Candidates should appear on the ballot if:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where's the Web Service?

Entry for August 30, 2007

While the pieces for a candidate to management a campaign are lying around, the means for the citizen manage political information are even more scattered.

How does one begin to organize information upon which to make an informed judgement on candidates at the ballot? Contemporary political campaigns seem structured to 'cue' voters not inform them. Very well, caveat emptor! It is the citizen's responsibility to either be led by cues or to lead their self. So called grass roots organizations push the cueing approach as well. The approach which would yield the most benefit to voter independence is to offer tools which empower the voters to shape the information from their own biases or philosophy.

Political parties as we have known and loathed them serve only the interests of maintaining and entrenching incumbency. They are essentially service agencies for preserving the power of the failing.

This observation is supported by my comparison of the state of information management tools in the hands of manufacturers of processed consent versus the producers of original consent - voters.

So, where are the tools for the citizens, if they chose to become voters, to filter the demands of processed consent?

It seems their is an opportunity here for a lot of clever hackers. Potentially Very Subversive Stuff - a voter information management system as a web service.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where's the free software?

Entry for August 29, 2007

Just a question: Where is the free, open source software for political campaign management? It appears to me that most of the components are there to be glued together. Public records are generally available to pour in.

Anyone should be able to access the tools for campaigning in a free society. Or, I have I failed to enter a 'magic' query to find this stuff?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Libertarian Politics, Democracy and War

Entry for August 25, 2007

Democracy, for libertarians at least, is not an alternative to markets. Nor is the use of democratic processes to spread that idea subversive anti-market activity, in my opinion. It is an essential activity so long as any state apparatus rest upon markets. So long as there are advocates for the State as a substitute for markets, anti-state “politics” will be necessary. War is the primary function of the State which subverts markets. One cannot be consistently pro-war and pro-market. For a State to wage war against another State, it must first wage war against 'its' own people. It must make war upon them by taxation to bid for the resources to wage a war against others. A voluntarily funded war by one people against another is possible, but religion is about the only motivation capable of doing it. This helps to understand why religious arguments are so frequently used to reinforce war making.

In the 20th Century an effort was made to substitute Democracy for religion as a motivator for war. It has proved a weak motivator and religion has returned to its traditional role. The war on 'terrorism' relies on religious appeals. But it is really just another war against markets. Those who lack the values to get what they seek by trade will declare the other side anathema to justify stealing what they cannot bid for successfully on the market. This is the means by which States and empires attempt to rise and inevitably fall.

This cycle makes politics indispensable. Democracy makes the 'Death of Politics' possible without waging war literally against the State by revolution. The less a State apparatus fears revolution, the more it follows a course which leads to defeat by another State(s). Democracy when practiced vigorously is a check on runaway State imperialism. Democracy allows markets to function more freely by restraining State war making. Democracy works to minimize State failure not market failure. The United States is a failing State. It is a failing State because it is a failed democracy. The democratic processes of the United States have become so corrupted that popular restraint is no longer effective.

This analysis is the root of my argument for restructuring the democratic processes of the United States. The decline of effective democracy clearly parallels and correlates with the rise of imperial America. I argue it is cause and effect. The rise of imperial America is the cause of the decline of markets. Markets do not need the State to function, but where the State exist, markets need democracy to retard the greatest disease of statism – war.

Politics in a dying democracy is futility. If one would oppose any thing the State would do, one must make sure the democracy can function to enforce the popular will. Where there is no popular will, the will of the people must be resolved in markets. If politics cannot be about preserving democracy, so that democracy can prevent State war-making, then the State will crush the markets to feed its war lust.

Ballots can save us from a resort to bullets. If you give up on the ballot, then the market may not provide you with the bullets when you really need them.

The war against the war-making of the imperial State begins with establishing a better democracy - electoral reform.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Electoral reform means uncaging voters

Caging is a term used to describe describe quasi-legal or illegal suppression of the vote. It is seen as a weapon which one party uses against another. Actually both parties engage in 'caging' to suppress voters who dissent from the entrenched party duopoly.

Gerrymandering is the most time worn example of caging using 'cracking' and 'packing' to divide the political market between two parties. One thing about such tactics is they become less effective as the number of candidates outside of the duopoly increases. Therefore, alternative party candidates must be suppressed by other techniques such as ballot access restrictions and filing fees to keep the two-parties entrenched.

What is less appreciated is the is the role gerrymandering still has upon new party candidates even when ballot access barriers are drastically lowered. Parties based on appeals that cut across ethnic, socio-economic characteristics have a geographically dispersed constituency. Their constituencies are still 'cracked' or fragmented by geographical divisions. The entrenched parties remain entrenched even with ballot access reforms. This factor controls even if ballot access restrictions are totally removed. In those cases, the minority parties are disparaged as 'spoilers' because they reveal the illusion of 'majority rule'.

