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If you were going to modernize and redesign the constitution of the United States, what changes would you make?

You and I have two huge advantages over the Founders. We have the benefit of a few hundred years of track record to see what worked and what didn't, and we have the Internet. It's hard to imagine that Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and the rest would design the constitution the same way if they were starting now.

Our biggest political problem at the moment is that we have two powerful political parties, and two is a bad number for getting anything done. Every issue becomes an endless slap fight with no clear winner.

So what is the optimum number of decision-makers?

If you have only one decision-maker, you have a dictatorship. That would be terrific if your dictator happens to be awesome. But no one wants to take that sort of risk. Dictators are rarely awesome.

A many-party system, such as Israel, has its own set of problems. You don't want too many parties all pulling in different directions.

The ideal number of decision-makers for any sort of organization is three. When you have three votes on any issue, the result is always a decisive 2-1 or 3-0. Obviously that only works if the decision is a yes-no type. The worst case would be three parties with three different plans.

So how do you design a system that has the benefits of three decision-makers without the risk of getting three different plans for each issue?

My proposed constitutional change is to allow three - and only three - political parties, as follows:

1. Liberal Party

2. Conservative Party

3. Science Party

Each party - no matter how many members - would get one collective vote in Congress on each bill. All bills would be decided on a 2-1 or 3-0 vote. So you always get a result that looks decisive to the public. That's the first benefit.

Now let's say the Science Party is all about data and rational thought. The party would recruit scientists, engineers, and other quantitative types. The Science Party would be allowed to vote, as a block, on every bill, but they wouldn't be allowed to introduce their own legislation. That prevents a situation where there are three plans for the three parties and nothing but deadlock. The Science Party would only be allowed to vote for the liberal or the conservative plan. But the Science Party would have tremendous influence on those plans because the other parties would understand they have to get the Science Party vote to succeed.

With this arrangement, the Science Party is on the winning side of every vote.  The public would always have the benefit of knowing that the facts mattered. That doesn't mean the Science Party is always right. It just means the decisions are always informed by reason. Realistically, the Science Party would usually be settling for the lesser of evils.

The risk is that the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party would each try to get their moles elected in the Science Party. But if that were a huge risk, you would see it happening under other Democratic systems, and you don't. I think well-defined parties would do a good job of filtering out the pretenders.

The Science Party would need the power of abstaining in case the other parties produce two thoroughly unworkable plans. So you still have gridlock if you need it. But members of the Liberal and Conservative parties would have a hard time getting reelected if they kept disagreeing with the Science party. Challengers would use it as a hammer.

I would also tweak the constitution to make it illegal to combine different topics into one bill. That gets rid of the pork projects.

The Science Party would be charged with keeping the public informed via Internet. Unlike the other two parties, the Science Party would fully explain the counterpoint to every argument and lay out all of the data and reasoning behind each issue.

I would also make voting mandatory, and require that it be done by Internet, assuming proper safeguards could be put in place to avoid voter fraud.

If the Founders had the technology we have today, and they had a robust scientific and analytical community to draw on, as we do, I think they would have designed the Constitution to take advantage of those assets.

What do you think?

[Note: Going forward, I'll be pruning out any commenters who are taking over the comment section. You know who you are.]

 
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Oct 21, 2012
You know the current Constitution says nothing about having two parties, right?
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
So... Explain again how the Science party does not end up being the ruling party?

Or... How the Science party remains in power after the Liberals and Conservatives agree to write them out of the constitution because they have too much power?

Perhaps the founders knew that there are no easy answers for overcoming political gridlock, that debate and negotiation between opposing views is a good thing, and that time and general elections will eventually overcome political gridlock.

Oh, and good luck convincing the population at large that this is a good idea anyway. Can you image the debate? "The Science Party doesn't care about you! They care about atoms and electrons! They think God is a particle and built the universe with Strange Quarks! I don't know about you, but I'm in this for the people, not for spending millions and millions on Silly String Theories!"

Liberal and conservative politicians may not be great at understanding science, but you've got to give them credit on the whole influencing people thing.
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
How can safeguards be put in place to avoid "moles" in the science party? What about the Paul Broun sitting on House Science, Space and Technology Committee mess. He is a medical doctor, but holds opinions that do not agree with known science. How can something like that fiasco be avoided?
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
I'd take most of what we have now, but...

Insist that all voting contests be ranked (a.k.a instant runoff voting, alternate voting), as our understanding of game theory unequivocably shows that First-past-the-post voting is detrimental.

I'd return senators to assignees from state legislators (instead of popular-vote positions -- the original intend was to protect individual state interests, and the senate has abysmally and utterly failed at this).

