In the US, our forms of government are almost always based on representation. In a true democracy, all decisions would be discussed and voted on by every citizen, but in a representative form of government, the citizens elect officials who become members of a representative body, and it is the elected representatives that discuss and vote on laws, making their decisions for those whom they represent.
So, what’s wrong with this form of representative government? After all, it’s worked pretty well for hundreds of years all over the world. It’s only right that the problems I see with the current forms of representative government should be spelled out if I intend to present something I think is better.
Let’s look at elections of representatives to the US House of Representatives. Here’s a list of some specific problems:
- Because of the stranglehold that the major parties have in the US, your choices are almost always limited to two “viable” candidates, one from the Republican Party, one from the Democratic Party. With the variety of political philosophies alive in the US, it often hard to say that either candidate really represents your values
- Elections are costly. Those who help pay generously for them get the congressman’s ear. This has resulted in the very large and very successful business of lobbyists. So who does your representative really listen to? I’m guessing it’s the man with the money.
- Congressional districts are subject to gerrymandering, a process of designing the districts to favor the election of whichever party is favored by those doing the gerrymandering.
- But let’s say your candidate actually gets elected, and is one of the rare breed of politicians that actually pays more attention to voters than lobbyists. The House of Representatives is majority rule, winner-take-all. Notice how often you hear that “the Democrats (or Republicans) can take over the House this election cycle”, which will determine how many of the things you find important are dealt with for the next two (or more) years. Even if your representative represents you, being in a minority means waiting it out to the next election, or compromising your values.
Is this the best we can do? It shouldn’t be. Here’s how a canton forum would be better:
- You choose your canton from a large collection representing many different value systems, not just Republican or Democrat.
- Your champion always has some clout, based on their ability to spend your taxes
- If all your taxes are not spent during the current fiscal year, the remainder gets returned to you.
- The clout of any particular canton comes primarily from the number of taxpayers they represent. Therefore, cantons are always in competition for taxpayers. They compete by 1) doing what their members expect of them, 2) spending their taxes only on projects their members favor and value, and 3) not spending their taxes on anything the members don’t consider absolutely necessary.