Reimagining Democracy

The crisis of elected misrepresentation highlights how the world is full of weak democracies. The United States is one of many existing to mask the intentions and efforts of a global oligarchy. We are fed narratives of voting as a source of change, knowing that the public’s well-being is given less priority than private interests by elected lawmakers. People are frustrated with the democratic republic and are being driven toward more radical alternatives. They are justified in that our present understanding of democracy is inadequate to support transcendent humanity. They are incorrect in assuming that any alternative -ism or the absence of a state could ever be enough. Democracy, as a means of driving consensus among citizen stakeholders and supporting redistributive efforts to fund public works, plays a vital role in systemic actualization. The majority of anti-government sentiment we observe at this moment is often an attempt to avoid obligations to others. However, it is not completely unfounded. Our crisis of elected misrepresentation highlights how those within elected positions of power prioritize their personal wealth and the wealth of their sponsors over the well-being of their constituents. With that said, the idea that a hyper-conservative fascist solution or an anarchist alternative would be ideal is an illusion that would only accelerate the crisis and further calcify birth as the most important event of our lives. Systemic actualization and our vision of deep freedom are rooted in cooperation and the individual core values we embrace in alignment with the single truth. Reimagining democracy is a necessary step for the management of large groups, federations, and nations within a systemically actualized society.

Present-day democracies suffer from several ills explored previously. Legalized bribery in the forms of lobbying and campaign donations ensures that the system prioritizes wealthy individuals and organizations, opaque elections and policy decisions prevent the public from engaging more deeply, and a general lack of accountability creates a despondency among many who opt out of the process entirely. Although these critiques are accurate, they are symptoms of a larger structural issue with the design of democracy around the world. Our efforts focus on redesigning democracy from the ground up, building a philosophy of consensus to manage shared systems. We begin with recognizing that nothing about our democracy is inherently natural or necessary; it is, like all things, a construct frozen in the time of its creation. Our ability to change or alter its trajectory is directly correlated to our will to do so. We also understand that we need not rely on the present people and arrangements that resist change to create it. The alternative is to create something new, independent of what is and relentless in its pursuit of what will be.

Consider the current process of implementing laws at the state and federal levels. There are presently two possibilities when it comes to laws. Policies are adopted universally and apply to everyone, or they are not adopted at all. This binary approach to governance is a choice that restricts experimentation by design. A better alternative would be to embrace more precise lawmaking, where specific groups could vote for and be accountable to legislation without subjecting the collective to their needs and whims. Laws need not be an all-or-nothing process. A systemically actualized society allows the decentralized microcommunity to develop highly custom legal arrangements governing the conduct of life within their society, with the primary restriction being forms of organization that would subjugate some for the benefit of others. 

When we think about the future of democracy, it is necessary to create paths toward higher participation rates. We encourage this by becoming masters of its structure and supporting the expansion of possibility within the bureaucratic state. It also moves us away from the standard approach of relying on technocrats to dictate the direction of society in favor of an experimental populace who leverage their insight without being subject to it. This more flexible approach to governance leans toward the creation of alternative regimes of law that favor innovation. Additionally, it allows for change independent of crisis. Groups and communities can act without concern for power structures preserving the rule of the dead over the living. To do this, we must innovate how individuals are provided access and agency within the democratic process. Of all of the developed nations participating in democratic elections, the United States ranks twenty-sixth out of thirty-two in voter turnout.55 As you’ll recall, I founded and led a civic technology nonprofit focusing on closing this gap at the local level. Our 2018 research revealed several disturbing findings. For many, the cost of running for local office was prohibitive, exceeding 20,000 dollars in many of our pilot state communities. The lack of restrictions on financial spending in campaigns at all levels deters community members without access to high levels of disposable income from attempting to become engaged. In doing so, we stifle alternative perspectives and imagination. 

We also discovered that 77 percent of the local candidates posted no information online about their candidacy in the form of direct websites and social media pages. By denying community members access to relevant information, candidates also removed their agency of informed consent within the democratic process. Now, we might assume that the financial and informational barriers preventing greater democratic engagement are relics ripe for reform. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many of those elected to local leadership positions seek to maintain the present arrangements to preserve their power. Our research produced feedback such as, “We don’t want higher community participation,” and “Transparent elections don’t benefit incumbents.” Despite this feedback we continued to build, developing a public platform to manage access and agency within the local election process. We intended to establish a more direct democracy at the community level through ease of access and paths to participation. Although the organization was sunsetted due to financial difficulties, our solution remains as relevant as ever.

A digital public campaign platform provides a direct alternative to our present political information systems and opens doorways to eliminating corruption of the process. Ideally developed, managed, and continuously iterated by a nonpartisan DAO or nonprofit, this political technology enhances individual agency and access in the political process at all levels of government. It provides a standardized format for candidate information entry and digestion, highlighting aspects of the candidate, such as their professional history, personal values, and their vision for the community they intend to serve. This information is presented to potential voters in an easy-to-digest format that is consistent in its presentation across all levels of elections. 

Beyond information, the platform could provide easy and accessible pathways to informed decision-making. For example, Likert scale* personality tests across various categories could be used to quantify value alignment between citizen and candidate in the form of matching percentages similar to dating websites. Once established, the platform could also support voting or the delegation of votes, as is popular in existing DAOs. Stakeholders could delegate their votes to other community members, empowering those choosing to abstain from being represented by a perspective they align with. This model of citizen access to candidates is best served by legislation requiring candidates to leverage the platform for their campaign. Having the majority of candidates participate on the platform would empower us to make more sweeping changes to our electoral process, such as limiting or eliminating campaign financing and expenditure. Through the dedication of public education resources and programs, we educate the populace on its use and value to our democratic process. We might choose to incentivize participation to drive initial adoption. Pushing this model even further, we could mandate that all financial transactions between individuals or groups with a candidate be handled through the platform and recorded on its independent blockchain to ensure absolute transparency. This same approach could be applied to all government spending. In just a few election cycles, we could usher in a new era of democracy, prioritizing citizen access and agency ahead of private interests. 

