conceptualizer

May 2, 2008

Easy Target

The good citizens among us have felt this sense of injustice; if you never felt it then you have been incredibly lucky, or perhaps you are just thick skinned about these things, or maybe you are one of life’s corner cutters, not an easy target. For example, you get a fine and points on your driving license for driving 1 mile per hour over a speed limit, but some reckless driver you have met never drove under a speed limit in their life and boasts they have a clean license. Or, perhaps you always declare all your income and pay your tax on time, but are chased relentlessly for a trivial amount missed by accident, when someone you know does not declare huge amounts they earn, because they got paid in cash. Or, perhaps you are a father from a failed marriage and you pay your child maintenance dutifully, but when you are a little stretched through no fault of your own, you get no latitude; but you know another father who skips most of his payments and always gets away with it.
The problem is target based metrics used to measure success that don’t value the difficulty of the job or its wider impact. It is difficult to ensure value is placed on these two features throughout society, but government has the opportunity to lead by ensuring they are used in the public sector. If they added these two criteria to any metric used to measure public sector performance, I think this would go some considerable way to making many of us feel happier with our society.

April 21, 2008

Financial Insecurity

The current money market and housing market problems are underpinned via a common root problem, so I will treat them together. Government plans to solve the woes of the money markets and housing market are short term tactics, probably designed largely to get the government past the next general election. These plans don’t recognise the underlying problem and its causes. Also late in arriving, they instead treat some of the obvious symptoms. So, as it is unlikely that the government will do what is needed, we must recognise how best we might adapt our plans. Although the root problem for both market systems is the same, the symptoms are different.

The Symptoms

The housing market symptoms have increasingly been affordability issues for first time buyers and recently price falls leading to the infamous negative equity trap for some. Government plans to tackle affordability for first time buyers by allowing them to own a fraction of a property exasperate rather than alleviate their problem. People will commit what they can to get a house, so enabling fractional ownership simply allows the same financial commitment for a fraction of a house. Obviously, this in turn increases the price for the whole house. No one wants to spend any money on buying a house, prices are dictated by how much people are allowed to spend by lenders. Fractional ownership simply increases that allowance. There are no direct plans to help those in the negative equity trap, which reduces the mobility of the workforce and so is bad for the economy.
The financial services industry has a crisis in confidence that has stifled the free flow of money. Money is a vector for the flexibility and growth of an economy, so this impediment will have far reaching implications for the UK and is the biggest single problem we face now. Government plans to restore confidence to the money markets using bonds in exchange for property backed debt are not solving the root problem. Instead this tactic dilutes the problem by spreading it over time and distributing losses to the public purse. Another possible tactic seeks a quick correction of the problem by compressing the problem in time and localising its effects. The latter tactic, although less intuitive, has a number of advantages, prime among them is returning the economy more rapidly to a better state. As a result, even those most impacted have time to recover and more obvious measures can be enacted to restore confidence, which is certainly one of the most important qualities of a market based system. Now the problem exists one of these tactics must be employed, as the over valuation of property has to be normalised, implying losses for those that bought in late. The only question is how much to dissipate and slow those losses. It should also be noted that as the government does not in fact have money reserves to back these bonds, so their effect is ultimately inflationary. Also the drawn out tactic using bonds disengages the debtor from the consequences of their poor judgment, which has obvious negative effects.

