November 16th, 2000

Theory of Government

This document describes my basic theories on the ideal government. It describes in general terms its organization, duties, and processes, and refers to documents that would draft such a government into existence. It does not actually propose a government, but rather states government ideals and the reasons for them. This is not a Constitution or Bill of Rights, but it does recommend such. This is merely my personal opinion of what government should be. It uses the US government as a reference, but attempts to be indifferent.

To start with, there are two basic theories: anarchy and government. With anarchy there are no laws, there is no government. Everyone is completely free to do whatever he or she wants. They are limited only by what a single other person prevents them from doing. For anarchy to succeed, man must be good at heart. With no fear of consequences, he or she will still exist in the normal social order. Evidence suggests this is, at best, not always true. Evidence also suggests that men will always organize and exert power over other men. For example, if someone is insulted and wants to attack the person, his friends will most likely join him in beating the person up. There is only organization and economies of scale separating an angry mob from ordered government.

Since government is an inevitable outcome of our social behavior, we must look at the different types of government. Since government is simply control of people, it must have direction. This direction must come from one or more people. Hence, two simple types of government emerge: single ruler and multiple rulers.

With a single ruler government, one person has the power to do anything, either directly or indirectly to anyone. He can, in theory, order the people to do anything, and in keeping with the spirit of government, they would do so. It is possible a single ruler might decide not to do certain things out of principle, but he or she is not actually prevented from doing so. A single ruler will rule from the moment that they attain power until they give it up or die. Simply put, a single ruler is a King or a Dictator. The only key difference being that a King attains power by birth, and a Dictator attains it by favor or force. The key problem is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Since we have already established that man is not necessarily always good at heart, single ruler government is not an option that I personally would choose unless I happened to be the single ruler.

This brings us to multiple ruler governments, wherein several people decide what everyone will do. But since we have already established that consolidated power is dangerous, it makes sense to give a little bit of the power to everyone, everywhere. If the power is spread equally, then no one person can do bad things. But we aren't quite back at anarchy. There is the other avenue, the one chosen by most modern governments: democracy.

The principle of democracy is simple. Everyone has power, but they use it collectively. The method used for thousands of years by governments is laws. A law is, in effect, the power of government manifested. We obey them because we, the people, have chosen to. If someone does not, they are not in the majority, they are breaking the law. If everyone does not, then the law ceases to exist. In a perfect democracy, every person votes on every new law, and if the majority agrees it is a good law, it is enforced. How it is enforced is something I will leave for later. Any person can suggest a law and then everyone will vote on it. But since we have more to do in our lives than govern ourselves, we delegate other people to use our power. So power can be granted to a single person or multiple people for a specific purpose, and taken away should they abuse it. In practice, democracy most often means the use of elections at timed intervals. A sort of performance review where the elected official either continues at their post or is replaced.

So the delegates both suggest and vote on new laws. This abstracts us from the process in a way that can cause problems, but as I said, we don't have time to vote on everything going on in a large government. If a government cannot scale, it will not withstand much.

So with a chosen type of government, we look at what the best government would actually do for the people, at which point, opinions begin to diverge. Imagine there is a volume control for the government. It can do nothing, it can do everything, or it can be somewhere in between.

Getting back to the purpose of government, we create a grocery list of things the perfect government should oversee. Some people have a long list, some a very short list. I will mention the main ones I personally believe the government should do:

Provide for the safety of the people

This encompasses both foreign and domestic threats, and includes the power of diplomacy, the threat of force, and the use of force. This does not include preventing citizens from endangering themselves, only from endangering others.

Provide domestic infrastructure

This includes utilities, roads, airports, and rails, but not necessarily their actual use. For example, they build the airport, but they may charge you for the flight.

Provide for the well being of the people

Health care, education, basic worker rights, inspection of food and drugs, testing of consumer products and workplace environments, provide minimum requirements for necessities of life, including food, shelter, clothes, and water.

These tasks given to a government bring us to the next fork of societies: capitalism or socialism. What most people fail to realize, is that much like the volume control for what a government is responsible for, capitalism and socialism represent a spectrum. In their purest forms, they are forms of government in their own right. Simply put, with capitalism we have a Darwinian system of the fittest getting ahead and the weak dying. With socialism we have everyone surviving, but no rewards for the fittest. I will not get into the complexities and morals of these systems. Suffice it to say that somewhere in between, everyone survives, but the fittest get ahead.

