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Show HN: I'm tired of corrupt US politicians, so I created this (politicianmarket.com)
334 points by pmarket on Jan 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments

I'm going to crib from my own post from two days ago:

Donations don't literally buy votes, but what they do literally buy is face time. That is, people in Congress will hold fundraisers, and lobbyists pay to attend those fundraisers. The understanding is that the lobbyists who attend those fundraisers will have time to talk to the politician about the issues their clients care about.

This episode of Planet Money clearly demonstrates this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/11/01/141913370/the-tues...

Edit: I remove the SOPA specific stuff, and didn't realize that in doing so, I removed the punchline. The implication of the above is that politicians' agenda becomes set by those who have the money to pay lobbyists. When you spend a lot of time talking to a bunch of people with an agenda, you will start to think about that agenda a lot. It's a natural consequence of the circumstances and the incentives.

I've harped on this point several times in the last few days. My reason is simple: we must understand the real problem before we can fix it. And the real problem is not "Vote for x and I'll give you money." That is illegal. What I described above is legal, and while it is not illegal corruption, it is a corruption of how we want the system to work.

And I stole that last sentiment from Lawrence Lessig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik1AK56FtVc Someone else here linked to that a few days ago, and it's worth watching.

I don't understand your point--wouldn't public financing of elections remove the need to hold fundraisers?

The problem as I see it is that representatives are forced (due to the exorbitant cost of campaigning) to win over wealthy interests. This manifests itself as what we've seen with the whole SOPA debacle: representatives who are completely out of touch with their constituents.

Public financing is one way, yes.

My point is that the site itself, and many people here, present a caricature of the problem. If you talk too much abou the caricature, someone may say "Oh, yes, I see, so let's do a better job of investigating and prosecuting people who buy and sell votes." The real problem is more sublte, and it is inherent in how the system works.

How would public financing solve anything? If we gave each candidate a billion dollars it seems like there would still be an incentive to raise even more money from rich corporations.

By definition public financing precludes corporate financing.

Thanks for an incorrect non-answer. The definition of public financing does not by itself preclude corporate financing.

Even if you adopted additional restrictions on corporate financing I'm pretty sure there would be all kinds of ways to shadow-fund a candidate. This creates a situation where honest candidates are unfairly penalized against candidates that still play the money game.

I guess I meant the de facto definition. Literally every attempt at a public financing bill/amendment I've seen in Congress has the express purpose of precluding direct corporate financing[1].

Also, I was not arguing whether or not any of these proposals can be 100% effective (like you clearly deny). This is a straw man, but it is definitely worth debate on a case-by-case basis.

[1] most recent (and probably most ambitious) example: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hjres100/report. An intriguing proposal from L. Lessig: http://www.plainsite.org/issues/index.html?id=29

This is a parody, but something like this could work:

(1) show a list of bills that are passing Congress / the Senate

(2) for each proposal, show a list of politicians that supports or opposes it

(3) have a way for the user to flag politicians he wants to reward

(4) plus a way for the user to setup a recurring monthly donation, distributed towards the politicians he supports, with a note pointing to your online profile that exposes your interests

I like something similar:

(1) show a list of bills currently under consideration

(2) allow the user to 'vote' on each bill with some monetary amount, along with a preferred direction for the legislation ('aye' or 'nay')

(3) after voting occurs, the cash is distributed evenly to the legislators that voted in the direction the user desired.

I'm not sure it would be legal.

What happened to "No taxation without representation"?

This would skew the government even more towards rewarding the rich - increasing the size of the government-as-a-service market is a step in the wrong direction.

What if the total contribution was capped? You could even add that he first $50 of everyone's taxes would be appropriated as that person chooses (Lessig's proposal).

As a Permanent Resident of the United States, I can assure you that "no taxation without representation" has been dead a looong while.

I don't think that public funding of elections or free advertising (see the bottom of the page) are the solutions to government corruption. That would just force bribers to be more covert. It's analogous to the fact that SOPA wouldn't stop piracy.