The Root Problem

The use of residential property as an investment vehicle is at the root of both the money markets and the housing market problems. There is a complex interplay of many causes, but the two most prominent are: Firstly, pension savings are inflexible, not protected and are subject to means-testing. The lack of confidence people have in pensions has encouraged them to find alternative savings vehicles. Secondly, poor understanding of investment markets by amateurs who have access to them with residential property. Profiteering using markets is as old as humanity, but amateurs using them with residential property is a bad idea. Stability of residential property supply is too important to allow it to be used as a tool for speculation which inevitably leads to the decoupling of prices from earnings.
So how should the government tackle this twin causes. Firstly, they must introduce a government backed flexible pension scheme linked to contributions that is not means tested. Importantly, these savings must be ring-fenced and protected in law to prevent misuse. This will provide a safe haven for people with savings and reduce the tendency to use inappropriate savings vehicles as pensions. Secondly, the residential property market is too important to be used as a speculative investment tool by people with a poor grasp of its consequences. Strong controls need to be applied to the total percentage of income and its sources used to repay residential mortgage debt. Naturally, to discourage the inevitable attempts to circumvent these controls significant penalties need to applied to transgressors. It will be difficult to fabricate this control and it will need continual tinkering with to perfect, but it is essential. The ideal time to apply these controls is approaching when we reach the bottom of a property price dip. This root problem will keep recurring until it is addressed by providing a sensible pension scheme and controls designed to strongly correlate residential housing prices with earnings.

What Can We Do

Given that the government is unlikely to see the light and tackle this problem correctly as I outlined above, what can we do for ourselves.
On housing, timing is important. There will be a bottom to the housing market price falls. If you are planning to get into the property market or move, the best time to do so is at the bottom a price slump. In the end it is not the relative price of a house that matters to you, it is the amount you borrow to pay for it. That amount is always going to be lowest at the bottom of a price dip. If you want a house that costs twice as much as your current house is worth, that is easier to fund if for example your house is worth £100,000 rather than £200,000. Naturally as we get further from the bottom the less good a deal we get, but caution need only be exercised where there have been years of house price rises above wage growth. This is very difficult to do when prices are rising rapidly, but that is the time to save until the inevitable price crash. Those who are brave enough, or have no choice can get in and try to get out when they feel a good profit has been made. However, this is a very risky venture because typically the sums of money involved are large relative to income. If you do try this approach, a mercurial nature is essential. On sensing the market is topping out, sell fast and strongly discount your price to ensure a quick sale. If the price is not good enough and you are left holding the property too long you will have to discount even further later.
The financial sector has experts that understand their problems well enough. Unfortunately, those experts are not directing the businesses and so short-term and badly formed strategies still get used. It is in the interests of their directorships to ensure that directors and senior management making strategic and significant tactical decisions are well enough educated in the fundamentals of their business. General businessperson and salesperson types without the correct background simply do not have the depth of understanding required. In addition the board should sponsor multiple technical reports on the viability of any significant shift in strategy. They should also have clauses in the contracts of the most senior figures that prevent severance payments in situations where it is considered a poor strategy has lead directly to losses. This will not discourage good people from competing for these positions, in part because nobody takes one with the expectation of failure.

January 30, 2008

The meaning of life

Filed under: Concepts, Debate, Ideas, Observations — Tags: , , , , , , — conceptualizer @ 4:12 pm

I have recently been pondering a big question again, usually expressed as “what is the meaning of life”. Being a little older and more experienced I could not ask the question in that way. It is clear to me this time that it must be asked in a less flippant and more constructive way if I hope to make any progress.
On this particular revisit I also thought I might gain more traction by enlisting the help of the rest of the biggest human community that has ever existed, via the internet, the greatest communication tool so far. Do you feel you have some insight that may help progress on this question and would like to share it? If so please reply to this post.

The Question (provisional)
Is there now, or has there ever been, a purpose for life, intended or not, particularly human life and especially an individual human life, whether from an objective or subjective point of view?