I'd also make our federal position on tax more practical and clear, specifically regards income, VAT, property, and estate taxes. I think taxes were a colossal weakness on the part of the original constitution. Particularly in light of taxation being their main issue at the time. Their "no federal taxes" plan as codified in the original constitution was impractical enough as to guarantee that someone would eventually reverse that and then have free reign to pervert it into today's tax chaos.
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
@lanterio:

You totally had me up until you said better food on airplanes. You must be really good at telling ppl what they want to hear cuz I did not see that coming.

I dont "get" the impulse some ppl have to induce arbitrary pet peeves or favorite creature comforts into the power of govt. And its not just enshrining its value into the state. What this causes is the state to micromanage the bargains of private citizens. Now i cant buy a plane ticket without a 7 course meal, even if there is a market for low cost tickets, since govt prevents the commerce from occurring. All the cheapskates lose out. Im forced from changing the purpose of my ticket transaction. No longer is my purpose to get from point A to point B. Now im buying an experience (enjoyment/entertainment), that incidentally transports me as well.

I totally understand what its like to have a desire that is so underrepresented in society that there is no market created. It means my want wont get filled. Try living in another country, you will have the same effect when you go to the supermarket and look for your favorite brand of cereal.

This way of thinking (solve annoyance issues by power of govt) honestly feels like alien technology to me. its foreign and makes no sense to me. Enough ppl think that way that i must ask myself what am i missing? Are ppl with reasonable worldviews of govts role suggesting this?

I saw a movie trailer last night for the new Tom Hanks movie. The narrative started with something like "We dont belong to ourselves, we belong to society", immediately Im replaying "you didnt build that" in my mind. Seems fitting that the movie is named so closely to Atlas Shrugged. maybe tom hanks is secretly obama's speech coach...

To me the airplane food and the collectivism are 1 and the same argument. I thought we already worked that out centuries ago with separation of church and state. govt provides for fair treatment via force, religion motivates ppl to do good voluntarily. they are 2 social institutions that have separate purposes and means to an end. combining moral worldview with (institution of) force is just bad policy. imo leftwing social agenda qualifies as a moral worldview such as religion. we are mismatching purposes and forms of coercion.

can we plz stop trying to sneak "brands of morality" into law? if you think a carbon tax is a science measure ive got a bridge to sell you. listen to the justification narrative. it has villains and victims, its a story of hubris and "right and wrong". If you want to take my money by force, dont sell it to me on moral grounds. i dont share your morals, and i dont want them forced upon me. Use all the morality arguments you want for voluntary telethon fundraising, maybe ill voluntarily adopt those values.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 15, 2012
As usual, a technocrat's idea of "progress" is to limit freedom to assume that "science" is somehow inherently incorruptible.

Two fixed parties (which many people don't even identify with) isn't the solution.

A "science" party (that can just as easily be corrupted or biased as any other party) isn't the solution.

The Constitution doesn't need to be "modernized". It need to be followed according to its original intent.

WATYF

[Is slavery in or out? I just want to understand your argument. -- Scott]
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
I actually liked Bill O'Reilly's comment from the Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium, that Americans should only be allowed to vote if they were eligible and voted in the last election.

And naturally (by my previous discussion, for which I apologize if that's responsible for your note) I'm in favor of a 3rd party as deadlock-breakers, but I'd be fine with more than 3 and I definitely don't like the 'collective vote' idea. I think it entirely eliminates representative democracy.
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
Here's a moist robot tangent: what would the women (and men) of the science party look like? UCLA released an interesting study about 6 weeks ago that showed a minor correlation between facial features and political party.

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/the-gop-has-a-feminine-face-finds-238867.aspx


I suspect many will be wearing glasses and have an Einstein haircut.
 
 
Oct 15, 2012
@language

If you didn't think Merlisk was really advocating killing the elderly why were you going on about the benefits having elderly in your society in a post directed at him?
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 15, 2012
Another change I would love to see is an automatic expiration date on all new laws. That probably sounds pretty radical but I think it would fix a big problem. We've got this group of lobbyists and legislators constantly passing new laws. Over time the federal register has gotten so big that I bet almost everything a human being can do is now illegal.

A new law should go through an experimental stage that last for, lets say, five years. At that time it expires. If it's working, it would have to go through the political process again and be re-passed and re-signed. That would give it another five years. Only if it gets passed a third time does it become permanent.

Think of how great this would be! The politicians could keep passing their big piles of crap every year based on whatever the current political hot button is. In five years it all goes away unless it's important enough to still get enough political support to pass. If it can do it again, it's probably important enough to qualify as a good law.