It seems to me that the real solution is to dramatically limit the size of government, so that there is nothing to be bought, rather then just changing the currency used to make the purchase.

dramatically limit the size of government

Any specifics? "Limit the size of government" is a trite platitude that anyone could agree with on some level. Shove 100 random people in a room and you have 200 conflicting ideas about the appropriate role of government.

Maybe someone should write a bot that replays these tedious discussions, freeing up people to do more productive work.

    M-x libertopians-vs-lefties
Or something like that.

I couple of bots, one left and one right, could cover 90% of political argument on the Internet.

It will be a lot easier to pretend the bot is human if it refuses to talk on other topics. And politics on the internet is a horse beaten to a smooth pulp, so the bot could have a HUGE library to search for both question and argument.

A sincere implementation could actually educate a lot of people. Not change their stance, but elevate their arguments.

The reason this debate rages incessantly is because government, like any institution, grows over time. It takes constant dialogue to evaluate when it has gone too far and then suddenly shrink it when that time comes.

Mindless it may seem because of no resulting action 99% of the time, but the same can be said of pre-flight engine tests.

Mindless it may seem because of no resulting action 99% of the time, but the same can be said of pre-flight engine tests.

Terrible analogy. If engines were intelligent beings constantly plotting and trying to fail, no one would dare fly, no matter how many pre-flight checks there were.

All large organizations, not just government, have a clear and strong tendency to grow.

The sad fact is, there is no good solution. Switzerland's direct democracy might be one, however:

1. Switzerland is tiny.

2. What are the chances the US, or any other country, will radically reconfigure its constitution and system of government.

A more realistic scenario is what has happened in other places. Like in the UK in the 1970s or Sweden in the early 19th century. Government grows so big and inefficient that a radical shrinking of it is forced upon everyone. It is an ugly and painful process and occasionally goes horribly wrong. But it's pretty much the only proven way governments have significantly shrunk in the real world.

If engines were intelligent beings constantly plotting and trying to fail

I am assuming this is hyperbole, but if it isn't, it should be noted that politicians aren't trying to blow up the systems they govern. No elite is. The situation where short-term interests systematically countermand long-term interests results from a mis-alignment of incentives in the system; it is nothing germane to government.

All large organizations...have a tendency to grow

Actually, no. They empirically tend to evaporate away. Most organisations have a desire to grow.


I'm Swiss, and yes, I agree that we have a damn good system of governance :). But it is very nuanced moderated democracy that exists in a specific environment. I am not so sure it would work in a more heterogenous society; we are having terribly xenophobic reactions to our Muslim minority.

Is the issue that the government has grown, or is it how the government has grown?

The demands of Government are not the same as they were in 1787. Instead of 4M people living in relative isolation we now have 310M people participating in a global economy.

Personally I want a Government than provides the necessary infrastructure and regulatory environment for a modern economy....

Nozick vs Rawls.

M-x psychoanalyze-pinhead


It's about small government vs. large government when it should be about good government, regardless of size.

Small government vs. large government IS about good government, because it's about if the government CAN be good.

If yes, it might be small or large. If no, then it must be small.

"That government is best which governs least." -- attr. Thomas Jefferson

That quote, while frequently attributed to Jefferson, was probably never written by him. The earliest attribution for a similar quote is from 1837, and in the current form it comes from Thoreau in 1849 -- Civil Disobedience.


Whomever said it, said it for their time. Topics of scale can't be glossed over with a one-size-fits-all approach. If you ran a corporation that catered to thousands of people you'd be X size, and at millions of people the workforce, distribution model and methodology would all have to change. Not sure how the government is expected to function when we concentrate on the wrong things.

I've never understood the citation of proverb in lieue of argument

It's a concise statement of a contrasting opinion, with a citation you can follow to find more elaboration of similar thoughts.

It would not have been more clear to phrase it as the following:

""" > It's about small government vs. large government when it should be about good government, regardless of size

But the problem is that large government, by the very fact of its scope and size, involves itself too much in the lives and business of its citizens. The proper role of government is to mediate in the conflicts that arise between the rights and desires of its citizens, striving to best protect those rights and the liberty of each individual while constraining that liberty and the pursuit of individual and collective well being as little as possible. Thus, smaller government is better government.