Let's take an example. A government needs to build a railroad. Where do the resources come from to do this? If the government owns iron ore, steels mills, forests, and lumberyards, then the only resource needed is the workers. But more likely, the government will need to get these things from people. It isn't fair for people to have to give these things up for the common good, since they may have invested a great deal to buy the land or build the mill. So the government pays for them. This raises the question I've been working toward for some time, where does the government get its money? Perhaps the government could build the railroad and recoup the cost through usage. Or each person could give part of the money needed to build it, so that it would be paid for outright, and freight and passenger costs would be lower. Most governments conclude this is the better solution, since everyone will directly or indirectly benefit from the railroad. So we have taxes.

The simplest taxation method is to just send everyone a bill. The government expects to spend X next year, so you owe X divided by the number of people. This would ensure the government got what it needed and no more. But not everyone could afford to pay the bill, since in a capitalist system, not everyone has the same amount of money. So instead the government takes a percentage of money when it changes hands. When you earn something, when you buy something, when you inherit something, when you win something, when you are given something, when you invest, or when you withdraw, the taxation can grab at any or all of these moments.

Most people don't like this method any better than the bill idea. Is there another option? The government could make money the same way as people: by selling goods or services. Just as the cost of the rail could be earned back with tickets, the cost of the power plant could be earned back through selling the electricity. If the government made enough money with one product or service, it could partially or wholly subsidize another. This would allow it to prioritize its services. For example, it could charge more than it cost to produce electricity, but provide free health care.

With careful study, the government could provide the bare essentials of what a person needed just to get by. Food, water, shelter, clothing, and medicine could be rationed out, and families that did not work would at least survive. If a person wanted a job, they could join the free enterprise, or they could work for the government. The government wouldn't need to tax, because these services could be subsidized from its more profitable industries, such as railroads, utilities, airlines, and toll roads. By using this method, people would have what they need to live, and the opportunity to get more.

So let's get back to our actual government organization. Now that it is providing these services, how is it managed and administrated? How do we prevent it from becoming corrupt and inefficient? How do we ensure that it does exactly what it was designed to do, no more, and no less? We have our people electing officials, but what checks and balances are on them? Even if they will be up for reelection, we want them to have guidelines and rules while they are doing the job. Someone should be watching them to make sure they do what they are supposed to do.

Lets look at how people are elected into this government. Most governments use a district system, wherein people from a certain geographical region must select someone from their region to represent them. In this way, no area is neglected, and everyone is represented. In some systems, the number of people in a given region determines how many people they can have represent them. This means that the twelve people in Podunk don't have the same representation as the millions in Capital City. Both of these can cause problems though. As populations go up, so does the number of representatives. The power of each representative is reduced. If the multiple people that represent your region don't agree, your regions vote can be cancelled out by itself. So the better method is that each region elects one representative, but the more people that person represents the more votes he or she gets.

So this group of people from each region would vote on whether or not to turn bills into law. This is fundamentally all that is needed for government to operate. But what prevents them from abusing their power? First of all, there is a document or constitution that describes precisely what powers this group (Congress/Senate/Council whatever) could yield. All good governments have well drafted and understood fundamentals. This document describes not only the powers of the Council, but the rights of the people. If the Council passes a law that oversteps their power, who calls them on it? The current method is a Supreme Court. But this method is susceptible to corruption and bias. Even with a panel of judges, the true meaning behind the document could be misinterpreted. If a computer arbitrator could be created, all bills could be submitted to it for review before they are even enacted. It would analyze the wording and interpret whether it violated any of the principles of the constitution.

By using this method, bills would be rejected before they even became laws. A second guard is a process of law review. Every law would have a set cycle, for example five years. After five years, the council would decide whether or not the law is still pertinent and necessary. If not, the law would expire. If it were, then it would continue to be in effect for another five years. Depending on the law, the cycle length would vary. If the law was still pertinent, but needed revision, for example a fine increased due to inflation or ineffectiveness, the law would be revised, resubmitted for validation and then kept in effect for another cycle. In addition, the constitution itself could be revised, but such drastic alterations would require the majority vote of the people, not just the council.

Beyond a federal government, each region would have a standard government for making laws that only affected that local region. This body of government would have limited power, and would exist in a unified state level, rather than county and municipal. Individual municipalities would have their own courts, but no independent lawmaking body. Laws specific to a municipality could be created at the region level. This would eliminate the lack of uniformity and confusion that arises from powerful state governments, and multiple levels of complex and arcane laws.

Next is the issue of how candidates are elected. We have already covered that each district would elect someone from their region, and there would only be one council member from each region or state. But when multiple candidates are vying for a position, what is the best way to elect them? A purely popular vote can be flawed, because if there are two candidates that have similar views, they can split up a larger portion of the votes and a third, less desirable candidate will be elected. This is often referred to as one candidate stealing votes from another. So the candidate that does not support the popular issue is elected.