However, if geographical boundaries are retained solely for the purpose of counting votes the 'majority rule' convention can be reasserted buy counting individual's votes within a larger context which is closer to proportionality. The solution within the constitutional framework of the U.S. is to allow individuals to swap electoral districts to overcome 'cracking'. This allows voters to voluntarily 'pack' a district and break the hegemony of the entrenched parties to 'crack' them into permanent minority status.

Ten thousand voters in a state who, but for cracking, could control an electoral sub-district are emancipated into a represented group. This consequence alters the 'viability' of new candidates.

So ballot access reform is a necessary, but not sufficient reform to secure a wider base for representation. But even both of these reforms are not sufficient either.

The total population size of the representational district remains to dilute and eliminate new political constituencies. I address this problem as well.

But if when ballot access is open, voters are free to cross electoral boundaries, and electoral districts are reduced in size (more representatives), the voter still confronts a fundamental paradox. The voter must make a 'take it or leave it' choice for only one candidate. The voter cannot express a range of preferences among multiple candidates. This problem is addressed by 'range voting'.

Finally, the problem of how to finance candidates without bribery and extortion remains. Since 1973 I have argued that mandatory anonymous contributions are an essential companion to the anonymous "secret' ballot. This is now technologically feasible and essential to a comprehensive attack on the system of entrenchment which has given Americans such deep cynicism which has allowed the virtual destruction of constitutional civil liberties by the entrenched parties coalition.

The American electoral system is killing democracy and the death of democracy is killing the Republic. Electoral reform is essential to a constitutional restoration. If this fails nothing remains but dictatorship and revolution - a bloody madness that could far exceed the excesses of the French Revolution or even the first American Civil War. Sounds hyperbolic? There is no need to find out. Just take the reform path step by relentless step.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

To Build a Better Messenger with a Better Message

Entry for August 18, 2007

Some LP activists, impatient for success, correctly diagnosed that the LP Platform was a major problem. Unfortunately, their solution was radical surgery. The belief was that "in your face" libertarianism was a show stopper. I have a differing diagnosis and solution. I do not believe it was never a matter of what was in the official platform, it was what wasn't in.

To begin with a party platform never binds candidates. No platform can trump an individual's own judgment. A platform is useful and necessary as an agenda for action which unites candidates. In order to "challenge the cult of the omnipotent state" one must state not only the targets but define HOW one plans to destroy those targets. This requires a plan of intervention in the processes of government to alter the outcomes.

The central process in which to intervene is the process of elections. This was recognized more than a century ago was by the wealthy interests who fostered and manipulated the Populists and Progressive 'movements' to institutionally entrench an apparent two-party system which preserved choice and allegiance. The whole edifice of the state rest upon popular allegiance to the outcomes produced by the system. It has failed. But it remains legally entrenched despite popular cynicism. The task is to mobilize this popular discontent into support for a reform agenda. It will not do to wait for either dictatorship or popular revolution. Either would worse for almost everyone.

The current spate of ideas to alter the electoral process indicate the time is ripe for reform. A libertarian (regardless of affiliation) should take as broad a view as can fit within the existing constraints of the Constitution - not as opinionated by the Supreme Court - the literal constraints. This does not mean that Constitutional Amendments are out of bounds; rather, amendments are a goal for entrenching a more open system not an immediate agenda item.

In my view, besides obvious ballot access issues, libertarians should serious consider voting systems such as range voting, and a cluster of electoral issues that are constitutionally rooted in the U. S. House of Representatives: the size of the House affects the Presidential Electors, decentralization of representation (apportionment), gerrymandering (re-districting), uncaging voters by allowing them to swap congressional districts with a state (voiding the partisan or racial effect of any boundary), anonymous campaign financing, secure paper ballots, and, lastly but not completely, re-empowering the House as the real "Inspector General" of the national government with rigorous oversight to trample down Executive secrecy. The House has the power of the purse and the power to initiate impeachment. If the LP is to make it's long awaited break through its central focus should be on access to the U.S. House of Representatives - NOT the presidential election.

The targets identified above suggest the "How to". Candidates should focus on rallying the public to support reform with specificity. For example, increasing the size of the House to 1776 members or 2012 (any other large 'magic number'). These reform ideas should be the centerpiece of the Libertarian Party platform and they also happen to be reforms which many other political elements could support.