The problems arising from expansive government powers and the desirability of strictly limiting government power are explored extensively in various writings of the founders of the American Republic. """

(and note the "attr." is "attributed to")

It's a glib one-liner we've all seen 1000 times before. For lack of a better word it's a slogan.

I'd be more interested in seeing specific reasons why that sentiment would be true in this particular case, and not just statements of arbitrary opinion or faith. Otherwise it just adds noise and informs no one.

Maybe you think differently but I find that I'm not likely to learn anything from a trite aphorism and I also am inclined to believe that trading trite aphorisms is not a way to engage in discussion that will make any kind of progress for anyone involved other than a contest of which chorus can neigh and bleat the longest.

It's an appeal to authority.

And specious authority at that, see my above comment.

When I think of limiting the size of government, I don't necessarily think about capsizing the physical size of it, but limit the amount of power it has via laws.

It'd be ideal if a couple of laws could be passed to limit or restrict the power of the government to regulate markets, intervene in private matters other than property rights and (to an extent) citizen protection (don't let them get as big as the TSA is, for instance), etc.

We don't need new laws, we have the Constitution. It clearly spells out exactly what powers the federal government has, and everything else is left up to the states or the people.

The problem is the federal government has ignored the constitution the last 80 years. And the people/states haven't cared enough to do anything.

that doesn't solve the real problem, though, which is that some entities are much more powerful than others. by removing the government, which can work as a (limited, imperfect) balance, you give other powerful institutions (ie big corporations) even more power.

it won't be the government searching your laptop, it will be the airline, as part of a conglomerate that includes media companies.

government exists for a reason. you need to fix it, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Government is force. Airlines, like most businesses, are subject to market forces. If Delta said "we have to search the data on your computer before you can fly", you can choose not to fly. Someone would have a strong incentive to provide a mode of travel that did not involve laptop searches.

I didn't say "no government". I said "small government". There's a difference. You need the force of government to protect property rights, and to enforce contracts, for example.

businesses are subject to market forces

Markets are inefficient. Many products and services are inelastic. People will consume them while hating the companies that provide them. It was government, not market forces, that forced companies to stop making kids pajamas out of inflammable material. When people heard that Ford was letting people die in its Pinto rather than recall them because it was cheaper, did people stop buying Ford? I wish it was so simple.

The plain fact is that if you look at the richest countries in the world, with the best standards of living, they have huge governments that provide their citizens with a host of services without profit, such as healthcare.

> When people heard that Ford was letting people die in its Pinto rather than recall them because it was cheaper, did people stop buying Ford?

Actually, they did.

And, interestingly enough, the Pinto tradeoff decision in question came from a govt decision. Safety costs money. Ford asked the US govt "how much is a life worth" and the relevant design decision used a higher value.

Price matters. Some folks are alive because they traded in an older less safe car for a Pinto. Some of them couldn't have done that if Pintos cost more.

Oh but they didn't stop buying Fords -- even Pintos -- when this was happening.

But your inclusion of government raises a good point. You're right. In the US, government is really just an extension of the corporations. It stopped being true democratic government, representing the people, long ago. So why not reduce that inefficiency and just be honest about it?

> Oh but they didn't stop buying Fords -- even Pintos -- when this was happening.

Stop, no, but sales did change significantly and Ford changed its tradeoffs.

It's unclear what would satisfy you other than regulation ....

My point about this govt involvement was that govt isn't the rational actor required by all of these schemes. Govt said "a life is worth X" but when someone acts on that and there's some backlash, govt says "oh no, you're wrong". Either defend the original number or say "you're right, we were wrong".

Regulators should be liable.

> The plain fact is that if you look at the richest countries in the world, with the best standards of living, they have huge governments that provide their citizens with a host of services without profit, such as healthcare.

You seem to be trying to imply a cause and effect relationship here, without actually saying that. I'm sure we can find examples of rich countries with small governments, and poor countries with large governments.

Also, for rich countries with large governments, which came first? Did they become rich, then grow large governments, or did they get a large government, and then become rich? I would guess that the former is more typical than the latter.

> The plain fact is that if you look at the richest countries in the world, with the best standards of living, they have huge governments that provide their citizens with a host of services without profit, such as healthcare.