The solution to this is candidate ranking. Voters pick a first and second choice. This results in candidates with popular stances being elected. Any good election system should also contain a no confidence vote, where voters state that they do not believe any candidates are suitable. This would be listed as another ranked preference. Some people would vote for one candidate or no one, some would vote for no one, but if you have to then this one, and some would vote for one, and if not him then this other one. If a no confidence garnered more votes than the candidates, parties would have to submit new candidates. The candidate that receives the second largest majority would become the vice-councilor, and would take the place of a councilor that was killed or incapacitated.

In order to maintain government that isn't corrupt, campaigns would be strictly controlled. Each major candidate would be awarded equal media time and a position in debates. Since candidates are elected from their local region or state, they would only be campaigning in a small region and expensive media and travel would be unnecessary. Campaign donations would not be legal. Any media advertisement for a candidate that was paid for privately would have to be clearly labeled as such. In this way, the corruption caused by special interests and lobbies funding candidates could be drastically reduced, if not eliminated.

Laws themselves would have to be individually voted on. The existence of riders is a primary reason for government inefficiency and corruption. The idea that in order to pass legislation certain other laws must sneak through is atrocious. Since the process of creating a bill and voting it into law is drastically streamlined in this system, there would be no need for riders. Council members would be in session for a significant portion of their position. Campaigns would be confined to no more than a couple of months preceding an election, to ensure that incumbent politicians would be able to campaign effectively without interrupting their work.

In an electronic era, that ability to attend a session of the council would not be restricted to geography. To ensure that absenteeism would not delay Council voting sessions, votes from council member would be tabulated regardless of their location. The choice of each councilor would be secret until all had voted, to ensure unbiased voting. Then the choices made by each Councilor would be made public.

Safeguards would have to exist in this government to ensure that it does not extend beyond its original scope and grow to an unwieldy size. While most of these elements would be covered by the constitution, a clear declaration of the rights of citizens and companies would be created, and these rights could neither be regulated nor infringed on in any manner. Making adjustments to these rights would require the popular vote of the people, and would be based on non-religious and logical moral standards, as well as curtail general government meddling.

Although it should be obvious, a government created by the people would have to be unilateral in its treatment of them, and not inflict one group's beliefs over another. As such, any affiliation with a religious or spiritual group would infringe on the rights of others, and any law that either encouraged or infringed on religion would be unacceptable. Even though a majority of people might belong to a certain religion, and hence democratically could enforce it, a larger majority can agree that they wouldn't like another set of religious beliefs forced upon them. It is possible, though difficult, for government to be completely isolated from religion.

When a law is broken, there must be consequences. Without consequences, there is no power to the law. While it is possible to reward people for obeying the law, and being indifferent to those who don't, most people will agree this is a dangerous proposal, given the previous assertion that, unchecked, man is not inherently good. Consequences must be fair and just, rather than vengeful. If the law is broken rampantly by large numbers of people, it would be taken into considered at its cycle review. Consistency in consequences is important. It must be universally designed to punish, universally designed to reform, or universally designed to do both. Punishing for some crimes and reforming for others is unacceptable.

When a suspect is charged, there must be an efficient judicial system that is both fair and quick. There must be conclusive proof that a suspect broke the law. Law enforcement must be held to the highest standard. There must be ample time to collect evidence, but checked within reason. If there are policies in place that ensure the trial is fair, there is no need for a lengthy and expensive appeal process. Appeals undermine the justice system.

Without an appeals process, there are only two levels of court necessary: regional courts and federal courts. Federal courts would try cases of a national nature, such as corporations or individuals that violated the law in multiple states. Regional courts would handle crimes committed within their borders.

While it is difficult to set national policy through government organization, the military should be sufficiently advanced to avoid endangering soldiers, strong enough to defend the nation from foreign invasion, but small enough to not dominate the federal budget. Foreign policy should use trade controls and diplomacy to enforce moral objections to other nations, rather than engaging a military solution. There should be competent intelligence, but not subversion. Domestic military forces should not be committed to alliances beyond the scope of defending the nation.

Within the confines of these definitions is a well thought out, modern government that is not only beneficial to the citizens, but also small and efficient enough to remain manageable. Such a government would have controls beyond those mentioned here to ensure the continued happiness and prosperity of the people. It embodies a philosophy that government exists to serve the people that create it, not to outgrow its usefulness, overtax citizens without providing a clear benefit, and providing programs and services never intended in the original plan.