The role of the LP Presidential nominee should be to take the centerpiece of the platform to the broad national electorate and reinforce the message of local congressional candidates. Otherwise, candidates should be respected as much as other activists and the people generally - your are free and expected to pick and choose your level of commitment to any platform issues. No doubt many will be dubious of the prospect of a consensus on the specificity of certain reforms. Fine. Vigorous intellectual ferment can produce the best and essential details.

Any candidate should free to advocate any more radically liberal specifics.

This, I hope, clarifies why I find the current group of contenders for the LP nomination unappealing. It's not what they stand for, it's what they fail to offer to capture 'the spirit of the age'.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

LP Candidates for President 2008

Entry for August 16, 2007

New Messengers - same old message.

I suppose these are all fine people with sincere motivations to build the LP. Having just made a survey looking for points to ponder among them I have concluded that so far there is not much to ponder.

Some candidates are wealthier than others; some candidates appear more telegenic than others; some candidates have a longer pedigree of activism than others; and , finally, some appear to buy in to the smear and fear 'war on terror' just a bit and others not at all. This makes me more or less indifferent to all of them.

How come? Because I see no policy or program of initiative and reform to set any of them apart. I believe this continues to be a serious problem for the LP and its candidates. Recall that the most effective third parties of the past all had agendas for specific changes to the structures and processes of government however faulty and misconceived they may have been. The LP agenda continues to be dominated by a 'roll back the state' by reverse teleology. While necessary that is not sufficient for popular attraction. An 'undo' function doesn't cut it.

The LP and the libertarian movement generally need a serious dose of innovative thinking on redo. My only contribution to this effort is directed at electoral reform, but other contributions are needed in other areas. In this sense all the candidates are equally acceptable as representative of the present libertarian movement regardless of nuances. No candidate is original enough to generate intellectual controversy.

We need shiny, sexy new tools to put in our candidates' tool kit along with the old tried true and well worn ones. It's not the messengers, it's the messengers without a new message!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Caging Voters from the Beginning

Entry for August 06, 2007

What's the first thing to decide before you can have an election? An agreement among N persons to abide by the outcome of the election. In most groups this established by defining "membership" by consent. But there are competing criteria which do not establish "membership" by consent. Such criteria include kinship, language, religion, sex, age, 'ethnicity', the value of one's property and other characteristics which are not based on consent but circumstances determined by the actions of others - often by others long dead and legendary.

One of the most seemingly neutral criteria for membership is geography, Meaning simply some expanse of the earth's surface defined by a boundary. But boundaries are chosen by someone. The power to define and enforce boundaries is among first claimed by any group on a mission to establish a government. Some will assert that any social group has a form of government. All social groups have enforcible rules, but that does not establish a government. Children engaged in a game during recess are not engaging in government, Such children are gaming until they agree to exclude some one from the game. At that point they are on the path to forming a gang.

A gang which tries to define and enforce boundaries is a proto-government. If they can exclude others from 'their' part of the playground they are playing at government. It is not property that is the basis of the exclusion, it is their co-operative effort to exclude others from that which none of them own. It is proto-eminent domain. The assertion of a right to take without mutual consent.

Democracy and elections have been erected on the ancient customs of territorial gangs. Boundaries are drawn down and then elections are practiced within these boundaries, All the people who live within the accepted boundaries of one village are considered to be a 'natural' grouping for elections. People who live within Adamsville are supposed to naturally vote separately from people who live in adjacent Evesville. It seems natural and convenient. If the two villages are joined together by mutual consent or conquest into a new entity with a new boundary, then new rules for elections must be established.

Eventually many villages can be aggregated into a mighty empire with an enormously lengthy boundary. Typically it will also have many internal sub-boundaries for administrative expediency for command and control of, among other things, elections.

So, having settled that people for reasons of kinship, language, religion, sex, age, 'ethnicity', the value of their collective property and other circumstantial characteristics, have aggregated into a village or a mighty empire that by custom or conviction wants to have elections to decide certain things within their boundary, what is the next thing to decide?

Who within the boundary shall be allowed to vote? Some group must always be excluded. Regardless, of the rationale for it, those who are excluded are always those who can be safely excluded - who cannot effectively insist on inclusion. The exclusion of infants is traditional. Although it is conceivable that parents could act as temporary proxies for children. Beyond children they the exclusions can be based on any of the usual circumstantial characteristics indicated previously. The fewer the characteristics for exclusion the closer a group comes to what has been called 'Universal Suffrage' - even though it is never universal and it is always restricted for command and control in various ways.

