Here, finally, is my last post in this study. (You can read the first 7 posts here.) This is a long one, so I hope you stay with me. a) Have the power to select who can be considered for leadership (i.e.-select who will be in the pool), or b) Have the power to select leaders from a pool of choices someone else prepared.
First, a choice. Would you rather:
In other words, would you rather accept the constraint of choosing our national leaders exclusively from a pool of candidates selected by political cliques with vested interests, or would you rather give up the prerogative of voting for the leaders directly if you could instead select who should be considered for that pool?
Let that question hang for a while. (You may answer the online poll now or if you prefer, later.)
My post will have 3 parts:
a) Have the power to select who can be considered for leadership (i.e.-select who will be in the pool), or
b) Have the power to select leaders from a pool of choices someone else prepared.
- The new design I am proposing
- The benefits of this new design
- The important change in paradigm
The new design
The design change I am proposing is in essence a mechanism shift. I propose that rather than electing leaders at the national (or even regional level), we should select leaders at the super local level (the barangay) and these leaders then become part of the pool of candidates from which the system selects municipal, provincial and national leaders.
The mechanism shift will reduce the size of v, reduce the cost of acquiring votes (c) and the barriers to entry, and eliminate the role of the middle-men when we only hold direct elections at the barangay level. (More of the benefits later.)
The illustration below shows the model (click image for larger version).
Citizens in all barangays will select their 9 barangay councilors. The candidate who garners the most votes becomes the chairperson of the barangay. This super local elections affords direct contact and direct information to the voters about the candidates.
From there, the selection of the upper levels of government proceeds by 4 levels:
- Each barangay sends it's chairperson as their representative to a district council (which can be based on the existing congressional districts or adjusted to better distribute the population).
- Each district council (composing the chairpersons of all the barangays in the district) elects from among their ranks : the congressional representative, and then six (6) other representatives to represent the district in the city/town council.
(The District Council also serves as the administrative body for that area.)
- Each city or town council elects, from among their ranks, the Mayor and the Vice Mayor. They also select six more individuals to represent the town or city in the provincial council. (If the district (level 2) is not in a town or city, their six reps move up directly to the provincial council.)
Meanwhile, your congress representative joins the house of representatives, and the house, selects from among its ranks 26 individuals who will serve as either senators or the president and vice president.
- The provincial council will select from its ranks the Governor and Vice Governor of the province.
There are two ways to approach the Level 4 at the national stage: A) The top vote getters in the 26 elected from the house automatically become president and vice-president or, B) the 26 meet and select the Prexy and the VP from among themselves.
Benefits of this design
As complicated as the system sounds, this design actually has built-in simplicity that reduces the need for external controls:
>>Simple vote counts
The design removes the complexity required from the electoral counting system by simply reducing the scale of the number of votes that must be counted to determine a winner. The largest electorate is the barangay. Ideally this should be no more than 3,000 voters. This electorate is so manageable that you could actually ask school children to do the electoral counts. (What a great way to teach citizenship!)
Because there is no need to aggregate the electoral results, you reduce the required vigilance. (No chance for wholesale cheating of at the various tabulations required by our current system.)
The next levels of the election (district, provincial, congressional) are so small - perhaps 300-400 voters that, again, the electoral count becomes ridiculously manageable. You could do a show of hands.
Each count at each level would take only hours. Even if you allow for travel times between the levels (to get the representatives together), the whole process should be finished in a week.
>>Low barriers to entry, no feedback loop
It reduces the barriers of entry as your barangay chairperson, indeed any one who runs for a barangay post, could potentially be elected to any municipal, provincial, congressional or even national post.
It also takes the power of money out of the system. You don't need to spend millions to get elected to the barangay level. And if you try to buy your neighbors, the electorate is small enough that another candidate (also a neighbor) could probably match your expenses.
The next level, with 300-400 voters is an even smaller pool. A system design that drives up the cost of each vote, further.
>>Easier choices, direct information
It simplifies the choice of the voter, they only have to vote for 9 people, all of whom are their neighbors.
There will be no need for sophisticated (and expensive) mass media campaigns. No room for image management. No fancy poster can override a bad reputation in your neighborhood. What would be required would be one-to-one communications. Word of mouth, the amount of trust your immediate neighbors have in you, will be the currency.
Can you imagine any of the more notorious national or local candidates actually getting elected by their neighbors? The abusive scions of the traditional politicians would never make the cut to office if any of the people who lived next to them had a say in the process. That breaks the generational positive feedback loop.
