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 13, 2012

IMO one of the biggest problems with humanity is the constant revolving door of learned experience. Suckers born every minute and lifetimes worth of experience and genius is put into graves.

Especially in the information age, and especially in a service society, killing elderly before their due date is a wasteful idea.

Im not a fan of the baby boomers learned wisdom (I prefer the Greatest Generation-ww2 vets), but its still a bad idea to kill them. The wisdom they do have will be sad to see go when they die.

Plus our society has many roles that can be filled by complete invalids if they have know-how.

And its not just their workforce contribution. Ppl at this stage of life are often at the pinnacle of the maslovs heirarchy of needs. They had their fun, proved to themselves they are worthwhile, and usually want to give back. They enrich their children and grandchildrens lives. And as a person, these old folks have perfected their humanity as much as they ever will. they are generally nice.

Even if they are idealogically wrong on politics (or whatever), they still have way more experience and trial and error to draw from.

Respecting your elders is not some superstitious old wives tale value. It has actual merit.

America is going to lose a generation of drugs and sex revolution wisdom. Probably sparking another morality revolution since baby boomers wont be around to warn of pitfalls from firsthand experience and intentional participation.

How does the idea "Its not all its cracked up to be?" make the rounds when all the baby boomers are dead? surely they have more and better memes to pass on as well.

Killing elderly would make the masses much easier to control. Their death would be one of my first goals as a tyranical dictator. shrink the lifespan and shrink aggregate learned wisdom.

Advanced in tech mean we could keep them alive much longer, if we wanted to shift what we spend $ on. Seems to me we are financially off balance, and instead of securing retirement and healthcare for old, we overreach to obamacare. laying foundation for reason to defund elderly at same rates they have enjoyed.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
I think you just elevated the Science Party to that of a moral agent where it can never be. I mean, isn't it better to kill everyone over 65 years old since the money/resources they consume would be better suited to fund the younger generation?

Science should always inform our opinions, but it should never dictate our decisions. That might lead to efficiency, but it'll always lead to immorality.

I'm an Engineer (masters degree in electrical engineering.) I'm well informed on what science can do and what it can't do. I approve this message.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
Well, that definitely seem a way to improve the USA political system. But it make me wonder why voting would be important at all.
Oct 13, 2012
"Every issue becomes an endless slap fight with no clear winner."
"Each party - no matter how many members - would get one collective vote in Congress on each bill. "

Wouldn't that just move the endless slap fight to the caucus of each of the three parties?

Before we go radically changing the constitution, let's try a simpler solution: Every presidential debate must have a minimum of three parties. The media currently perpetuates our current problem by giving all air time and column space to two parties. A third party in the debates will shift the national conversation. The idea of a three party system is appealing; it may be easier to get there than a constitutional congress.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
Well, on first reading I think you nailed it just right. I can't believe you're not the third party candidate for president. I think you're a genius.

However, most of USA citizens are far from rational beings who base their decisions on new evidence and information. Good luck with changing that, Scott.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
in Europe we have liberal/democrat/conservative parties on the right side and socialist on the left.
since you got only the _right_ part over there in states it all just doesn't matter who votes what.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
in Europe we have liberal/democrat/conservative parties on the right side and socialist on the left.
since you got only the part over there in states it all just doesn't matter who votes what.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012

I'm a non-American writing in from non-America. So pardon me if I make obvious mistakes in protocols.

First, the Presidential Elections:

I saw the first presidential debate on CNN. I'm not sure if every channel beamed the same debate. Duh. Correct me if I'm wrong: Did Prez Obama really debate with Romney on Fox? I bet he did on CNN - saw it with my own eyes! But I got the impression from Fox that there was a ventriloquist named Bill Clinton hiding behind those curtains. Oh Well. Hi-Tech season. What next?

But as an outsider, I hope one of the next two debates focus on foreign affairs. On that, I think I'll wager a small one on Obama. He speaks very less about US international trade. And he does even less than he speaks.

Romney, on the other hand, speaks loud and clear. You can hear the drones when he breathes into the microphone.

On Changing the Constitution:

Please add the following in the Constitution if you get a chance:

1. No person - man, woman, child or animal of US origin - is permitted to have opinions about federal taxes. (This will reduce the huge amount of public money spent on convincing the people. And the debates of course.)

2. With immediate effect, all Americans shall get free medicare - without insurance policies - in any of the government certified Chinese and African voodoo centers.

3. To improve the education standards, viewing 24 hour news channels shall be mandatory in all nursery and pre-nursery schools.

If you promise to do this and more, I'll vote - Scott for dictator!


Oct 13, 2012
No moles in science? What's this all about then?


Oct 13, 2012
"If you were going to modernize and redesign the constitution of the United States, what changes would you make?"

I would change the voting system so that you in the final round had 4 or 5 parties to select from. And all those parties would get sites in the senate based on their perecent votes. (Sorry my bad language).

I am from Norway and don't like this black or white system based on what your political thinking is. I don't like this "either with us or against us thinking".
Oct 13, 2012
The biggest issue with democracy is the fact that an uninformed vote counts as much as an informed vote. Politicians know this and so they pander to the idiots (who are far more numerous), and as you pointed out when evaluating the first debate, it doesn't seem to matter to the public that one politician is lying more than another. Let's bring back some sort of literacy test, before allowing the ignorant to vote, or weight each vote by its literacy score. Yes, I know that I've just opened up a can of worms because now the politicians would be forced to set up a system to identify a set of "fair" literacy questions.