Anatomy of the question
Obviously this question has several related parts, but in framing it this way I intended to highlight some possible points of discussion and confusion from the outset. The traditional form of the question uses the word ‘meaning’ rather than the more tightly focused ‘purpose’ or ‘objective’. Using one of those words helps narrow the question a little, while not diverging significantly from an acceptable form of the question. Also, the traditional form of the question is implicitly understood to be concerned mostly with individual human life, but to some extent all human life. Broadening out the question to explicitly include the individual, all human life and all life may help by identifying general patterns for all life first and analysing how they might be transposed to and augmented for the more specific categories. In addition the traditional question is unconcerned with intentionality, that is it does not discriminate between life with intended or unintentional purpose. This can be clarified with an example: A pebble used under a garden table leg to prevent the table from rocking may be considered to never have had an intended purpose, although it gained an unintentional purpose. We may extrapolate from that example to emphasize the viewpoint of the observer. It may be that the pebble has an unintended purpose, but for levelling individual it has an intentional purpose. Further, to another individual the pebble, table and person doing the levelling may all be considered to have no purpose. The example also highlights another component of the question, temporal status. That is, the pebble may be considered to have no purpose except for a window of time where it is used to level the table. Whatever the status of anything in the question is at an instant, we can not assume it is so throughout time. Lastly, an implicit thread through both forms of the question is the identification of distinct entities that are independent although impinged upon by each other. This may be the normal mode, but it may not be a reasonable understanding of reality and thus may be material to the answer. However, it is difficult to include this concept directly in the question without obfuscating it and so I have not included it in the current version. Rather, I hope and expect to include it in a subsequent elaborated version. I also feel that the issue of the observer is a rather weak addendum in this version of the question. Quite probably the question needs to be reframed without the artificial constraint of trying to include all relevant aspects in a single sentence. Clearly the form of the question needs further work and I expect to enhance it as thoughts on it evolve and clearer language emerges. The most important facet of the question is the inclusion of all the component concepts as described above. The actual form of words must be subservient to that and this understanding has informed the effort so far. I welcome any suggestions on how to better frame the question to embody all the important concepts identified so far as well as suggestion for new concepts to be included.

Rules
I don’t like to impose rules, but I think three are necessary to keep this discussion in order.
Firstly, I will exclude religious answers from this discussion. They resolve to faith in something which is not testable and non-provable, at least not to those without the right flavour of faith. However, I do not exclude faith itself. A legitimate faith for consideration might be in a scientific or research process or a living individual. The important element of a viable faith for consideration is that whatever the faith is in, it must be evolving toward some evidential state or may be questioned or tested directly. Ultimately we need empirical evidence or the prospect of it for faith to be allowed as an immediate surrogate answer.
Secondly, I will exclude answers that in whole or part have unreasoned and unequal treatment of subsets of what may be considered as life. A non-parity status for subsets of life needs to be rationally justified.
Thirdly, although I have reservations about some basic elements of this discussion, such as the nature of time and accuracy of language to represent cognition, unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary they are considered tangential and should not be offered as a part of this debate.
————————-UPDATE———————————————————
The question itself is clearly difficult to construct and answer, so I have been asking it in various ways to people and thinking about it. The answer is often glibly stated as ‘happiness’, but that moves us no further forward, as we then need to ask ‘what is happiness?’. The reason we need to ask this is that not only do we not know what it is, but we do not know how to obtain it. Anyway, I have come up with this so far:

Be comfortable with yourself.

You are probably thinking that also seems a bit glib, as it is rather short to seem well considered, or, maybe too pithy and knowing, because there could easily be an over economy of words that loses essential detail for the uninitiated. One might conclude it is a defeatist answer, because it seems not to address the current form of the question, which is by own admission incomplete. Perhaps you even consider it a terse expression of a consolation philosophy, because it does not seem to require one’s agency in the world.
A little examination of this answer is required.

