Fixing the government

I do not really want to get into politics – or, at least, not the details of it – but I feel strongly that most countries have a problem with their government. Certainly, from where I am sitting, there is a mess on both sides of the Atlantic. I recall a joke last year: “The US and the UK are in a competition to see which country can screw itself up most effectively. The UK is in the lead, but the US holds the Trump card.”. Enough said.

But maybe it could be fixed …

Churchill is generally credited with saying “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” – though he later said that he was quoting someone else. This reflects my own feelings, as it tends to lead to the lowest common denominator. Most countries do not have real democracy anyway – that would be when the people get to vote on everything. The ancient Greeks almost did that, but only land-owners had a vote. Some countries do their best by having many referenda, but that tends to be quite unsatisfactory in numerous ways.

  • Most government systems have a series of flaws:
  • The people who stand for government are generally those who want power and are, hence, probably the least suitable.
  • Much government activity is short-termist and unpopular measures are rare, as politicians are always wanting to be voted back in. [The US limit on presidential terms does address this somewhat.]
  • Getting into politics tends to be expensive, so governments are dominated by rich people, who, even if well meaning, have no understanding of the lifestyle of people on limited means.
  • There are generally a number of “ministers” who look after specific areas of government, but it is rare for such appointments to be made on the basis of expertise.
  • Voters are mostly ignorant. This is the result of lack of interest to some extent, but fueled by misinformation from political parties, pressure groups and the media.

How can this be fixed?

I have thought that a benevolent dictator might be a good answer. However, we tried that for about 1000 years in England and it did not really work out. For every good King/Queen, there was at least one bad one and one mad one. All too much of a gamble.

I have designed a new system, that I believe addresses the above issues and would be scalable enough to use in countries of different sizes and differing populations:

Government would consist of two groups: a bunch of professionals/experts, who do the real work of running the country – I will call them the “Executive”; a group drawn from the population, who provide approval [or not] for Executive actions – I will call that the “Senate” [for lack of a better name].

The Executive may be quite large, but is run much like a commercial company. Staff are appointed on the basis of skill and experience and remunerated accordingly. A public company is answerable to its shareholders, but the Executive would be answerable to the people of the country, who are represented by the Senate.

The Senate would be a group of people, drawn at random from the population – somewhat like jury service. It would be limited to adults – say, 18 – 75 year olds. Serving would be non-optional, the only possible “excuse” may be medical. Senators would be expected to participate very fully and engage with and vote on every issue raised by the Executive. Senators would be fairly compensated for their time and laws would protect them from being disadvantaged in the workplace. I feel that there might be 500-1000 senators – maybe this number might depend on the population size. There would be no need to go to the expense of having the senators travel to the capital city – their work could be satisfactorily performed online. The term that senators serve is an open issue – maybe a year, perhaps a few months, maybe several years; this needs discussion.

Would my system work? Is it actually better than conventional democracy?
I feel that it would certainly be no worse and it might be a good deal cheaper and more efficient …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2018/01/11/fixing-the-government/