Democracy cannot be imposed

Liberal democracies have sprung up in the past. The United States and Switzerland are good examples of this. Even former monarchies found a way to maintain their thrones by having the monarch “reign, but not rule.” The United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden are examples of this. One thing that predates these liberal democracies from forming, however, is the Enlightenment, particularly in regards to Humanism – the belief that people are essentially good and that views problems through the scope reason and rationality rather than religion. One tenet is summed up best by Voltaire when he said “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” The other is the Ethic of Reciprocity. Many may know this from Christian tradition as the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is present in other religions around the world as well, from Aristotle in Greece to Confucius (Kong Qiu). These strike at the very heart of the meaning of Humanism. In the Middle East, the US and its allies attempt to remove selected dictatorships in favour of Western-backed democracies. The problem is, the people are not yet ready for it. One does not help a butterfly out of its cocoon, lest it should die. It must get itself out of its own cocoon. The cocoon could represent many things: a repressive regime, a benevolent absolute monarchy, convert-or-die religions, etc. Perhaps, if there is a role for the world to play, it would be that of building schools that espouse the tenets of Humanism, without which, dictatorships of the majority will flourish. Merely setting up institutions, such as a constitutional court would likely not help if the people do not support such. Even if the court is given an independent army, the executive/legislative could command the regular army and lead to a lopsided civil war, with the minority trying to save liberal democracy from the majority that will not accept contrary thoughts to their religion or politics. Imagine, for a moment, that there were liberal democracies that exerted world dominance in the late 18th Century. Imagine also that the philosophy of Humanism and the Enlightenment occurred much later and never spread to North America. Now imagine a theoretical country of Aelotia in Africa. This country espoused Humanism and sets a great moral example in this regard. This country is not perfect, however. It is plagued by large companies that are able to buy politicians to vote in their favour. America is rich in furs and gold, but is owned by Great Britain. Aelotia persuades Britain into relinquishing the colonies in exchange for shares of the profit from expanded industry. The now independent colonies (called states hereafter) still consider themselves British in some regard and do not identify with the Aelotian culture, particularly of Humanism. Each state has their own state religion. Those that do not follow are exiled, shunned, or accused of being witches and subsequently killed. To make matters worse, Aelotia consolidates all the states into one nation – Costa Americana. Initially there is an elected assembly, but the assemblymen are far too radical and will not respect one another’s religions. Aelotia, to protect its investments, resorts to betray a valued tenet of Humanism – democracy, and instals President Zachariah Lough due to both having the ability to protect the investments and his being able to secure the presidency. Lough protects the investments and silences opposition, but becomes more and more sure of himself. He demands that Costa Americana be given 20 percent of shares in all the investments. Aelotia balks; Lough moves in his troops and nationalizes the gold and fur industries of Aelotia. Aelotia is aghast and, since a few wars ago the president of Aelotia has been given expanded powers to unofficially declare war, sends troops in to remove Lough. Aelotia knows, however, it must be a silent decider lest the majority of Costa Americana decides against Aelotia. The removal of President Lough triggers a civil war and the states break apart. Further, the states hold contempt for Aelotia and its values, including Humanism, which is now deemed heretical by nearly all the state churches. This set the states back at least half a century. Aelotia should have introduced Humanism and the Enlightenment first. The people would then have seen it was ridiculous to fight over which religious doctrine is correct.

Misunderstood Income Tax

I may be wrong, but I think people misunderstand the income tax, primarily the step system.  What if I told you that a poor person and a rich person pay the same amount of taxes on their first $20,000, for example.  Its true.  The poor person would not have anymore money after this amount or step, so he would not pay anymore taxes.  The rich person, having more money beyond $20,000, would pay more tax, but only on the next step.  In other words, step 1 is $20,000 total.  If the next step goes on to $50,000, he would pay only on the $30,000 ($50,000-$20,000) at the step 2 rate.  Some people may just think that a rich person pays 40% income tax and a poor person pays only 5% income tax.  The truth is, both people pay the same rate on the amount of money they have.  Here is an example chart:

Income                                step                     tax rate              take home pay

$0-$50,000                        $0-$50,000           0%                     $0-$50,000

$50,001-$100,000             $0-$50,000           10%                   $50,000-$90,000