Firstly, I will say it does feel a little like a stoic or Buddhist attitude. Secondly, those people who know this answer may superficially look like those that do not, because that answer seems to require no visible agency. Thirdly, perhaps one can achieve this state without realising it; that would explain why some people are seen as endowed with an aura of happiness, despite having made no obvious effort to achieve it. If so, I could console myself with the thought that if I were in this blessed state, then knowing why is better. However, that could simply be because that is my nature to want to understand, it might offer no other advantage. Indeed, in some ways obtaining it without effort seems preferable, although again it is in my nature to believe that effort in itself is worthwhile, although it is also difficult to justify that view, so it could be aberrant. It could even be that a higher state of awareness and happiness are incompatible, but let us assume they are not for now, that thought is making me feel uncomfortable.
Anyway, how does one go about achieving this. Clearly there are many possible events that would prevent or at least make this difficult. Therefore a lengthy, if not infinite, list of reactions might seem necessary. That is not practical, so we need a more direct answer. This is where it gets difficult and currently I am thinking it is perhaps something to do with the acceptance of things as they are. If one makes efforts to improve oneself and one’s situation that should not be bound to a sense of disappointment when some objective is not reached. Admittedly that seems very hard to achieve, so I suspect that one needs to observe what level of ambition is appropriate for oneself. That could change based on circumstances, age and abilities. This formula then starts to look complex and may explain why we have so much difficulty obtaining ‘happiness’. I can say however that if one is unhappy that the level of ambition is probably wrong. Here I apply ambition to any desire and would point out they are often created or strengthened by observing other people who are not necessarily happy or like us.
I should point out that the word “comfortable” was chosen over ‘content’, because I did not want to convey the idea that one needs do nothing other than change one’s point of view. The word “comfortable” allows for a desire to self improve and so is accessible to all people, whatever they have done. Now supposing this is a good line we have here, the burning question is ‘how do we become comfortable with ouselves?’, this does sound like a much more tractable question.
I will consider this more and update this post again.

October 24, 2007

Unpaid police

Why should the ISPs have to take on an unpaid policing role? It is for government to arrange policing. Laws exist on copyright and patent, but they are not effectively policed by the public sector. I think the ISPs should be paid for checking and again for each infringement they find. Lawyers are also required to act as unpaid police. They must apply money laundering checks to their clients.
The UK government is increasingly making business carry the costs of policing laws. This effectively makes services and products more expensive and is yet another stealth tax. It also makes those products and services less affordable to the lower income members of society and so discriminates against them. However, in principle I like the shift of policing to the private sector, as they will doubtless do a better job of it than the public sector. So to make it work well and discriminate less against the economically poorer members of society, there need to be incentives to catch law breakers. The current approach is to penalise the unpaid enforcer for any failure. If there is some benefit to this kind of work then it should be reflected in compensation for doing it. Payment is also likely to encourage a better enforcement process. The well known carrot and stick approach!
Ultimately we must decide if policing laws should be funded by public taxation or fees applied to those who seek the protection afforded by them. Clearly some enforcement is for the good of us all, where some is only for the good of a few. I would suggest for example that enforcement of fraud laws be publically funded, where copyright of music be privately funded. The latter need not be mandatory, but non-payment = no protection.

October 19, 2007

Intelligent Cowards

The real intelligentsia in the worlds advanced societies are allowing the lunatics to run the asylum. The example of Professor Watson being denied a platform after articulating an axiom about racial differences in intelligence, is just the latest in a long history of failings by the intellectual elite to take control of human destiny. I can not count myself among that elite, but I know enough to know they should stop being cowards and lead humanity out of this insane state, where any fool with a small minded agenda, a loud voice and some populist policies gets to run a country.
I want our world to be run by intellectual giants, not petty bigots. It is the weakness of inactivity in the intelligentsia that has doomed humanity to its current state of endless war and injustice. You intelligent people, it is time to stand up and take control. Stop allowing the children to run the household.
I did an experiment today. I posted comments that supported the views of Professor Watson to articles in both The Times and The Telegraph. As I suspected, neither published my comments. It is possible that they thought my comments were not worthy of publishing. It is also possible that they censored them because they did not kowtow to the prevailing pseudo-intellectual PC fascist views. People are silenced by fear of reprisals from aggressive dogma peddlers, we do not have freedom of speech. It is sad that we have to faun before the mental midgets and let our battles be fought by old men because we do not have the courage ourselves. Most of us do not even have the courage to endorse Professor Watson’s right to speak and remain open minded on the subject.
On the matter itself. Firstly, I would point out that in all the quotes I have seen (I have not read a transcript of the original) Professor Watson talks about a different intellectual ability, not that Africans are stupid. Secondly, it is clear that African countries are not as successful as non-African countries, by many measures. Now the out-of-Africa theory suggests that sub-Saharan Africa was the root of humanity, from where all peoples migrated. Indeed recent genetic research backs up this view by pointing out that genetic diversity decreases as we move further from that root. Also recent linguistics research backs up this view. So Africa has had the longest time to be successful, but has conspicuously failed. I would like to suggest that the reason is that those that had the gumption to move and also the skills to survive that choice were naturally selected to be better achievers. This is unlikely to be due solely to a differential in intelligence. More likely it is a combination of factors, among which I would suggest that physical endurance, social and language skills, adaptability, compassion and empathy are likely very significant. That filter of surviving and prospering through the rigours of migration has recently been destroyed by commercial movement of people, whether by their own volition or another’s. The remaining filter is the self perpetuating of an elite successful class through their adaptability to whatever obstacles are put in their way. In practice this equates to promoting the interests of one’s own offspring through the advantages and insights one has gained. It is difficult to denude this last process and those societies which have tried to have failed.
The relatively new field of epigenetic inheritance may also have something to say about how our success in life is determined by our ancestors. However, I don’t like the idea of using any inherited or environmental disadvantages as an excuse for not trying. To try ones best is a noble ideal and should be seen as an end in itself.
I can understand why people are reticent to stand up and be counted, but I hope that some of those great minds also have the courage to bring the debate forward. A prerequisite for progress is a desire to understand.

