16.9.09

Representation 2.0—This Time It's Personal!

Yesterday's post leads to the oh-so-shocking conclusion that if someone is going to represent me, I should be permitted to chose who that person is.  If I can chose my Representative at will, that authority also makes me responsible for the result.  The System would be off the hook, representation-wise.

But Noooooo!, I don't get to choose my Representative.  Instead, some politicians that very few people really want (maybe their families, friends, and major donors?) decide to subject themselves to a farcical non-unpopularity contest known as an election, in which the victor becomes the so-called representative of everybody.  FMyLife.  Is it so hard to see this has nothing to do with personally useful representation in government?

In the status quo (remember, dear reader, I'm talking about U.S.-style single seat systems here), we don't have representation, we compete with our neighbors for little drops of it.  If that's not bad enough, our choices are limited, typically to 2, but in practice often to 1.  It really is a Coke vs. Pepsi situation, and you're lucky if neither one has a local monopoly.  But you don't actually get to choose Coke or Pepsi for yourself—you get what the majority of your neighbors dislike least.

What if we could give everyone his or her favorite drink without this silly and unnecessary competition?  Well...providing everyone at a big party with their favorite of 435 drinks might be a logistical challenge—it's called a bar—but with Representatives it's easier.

So without further ado (or centuries of make-believe) here's how to have a government in which everyone is represented, optimally.  Let's call it Personal Representation.

Given a group of oh, say 435 Representatives, have each citizen write the name of their preferred representative on a postcard and mail it to:

Office of the Clerk
U.S. Capitol, Room H154
Washington, DC 20515–6601


That's how difficult it would be to have optimal, personally-representative government. When it comes to representation in government, think SELECTION, not election. The only point of an election in the context of representation is to deny representation to the losers, and the losers that matter are not the losing candidates, but rather every citizen who would prefer a representative other than the election winner.

There's a second necessary part of Personal Representation: when the Congressperson votes, it's weighted by the number of citizens who've chosen him or her as Representative.  Like-minded citizens share a Representative, and the more popular Reps carry more weight in votes than the less popular ones. 

The only way we need to restrict an individual's choice of representative is by limiting the size of the legislature.

Why do we have large legislatures?  A good reason to have many Representatives would be so that each can represent a distinct political position.  An archaic and should-be-obsolete reason is to facilitate vote counting with the fiction that each representative "represents" an equal number of citizens.  A nefarious reason is to disguise the nature of a system in which everyone is gonna get a mixture of Coke and Pepsi, no matter what.

Re-stating the two principles behind Personal Representation:
RealGov Principle #3
Given a body of representatives, the quality of representation is maximized when constituents are free to individually select any representative as their own.

RealGov Principle #4
If constituents individually select their representatives, political equality requires that voting weights within the body of representatives are linearly proportional to the number of constituents currently selecting each representative.

There's much more to write about the potential workings of a Personal Representation system, but I hope the main idea and the thinking behind it are now clear.  Have a nice millennium!

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