Ah, so you're admitting that the US govt provides "free healthcare". (The US is one of the richest countries.)

> It was government, not market forces, that forced companies to stop making kids pajamas out of inflammable material.

Actually, it wasn't. It was publicity. Yes, there's a law now, but the market demand changed first.

Whereever the line is, corruption will push politicians to go over the line. In the smallest possible government only judges are publically employeed, and even they could be bribed.

Look at Europe, it's big government. There's less corruption, less lobbying. Some places pay high salary and do get less bribery. Mostly it's more transparency.

but in what other way than by reducing its power does making it smaller make it less corruptible?

if a teeny weeny government has power over conglomerates, then it is worth a lot of money, and can be just as corrupt as what we have now. so what you are suggesting doesn't solve the problem. the only way "small" fixes the problem with buying influence is if power is reduced.

Actually, reduction in power is precisely how our Founders (continuing a trend begun in England) rendered governments less corrupt.

An absolute monarch, or more likely, his ministers, can get away with almost anything, because they easily find some basis to kill off anyone objects. Corruption under Roman emperors make our worst corporations look like public philanthropies.

The Founders put paid to all this excitement by 1) insisting all power be exercised by elected or appointed officials and 2) splitting up government power so much it just wasn't fun any more.

Today, "smaller" == "less corrupt" because "smaller" reduces returns on political investment. Congress currently manages, through spending or regulation, something like two-thirds of our economy. If they managed something like one-third, the friendship of a Congressman would be dramatically less valuable. And smaller == more transparent, because it's easier to to observe and distinguish the activities within a smaller, less complicated enterprise.

EDIT: Can't find a rebuttal on Wikipedia? Go read some books.

The world is not a zero-sum game - you don't necessarily give corporations more power if you reduce the size of government. That power could be distributed to citizens. And removing the ability of corporations to influence laws can make them less powerful, not more.

The power could be distributed to citizens? And then, yeah, they'd need some kind of organization - an organization made of, by, and for them, for example - to exercise it for them. Now if only such an organization could be created! Perhaps we could hold a convention to define its basic operating principles?

The wealthiest countries in the world have large governments and don't have these problems.

Still, if we can bank online, we can vote online. I see nothing stopping a proposal where if 25% of the public vote online, the result is accepted over what Congress voted. No advertising allowed. Suddenly, bribing/lobbying Congress would no longer make sense.

Regarding voting I highly recommend the brilliant 1970 comedy The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer. It raises interesting questions about how people would react to being about to vote for everything. Here's a brief summary of it stolen from http://www.crispinhull.com.au/2011/06/25/you-cant-vote-for-e...

>Rimmer poses as a true democrat, insisting that the people should always have their way, hence the consultation on important matters – such as any new tax – with the public at large.

>Whenever a question arose for determination a red light and loud buzzer would come on and not go off until the household had voted on whatever question appeared on the television screen.

>But Rimmer was a meglomaniacal schemer. He made more and more issues matters for referendum questions. After a while the population got thoroughly fed of having their lives incessantly disrupted. So he posed a final referendum question – that all future questions should be decided by him. The masses voted Yes

Perhaps instead of voting on legislation directly, it would be a public (online) veto-only vote once the House/Senate passes a bill?

Take a look at the mess California is in before you go too far down the referendum-type path. Having a final veto power in the hands of the people may be a really good, final check. Imagine what vetoing SCoTUS decisions could be like.

It would have to be a high percentage (maybe even a true population majority, not just a voter majority). We certainly have the technology to make that happen now.

I'm still not sure we wouldn't wind up with the federal version of California, though.

Right. Because no one on the Internet has ever rightly compared the general public to easily manipulated sheep.

Here in the UK there are tough restrictions on political advertising, and our politics is much less silly, and much less about money. We don't have free speech (UK libel law is infamous) which for once is advantageous as one cannot engage in the gross misrepresentation of opponents which is all too common in the US.

I think corruption is loosely tied to wealth inequality. I suspect that large variations in the top 5% have to do with this. Humans have a tendency to compare themselves to those who have more. To whoever is at the next level. We tend to want more and desire what another has. When the variation at the top is not so great as it is in the U.S. and other, equally corrupt, nations then political corruption lessens.