October 12, 2007

Anglophobic rescue and ‘the thin red line’

Gordon Brown again refuses the UK a vote on the EU treaty. This is apparently because if our ‘red lines’ are unbroken we don’t need one; as if that was ever a good reason. A good reason is the matter of where ultimate authority should exist, increasingly it is in European institutions. However, he has committed a tactical blunder. I think we now can rely on our Anglophobic neighbours to push forward some measures to break those ‘red lines’ and on the opposition to point out their success. He has effectively ceded the opportunity to point out the treaty problems via a referendum, to Anglophobic negotiators who need only cross one of our ‘red lines’. I trust that we can depend upon them if not Gordon Brown.
To cross one of these ‘red lines’ may seem to be self defeating as it promises a veto on the treaty, but the Anglophobic continentals may take a longer view. They can initiate a process of excluding us if everyone else accepts the treaty. We would be marginalised again and eventually forced to withdraw or enter into a second tier less influential membership. This is a high stakes gamble as some other countries may also veto or vote ‘no’. Perhaps we should pre-empt this form of attack by arguing for a lighter European membership project and making it our own. This would in fact be better for us and could also be argued for as a staging point for new country membership. It could ultimately become the more successful European club and would allow us to offer an alternative European vision. Then countries would have a choice of membership styles.

October 10, 2007

Taxation Simplification

Filed under: Concepts, Economics, Ideas, Observations — Tags: , , , , — conceptualizer @ 12:02 pm

Although only a small improvement, it’s nonetheless good to see some simplification of taxation. Complexity increases the costs inherent in collection and administration, adding no value to the economy while adding opportunities for avoidance and evasion. The honest tax payer is pursued relentlessly, while the difficult target reduces their tax burden. Simplification can be a blunt tool, but by reducing avoidance and evasion it can also be more even-handed. Taxation should be funding the public sector of the economy, but in part has become a tool of the moralist. Differential taxation is used to punish success, hard work and spending on what a few have decided is not good for us. Taxation should be refocused on its purpose and needs to become simpler, less bespoke.
There is a strong case for drastic simplification in taxation. I suggest a gradual migration to zero personal taxation with all tax revenue raised from business. The simplification would produce huge benefits for the economy, but the total tax burden on the economy would remain the same, less the saving in administration costs. It would also encourage a dynamic economy as spending patterns would not be stymied and it would encourage people with money to move to our economy. Business would benefit from simplification of taxation and as a whole be no worse off, because the extra tax they pay will be offset by reductions in wage bills. There will be those businesses that come off better and worse. Those at the extreme ends of the ratio of taxable revenue to employee pay, but it would also tend to encourage reinvestment in research and development as companies seek to minimise their tax bill.