Of course this would also require the single bill, single subject change. It would make the passing of laws less efficient but it would also make learning and obeying the laws much simpler and that would benefit everyone.

 
 
Oct 15, 2012
One flaw in the constitution is that it only means whatever the 9 justices of the Supreme Court say it means. This has led to some pretty twisted rulings and a concentration of power at the federal level.

I'd allow Supreme Court decisions to be overturned by the state Supreme Courts. It would work like this. If a controversial decision was made by the Supreme Court, each state's Supreme Court could decide to hear the case and vote to uphold or overturn it. The Supreme Court decision would be overturned if 2/3's of the states overrule it. I'm not sure what ratio would be best. Maybe a simple majority would work. Whatever the ratio, the ability of the states to overrule the federal court would tend to keep them honest.

 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 15, 2012
I can just imagine all of the lunacy that would be included in this new document. Teenagers will insist that driving is a right. It isn't. Atheists will insist that marriage is a right. It isn't. Liberals will insist that healthcare is a right. It isn't. None of those things are in the current document or any of its amendments. And rather than trying to change the (lesser) laws which do enumerate these things, the weak minded and foolish will attempt to just push you over or scream loud enough and say that they are rights. If you want marriage to be equal to civil unions, change the laws that say "marriage" to say "civil union" instead. Simple, and no one has to get bent out of shape. Same for the rest.

The current United States Constitution is just fine the way it is. Those who cannot see that, well, they never will.

The idea of having 3 parties with 1 vote each is simply absurd, as others have already pointed out. It's a great way to make things worse, as others have already pointed out as well.

I do like that idea of 1 issue, 1 bill/law. No riders, no combining things, just let the really good stuff get done and let the chaff blow in the wind. Of course, this will kill almost all of the political rhetoric we're currently enjoying as the elections near. But that's a chance I'm willing to take.
 
 
Oct 14, 2012
I wouldn't make massive changes--Although I've got the benefit of hindsight, I don't think I'm smarter than the collective authors of our current constitution. I would remove some ambiguity, especially in the commerce clause., trying to keep a better balance of power between federal and state.

For elections my goal would be the opposite of a limited number of ideas--I would have a runoff system rather than winner takes all, so there are viable candidates for those of us who don't fit a standard left/right division. At least one house of congress would be set up so that each district had 5 or so representatives rather than just one.

I would also try to figure out some sort of soft term limits to counteract the incumbent's advantage. Never a situation where you aren't allowed to run, but add more hurdles the longer someone has been in office. (Maybe make congressional pensions larger than congressional salaries?)
 
 
Oct 14, 2012
Just bribe the science party to vote for you. Everybody has a price. You may not get party moles in politics, but you sure as hell get corruption.
 
 
Oct 14, 2012
Most sound like they are trying to make the Constitution better for the country and better for everyone. IF the Constitution was created today it would be more like the green lantern world or like the Borg. We really want everyone to be the same. You can't dissent.

Efficiency and safety. There would be no religion because we wouldn't agree or offend anyone. the Constitution in Canada I heard was originaly debated 2 ways. Should it say how Canada is now or should it say how Canada should be.

IF a new constitution of America was made it should say how America is now, not how it could be.

So basically it would be more of a " We the people who login to face book look around for hot mates and !$%*! about having to lift a finger. We red Blogs and share our thoughts in the hope of appearing clever. The smart ones like comics and visually can get what the world is. We see others as stupid and if we envy what someone else has we find some fault. Government is ironically made by people to control others from doing stuff that they probably would like to do themselves such as drive without seatbelts, drink, or think differently."

anyway If I could change things, I'd allow more state power and less National Control. Better food on airplanes, cheap fuel for motorcycles, steak and bacon 3 meals a day for everyone, access to exercise facilities, swimming pools, cigars, PS3 games, wall to wall walmarts. heh,

Why not have people choose what state to live in ?

One state could be the smoking state, the drinking state, the pizza state. I mean we may as well have fun if we are going to rearrange the country.

Pull all troops back from abroad. Hmm. Interesting question but really who should be president?

Different Kingdoms would be fun. Like Madonna could have a cult city and lady gaga another. I think if we redid the constitution the world would quickly become like Mad Max's.
 
 
Oct 14, 2012
@whtllnew:

I dont see any other way to interpret what you said except that you believe I had a particular belief.

That Merlisk had actually advocated killing the elderly.

That really is a mystery to me because I was unaware of such a belief on my part.
 
 
Oct 14, 2012
@language

...Ummm...Merlisk wasn't actually advocating killing the elderly but showing the kind of inhuman decision a Science party could very well favor. I saw that and Im pretty oblivious to such things.
 
