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Archive for August, 2011

Real representation

How are cantons better than “representative” government?

Consider how a representative, whether Congressman or County Commissioner or Town Councilman, gets elected. All the eligible voters of the territory who still think that voting matters choose their candidate. The person who gets the most votes wins. Seems eminently fair, doesn’t it?

The problem is that all the people who voted for someone other than the winner are really not represented. The person elected represents the principles and ideals of the people who voted for him, but not necessarily those who did not.

For example, in one little town I know, the Town Council consists of 6 members, all of the same party. This is not unusual. In this particular town, this party has a slight majority, with the result that all the council members are voted in by a slight majority from the same party. The slight MINORITY has no representation. Seems eminently unfair, doesn’t it?

So, how would cantons change this? Instead of voting, taxpayers in a territory would register with their prefered canton. As each canton has a stated set of principles and ideals, it can be said with some certainty that the canton truly represents the taxpayer as well as can be expected. Since the relationship between a canton and a taxpayer is only for a single year, that provides a lot of feed-back to the canton management about how they are doing. The cantons would be very careful in spending their members’ taxes, knowing that, if the taxpayer chooses at the end of the year to switch cantons, there goes the money with him. A canton that mismanages, especially by not respecting the principles and ideals of its members, will soon find it has nothing to manage.

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Power in too few hands

What is wrong with government? Essentially the problem is that all the power to spend taxes rests in too few hands.

In Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution, it states that there should be no more than 30,000 “Free Persons” per representative.

For the year 1800, then, with a total US population of 5.3 million, one Representative per 30,000 citizens equals about 177 Representatives.

As the population grew, Congress decided that it needed to limit the size of the House of Representatives. In 1910 they decided to set the limit at 435 members. Since the population of the US at that time was about 92.2 million, that meant each member of the House represented approximately 212,000 citizens. By 2010, with the population just below 309 million, each member represented about 710,000 citizens. If Congress had kept the initial 1/30000 ratio, the current number of Representatives would be just over 10,000, which would make taking a roll call vote a bit unwieldy and time-consuming.

But we begin to see the problem: Representatives become more and more powerful, and less and less accountable. Each individual citizen becomes less important to his or her Representative.

As the number of citizens represented grew, the amount of money that Representatives control grew exponentially. For much of the early history of the US, there were no corporate or personal income taxes. The federal government sustained its meager programs on tariffs, that is, taxes on imports. In 1913, though previously an occasional and temporary measure to pay war debts (and as a way to stick it to the rich), the income tax became permanent thru the 16th Amendment. In 1943, over the objections of businessmen everywhere, withholding began. This allowed the federal government to bypass the states and go directly to the citizens for funding, turning things upside down, so that states must get much funding from the federal government. It also meant that the amount of money the federal government could rake in was ENORMOUS compared to what they acquired thru tariffs alone.

With the boom in income came the boom in lobbyists, rushing to Washington to get their piece of the action. And with such a nice small number of Representatives to deal with, having a Congressman or two in your pocket was fairly easy to accomplish.

With all the pressures in place to grow government, it grew! And it did not stop growing when the government outspent revenues. It continued to grow on the borrowing and printing of fresh dollars, so that now our debt is as big as our annual Gross Domestic Product. And except for those darn Tea Party folks, and a few rating agencies, there seems to be little pressure to reverse the trend.

So, what can we do to put pressure on government to shrink back to something more manageable? How can we “right-size” government?

We create cantons that give taxpayers the power to decide how taxes are spent. With canton management entirely dependent on satisfying their taxpaying members, the counter-forces of special interests will finally lose their power to grow government in all the wrong ways.

Last Great Popular Uprising

In the book “Eight Ways to Run the Country”, Brian Patrick Mitchell analyses the political terrain in the US and demonstrates that the ideologies that exist in America go beyond Right and Left, Democrat and Republican. He specifies eight points of a political compass, which encompass all ideologies: Communitarian, Progressive, Radical, Individualist, Paleo-Libertarian, Paleo-Conservative, Theo-Conservative, and Neo-Conservative.

Each of these groups represents millions of Americans, millions of taxpayers. Imagine cantons created for each of these ideological groups. Imagine millions of taxpayers signing on with these cantons, based on what, if anything, they would be willing to have their taxes pay for, and authorizing their canton to secure their taxes from the IRS. These cantons would then work with the various departments of government directly to see which programs of each department would get paid for, and which would not. Debt crisis? What debt crisis?

All it would take to do this would be the Last Great Popular Uprising, where the people demand control over their own taxes. Representative government by the two party system has clearly been broken for a long time. We the People need to step up and fix things in a new way.

Let the people who pay the taxes determine what the taxes pay for.

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