September 28, 2007

Home ownership increases unemployment

The BoE MPC member Professor Danny Blanchflower points out that owning homes makes for a less mobile workforce and therefore tends to increase unemployment. Sounds plausible. So the implication is we make people more mobile by promoting home rental. Unfortunately people like to own their homes, so we could make business more mobile. It seems to me there was some promise to encourage businesses to move to the provinces quite some time ago by Tony Blair. It appears there was insufficient action on that one. I think some guaranteed periods of low and gradually increasing corporation tax combined with relocation advice might be a nice carrot. Perhaps a gradually increasing corporate tax rate for the highest density areas of business would provide a good stick.

Social Engineering by Jacqui Smith

Ms Smith espoused “zero tolerance of antisocial behaviour” at the Labour Party conference. I love the rhetoric and wish it were translated into real action, but I have heard this many times before and not much happened then either. A showpiece pronunciamento to improve her image no doubt. Wouldn’t it be great though if she turned out to be a Mrs Thatcher of the Home Office and tackled our thugs, we can only dream.
Antisocial behaviour ruins living in this country. We have created a class of untouchable antisocial children that evolve into criminals and both blight our lives. Children test their boundaries, and it is for the adults to say no quickly and decisively when they go too far. They are given so many hollow warnings they keep pushing and pushing until they do something outrageous and finally the law takes action. It is too late by then, that behaviour is well embedded. The action should be swift and early. If we must afford them the rights of adults when they are still children (and I think we are too ready to do so) those rights need to be snatched back quickly when they do something wrong. We have created a culture where children’s rights matter more than adults. This inverted logic is backfiring. They are not sweet innocents learning their way. Anyone with sense knows they need moral instruction and social attitudes today prevent anyone form providing it. So yes we need some social engineering here, but the whole attitude to the treatment of children needs changing. We must tackle the root causes early, not belated apply a feeble ASBO and expect the child to fix itself.

September 27, 2007

Education and the Economy

Filed under: Economics, Ideas — Tags: — conceptualizer @ 3:57 pm

Empirically speaking, nations are advantaged by application of advanced technological understanding and high gearing of that understanding. Such a system requires specialists. The quicker we can create specialists the greater and longer will be the advantage. The current UK education system is too loosely structured, it needs a tighter focus, it needs to be purposeful in its direction of students toward their chosen area of interest. Specialisation should begin as soon as interests are identified, not at some prescribed age. General qualifications should be incidental. Such a highly directed focus will not only benefit the economy but also the individual as they narrow quickly onto what interests them. Naturally there needs to be some constraints, we can’t have a large fraction of the male population training as footballers. There is no reason why people could not have several specialisations, or continue in generalist education until they decide.

February 12, 2007

Improving Democracy

Filed under: Debate, Ideas, Observations, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , — conceptualizer @ 1:20 pm

Government

The fundamental feature of a government system is a hierarchical structure of permanent fulltime positions. All government systems require this feature to effectively manage the requirements of the people they govern. A flat structure becomes increasingly problematic to coordinate as the number in government increases. As workload increases in volume and complexity, temporary and part-time positions become untenable. Below are some of the reasons why a government system benefits a country:

  • Greater specialisation is possible, giving the potential for better results; for example specialists in national security.
  • Centralisation enables cost advantages in the acquisition of inputs; for example purchase of construction materials.
  • Benefits from being managed by a single authority and hence with a single strategy; for example a homogeneous transport infrastructure.
  • Some requirements are only manageable at a macro scale; for example space exploration.
  • Mundane requirements can be deferred to government; for example refuse removal.

Democratic Government

The fundamental principle of democratic government is the control over those that govern by the governed. Specifically, the power of investiture and removal of people from government positions and control over strategy. This principle tends to encourage good stewardship in those elected and so over time may be responsible for the fact that the world’s most powerful and successful countries are predominantly democracies.
Another common feature often associated with democracy is the equality of all its members. Although a popular idea this is not essential in a democracy, nor is it strictly true, as some groups have more rights than others in some situations. Further, it is not always practiced where it is intended to be and many good arguments exist concerning its inadequacies.