State & Federal Council-Managers

Many cities across the US & Canada operate with a council-manager system. In this system, the city council elects a city manager to handle administration. The councillors retain control of all legislative functions and even some executive functions. Depending on how the mayor is elected and for what position determines how close it resembles either a parliamentary, presidential, or another system. The council-manager system grew out of the progressive movement in the early 20th Century due to corruption and party politics in cities across the country. With all you hear in the news and documentaries, it is becoming more clear that corruption is gaining ground, if not already in the door, in both states & the federal government. Party politics is ever present as well in a system that may not have been designed to handle them. If the council-manager system alleviated the problems for local governments, why not try it out at the state & federal level? For the state level, a one-house legislature, such as in Nebraska, would be preferred, but not required. Since at the federal & state level we use the presidential system, the governor (state-manager) would be elected directly by the people. The candidate for governor would have to be a professional manager and not a member of the legislature. He/she must also be politically neutral. The state secretaries (secretary of state, secretary of commerce, etc.) would be directors of each agency and maintain political independence. They are accountable to the legislature. The governor may fire directors if, and only if, they fail to carry out the legislature’s will (the will of the people). Directors are elected internally from amongst the agency, ensuring experience in their respective fields. As city councils usually have the ability to fire a city manager at-will, the governor can be removed at-will by the people through an independent polling service. If his/her rating falls below 50%, he/she is removed. Governors would maintain administrative authority, but certain powers would be reserved for the legislature. The veto power would probably be lost as well, however if there were a bill that the governor thought was a bad idea, he/she could submit as a referendum, requiring either a majority or a supermajority vote. The governor would meet with directors of the agencies (departments) and determine revenue needed, based off what bills and funding the legislature wishes to do. The legislature would set the type of tax and its amount. The same setup could be used in the federal government as well. The federal manager would be the president. He/she would also be the commander-in-chief of the military, but any action would require congressional approval. This could alleviate party politics, at least in the executive branch.

Ration Card Economy

I’ve been researching the use or ration cards in the US and the UK. It seemed interesting. In all instances, money is used. There were instances of those subverting the system by buying ration cards from others (illegal). What would happen though if we had ration books only – no money? The government (local/state/federal) could act as the single-payer for everything or governments could act as mediators in a mutually accepted tit-for-tat. It wouldn’t just be for bread, flour, and oil. To avoid the “JC Penney Catalogue-effect,” the individual stamps could be for food (grain, fruit, veggie, and meat), housing, entertainment (4 small items, 2 medium items, or 1 large item), etc. This may, however, cause complacency and lower production (“they pretend to pay us, we pretend to work”). A ration book could cover the basics exact as above, with the exception being basic housing. The rest of the book would have empty stamp slots. When a person works by a job or by the hour, the employer stamps a potential slot into the book (square or round outline indicating another stamp can be put here). The person could then go to a store and buy anything based on the number of potential slots he has stamped. Upon purchasing, the potential slots are stamped with a filled stamp indicating it is used. The amount of slots a person earns and spends is based on supply & demand. Taxes could either be conducted conventionally (only with certain number of slots set aside) or be taken out of the picture by mutuality. With mutuality, a logical equation determines how many potential slots a government (local/state/federal) may have. For instance, through mutual agreement, a community could decide that for every person in the community, the local government shall get 10 potential slots. So for a community with 3,000 people, this amounts to 30,000 slots. Basic housing and food are taken out of the equation as governments do not need such things (unless paying for building rent…). A person could have a cap on how many slots he can potentially earn, say around 20,000? People could pool together for a cooperative or corporations could exist, just without the basics and with a per employee-based cap on how many slots they can earn.

Better Corporate System

The way most for-profit corporations are setup is that the shareholders have ultimate say – including over employees – through a board of directors. In Germany & Scandinavia, employee representatives are on the board of directors. Why not use a variation of that system here? Another way is to have the board of directors entirely represented by employees with each employee getting one – and only one – share of common stock in the company (in articles of incorporation). Investors would get preferred shares that guarantee 10%-25% of profits are given back as dividends every quarter (written in articles or bylaws with preferred shareholder vote). While not having a voice on the board, they could threaten to sell their shares if in an advantageous position and if they feel decision must be taken on a certain issue. The guarantee of a dividend off a percentage of profit would also garner more investors. How this would work is if there are 5,000 shares of preferred stock with a profit this quarter of $37,087 ($7.42/share), Kevin has 7 shares, Bill has 3,567 shares, and the rest are not purchased, then Kevin has $51.94, Bill has $26,467.14, and the rest is reinvested in company as noone has purchased them.

