The last time I visited my congressman (when I was 12 years old), he was both drunk and senile and I couldn’t understand a word he said. His administrative assistant had to translate everything he said. And then he got re-elected four more times before finally dying. Did he really represent my interests?
I’m the most apolitical person I know. But I do like to think of things that can improve the country. Let’s forget July 4th for a second, which was a war fought mainly between the values of the East India Company and the values of colonial tea smugglers that cost the lives of the children of 35,000 mothers. Note we tried to invade Canada twice to get them to help us but they would have none of it. Now they are our biggest supplier of oil. Go Canada!
Most importantly, lets not view the Constitution as gospel. Countries, people, systems, technology evolves. As they do, its important to see what from the past is good and what can be discarded.
I’m talking about the Legislative Branch in our system of checks and balances. It costs us billions a year, its fully corrupt, and is taking perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars out of our economy through inefficient allocations.
Time to Replace the Legislative Branch with Mass Internet Voting on the Issues
But don’t we need it? Don’t we need to Check the President? Of course! So lets YOU AND I do it!
I’m not going to rant. I hate blogger rants. So here it is:
1) The Founders, who were all male, white, landowners, didn’t trust the servants. Several were on record saying the servants (and certainly not women or slaves) should not vote since their votes would just go the way of the landowner. (Noted HBO star, John Adams said, "...men who are wholly destitute of property, are also too little acquainted with public affairs to form a right judgment, and too dependent upon other men to have a will of their own".) So they wanted to set up a system where even if the masses were against an issue, the landowners could force it through. Hence, Congress, since it was almost certain that a landowner (at that time) would have the means, money, and wherewithal to be elected (it’s still true).
2) Congress was needed because information was slow to travel. Everyone had to be gathered in Washington DC to communicate with each other (there were no phones, telegraph, or Internet then) to get the information about laws that needed to be passed and then to vote. This is obviously no longer necessary since we now have the Internet.
3) It wasn’t until 1919 that people were even allowed to vote for their Senators (Senators were selected by state legislatures) so half of the legislative branch was two levels removed from the masses until recently anyway, ,which again shows the original inclinations of the Founding Fathers.
So what should we do:
1) Get rid of the whole thing. Shut down Capitol Hill and make it a museum. Get rid of Congress and replace it by a true democracy. In a democracy we each have a vote and get to vote on the issues important to us.
2) Every single citizen should have the right to directly vote on laws via the internet. Only 19% of Congress admitted reading the healthcare bill last year. Which is probably why the courts keep overturning parts of it and its hard to implement. So Congress is probably even less informed then the masses. Get all the information online. We’ll vote directly from our homes, thank you. No help necessary by our Senators.
3) How would laws get introduced? Most major legislation is introduced by the President anyway in his State of the Union address and then is put together by whoever his stooges are in Congress. Now people can submit laws based on a Digg-like system and the laws that are voted to the top are the ones we’ll vote on. Chances are the President’s suggestions would still rise to the top but instead of being voted on by a basket of his friends, it would be voted on by “We the People”. In most cases, we don’t really need new laws. The first law passed in 2011 was the “Polar Bear Delisting Act” that took polar bears off the endangered species list? Do you really need to spend billions of infrastructure to get that law on the table and passed.
4) The President and Supreme Court are still there to provide checks and balances on anything outrageous. But my guess is this would get millions of people more involved in the political system than are currently involved.
5) The costs of lobbying would go up astronomically. You no longer can just buy dinner and a prostitute for your local congressman to corrupt him. Now you’d have to spend tens of billions on TV and newspaper advertising/manipulation to convince the masses of a law. Would probably save those industries from extinction.
6) The House & Senate costs tens of billions to maintain and they can hardly be considered to represent us anymore in an information age where access to all information on laws and bills are at our fingertips anyway. The legislative branch should be made up of you and me, not the incumbents that get elected year after year automagically.
7) No more earmarks. No more deals for "bridges to nowhere" in exchange for "highways to hell". This will save billions in inefficiently allocated capital.
