Imagine a democratic political system in which no one is allowed to be a member of a political party. How would things be different?
My hypothesis is that confirmation bias, or cognitive dissonance, or something of that nature, influences voters to irrationally agree with the platform of their own party no matter what the facts suggest. My hypothesis is easy enough to test. All you’d need to do is come up with a phony issue and present it to your test subjects as something to which their party agrees, or disagrees, and see if party affiliation influences opinions. I think the effect would be large.
Now imagine what would happen to campaign funding if political parties didn’t exist. In our current system, a union can give a million dollars to the Democratic Party and it doesn’t seem too wrong because the party represents about half of the voters in the country. But if political parties didn’t exist, unions or corporate interests would have to donate to individuals. And a large donation to an individual campaign would either be illegal or it would look so much like a bribe that it would be counter-productive.
I think political parties made sense in pre-Internet times. It was a good way to organize and to produce candidates who had a legitimate chance of getting elected. Now it’s easy to imagine the Internet being a better platform for electing the right people. The problem is that there’s no way to get to a different type of system from here. The major parties are too entrenched to give up power, and belonging to organizations is a fundamental freedom.
I’m fascinated by the fact that the freedom to organize into political parties limits our other freedoms more than most people realize. Political parties make the government incompetent, and the result of ineffective government is that citizens are less prosperous. Poverty is the ultimate restriction of freedom.
If Thomas Jefferson sprung back to life today, and learned about the Internet, I wonder how he would recommend changing the Constitution of the United States. I think he would favor banning political parties.