October 3, 2011
With Congress’ approval rating at 12%, there’s no longer any argument that the U.S. government is broken. Lefties and Tea Partiers alike are starting to support the idea of calling a Constitutional Convention. This will be a good test of the Founding Fathers’ ultimate emergency safeguard. Voters understand that elections won’t help in our current situation because the spirit of compromise has been driven out of the system. It’s time for Plan B.
I support the idea of a Constitutional Convention. But I think it probably won’t work because the lack of compromise that got us to this point will be carried to the convention. I don’t see a Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson in the wings to help us sort things out. And a constitutional change would take years. Clearly it is time for me to step in and set things right.
As self-appointed Leader of the Transitional Government, I order my fellow revolutionaries to create a website that can give direction to our gridlocked elected officials. I have blogged about this before, but now it’s time to either build this site or tell me who has already done it.
The main requirement for the website is that it can compare arguments from all sides of every political issue in a side-by-side format with links to supporting data. The user should clearly see the counterargument for every point on display.
Ideally, the system would be designed such that the “best” arguments float to the top, not only for the big picture but for each point and counterpoint within the argument. Over time, the arguments for both sides would evolve to their strongest forms.
The next layer would be some sort of rolling judicial opinion on the quality of each argument, updated periodically. It would be hard to find unbiased judges for political issues, but I think you could find people who are ethical enough to be objective about the arguments themselves. Remember that the judges would not be issuing a final or binding verdict. They would be evaluating the quality of each argument in light of the evidence. I think you could find judges willing to vote against arguments they want to agree with until the arguments themselves are improved and better supported by the evidence.
The quality of an argument can change over time as better data or even better thinking becomes available. The judges would update their opinions as needed. The judges’ opinions wouldn’t be binding on anyone. It would just be a way for one side to know where their argument needs improvement.
The website would also have a layer where users can see continuously updated poll results that show what the experts think, what voters think, and what elected officials think. Whenever those three groups get out of sync, it would become headline news. Over time, you’d hope the experts and the voters would get in sync, especially with the help of the judges. And once the experts and the voters are mostly on the same side, the politicians would find it embarrassing to disagree. Embarrassment is the main tool of my Transitional Government. When the elected government can learn to govern without embarrassing itself, I will dissolve the Transitional Government. We’re a long way from that point.
I know my readers, and you’ll send me lots of links to sites that are poor versions of what I just described. But if one of them is better than the rest, and capable of further improvement, I’ll blog about it so you can keep an eye on it. However, I doubt there’s any site out there with an ever changing “best” argument and an independent judiciary review. At most, there might be some fact-checking organizations.
The key to making such a site work is as much in the interface design as in the concept itself. If you don’t nail the interface, no one will use it. It might take a few versions to get that right. I’m not a micro-managing Transitional Leader, so I leave it to my fellow revolutionaries to work out the details of the site. Now get to work.