Enhancing access and agency within the process of democracy is the primary path to high engagement, but plenty of alternatives exist. Compulsory voting is an option. For example Belgium’s laws require voting, with financial penalties for those who do not. The result is a significantly higher average voter turnout than in the United States. This option provides a clear-cut solution to turning out more voters but doesn’t necessarily guarantee aware engagement with the process. What does it matter if more people vote if they remain unfamiliar with who and what they are voting for? Without proper assurances in regard to the freedom to vote, this path could also turn out to be little more than a penalty for the poor. Ranked choice voting is another incremental improvement. Each candidate is assigned a rank by voters, indicating their hierarchies of preference. If their number one choice loses, their vote is then transferred to their number two, and so forth and so on. This is extremely valuable in countries with robust variations of political alliances but may be less effective upon implementation in the United States, where the differences between political parties are less refined. 

Some cities are presently leveraging ranked-choice voting. We should also consider how this might serve those seeking to disrupt the status quo. In theory, it allows more citizens to vote with their values without fear or risk of electing someone whose values stand in stark opposition to their own. Alternatively, ranked-choice voting might result in flooding contested elections with candidates sharing agendas and donors. This is common practice in elections today. As difficult as it is for political innovators to compete now, ranked-choice voting may make it even more challenging. Still, even with that potential, it would significantly improve our present winner-take-all elections.

Another challenge of our present forms of democracy is the intentionally slow pace of change that the systems enable. Earlier we explored how the separation of powers in the United States slows change by design. Now we explore how we can maintain the philosophy of separating powers in collective governance while creating pathways toward more rapid resolutions to an impasse. We could begin by empowering both Congress and the president to independently put a topic of impasse to a direct, public vote. This way, those acting in favor of public interest and desire have a pathway toward overriding the influence of corporate and private influences on legislation. Additionally, it adds a political price to frivolous abuse. Losing initiatives you call forth is a bad look for political candidate and party alike. We should note that empowering public votes as a path through impasse strengthens the position of the president, who could more realistically champion the collective citizenry without being stifled by a compromised Congress. Another alternative to breaking through the impasse could be to learn from the English parliament and empower the legislative and executive branches to call public elections to decide on elected representatives at any time. Instead of focusing on the issues, this process focuses on the elected officials and runs a similar political risk to calling a direct public vote. Both alternatives present a direct path toward quickening the pace of progress, a necessary component of materializing systemic actualization.

Another avenue of progressing democracy to meet the needs of the moment is revisiting the federal system. Federalism is the organization of a nation of independent states and was intended to produce a variety of experimental ways of living. In some respects, it has succeeded in its goals; however, in many respects, it has not. Alternative ways of life have been interpreted to support forms of religious and economic fundamentalism that deny the rights and dignities of specific groups at the command of others. With that said, there are opportunities to revitalize the experimental nature of the state that can help eliminate these abuses and inspire creativity in how we organize our relationships. First and foremost is expanding cooperative systems among the states to support operations such as procurement, emergency management, taxation schemes, and social programs. The same approach can be applied within the states themselves. By unifying operational systems across and within the states, we create a more robust political technology better suited to serve individual imagination. Once we scale operational capacity, we can then turn our focus toward more ideological experimentation. 

Today there is a sameness that extends across the United States. While swaths of the country differ in their spiritual philosophies, the economic and political arrangements governing relationships between individuals remain relatively homogenous. Our objective is to encourage greater experimentation with ways of living through custom systems of law and property, an alignment of system and self that frees us from the constraints of a single form of living and furthers our individual alignment with the single truth. This includes supporting ideologies that conflict with existing or popular models of philosophy and organization but prohibiting those intending to or actively subjugating one group for the benefit of another. Outside of that, there are few limits. We make it easier for groups to be different and live differently. This depth of freedom is built upon the eight dignities, which remove the state’s authority in determining individual agency and access. 

The dignity of transportation provides people the freedom to relocate to build community in alignment with their vision of the good. We can imagine periodic relocation initiatives as new communities form and attract new participants. Cementing these dignities in the rights of each individual, children included, paves the way to more expansive social contracts. No individual or community taking advantage of the eight dignities can deny them to others. The purpose of these experimental laws and systems is to encourage the new. To this end, we deny reorganization frameworks that would only serve to make the already powerful more so. Courts would first review new subsets of laws and property to ensure compliance within the frameworks we choose. These laws would then move toward a formal approval process by a publicly elected central committee. We create a multilayered form of state that reinforces the larger collective vision while supporting highly customizable forms of being. Instead of thinking of liberty and democracy as opposing forces, we reorganize them to be symbiotic. This reflects our understanding of the relational universe as guided by the single truth.

So how do we address the inevitable? What happens when a group abuses this system to trap others into a disadvantage they cannot escape? Our core value of relation demands a collective response to these situations. The central government can serve that function through a new branch that possesses the power to rescue people. It exists already in the United States to some degree but should be more expansive and better funded. Every new direction contains an infinite number of unknowns that we cannot control. What is in our control is how we design our systems to reinforce our values and address misalignments. Our reimagination of democracy is the development of a new suite of tools through which we craft our destiny. It provides a way to combine our focus and energy into precision force, allowing us to reshape the world and our being to embrace the deep freedom necessary to transcend the age of crisis. - Reimagining Democracy

Likert scales are typical in questionnaires and are commonly organized as Strongly Disagree through Strongly Agree.
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