Oct 13, 2012
First, send Congress home. Not to fire them - just to make them telecommute. That gets them outside the beltway, outside of inside-the-beltway thinking, makes the lobbyists' jobs harder, and puts congressmen in better touch with their district, without impacting their ability to do their job. We have the technology.

Then, reform gerrymandering. Choose congressional districts based on open-source software that is fed geographical and population density data only. There would still be safe districts, by accident, but there would be fewer of them.

Create a 4th branch of government that is essentially fact checkers. Choose 3 chiefs for this branch: Chief Scientist, Chief Historian, and Chief Engineer. These chiefs would be chosen by being winners of their 3 respective prediction markets. Their job is to predict the consequences of every bill, and they have veto power.

Eventually, this will all be moot: the singularity will come, we will elect a robopresident, and our system of government will be replaced by AI-ocracy. At that point, the Constitution should be replaced by "We humans reserve the right to pull the plug."
Oct 13, 2012

[Lastly, Scott, please "prune" commentary with a light hand - the last round got a little out of hand, but I enjoy hearing Therion's point of view.]

I don't. Most of the time he's too full of anger for me to either enjoy him or take his views seriously.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 13, 2012
[I would also make voting mandatory...]

Absolutely! As long as the first part of the ballot consists of a test to determine if your vote is going to be counted.
Oct 12, 2012
OK, here's my alternative suggestion:

Outlaw parties completely.

Every member of the house and senate just votes their conscience on every bill. To create bills, you have to solicit help from other legislators who share your interest, with a minimal quorum to establish a new bill. Always have an odd number of representatives, and if you want to maintain 50 states with 2 senators each, the VP is still the tie-breaker.

Eliminate campaign contributions and give every candidate an equal fixed amount to spend on self-promotion, or alternatively, have federally produced ad spots produced in the same style by the same organization that are distributed equally among the candidates and rotated at random.

I also have been a proponent for some time now of the idea from Melvin1's post: let people vote against the person or proposition they don't want if they don't feel inspired to vote FOR someone. Voting is not only voluntary, but voter ignorance is actively discouraged with slogans like, "If you aren't sure, don't vote!"

Every bill must have an associated best-guess cost that is added to the budget automatically if the bill passes unless it can be funded by making a program with a similar cost obsolete. The tax code is adjusted automatically and dynamically to be equal to or greater than the budget.

Every bill must pass with a simple majority consensus that the goal of the legislation is necessary, that is, making abortion, drugs, or gay marriage illegal is not necessary, but punishing and disincentivising hate crimes is. A desirable program must have an offsetting ROI, and all punitive laws must be necessary.

Lastly, Scott, please "prune" commentary with a light hand - the last round got a little out of hand, but I enjoy hearing Therion's point of view.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
And on the crazier end of things...
Everyone in the country gets a vote (or two) AGAINST any Congressman from any state. The one (or maybe three) with the most votes gets booted no matter how much their constituents like them for fleecing the rest of the nation to bring pork back to their own district.
Oct 12, 2012
Wouldn't work. Life is not rational and scientific.
As for the US, lucky you. Democracy works best with 2 ; count em' 2 ; political parties. We in Canada had one and a half political parties masquarading as 3 . The NDP used to float radical leftist policies, which the Liberal party would tone down to middle class sensibilites. That left the Cionservative party !$%*!$% wind. The NDP always supprts the Liberals, so untill 6 years ago when when Canadians got old enough to give a majority to the Conservatives, you always had 2 parties ganging up on one, which is what you would get in your above scenario.
Count your blessings Yanks. Democracy works best with 2 opposed political parties, each believing in the basic values of the country, but having differing views about how to achieve their goals
Oct 12, 2012
I guess its time for a new Dilbert season (for TV). Inflation, elections, Cloud, Scrum, ... There are so many topics...
Oct 12, 2012
This is a fun thought experiment. I agree with others that think the Science party would quickly become polluted with politics and money, and slide right off the cliff from intellectual advisors, down to biased politicians.

But let's forget that and play the thought experiment out. The 3-vote system (one per party) leads to the potential of a small majority ruling the roost. Assume 100 people per party. If the Science Party votes 51-49, Party A votes 51-49, and and Party B votes 0-100, the vote passes 2-1, with only 102 out of 300 people voting for it! That's a 34% minority running the show. And... what if the 34% came from a Conservative and Liberal alliance, with the benevolent intellectual advisors voting 0-100 against?

That's not hard for me to imagine. I can easily see factions in the Conservative and Liberal parties teaming up to cast the eggheads in the Science Party as party-poopers, particularly on something like a mutually goodie-laden spending bill; legalizing all drugs; etc..

Back to the chalkboard on this one.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
Why in the world would you want voting to be mandatory? There are lots of people who don't follow politics at all and don't care enough to get informed. When they vote, all they have to go on are superficial criteria, such as voting for the ones that have the best advertising on TV. (In my opinion, this is not the best way to judge a candidate.) It would seem like you would get a better result in elections if voting is entirely optional, with only those who care voting.
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