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Nutters.org The Nutter Log
Frobnozian Democracy Entry id: frobnozia
By The Famous Brett Watson
On Tue, 01 Feb 2005 18:47:00 +1100

From the archives: this piece was actually written in August of 1998, making it one of the oldest documents on Nutters.org, but this is the first time it's had any dissemination wider than "email to a friend".

Welcome to Frobnozia, a point of interest in the Nutter universe. One of the things that makes Frobnozia so interesting is its unique system of government. Now, there's little in this world that produces more of a negative reaction in me than politics, but bear with me, I think you'll find it interesting.

I find politics terribly frustrating. Everyone's got an opinion, but as far as I can tell, actually having a clue is optional. People jump up and down and scream and shout and wave banners and march in the streets. It has all the charm and allure of a pack of two-year-olds throwing a prolonged temper tantrum. And then there's the "opposition". An appropriate name, no? Whenever a spokesperson for the "opposition" appears on the news for a soundbite, it's always a summary statement about why absolutely everything the "government" is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. Most such soundbites could be replaced with, "the shadow minister for this sort of thing disagrees with the minister for all the usual reasons," without loss of content.

And in all this, I wonder how much different it would be if laws were decided by tossing a coin instead of the ranting and raving that usually goes on. If laws were chosen at random, wouldn't it also eliminate the hidden agendas and self-interests of lawmakers? Would the laws be any worse on average?

Apparently some enlightened past leader of Frobnozia thought along similar lines. The solution to the problem? A new form of democracy.

Frobnozian democracy works on the law of averages. Rather than people voting for a particular party, every citizen who is registered to vote is allowed to propose laws. Laws are then passed by lottery. The details are a little more complex than this, of course, but that is the essence of the matter. Instead of politicians, there exists a group of legal experts who translate the proposed laws submitted by the voters into legal documents. The panel of legal experts is also chosen by lottery -- anyone can stand for the position if they possess the necessary qualifications. The panel do not make the laws, but merely refine the proposed laws submitted by voters. The fact that there is a random panel also serves to keep self-interest out of the translation process.

Frobnozia also has a president, once again elected by lottery. Any registered voter may stand for the position of president. The term of office is one year, and the position is resolved by drawing tickets out of a hat. The winning voter has the right to become president or elect another person president, with the restriction that the other person must be a voter and prepared to accept the position. The position of president is largely ceremonial, although the president does have limited extraordinary powers. For example, the president is allowed to call a general vote on any proposed law if it is considered that the law in question should be vetoed. The general vote takes the form of a referendum in which the only possible votes are yes (pass the law) and no (veto the law). Rather than take the majority of votes, the deciding vote is drawn by lottery.

Counterintuitively, perhaps, there are political parties in Frobnozia. How can political parties exist in an environment like this? There is a mechanism of "vote delegation", so that a voter can delegate his voting authority to another person or group. For instance, if I want to "vote" for the "Nutter Party", I delegate my vote to that party. The Nutter Party can then propose a particular law and submit it once for each vote they control. Thus, by having multiple submissions, the Nutter Party is able to increase its chances of having any particular law passed.

The Frobnozian populace is very happy with their political system. There are no more rants and raves on TV from protesters and politicians because there is nothing to be gained by it. There's still a certain amount of political advertising, but it's all fairly low key -- parties attempting to attract delegated votes. Major political parties have dissolved in favour of smaller special-interest parties. There's no need for major parties anymore because there's no need to form a majority government. The people enjoy having a president and love the feeling that their chance is as good as anyone else's of holding the position someday. If bonehead laws are passed, people usually just shake their heads and say what a bonehead that voter was. No truly awful law gets passed because of (a) the veto system and (b) "voter backlash" (thousands of people submitting an opposite law in reaction to the bad one). There are other checks and balances which I haven't mentioned such as the constitution and the "cooling off period" before any proposed law actually gets enacted.

The Frobnozian government has already deployed an Internet-based voting mechanism. Using cryptographic-style algorithms, voters are able to submit laws and other votes digitally. All the votes are processed by computer, and the algorithms ensure the authenticity of the votes and also prevent ballot-box stuffing. Voters are only allowed one vote per voting period.

On the whole, the Frobnozian form of government has not improved the economy or had any other radical effect, but it has eliminated an enormous swag of bureaucracy, and improved morale. If the political system seems a little ineffective, people usually chuckle and say "that's the luck of the draw. I know where my next vote is going!" And this is perhaps the most important point. Reducing the voting process to chance has actually made people feel more empowered and made them more involved. Although voting is optional in Frobnozia, most people do use (or delegate) their vote, because their chance is as good as anyone else's of making a difference.

Public Domain: the author waives copyright on this log entry. Other sources (if any) are quoted with permission or on the principle of "fair dealing" and retain their original copyrights.