Corporate-Payer

Everyone has probably heard of single-payer and nationalized pensions, healthcare, etc. While nationalized is technically single-payer with the national government running the system and doctors, nurses, and others being civil servants, I will be referring to single-payer as independent corporations that are contracted with the government as in Canada. Both have to deal with taxes to cover such an expanded system of care that takes care of everyone, regardless of income or religion. Perhaps there could be a way to have low taxes and the social benefits. Case in point – corporate-payer. With this system, the government mandates – just as it does with minimum wage and discrimination laws – a minimum wage, pension, and healthcare. The minimum wage would be pegged to CPI and inflation for housing and food automatically without need for new laws. The pension would be at least minimum wage (housing & food allowance) along with continued healthcare coverage until death. One could get this either after working 30-35 years with company or upon reaching age 60. To avoid people being fired just to not have to pay pension, the years are counted upon reaching working age. In other words, if Greg worked 3 years at Company A, 7 years at Company B, and 25 years at Company C, he would draw pension from the 3 different companies. Company A would pay 9% of pension, Company B 20%, and Company C 71%. Unemployment could be handled by private companies as well. Their incentive is still a profit and there would be a multitude of them, increasing competition and service. Companies would pay a severance fee to the private employment centre (PEC) and the former employee would pay a set percentage of their income after they get a job. With this system, federal personal income and regular corporate income taxes could be slashed and even eliminated as the government is merely passing laws, not paying for anything. A ratio-pay tax (RPT) could be set up where the ratio of lowest paid worker to highest paid worker would determine the corporate income tax rate. Franchises would have two rates: franchisee to lowest paid employee, and franchisor to franchisee. As overall taxes would be far lower, this would be more than possible.

Unicameral Federalism

Did you know that congressmen under the Articles of Confederation had term limits? They had to wait it out for a term before they could rerun. This seems like a good idea. Technically, the US president is treated similarly. If he wanted to, the president could rerun after waiting it out for a term. So it is not an absolute term limit, just a “wait it out and see if someone else can do the job better” thing. Also, under the Articles, there were far fewer congressmen and only one house, not two (Senate & House of Representatives). Too many people in a meeting can cause confusion and getting off topic, too little can prohibit different opinions and sections of society. Some say boards of directors should not be more than 20 people as it can inhibit constructive management. I am not advocating for a legislature that small, as the boards of directors likely represent the executive for the most part and not the legislature, depending on the bylaws. Perhaps one way to get the number down is to give each state one representative and the entire country to get 50 at-large representatives. As this allows equality amongst the states, the senate is not needed. Since the other 50 are at-large, the constituency is the entire country, so no states are needed for representation and it goes directly off population. Further, neither the state nor the at-large constituencies could be gerrymandered without adjusting the borders of the state or the country. Both the at-large and state representatives should be elected via ranked choice – numbering from 1-10 for the states which candidate would be the best for the position. The at-large could be by party with proportional representation – 30% of the votes gives 30% of the seats. Even if a single at-large constituency is not desired, it could be divided into 50 regional constituencies based off population. This would still provide equality between states and population as it is exactly 50% of the legislature. Only 1-10 candidates would be needed (based on ranked choice again) for this as opposed to the single at-large constituency. To avoid gerrymandering, an independent committee could be tasked to redraw all constituencies every 10 years as required. We probably already don’t know our representatives personally, so lowering from 475 in the House and 100 in the Senate to 100 in a unicameral Congress will not cause much strife. Further, backroom deals would be less likely as there would be no need for a joint committee between both houses of Congress. Any lobbying would have to be done in the presence of the entire committee, Congress, or with ombudsman if one on one contact with congressman is preferred. Mayors, city councillors, state legislators, and governors can provide representation closer to home. Since our style of government is not geared towards political parties, perhaps we can do what Nebraska does and make everyone stand as an independent. A candidate fast fact sheet drawn by themselves or independent committees at each constituency could give their views on foreign policy, defence policy, labour policy, commerce policy, etc. for each cabinet position and other major issues. This would prevent people from voting because they have to to remain in their party’s favour and to garner a seat on a certain committee. If bicameralism is still desirable, make the Senate similar to the German Bundesrat and have the governor or other state cabinet member represent the state in the national Senate. The House can then go down to just 50 (as the state-based constituencies would be redundant) or be around 100 constituencies.