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> On Authority
Here's the first solution I've thought of, the more modest of the two. Suppose we take voter initiatives, which are already pretty good, and make them better by making them more immediate and more granular.
The obvious way to make initiatives more immediate would be to have elections more often, say, once a week. I don't think that would work, though—staffing the polling places, tallying the votes, and so on would just be too expensive. What about voting by mail? Well, I haven't checked the facts myself, but opponents of voting by mail claim that it's comparably expensive and at the same time more susceptible to fraud. Voting by internet might well be less expensive, but with present technology I think it would be even more susceptible to fraud. In other words, it wouldn't be secure.
Security, though, is a solvable problem. I think it will be solved for the internet sooner or later, over the next few decades; but I also think it has been solved, right now … for automatic teller machines. You don't hear about people hacking into the ATM network, do you? The incentive, actual cash money, is certainly there. Building a similar network would be expensive, but we don't need a similar network—we could use the same one!
Just imagine—you could read the initiatives for the week each Tuesday, vote on them some time during the week when you stop for cash, and see the results the next Tuesday!
A hybrid system might also be nice. We could have the ATMs write into a central database, and allow a less-secure internet system to read from it, so that people could make sure their votes hadn't been corrupted. But that's just a detail.
Now, what about making initiatives more granular? It would be nice to make a qualitative change, to come closer to the ideal of true granular authority, but that's a difficult problem that I don't want to get into right now. So, instead, let's consider the simple quantitative change of having more initiatives. The question, then, is where the extra initiatives would come from, i.e., what the mechanism for defining them would be.
It's possible the mechanism could remain the same. The improved response time alone might encourage the creation of more initiatives; it would also make things possible that weren't possible before, like effectively vetoing an offending bill before it's passed.
Other mechanisms are also possible. As an extreme example, we could require every bill, or every point of every bill, to be ratified by voters before it becomes law. That probably wouldn't work well, but it gives an idea of the kinds of things that we could do.
I'm going to talk about some caveats later on, but there's one I'd like to mention now. Would voting by ATM disenfranchise anybody? I don't think it would.
Q: Would we require voters to have bank accounts?
Tree of Authority, The
@ May (2002)