A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States
10 January 2013 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States
The founding fathers looked upon the adventure posited by their newly drafted Constitution as a sort of grand experiment. It had no real precedent. No earlier guide. They were not sure it would work. They all but joked about it. Surely the adventure would fare better than the misbegotten Articles of Confederation.
It was a system clearly designed for a slow-paced, agrarian population well dispersed across the countryside. It spread governmental power and had checks and balances galore. It was a government that was designed to do little unless most everyone agreed. A fight against a Hitler would do, once enough of us came to a mind to do that. It was an experiment, but it was a cautious one that too much assumed life in America would stay the same. It didn't, after a while.
The industrial revolution came and discombobulated things. New farm equipment and technology markedly kept increasing farm output to the point where a large rural population for farming was no longer needed. At the same time the industrial revolution facilitated and accelerated urban life. Therein was the dual rub; it was our government's undoing, if you will.
Washington and Jefferson both worried that our constitutional system of government would likely not work if the American population became urbanized around great cities that were also money centers. It appears they were correct. The Constitution does not even clearly provide for a national, central bank or anything like the Fed. That need was not expected to arise, although it soon did, and was the subject of much debate among even the framers.
As our population shifted from a more rural and farm setting to a synergistic and fast paced urban one, our needs in regard to government changed. Much more governmental action and intervention was required. The executive branch and our presidents became much more powerful and indeed with little help were able to address smaller matters where most realized the full machinery of government was simply to unwieldy. That plugged some of the gap, but only some.
Checks and balances across the three branches remained the stumbling block for substantial action which depended much more on consenses or at least carefully aligned majorities, no minority subversion and a sympathetic Court. Over time, as the issues became more complicated and our population increasingly less informed -- and now affirmatively misinformed by some political interests -- consensus, aligned majorities or the Court can not be depended upon and increasingly our constitutional system of government simply fails. It grinds to a halt. It does not act.
In the growing face of dissension and disagreement, the system and the Constitution we hold far too dear no longer serve us. The grand experiment of the founding fathers is collapsing. We now have ineffective "government by gridlock." We are unable to address national problems of the economy, the unemployed, graft, corruption and even enforcement of our laws. We face government by prison lock down. It won't work and isn't working. We too much blame the politicians, when it is more the fault of the structure of our government.
For discussion, here is what I propose instead. It is basically a unicameral parliamentary system with proportional voting that is more directly accountable to the people. The details follow:
100 parliament members would be elected nationwide for two year terms. Terms would be staggered by thirds. Proportional representation with the entire nation electing the single unicameral body (cannot be gerrymandered.) We would use a open party list proportional representation system where a party had to get five percent of the vote to have its members counted and with voters indicating their order of preference within a party list. Nevertheless, the number of candidates elected from the list being determined by the number of votes the list receives.
[e.g., Finland (open list), Latvia (open list), Sweden (open list), Israel (where the whole country is one closed list constituency), Brazil (open list), the Netherlands (open list). For elections to the European Parliament, most member states use open lists systems. The party list system is most common worldwide for proportional voting and for democracies. The bias is toward open lists.]
Members would receive a comfortable salary, but could receive zero money from any outside sources under pain of expulsion from Parliament. Each candidate for office would received a fixed sum from the government for his or her election or reelection campaign which could not be supplemented at all. Incumbents would receive 25 percent less in campaign funds. Other (including personal) financial campaign assistance being received would preclude a member or candidate from Parliament for a period of four years. No third party paid for ads would be allowed.
Parliament would be supreme and have full sovereignty, with no limits on its powers or authority, as in Canada. Parliament may make or unmake any laws as it deems proper, and no other political or private institution may undermine Parliament's ability to do so.
A president would be elected by a majority of Parliament from its members and serve at Parliament's pleasure. The President would appoint his cabinet secretaries who would serve at his pleasure and the pleasure of Parliament with a 65 percent vote by Parliament required to remove a cabinet secretary. Each could remove for any reason whatsoever.
The supreme and lower court could not review acts of parliament in regard to their validity and the supreme court is only to assure the applicable law was properly applied by the lower courts.
State governments would become administrative units run and controlled by parliament. Those units would serve at Parliament's pleasure, be under the cabinet secretary of the interior and also serve at that secretary's pleasure, but the state administrative units would have no separate constitutions and powers, nor be a part of any federalist system and would only be a part of the national system of government.
Laws would be uniform in their application or not as Parliament decides (hunting rifles ok in Wyoming, but not New York city) All law would be made by Parliament. None would be made by the states. Cities, as authorized by Parliament, could make local ordinances subject to approval by Parliament.
The virtues of this form of parliamentary government are
1) It is more directly accountable to the people.
2) It would be less corrupt as parliamentary systems are anyway.*
3) It would be much simpler.
4) It would avoid grid lock, with the chief justice to break any tie vote.
5) Single Parliamentary systems have generally provided higher quality representation for the public interest, in competition with private interests.
6) Most of the world's democracies have parliamentary forms of government.
7) Most of the world capitalistic economies have parliamentary forms of government.
8) No country has the messy, complicated and ineffective system we do.
9) It is faster and easier to pass and revoke legislation.
10) It has attractive features for nations such as ours that are ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided.
11) It is less prone to authoritarian collapse, coups and control by the rich.
*Parliamentary systems generally are associated with less corruption according to the World Bank.
Thoughts anyone or is this all too unthinkable for you.