>>Distributes political power
The system also negates the role of the geographic distribution of wealth in our national politics and distributes representation based on the size of the economic class. The rich folk in La Vista or Forbes or Alabang would have to run against each other. The gated communities will have one or two representatives to the district council -with equal voting power with the representative from Payatas, or Culi-culi or any middle class community. Since there are more poor and middle class barangays, there will likely be more representatives from these classes.
(In the long run, this will force the dispersal of the power and wealth elite.)
Because the electoral counts are in such manageable sizes, there is no need for a huge electoral bureaucracy. And no chance for an electoral mafia to sell the aggregation of votes.
There is very little spinmeistering that can be done when you are dealing with physical neighbors. If barangays are limited to a population size of 2,500-3,000, that would mean that every voter is at most 2 degrees separated from the actual candidate. (You would know a person who personally knows the candidate). That reduces the signal to noise ratio -and cuts the distance between the candidate and the voter.
The national media will have no real role or influence whatsoever. How do you report on horse races in 72,000 barangays? There will be no room for media darlings. No currency for national name recall. (Would you vote for your actor neighbor? Rich actors would likely be living in wealthy neighborhoods where they'll have to compete with their "kapitbahay" bankers, lawyers and doctors.)
>>Atomizing, and preserving the power of the electorate
This system is counter-intuitive. Even if voters don't get to directly vote for the national leaders, the design actually preserves the power of each vote relative to another. The worth of each vote is 1/2,500 vs. the 1/50M that we have now.
You preserve the power of the voter in the barangay level. The driving force to get re-elected becomes your reputation among your direct neighbors who are close enough to see any conspicuous consumption borne of illegally accumulated wealth.
Fail the original 2,500 voters and they will deny you the chance of even getting to the district level the next time around. Large billboards claiming credit for pork barrel projects will not help if your barangay is dissatisfied with your performance.
I would prefer, in fact, that all the national, provincial and municipal officers keep their responsibilities as chairmen of their barangay. (Imagine the impact of announcing the entrance of "Juana de la Cruz, President of the Republic of the Philippines and Chairperson of Bgy. 2868 in Manila.")
A change in paradigm
The fundamental argument I have constructed in my previous 7 posts on this series on the design of democracy is that the problems that currently plague our democracy have their roots in the functional and mechanical arrangement of our electoral system -in the nuts and bolts of how we select candidates and how we vote.
You may, like Wily Priles, diagnose the problem as one a pool of inferior choices or, like Manolo, consider it a question of diminished leadership. My contention is that both are products of the same system dynamic. We cannot hope to resolve the current issues unless we rethink the actual design of the electoral system.
The more I consider it, the more I become convinced that our commitment to selecting national leaders through a national election -where one person gets one vote -is based on nothing else but romantic idealism.
There is no literature, no study, no scientific proof that argues that completely popular elections produce significantly better leadership.
Our collective myth is that would-be leaders who step up to the platform of candidacy, got there by their own merit, by exemplary and proven performance. We like to think that our democratic system encourages only the best of the best to stand for elections.
In truth, our leaders get elected mostly on the basis of name recall and largely on the power of the resources (monies, fame, networks) they bring to the campaign.
Meeting the criteria
This new design effectively breaks the positive feedback gain, eliminates the information asymmetry (and the market failure) and reduces the signal to noise ratio.
It returns the value of the individual vote - by reducing the size of v and brings the voter closer to the candidate.
In my last post in this series, I listed three key criteria that an effective electoral system needs to address. Does this design meet the criteria?
- Limiting the choices the system demands from the user
Yes. Because the voter only chooses 9 people, all from whom they have only 2 degrees of separation.
- Providing direct information and criteria to the user about the choices
Yes. The voter will have at worst, secondhand information -but it will not have come through a sophisticated media sieve.
- Insuring direct feedback to the user on the effect of the choices
Yes. If the chairperson fails in his role as leader of the barangay (i.e. -addressing the needs of his neighborhood), then he will not get re-elected by his barangay even if he made it all the way to the presidency.
It took me a while to get to this final post. I tried to fully conceptualize how this new design would work at the fullest scale -and consequently got sidetracked with the possible logistical issues and the practicability of getting this system enacted. (We need to make sure that barangays are only 2,500-3,000 in size. Some of our current divisions allow for populations of 50,000 in a single barangay.)
Will this work? I don't know but check out how Switzerland selects its national leaders. One thing is sure, our current system isn't working and no new thought has been put into how it can be designed to be more effective. All the noise and fury is about the quality of our candidates or the corruption of our politics. No one has thought of the actual system.
Treat this idea then with Edward De Bono's PO. As a conversation starter and a point of departure for further exploration.
P.S. -I will create a pdf of all the posts in this series, as a simple handout/white paper that you can download, if you so wish.
Update --oops. Accidentally turned off the comments and links options.