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Modernizing the Constitution

Modernizing the Constitution

    If you were going to modernize and redesign the constitution of the United States, what changes would you make?

    You and I have two huge advantages over the Founders. We have the benefit of a few hundred years of track record to see what worked and what didn’t, and we have the Internet. It’s hard to imagine that Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and the rest would design the constitution the same way if they were starting now.

    Our biggest political problem at the moment is that we have two powerful political parties, and two is a bad number for getting anything done. Every issue becomes an endless slap fight with no clear winner.

    So what is the optimum number of decision-makers?

    If you have only one decision-maker, you have a dictatorship. That would be terrific if your dictator happens to be awesome. But no one wants to take that sort of risk. Dictators are rarely awesome.

    A many-party system, such as Israel, has its own set of problems. You don’t want too many parties all pulling in different directions.

    The ideal number of decision-makers for any sort of organization is three. When you have three votes on any issue, the result is always a decisive 2-1 or 3-0. Obviously that only works if the decision is a yes-no type. The worst case would be three parties with three different plans.

    So how do you design a system that has the benefits of three decision-makers without the risk of getting three different plans for each issue?

    My proposed constitutional change is to allow three – and only three – political parties, as follows:

    1. Liberal Party

    2. Conservative Party

    3. Science Party

    Each party – no matter how many members – would get one collective vote in Congress on each bill. All bills would be decided on a 2-1 or 3-0 vote. So you always get a result that looks decisive to the public. That’s the first benefit.

    Now let’s say the Science Party is all about data and rational thought. The party would recruit scientists, engineers, and other quantitative types. The Science Party would be allowed to vote, as a block, on every bill, but they wouldn’t be allowed to introduce their own legislation. That prevents a situation where there are three plans for the three parties and nothing but deadlock. The Science Party would only be allowed to vote for the liberal or the conservative plan. But the Science Party would have tremendous influence on those plans because the other parties would understand they have to get the Science Party vote to succeed.

    With this arrangement, the Science Party is on the winning side of every vote.  The public would always have the benefit of knowing that the facts mattered. That doesn’t mean the Science Party is always right. It just means the decisions are always informed by reason. Realistically, the Science Party would usually be settling for the lesser of evils.

    The risk is that the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party would each try to get their moles elected in the Science Party. But if that were a huge risk, you would see it happening under other Democratic systems, and you don’t. I think well-defined parties would do a good job of filtering out the pretenders.

    The Science Party would need the power of abstaining in case the other parties produce two thoroughly unworkable plans. So you still have gridlock if you need it. But members of the Liberal and Conservative parties would have a hard time getting reelected if they kept disagreeing with the Science party. Challengers would use it as a hammer.

    I would also tweak the constitution to make it illegal to combine different topics into one bill. That gets rid of the pork projects.

    The Science Party would be charged with keeping the public informed via Internet. Unlike the other two parties, the Science Party would fully explain the counterpoint to every argument and lay out all of the data and reasoning behind each issue.

    I would also make voting mandatory, and require that it be done by Internet, assuming proper safeguards could be put in place to avoid voter fraud.

    If the Founders had the technology we have today, and they had a robust scientific and analytical community to draw on, as we do, I think they would have designed the Constitution to take advantage of those assets.

    What do you think?

    [Note: Going forward, I’ll be pruning out any commenters who are taking over the comment section. You know who you are.]

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