Here in the USA, we like to say we have a democracy. That’s getting to be a harder and harder claim to make. But for all our technological and creative innovations, it’s damn near impossible to say with a straight face that we have a modern democracy.
We did in 1776. We don’t in 2020.
It seems no one ever wants to talk about this, I don’t know why. Sometimes I try and people look at me like I’m crazy. Pardon me for saying so, but it’s really our system that’s crazy.
Here’s what a democracy can look like in the twenty-first century:
- Issue digital IDs to all citizens & residents. Then allow voting online, via mail, via community voting box, or whatever, but it all matches back to your digital ID so no one gets their vote counted more than once. This is what countries like Estonia and Singapore have been doing for over a decade.
- Give a trackable and anonymous receipt for every vote. This can happen on a blockchain so that this personal receipt is both private and trustless. India is leading the way on this, not us. Countries in Africa are trying this, not us.
- Set the rules for who can vote and how in one place, or at the level the vote will affect. Local rules can be set locally, federal rules can be set federally, etc. We can also change those rules in one place, so we can have instant runoffs and proportional representation and other modernities that are unimaginable under our current rules. The fact that we didn’t do it this way from the beginning is a sad artifact of the 1700s.
- Transfer power in 2 weeks, not 2+ months. Originally, it took a few months on horseback to travel from the frontier to the place where the governing happens. But no one has to travel on horseback anymore, and no one has to govern from a central physical location either. In fact, it’s probably better if they don’t. They should stay with their constituents and do their business like most of the rest of us do in these COVID times. Less risk every which way. Like any other job, two weeks notice is plenty.
- Give the representatives only what they represent. This would solve SO many problems in one fell swoop. If Senators voting on say, healthcare, had to have the healthcare they voted for for their entire family for their entire term, we simply would not have the screwball healthcare system we do today. If a Legislator and their family had to live off the minimum tier of wages or services that they legislated for their own families, we simply wouldn’t have to talk about living wages or school funding. Want to get rid of, I dunno, fracking? Ensure those on the approval committee are approving the first site as their own backyard, literally — as in granting the permit to start drilling with the stroke of their pen — because that is what they’re doing for others. And done. When the people who make the rules also have to live with them, transformation can come very quickly.
Tell me this doesn’t look more modern and adaptable than the America v1.8 that we have today.
The irony is that none of these 2.0 changes would cost very much. In fact, they’d cost a helluva lot less than this election did. The technology required is already open-sourced, so we could fork the node and run the country already. With source code like that, any corruption would be immediately transparent, and even conspiracy theorists would have to point to a line number in the script to form a new crackpot idea.
I’m not saying that the country of my birth will ever get to these meager points I’ve described. I’m just saying that we absolutely could if we wanted to.
Instead, we are still holding on to what we have so tightly that we cannot seem to grasp anything else.
The answer is not to tighten our grip, but rather to release it and reach for what comes next.
When we don’t do this, progress doesn’t stop. We just make room for others to do this instead.