Life is for Living

This blog is to collect random thoughts that don't really have a structure, except a publishing chronology, and even that is unlikely to follow the creation chronology.

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Calm, excited, weak, strong, funny, serious, lazy, worker, irresponsible, thinker, shallow, selfish, generous, spontaneous, impulsive, undecided, poor, rich, tall(ish), ignorant, cultured, sophisticated, procrastinator, stoopid, clever. Pick any two, or more... ;-) 
One of my favorite quotes: "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well reserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... 'Wow! What a ride!' "

Generally interested in a lot of subjects:
- Artificial Intelligence (mostly because there's so little Natural Intelligence around)
 Robotics
- 3D printing
- DIY projects (including home foundry, electronics, general hacking)
- Scuba diving
- Mountaineering
- Paragliding
- Music
- Arts (mostly visual arts) including street art
- Dance
- Intentional communities
- Society in general, how to fix the current mess in particular, or rather how to escape it

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Real" democracy.


I made a big discovery this week. After following a few links on YouTube recordings of public interventions and debates of people like Alain Soral, Pierre Jovanovic, François Asselineau and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, I landed on a conference by Étienne Chouard: "Sommes-nous en démocratie ?" (Are we in a democracy?)

This is quite a revelation. I have been saying for quite a while that the representative regime in which we live is a trap: the only freedom the average citizen has is to elect the politicians that are going to fleece him (or her). The fact that the political class is composed of people that are distinct from "the 99%" basically guarantees that these politicians will not try to fundamentally change anything to the current system.

The main thing I learnt from the above conference (and a few others with Étienne Chouard), is that what the Athenians called Democracy was quite different from the regime we call of the same name. The key element that made Democracy work was the random selection of "officials", drawn from the pool of "ordinary" citizens. Mandates were short, and limited to one. This ensured that the rich had very little chance of colluding with people in positions of power. The (real) Democracy lasted for over 200 years in Athens, and while one must be careful not to idealise that regime (they also had their flaws: racism, bigotry and slavery were some of the more salient characteristics we'd better avoid), it did not fail for political reasons, but simply because they lost a war.

Compare this to our government by representation. What has it really achieved for the majority of the people? Do politicians represent the people that elect them, or the moneyed 1% that finance them?

The current politicians get elected on the wrong criteria, more time and energy get spent discussing the merits of the candidates (that are mostly all the same anyway) than the features of propositions, on which there is little chance of the general public weighing in any significant way. The debate then centers around which candidate has the whitest smile, the shiniest suit, or the best hidden extramarital affairs rather than how to improve the situation for all. The candidates make vague promises, and there is no way for the citizens to force their representatives to follow through.

This state of affairs is the same in any modern representative form of government. Etienne Chouard's contention is that the common point to all these regimes is the way the constitution was drafted: mostly by an elite either elected or hoping to be elected. They made sure the constitution absolves them of responsibilities, this being most visible in the European constitution, where most of the power gets given to the commission (short for the commission of ministers), with little counter-powers.

In practice, Chouard proposes to select the constitution commission by a random process. A "short" list gets drawn up by simply having citizens nominating whomever they think could be a member of the commission. They can nominate as many people as they want. People currently in an elected position would be ineligible, as would be professional politicians, syndicate representatives, and TV or media people. A process would then eliminate names that were nominated too few times (less than two or three times?) and people that were nominated too many times (more than a thousand? five thousand?). This would constitute the short list. A totally random process would then draw a hundred (or five hundred? more? less?) names of the people that would then draft the constitution. The members of that commission would be ineligible to any political appointment or government job, other than the one they had before becoming a member of the commission.
This insures total impartiality, and that they will not have any temptation to build mechanisms in the constitution that would favor an elite.

Input from specialists and the general public could (and most likely should) be sought, in a similar way to what happened lately in Iceland.