The questions you ask limit the answers you can come up with. -Michele Tepper | FrogDesignA lot of time has been spent (and probably will be spent) on debating the merits of a unicameral vs. a bicameral legislature, of a parliamentary vs. presidential system.
I know the legal luminaries, the experts on public governance and political science have weighed in on the project along with a thousand pundits and bloggers so I've avoided putting in a comment.
What I haven't seen though is the problem tackled by a design mindset. (See the UK Design Council's RED project, as a reference.)
The designer looks at both users and end results and then then traces the dynamic back to driving forces that move the users and shape the results. The designer looks at the dynamic not the rationales and rethinks the dynamic to leverage the driving forces. The designer begins by asking the right questions and understanding how the system operates (in its current form) before positing possible solutions. The design approach is agnostic and amoral in its analysis while producing ethical and forthright solutions.
So here goes. I will take a break from mind-mapping our city. Over the next few posts I will tackle the question of the design of democracy in our country.
Parliamentary or presidential? Unicameral or bicameral? I think the debates miss the problem entirely. Whatever form of government we choose (or not choose) the essential problem we face is corruption at the polls -and the successive doubt and distrust of both the results and the government-elect. No subsequent Philippine state will achieve legitimacy until we remove the cloud of doubt that hangs over our electoral process.
The doubt is built on two factors. One is the suspicion of corruption, of rigging the polls and wholesale vote buying.
The other is the seeming
You can change the form of state any which way you want but until we address this two-pronged doubt, all successive governments will be (in the best case scenario) treated with benign distrust or assailed with questions of legitimacy.
The quick answer is to reform the comelec. Build integrity into the agency charged with safeguarding the elections and people will trust electoral results. That's why we've been trying to automate the voting booths. But computerization and a trustworthy Comelec is a partial answer. Computerized systems can also be rigged and hacked. And even the most highly regarded officials can have their integrity swiftboated. All a spinmeister need do is to create doubt to start the public sliding along the slippery slope to distrust, while the media feed the conflagration by playing on the hesaid/shesaid conflict.
Evenso, computerization and a total overhaul of the comelec will not even begin to tackle the question of serving up and selecting would-be leaders nor will it severe the dynamic that warps it from its roots in nepotism and media manipulation.
The solution must go deeper. We have to look at the dynamics driving the electoral problems and look at the processes driving the selection of candidates.
I see three driving forces that are interconnected:
- The strong positive feedback loop -power begets power. power is a barrier to entry.
- The power of filters and information agglomerators - modern popular elections have 50M voters selecting leaders they will probably never meet in person so the game belongs to the marketers and image keepers while campaigns are not about governance but about attacking and defending brands.
- The relative cost per vote in very large elections - which makes votes more expensive by bulk but cheaper by the unit. (Here, I use "cost" in an amoral sense.) e.g., When selecting a mayor, each vote can be as cheap as 1/1,500,000 per unit (which is the ratio of 1 vote vs. the total number of would be voters). Selecting a senator or a president prices the unit at 1/50,000,000.