Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Money = Power

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." -Sir Winston Churchill
In my opinion the biggest problem with Democracy is that money equals power.  Democracy has never adequately coped with that problem.

The rich have a tremendous advantage over the poor, They have the time and money to influence the workings of government.  I could spend a great deal of time documenting all of the influence buying, but I really dislike the name-calling and partisan politics that it leads to.  So I'll prove my point in a different manner.

Rich people, and the companies they run, give millions of dollars to political campaigns and political interest groups.  Why?

Maybe they genuinely believe in the person or party.  But if that were true then why would they donate to both parties and to both candidates in most fights?  And why would elected officials receive campaign contributions during off years from people and companies directly affected by the rules and policies that they are debating?

The only explanation for these dynamics is that the rich are buying power.
"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." -Warren Buffet
So Democracy 2.0 is all about re-balancing the scales to remove the power of money from the operation of government.

We could work towards stronger campaign finance rules and ethics rules.  But as long as the foxes run the henhouse we will only make temporary progress.  We could spend tons of money and pass several strong laws to clean up government.  But the foxes would simply wait until the public attention turned to something else and then they would start adding exemptions, exceptions, and loopholes.  And shortly we would actually be worse off because we would think that we had done something, and we would have a harder time seeing the operation of the money behind the scenes.

Instead of spinning my wheels trying to fix the existing structure, I want to start over with a fresh sheet of paper and design a new structure of Democratic government where money is effectively locked out of the decision-making process.  In other words, I want to build a henhouse that the foxes can't get into, let alone run.

I have some ideas what that might look like.  I would break decisions down small pieces and spread the decision-making power around in very small pieces--fine grain separation of powers.  I would limit the power of the decision makers and force public votes for decisions that granted increased government power, like raising the debt ceiling.  Every rule change affecting the way that these people operate would require a public vote--they literally could not create exceptions for themselves.

I would take away government's power to keep secrets from the people.  I would publish every comment from every debate, and actively engage public input and debate.

No more elections.  No more presidents or governors.  I would draft qualified people from all over the country for 2-3 year terms, and pay them well.  They would get high quality security, and 24x7 monitoring to make sure that they were not cutting any side deals.

I don't think I can do it all by myself.  And I doubt that we can get it all right on our first try.  So what I am currently envisioning is a political party that is dedicated to building Democracy 2.0 structures at any and all levels of government.  Each city and state should experiment with the structures that seem best to them, and they should adapt and change as they find the mistakes they have made.  The party should have to achieve some local success around the country, and adapt and change the rules several times, before we are ever trusted with a larger government.  But over time we should replace every type and size government with the new structures that we design.

I don't want any power for myself.  I don't want to be elected to anything.  I want to help lead the debates and discussions for designing the experimental governments.  I don't want to serve in the experimental governments.  I want to watch and learn from the outside and help tweak and improve them.  I want to help define the results that these governments will be measured by.

My problem right now is that this will require money to accomplish.  And I don't trust money, because money = power.  That's where I am stuck right now.  I would welcome any advice or ideas....

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