Discover more from Panocracy
A New Hope
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." - Plato
“I don't care who is allowed to vote as long as I get to choose the candidates.” - Lord Rothschild (and others)
“There are few problems in the world that are so serious that they cannot be made worse by government intervention.” - common adage
Most commentators have been trying to get their heads round what has been going wrong with our society recently and while this is necessary to extract the truth and make avoiding repetition at least possible, it can also lead to fatigue and disinterest.
In this substack we look to the future.
Last time, I promised a first cut at the way a panocracy might work and this is it. It's a deliberately over-simplified picture to get us on the road.
I need to re-emphasise that all of this is open to debate and I encourage you to think about the possibilities yourself and pick holes in them. Furthermore, whether it will work or not cannot be decided by debate alone – real life examples along with testing against 'control groups' are the only credible judges. Rather like Rest of World vs. Sweden in the recent pandemonium ...
We start with some principles and assumptions, many of which are based on the ideas behind science and engineering – the only human activities so far to actually make our lives better.
Everyone wants excellent government - meaning policies and actions that improve their lives.
Debate, dissent and criticism are all necessary in our search for excellence. It's essential if you're going to fail to do it before it's too late and opposition is what helps you to see it coming.
Most people are not interested in politics or the business of government. Some people wish to make their own decisions and others wish to have this burden lifted from them. Our system must accommodate both extremes and the variations between.
A society is most successful when it best uses all of the skills and talents of its members. The 'ordinary' person can be extremely savvy when it comes to matters within their own experience; the credentialed expert can be remarkably stupid when outside their narrow domain of expertise, and sometimes even within it.
That power corrupts applies as much to bureaucrats and technocrats as it does to politicians and rulers. No individual or minority group should have the controlling vote.
We propose firstly to have no elected representatives. This will remove the problem of their corruption by vested interests and by power, ambition and greed. It will also remove the consequences of the incompetence and hubris of such people and their continual cover-ups of the harms and damage they cause to the rest of us (including the blood and treasure they waste in pursuing these cover-ups).
Secondly we want everyone to participate in the business of government. Most people of course don't want to do that but many have valuable specialist expertise and strong opinions on various issues and we want our society to get the best advice it can.
Thirdly, we'd like a system that is scalable. If the system is successful then other types of organisation such as health services, police forces and clubs or societies might want to use it. Our panocracy should at least offer an alternative to the current approaches to government in many, if not all, situations.
We propose to meet these aims by means of agents. An agent is someone (or something) appointed by a citizen whose sole function is to understand the issues placed before the public and vote on each issue in accordance with the wishes of their clients. A sort of personal buyer of public policies.
This needs some clarification:
Agents would be absolutely required to honestly reflect the intentions of their clients and so it's implied that an agent would have to understand each client well enough to do this. This process might be termed alignment.
A client would be able to retrospectively examine their voting record. The citizen would have the option to re-align their agent or move to a new one at any time.
A citizen would be encouraged, not required, to appoint an agent. They could also override their agent in votes on issues of special concern to themselves. A citizen could decide to vote directly on as many or as few issues as they like. I believe most people would be happy to have a stronger voice in certain matters.
Each agent would have many clients. The size of the agency doesn't really matter as it would have no political voice of its own. In practice, the correct and efficient functioning of agencies might impose limits to their size.
So, for example, suppose a vote on Brexit was called. Mr Smith's agent would know that he's pretty hot on immigration and down on the EU so would vote to leave; Miss Jones' agent would know that she didn't care one way or the other and so would abstain; Mr Brown has an agent but is a passionate remainer and this is such an important issue to him that he votes directly to stay. Mr Green doesn't like the idea of a vote on this issue at all and downvotes the proposal.
Of course, agents come with costs: you have to spend time and effort engaging your agent and perhaps making sure he continues to represent your views as you would wish; you have to pay for his services, whether directly or indirectly via taxation; some process - the law or the market - may have to ensure that agents who habitually misbehave or are incompetent are barred.
Once agents exist then they can be used for more than just nationwide issues. Agents could be employed to make your opinion count in every organisation in which you have an interest – from your social club to your city administration.
In contrast to our current systems, your views will always count; a minority of activists or vested interests cannot get their way no matter how vociferous they might be.
Many institutions in the West are headed up at present by elected representatives but many others (like commercial companies or churches) are not, so we're already familiar with different systems of governance.
Clearly there's a need for technology in all of this. At its simplest to count votes as this will happen a lot and there will be a lot of votes to count! Clearly, that poses issues of identity, anonymity and privacy, especially where big tech operators are involved. I believe these are perfectly surmountable.
These proposals raise many questions some which are pretty obvious and others which may not be so clear. The first one we'll deal with is how the agenda is to be set and who is to do it. At the moment, proposals are drawn up by various parties under political, commercial or religious influence. We all know how the power to set the agenda is the power to suppress alternatives and so, in line with our basic principles, the agenda will be set by everyone. We'll go into this part of the proposal in more detail next time.