The idea behind the website is a nice one. I hope they are successful. The website itself is quite nicely done.

It seems to me that the real solution is to dramatically limit the size of government, so that there is nothing to be bought, rather then just changing the currency used to make the purchase.

Either you have an elected government which makes the law, or the decision about how to behave is made by individual interests and resources, which are much easier to buy or otherwise influence than elected representatives.

> the decision about how to behave is made by individual interests and resources, which are much easier to buy or otherwise influence than elected representatives.

You're ignoring the diversity of individual choice plus the information problem.

I've yet to hear of a politican, technocrat, or bureaucrat who can do a better job deciding for me. To be fair, they don't have the information.

Feel free to delegate decisions wrt your resources as you see fit, but leave me out of it.

Wouldn't the reduced size only mean that there would be fewer politicians to pay off? If you mean that a smaller government equals a government with no power, then why have a government at all?

"Reducing the size of government" means to reduce the power of government, not the proportion of representation.

Hurrah, so the people who would be bribed wouldn't be publicly accountable officials - they would be whoever we handed the power to.

I don't think you understand. The point is to either eliminate the power, or make it extremely diffuse. That way, there is nothing to purchase.

Look, even if we enacted every single liberfantastic idea on shrinking government, there's still more than enough to make it worth bribing people. Really, all you need is to have a legislature, are you proposing we get rid of that?

The way to fight corruption is by fighting corruption, not by giving us things like the Citizens' United ruling (which is in fact less government, yet eminently more bribable).

But that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The wealthiest countries in the world have large governments and don't have these problems. Just outlaw lobbying(bribing) of officials. Outlaw political campaign advertising. Better yet, as I mention above, allow the people to better represent themselves using technology. There are a thousand ways to apply the brakes -- killing the engine is maybe not the best.

The wealthiest countries in the world have large governments

I'm not sure that trying to emulate the [other] wealthiest countries is the best of goals. Doesn't that ensure that we will be, optimally, second best? Given that corruption is endemic everywhere, including those other wealthy countries, isn't it worthwhile to strive for something better?

Outlaw political campaign advertising

That's just another way of saying "Throw out the 1st Amendment and outlaw freedom of speech". That is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

allow the people to better represent themselves using technology.

What makes you think that the electorate as a whole can do any better. Consider the rampant ignorance of the issues in our voting today. And on top of that, most people aren't simply ignorant, but just plain wrong about matters of statistics and economics. I'm inclined to believe that the result would be far worse.

I'm not sure that trying to emulate the [other] wealthiest countries is the best of goals.

You don't have to mimic, but it does give a very strong indication that size of government isn't the problem.

[Outlaw political campaign advertising is] just another way of saying "Throw out the 1st Amendment and outlaw freedom of speech".

Nice try. No, this is "access to media." And currently it's controlled by the wealthy when it should be more democratically controlled.

What makes you think that the electorate as a whole can do any better.

That's funny, because the entire history of the world has been a ruling class not wanting to give up power because they don't "trust" the commoners, when all evidence has been that the greater the democracy, the greater the success. You can take the king; I'll take the people, every time.

it does give a very strong indication that size of government isn't the problem

Not necessarily. It may be that size of government is a problem, but those other countries have encountered a different bottleneck before reaching it.

Nice try. No, this is "access to media."

If you're saying that I won't be allowed to put up a billboard saying "Senator Smith is a rat", or take out a newspaper ad saying the same, then you have shot the 1st Amendment squarely between the eyes.

all evidence has been that the greater the democracy, the greater the success. You can take the king; I'll take the people, every time.

I think you're arguing in circles. For one thing, there are still a lot of monarchies in the world, many of them quite free.

But more important, the entire point that you're arguing against is (if you'll excuse me for paraphrasing; I hope I'm not making a strawman): "It seems to me that the real solution is to dramatically limit the size of government, so that there is nothing to be bought"

That is, the top post in this thread wants to strip away the power of government, and allow people to make their own decisions (including using the power of the market to constrain the action of corporations seen to be doing bad things).

