it would end up being targeted by it. Yes, a constitutional provision with its own teeth!
We might bring back traditions like tarring and feathering, for politicians only.
Anyway, the point has been made. Just because the democracy (kleptocracy?) we now have is rotten to the core, does not mean that all possible democracies would be. Much of the current folly is a result of a particular structure of government (some cynics would say Hamilton planned this result, and promoted this structure in order to get it). If you take into account incentives, and make a different structure, maybe it can be better than even monarchyeven if it is not anarchist utopia. (But then, there would be nothing at the federal level stopping a state from becoming anarchist, would there? We sure want to allow that possibility.)