All democracies practice limited self-government inversely to the extent of universal suffage. That is, the more universal the suffrage, the civil right to vote, the more limited the scope and effect of the voting on the system of government. These limits are enforced by transferring restrictions from who can vote to how and who and what they they are permitted to vote for or against. When the restrictions become so total that voting is a meaningless ritual, democracy is extinguished.

Some of these restrictions are enshrined in sacramental constitutions and others in more pedestrian law. In most cases geographical boundaries form a central controlling concept: Thou shall not vote on the wrong side of the line. This leads straight to a discussion of gerrymanders, but we shall defer that well worn subject for now and pass on to another less worn.

There is one characteristic about geography. It changes very gradually until there is a catastrophe. In the old land speculator's opinion, land; they just ain't makin' anymore. But people are very reproductive. Over time boundaries become filled with more and more people by 'natural increase'. Handling non-uniformly increasing population within fixed boundaries requires subtle (cunning, insidious) political engineering to maintain internal 'stability'.

Fixed geographic boundaries and growing, fluid populations make for complications in theoretical democracy. In practice, solutions are rather straight forward, just jettison democratic theory. Anything you can get away with long enough is democratic because the people let you get away with it. Problem solved.

Except that not everybody assumes what they are supposed to assume.
Caging Voters II: Pre-revolutionary reform in a democratic tradition

Entry for August 06, 2007

Returning to the intitial question: What's the first thing to decide before you can have an election? An agreement among N persons to abide by the outcome of the election. All elections are intended to have consequences. However the terms of the initial agreement to abide can and should be revised by voters' appraisal of the consequences of the outcomes. This idea is expressed in the statement that people have a right to alter or abolish any form of government. Alteration must mean any change in forms of structure and procedure major or minor. Abolish means secession and renegotiation of all terms and conditions. Secession then can lead to a range of intergroup treaty relations characterized as confederation or alliance.

At what point, we may inquire, should people seek to "alter or abolish" ? Any time they are willing to risk it. Historically, this has been rarely. It is also true that governments are continuously altered, but not always as a consequence of the voters decision in an election or series of elections. When this takes place one may question whether elections still have consequences that matter.

Control of the processes of elections means control of the process of altering the form of government, short of sudden abolition. It means inducing people to abide by outcomes without their consent. It means inducing them substitute faith in process for outcome. The problem can arise that outcomes are so disappointing that the faith in process is challenged. A challenge to electoral process leads to re-examination of the whole history of alterations. A kind of political archeology in public view. Skulls and bones are dug up which prove difficult to explain. If the archaeologists arm themselves to defend their artifacts and theories, revolution is afoot. Abolition enters the bloodstream.

It is often counseled by some contestants that re-negotiations begin before that point is reached. A plethora of proposals for reforms bubble up seeking to mediate and retrench or re-entrench obedience to the outcomes.

It is useful to consider such reform proposals if only to discover where the stress is being expressed. Caged voters, at the very, least will insist on bigger more transparent cages.

In the United States today, the stress is in the electoral system because the outcomes of government are unsatisfying to too many people. Reforms may or may not prevent abolition from entering the bloodstream. Effective reforms must exact deprivation on someone - the entrenched must pay a price. The wise will fold a losing hand, the foolish will go "all in". If they have been caught cheating, retribution will likely follow the pattern of all revolutions since the French. The King of England, George III, was fortunate that the American colonies were far away from London, otherwise he may well have been lynched. And that was fortunate for the Americans too.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Who should 'stock' you ballot?

Our election system uses a ballot which serves as a candidate shopping list. As a voter you have a restricted list or 'stock' of candidates from which to choose. You are entitled to vote for either one candidate among X others or not at all. If you choose to vote for just one candidate, then the choice becomes how many candidates are allowed to vie for you single vote. That choice is not allowed to you, it is determined by law. The poll here is about your preference for allowing candidates to appear on the ballot (nomination). You may vote any or all of the choices. This polling software does not allow us to measure the relative intensity of your preferences. Unfortunately, this defect is a blind spot in our political culture.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Taking the Load off. Up, Up and Away!

This discourse may not seem to have any connection to political reform.

The bridge collapse in Minnesota has generated a lot of predictable aftershocks. The media are doing their catchup stories and the Congress is rushing in with money and condolences. Never mind that it was their political bridge that failed.

So what might be done to take the load off the government roads and bridges? How about not putting so much weight on them?


After you finish guffawing consider. What if five percent of commuters used "Sky Yachts"? Well, it would mean less congestion on the roads, but where are you going to park all those blimps? In a vertical tower? Could be.

But perhaps the best use such airships would be as a way to reduce intercity trips within a range of say fifty miles. The airships would be parked and the commuters would rent electric cars or electric motorcycles to get around.