Problems With Democratic Government

Democratic government, like all forms of government, is problematic. The consequences of those problems are occasionally obvious and reported on as news. If we believe that democracy is good and to be more democratic is better, then we need to enhance adherence to the democratic principle. That requires strengthening the control of the populace over who is in government and what strategies they use. There are three root causes to the problems with democratic government and all concern the democratic principle:

  • the timing of elections
  • control of strategic decisions
  • the suitability of the people in government positions

Elections to government positions are mostly at fixed time intervals. Where flexibility exists it is at the discretion of the incumbents, rather than the voter. Unfortunately time interval based elections are not likely to be aligned with the people’s need or desire for change. They are an historical remnant that should be replaced by elections based around need or desire for change; i.e. election timing should be event based rather than time interval based.
The strategies employed by democratic government are supposed to express the will of the people. Unfortunately government strategy is sometimes out of step with the will of the majority of people. This is in part because policies are bundled together by each government. It is also in part because potential new systems have not yet been implemented to devolve more power to the people. Some politicians may believe that they should be setting the strategic agenda rather than the people. They are not democratic in their political philosophy and should be excluded from a democratic government. There is a degree of indolence when it comes to advancing democracy and I believe that it is in part down to the inadequacies of the current politicians and in part a reluctance to advance democracy. The later is perverse in the sense that they only have there political position because of democracy.
If government positions can be filled with more appropriate people we will have improved government. As positions are filled by election, improving elections is vital and they have two main influences: the candidates allowed to stand for election and the people allowed to be voters.

Improvements to Democratic Government

Election Timing

Computers and the internet have made it possible and cost effective to replace time interval based elections with event based elections driven by need or desire for change. Such elections are more responsive to the people and so are more democratic. They also encourage better stewardship, because the behaviour of those in government is not skewed by a predetermined election timetable. They are forced to face the consequences of their actions every day.
Some care needs to be exercised to prevent knee-jerk reactions spawning elections. This could for example include a sustained period of strong disapproval to trigger an election. Straw polls and intermediate votes can be used to gauge attitude without triggering elections, creating a hierarchical system of voting. This would be preferable as people are better at making decisions after considering things more than once. Recording of opinion by voters can also be tracked so each voter can see the variability of their own views over time and correlated to events.

Strategic Control

Technology also allows government to gain a better understanding of public opinion on strategic decisions. Carried through to its logical conclusion this would obviate the need for party politics. Each position could be individually elected and their strategic goals defined by the voters. This would also circumvent the old problems in party politics such as those around proportional representation and the role of tradition in choice.

Appropriate People

To be more discerning when electing people to government positions we need to consider both candidates and voters.

Candidates

Enthusiasm is not enough. Important positions need open minded, informed, honest, hard working, balanced and mentally agile people. I propose that before anyone may become a candidate for election, they must take and pass a course that covers the range of possible ideologies and the historical causal effects of choices made. If government positions are considered important and worthy of respect then it is the duty of government to ensure that people who aspire to those positions are as good as they can be.

Voters

My proposals so far have significantly shifted power into the hands of the voter from the politician. That power shift must be balanced by checks on the veracity of the voter. Tradition and prejudice are not enough. In a democracy everyone may have the right to a vote, but only the interested, open minded, informed, honest and balanced should be allowed to exercise that right.
Voters must for example be able to prove at least a basic understanding of the major policies of the main candidates or parties. Also, voters that show little interest in the process by failing to vote could be suspended from subsequent voting rights, until they have applied to have their suspension lifted. Suspension could also be applied to those convicted of serious breaches of the law. The application for resumption of voting rights could require for example a hand written summary of the major candidates or parties top policies. The important point however is that some effort must be made to get voting rights reinstated. This system does not prevent anyone from voting, but presents an opportunity to make voting sufficiently discriminatory as to get a more considered result.
Lastly I think that in a true democracy the principles of democracy should be held at high value. People intentionally subverting, or attempting or planning to subvert the systems principles should be treated very harshly. That should include a long mandatory prison sentence and a punitive financial penalty followed by deportation if they have another nationality. Strong treatment should also be applied to those who learn of subversion but do not inform the system immediately.

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