How much fun would this be? We’d all get to really vote. We don’t currently live in a democracy, by definition. We live in a republic where we chose others to represent us on important issues. Heck, we don’t even directly elect the president (hence the Electoral College). We elect electors by state and then they elect the President. Lets get rid of the electoral college and the state-by-state system.
1) Why can’t we all just directly elect the President? Why does it have to be state by state? There’s only 4 states that aren’t blue states or red states. So most people feel their vote is meaningless anyway because of the current system. Let’s do away with it.
2) Again, the electoral college was set up just in case the people went a little crazy. The electors could take charge and put someone in power more to their liking. Note that your elector doesn’t have to vote for the person you think he has to vote for. He can vote for anyone he wants (example: in 1972, a Nixon elector voted for the Libertarian candidate).
On election day we can simply log into our web browsers. Go to vote.gov and cast our vote. Then add it all up (not by “state”, but by human) and see who wins? Easy!
Finally, lets get to July 4th and the reasons we fought for “Independence”. I put it in quotes because the majority of people still couldn’t vote (so couldn’t be considered independent) in the first 20 or so elections. (e.g. women, African-Americans). And after our “Independence” we genocided another 10 million Native Americans so I’m not sure what values make us so great but whatever.
It’s just history:
A) We supposedly were upset about taxation without representation. But the Stamp Act, the Sugar Tax, and the Townshend Acts were all repealed before the war even started. So all the things you read about in grade school were just wrong.
B) Two things were happening: the East India Company was going bankrupt because prices on tea were being kept artificially high. So the Tea Act reduced the duties so that we would actually get CHEAPER TEA. But guess what: smugglers were already selling 900,000 lbs of tea (versus East India’s 560,000 lbs) so they were pissed off! Hence they riled people up and organized the Boston Tea Party, which led to the Intolerable Acts, which led to every able-bodied 18 year old in the country invading Canada to get the British out. Canada promptly told us to get the hell out and the rest of the war was fought near our homes.
C) Well what about our “values”? England got rid of slavery in all of its colonies in 1833 and allocated money to directly buy the slaves from slaveowners in every colony. 620,000 people died in the Civil War 30 years later. A war that would’ve been totally avoided if we had no Revolutionary War. And the only reason Lincoln freed the slaves was because we (“the North”) were losing that war and needed help. That war was also fought over economics: the South wanted to control their own tariffs on the enormous amount of cotton being shipped abroad. So they seceded so the wealthier North wouldn’t get to play with that money. Again, Britain would’ve just freed the slaves 30 years earlier than they would’ve been if we were still a colony or, by then, a commonwealth. (I'm summarizing 50 history textbooks so I'm sure there's room to criticize me but I'm largely correct here).
D) Canada is still a commonwealth. Queen Eizabeth is their queen. Does it matter at all? Of course not! Canada avoided Iraq also. Politics is not only useless, it kills people.
Before people argue with me, this was not intended as a rant. It's good to question the institutions we hold dear. That's real checks and balances in an evolving world. Things get better when technology and information exchange get better. The Constitution no longer reflects the new reality.
A) These institutions are never as dear as we think. The killing of 10 million Indians shows us that.
B) With the Internet, information flows more freely. We don’t need to be in DC to get information. We don’t need to have people represent us. Instead of reading about Bristol Palin for a few minutes we can read about the laws important to us and vote on them. TRUE DEMOCRACY. Checks and balances would still exist even more strongly and a corrupt system ruled by lobbyists would be dead. Important laws could be passed more quickly. And the public could get better informed.
C) With no electoral college, solves the problems that most votes in a Presidential election now are meaningless if you live in a solidly blue or red state.
D) July 4th itself needs to be better understood. (We actually voted for independence on July 2, for instance). It wasn’t about being “free”. Nor was it really about “taxation without representation”. The main act of rebellion (the Boston tea party) was about smugglers versus the East India Company.
After meeting with my Congressman when I was 12 years old my dad and I took a walk around Capitol Hill. My dad said, “boy he was crazy. Could you understand a word he said?” And I said no. My dad voted for him another four times.