 
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 14, 2012
The fundamental premise of your argument, Scott, is that we can somehow construct a framework that will constrain the current abuses of the system.

We can't. Humans are just too clever and resourceful.

It's like campaign finance reform. Like it or not, money is essentially equivalent to speech in modern times. If you don't let me spend money directly supporting my candidate, I'll spend money on her political party (see: DNC, RNC). If you don't let me do that, I'll spend money on TV ads arguing positions that happen to coincide with my candidate's. If you don't let me do that, I'll pay for a documentary biography of my candidate that just happens to cast her in a very favorable light. If you don't let me do that, I'll throw a huge party with free beer and snacks where everyone invited is given a free pamphlet espousing my candidate's positions. You can't stop me from wielding my financially-based influence unless you jail me. (Maybe not even then.)

So look -- there is only one way out of our current conundrum: reduce the size, scope and power of the federal government. That's it. Period. If you do that, you won't have $1m salaried lobbyists hanging around Washington, D.C. because it will no longer be profitable.

Currently, we're placing a truly gargantuan amount of money and power in the hands of about 500 people. Is it any wonder that this attracts the unscrupled? DC lobbyists get paid so handsomely because the expected value of their "contributions" is likely to be five or 10 times what you pay them. If I could pay a lobbyist $1m to get $5m in tax breaks or subsidies from the feds, why wouldn't I? What a great return.

Downsize, folks, downsize.
 
 
Oct 13, 2012
Readers please note: the censored word in my post was "e n t i t i e s." How I hate that bad-word program!!!
 
 
Oct 13, 2012
Scott, I just have to ask you - what's wrong with freedom? Why do you keep on insisting that we need a big, bloated, expensive, out-of-touch, ever more restrictive government to "decide" things for us?

Government tends to grow larger. The more unchecked it is, the larger it will attempt to grow. The founders realized this, and so they created a Constitutional Republic and the concept of federalism - that is, people in the US are citizens of two !$%*!$%*! the nation, and the state in which they reside. The purpose of the Constitution was to limit the powers of the federal government by specifically enumerating what those powers were, and restricting the federal government from doing anything else.

As the Constitution was being written, some people were afraid that the people had to be specifically protected from the government in that document. Jefferson and Adams countered that, if the Constitution was structured such that the federal government could just do such-and-such and no more, there was no reason to guarantee any protection of rights, because the federal government by law could not go beyond the bounds of the enumerated powers. But the worriers prevailed, and so the first ten amendments to the Constitution came into being. We call these the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, but today it is largely ignored by an out-of-control, overly powerful federal government. I don't think you appreciate how much the founders wanted freedom and liberty to always be protected as, in effect, "Job 1." That was the concept that permeated their thinking in building the framework for this country.

I don't think you have an effective understanding of how brilliant and well-educated these men were, or how much thought and planning went into the structure of the country they built. I really wish I could give you the chance to understand all of this, rather than always seeing you look to create a bigger and more powerful government through restricting freedom and liberty. Force people to vote? Only allow three parties? Gee, Commissar Adams, should we then replace the national anthem with "The Internationale?"

Here's a gentle suggestion: read the Federalist Papers. Read some of the writings of Jefferson, Adams (not you; the second president) and Franklin. Read some of the writings of the people who influenced the founders, such as John Locke. Try to understand this country's structure and what the founders were trying to protect us from, before you jump into a plan to make it even worse than today's federal government.

Shortly after adopting the Constitution, Franklin was asked by a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia, "Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?" Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." We're pretty much no longer a republic - we're sadly living in a post-Constitutional America. The utopians have pushed freedom aside in pursuit of an impossible perfection, leaving the Constitution in the dust.

I know Scott won't take my advice, but for the rest of you, you should try to understand what I'm writing about. Read the things I suggested to Scott. You can get all of them at any public library, so it won't cost you a cent. I'd also recommend reading Mark Levin's book "Ameritopia," to get an understanding of the philosophies behind the competing ideas of utopianism and freedom. Go to Hillsdale College's web site (www.hillsdalecollege.com) and take their free courses titled Constitution 101 and 201. Even if you don't want to take the whole course, you should at least listen to Dr. Larry Arnn's first lecture, which is an introduction to the Constitution, specifically as to how and why it was created.

Our schools no longer teach this, so you're going to have to get it on your own. Public schools nowadays seem more focused on teaching climate change theory as fact, or discussing the Seven Pillars of Islam, than they are about teaching about the founding and structure of what at one time was the freest and most prosperous nation on earth. But it's more than worth a few hours of your time. I hope some of you will take me up on this. If anyone would like to discuss this directly with me, email me at itphantom@aol.com. All rational, non-insulting emails will be responded to.
 
 
 
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