The Token Republic

Representative Democracy That Works

A Virtual Constitutional Convention

    "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
    Winston Churchill, 1947

Part I
The Problem with Modern "Democracies"

Democracy vs. Republic

A Brief History of Democracy

Groundrules for Democracies

Prior Resolution of Basic Societal Questions Required

Fault Lines

Most nations have fault lines along internal divisions, many of which are not geographic but religious or linguistic.

Language: Quebec, Belgium

Religion: Ireland, the Netherlands

Accountability

Transparency

Fairness Is Essential

The Role of the Church

The Role of Corporations

Respecting the Rights of Minorities

Truly Valid Elections Require True Majorities

Major Changes Require More Than a 50% Majority

Everyone Must Have a Voice

Modern American Democracy Doesn’t Work

Real Power Is Not in the Legislature

Corruption, In the Broadest Sense

Regional Representation Does Not Represent Everyone

Advantages of Parliamentary Systems

At-Large Systems

District Systems

Disadvantages of Parliamentary Systems

Direct Democracy?

Since the advent of technology that could enable participatory democracy on a scale never yet seen, there has been a great deal of discussion of the merits of direct participatory democracy. The principal objection raised is that direct voting on the issues of the day would lead to decision-making by public fiat, based on a serious lack of good information on the topic. Brexit is possibly the best current example.

Cite the polls in PQ just before the referendum which showed that most people believed that Quebec would still send representatives to Ottawa and that they would continue to carry Canadian passports if the province seceeded from the Dominion.

Given that there are perhaps 100 major issues of concern in any one society at any given time, it is not possible for anyone, even a full-time politician, to be well informed about all the issues of the day. This would tend to suggest that direct participatory democracy has such serious drawbacks as to be unworthy of further consideration.

Part II
A Computationally-Enabled Solution

Desiderata

Basic Approach

The Software Constitution

Token Republic: "You May Speak for Me"

What is a token? It is one person's right to vote, which may be divided and passed on to others, subject to recall by the token holder.

I would like to propose a method of direct government that might at the same time bring informed representatives to discussions of issues and also give the people a direct voice in matters which concern them. I have named this system the "token republic" because it depends on a token-passing system for its operation.

Each citizen owns one voting token. All tokens are undivided when issued. That is to say, the holder of the token can vote on every issue under discussion.

The owner of a token may give it to anyone else to vote as the recipient wishes. This "token holder" may exercise the full rights inhering in the token until such time as the owner withdraws the token, which may occur at any time (or once a day, say at 6 AM). The token holder may split the token and pass some or all of the parts to others for representation and voting. The owner may also vote the token directly if he so wishes.

On each issue of importance, a commission of 50 members would be established. Representatives would be assigned to the commission on the basis of who holds the most tokens. The commission's membership always consists of the 50 citizens holding the most tokens. Each representative has equal speaking and debating rights, but votes are apportioned on the basis of the number of tokens currently held. The chairman is the representative currently holding the most tokens. Alternatively, speaking time might be apportioned on the basis of tokens held.

Commissions would tend to be composed of experts on the topic under discussion, each representing various points of view. In order to encourage holders of similar views to merge their tokens in favor of one strong representative, .......this is the only problem I can see so far......

Holders of tokens who do not have enough tokens to make the cut for inclusion as a representative on the commission may still vote the tokens they hold and may still submit briefs to the commission for its review. This also holds true even for those who hold only their own token.

Those who do not wish to delve deeply into politics may simply assign their token to a trusted leader to manage as he sees fit. The owner could withdraw the token whenever he became discontent with the leader's management of the token.

Likewise, if the owner had given certain parts of his token to others to administer, he could reclaim a token part at any time he became discontent with the holder's management of that token part.

Advantages

Possibility of more interest and participation in politics. Minority voice on every issue--any group with at least 1% of the tokens is assured a voice. (Well, how does this work mathematically? In reality, 1% is probably enough to have a voice, as other factions will have 5, 10 20% in all likelihood.)

Problems

The most immediately evident problem is that tokens would have monetary value and would be easy to buy and sell. Some means would have to be found to prevent this.

The system is potentially subject to a number of manipulations. One of the most serious would be collusion to not combine tokens in an effort to keep minorities out of the discussion.

Administration would be performed by a large database system that would be open to viewing by anyone to assure accuracy and honesty. A token's owner could see at any time who was holding every part of his token. (This is important, since, if the citizen gives all or a large part of his token to one individual to manage, that individual will probably pass some parts of the token on to others to manage. The citizen may wish to know what those to whom he has entrusted his token have done with it.)

How is it decided that an issue is important enough to have its own token part? How do dead issues actually die (how is their token part destroyed?)

The Problem of the Executive

It does not seem that an executive committee is the way to run the day-to-day affairs of a nation. Historically, most nations have been led by a single leader (sometimes two, which has its own set of complications). A leadership committee is not usual. There may be a way to arrange this that could work. Suppose there were an executive committee with, say, 7 members. Each member serves 7 weeks. Once a week, one member's term will expire, and he will be replaced with a new member starting his 7-week term. This has the benefit of continuity - there is never a moment at which everyone is new.

Next Steps

Discussion initially limited to a relatively few people simply for reasons of manageability. Eventually, the proposed system should be implemented for the further development of the idea itself.

A discussion structure the encourages good thinking and reasonable behavior is needed.

Resources

E-Democracy on Wikipedia

Contact Information

J.H. Crawford

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