I have a hundred-year plan to eliminate government.
The key to making this work is picking one element of government at a time and using technology to eliminate it. Remember, we have a hundred years to develop and test lots of little plans. So we won’t permanently eliminate any part of government until citizens have seen proof it can work on a state level, or for a brief test period nationally, or in another country.
You are skeptical that technology can replace government. That sounds a little like replacing your bicycle with a Fig Newton, or replacing your couch with a bucket of water. It doesn’t sound logical on the surface. I’ll need some examples to make my case.
Consider education. At some point in the next hundred years the only acceptable way to educate people will be online. At some point online education will evolve and improve until you have the best instructors teaching in the best possible ways. You can get rid of the physical school buildings, the teachers, and all the rest. I think you could privatize education, with ad support, (as I described in a blog post last month) and still make it universally available. It seems feasible that government could let go of education.
What about healthcare? Healthcare diagnostic equipment will become so advanced in the next hundred years that doctors will be the weak link. A complete body scan, blood work, and Big Data will get you 98% of the diagnoses and treatments you need. Robots will be doing surgery by then, and doing it better than humans. So while the short term trend for healthcare costs is higher, I think the trend after twenty years or so will be sharply lower. And when doctor-assisted suicide is legal, which is inevitable because of demographic reasons (lots of old people begging for the option) that helps too. The point is that healthcare will get cheaper and less complicated for the consumer, so government can ease out of it. If taxes are needed to fund healthcare for the poor, that is still possible with no government beyond direct democracy connected via Internet. I’ll explain that later.
How about the military? You always need a government to handle defense, right?
I don’t think so, at least not in the long run. We know for sure that future armies will be a combination of waves of robot soldiers overrunning enemy positions supported by drone air support. The first country to develop a robot army (likely the U.S.) will dominate every non-nuclear country. No human army or uprising could last a day against waves of robot fighters going door-to-door through a city or mountain range. So traditional wars will simply stop happening because the U.S. will rent its robot army to whichever side it supports and almost any war will end in days. Eventually no rebel army will bother starting an unwinnable war, and no despot will try conquering a neighboring country. Robots will end conventional war.
If we imagine a future war between two non-nuclear forces, both with their own robot armies, there is no reason humans ever need to get involved. The robots can fight it out in a remote location and the country with the losing robots surrenders immediately. The losing side will know that the winning country with its superior robots could wipe out the human population in less than a day, so surrender is the only option.
My point is that wars could become obsolete. The military will become mostly hardware and software, controlled by a direct democracy. If 75% of adult citizens vote to go to war, the robots march. If the country is attacked, the robots respond automatically, but can be called back by direct democracy if needed. And citizens can watch all wars through the robot head cams. We’ll always know what is going on.
You still need money for this robot army, but I’ll get to that.
The government does a good job setting health and safety standards. But a direct democracy could probably pull that off too.
In a hundred years, I can see the government being replaced by software that allows citizens to raise any issue, thoroughly debate it online, and implement the new law/standard/tax all via Internet with no politicians involved. Would the new system have problems? Of course. Would it be worse than our current system with elected officials who are controlled by special interests? I doubt it.
If the country needs to raise taxes, say to build more defense robots, or provide Internet access and healthcare to the poor, that is all handled by direct democracy online. If the country agrees on a new tax, it comes automatically out of all paychecks and online payment transactions. No citizen ever needs to “do taxes” at the end of the year.
Keep in mind that the future with no government probably has much lower tax rates. Getting public agreement to go from 5% taxes to 7% won’t be as big a deal as today when we try to raise rates from 39% to 45%.
Now you have the issue of social nets to care for the poor. Government has been the best bet for that so far, but I can imagine that need being reduced by technology too.
Imagine, for example, housing for the poor that is built by robots and engineered to be both highly livable and absurdly inexpensive by today’s standards. If you get the cost of rent down to an equivalent of $100 per month in today’s dollars, you can take a huge bite out of poverty. Combine low housing costs with universal healthcare that is free for the poor, and free online education – for everything from grade school to career training – and you have a good start for removing government from the social net business.
I can also imagine food costs plummeting within a hundred years, especially if the housing for the poor includes its own hydroponic gardens. Or perhaps we will all be growing “meat” from cells in our own homes. I don’t know the details, but I can see food costs dropping for protein and veggie matter.
Now let’s say there are some functions of government that simply require a human to manage. And let’s say that human has a lot of opportunity for corruption. One way to fix that situation is to require that any humans with responsibility for public interests give up more privacy than the normal person, in return for an oversized salary. I think there are plenty of people who have no secrets and would enjoy the big paycheck. When privacy is eliminated, the risk of corruption goes way down.
Consider law enforcement. In the future, as I have described in other books and blog posts, getting away with committing a crime will be nearly impossible because everything that happens everywhere will be tracked and recorded. Crime will be detected as it happens, robot cops will be dispatched, and any citizen can watch both the crime and the arrest on live video.
Meanwhile, drugs and prostitution will probably become legal, so law enforcement isn’t needed for that stuff. And if you speed, you’ll get a ticket by email and your paycheck will be docked accordingly.
I don’t have time to detail every government function and how technology might replace it in the future. But I think it’s all possible. We just need to agree on that direction. And we need to test every government-replacement system on a small scale before implementing more widely. But I think we (or our grandkids) can get there.
What do you think? Could we get to a government-free future?