But you seem to be saying that in this case people cannot be trusted, so we need to give additional power to the government to constrain runaway corporations, and in particular to keep those very same corrupt politicians from selling out.

This is self-contradictory in two ways:

First, you've said on the one hand that you'll take power away from the government and vest it in the people, "every time" -- yet in order to support this, you're proposing that we do just the opposite (i.e., prevent people from voicing their opinions as widely as they feel warranted).

Second, you're postulating that the politicians are corrupt and can't be trusted. Yet your solution relies on giving them more power to limit our political behavior. It seems like you're giving them our weapons while telling them "use these guns to ensure that you don't shoot us".

Put up a billboard? No. Purchase access to mass media. There are only so many soap boxes and access is sold for money. You then get the situation where the one who has the most money can purchase all the soap boxes (again, ways to reach a mass audience). Their voice becomes the only one heard. Free speech is that you can say whatever you want (that doesn't change) -- but if you want access to the few seats of mass media to give political voice, if it's not regulated, it simply becomes the microphone of only the rich. Do you see?

Second, when you talk about "reducing government" what you mean is to shift it from the people to the private sector. Government is the people. That's the definition. It needs to be managed. But moving it to the private sector just makes it for-profit instead of non-profit, and opens up a whole new can of worms.

Again, look around. Countries with the highest standards of living are not struggling with this. Their large governments are not a problem, and in fact could be nicely argued to have provided that high standard of living.

"Doesn't that ensure that we will be, optimally, second best?"

No, it doesn't. Keep the things that work for us, and then take a look at the things that we're having problems with (lobbying, healthcare) and steal any solutions that look better.

Just because Apple stole the GUI from Xerox didn't mean they had to steal Xerox's business plan for it, or their management structure. And I don't think anyone's claiming they wound up 2nd best to Xerox.

> The wealthiest countries in the world have large governments

The largest governments: Soviet Union, Third Reich, North Korea, etc.

If bribery has to be covert, it can be investigated by the legal system. In its current form, bribery is essentially legal. Think about Lessig's suggestion. http://rootstrikers.org

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-13-2011/exclu... http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-13-2011/exclu... http://lessig.org/content/av/

And how is making most of the bribery cases legal helping? At least then you'd know bribery when you see it. Now, almost all types of bribery can be done in a legal way.

US doesn't have too many bribery prosecutions not because there's so little corruption, but because it's all legal.

Limit its size...and limit terms.

I wanted to keep the site as non-partisan as possible.

I know this is a parody, but a model like this could actually work. A frightening thought.

Actually, it's a satire since it mocks real life. If it mocked an existing creative work, it would be a parody.

It's no longer a democracy, but at least it'd be transparent and honest.

Democracy in classical sense means participation of the aristocracy, not wide populist participation as practiced in 20th century.

I along with many of people I discuss politics agree that for wellbeing of democracy the civic duties and privileges should be limited and not available to everybody as a universal right.

Ignorance is the worst enemy of democracy. Letting the ignorant majority participate in democratic process on principle alone does nothing for democracy.

Bollocks. Democracy is, literally, "rule by the people"; you can twist the definition of "people", but once you do, they stop being "people" in other contexts too, and you really don't want to go there, if you really care about your fellow man (if you don't, you can pick your preferred system that favours your preferred type of assholes: with the right blood, with the right money, with the right degrees, with the right veneral disease, whatever).

The real problem is that the Greek concept of Democracy was implemented at the town level (their "cities" were really villages in the modern sense), and it has struggled to scale ever since. It's not surprising that the best "democracies" tend to be the smallest in terms of population.

A literal democracy would have everyone being able to vote on any law at any level, which is clearly impractical; unfortunately, once you introduce human intermediaries / aggregators (i.e. your "representatives"), the dynamics change massively, so you introduce corrections, which further sway the dynamics, and on and on...

But literally all historically successful democracies have limited what set of populace are the "people".

I am not US citizen however I know that when the US was created "the people" were pretty much in minority. It was also expected that "the people" will respect and defend their civic freedoms.

The Switzerland for example historically only allowed armed men to vote and even today if one rejects their military service they give up their voting right.

As noble as this popular democracy concept seems in theory in practice it means throwing pearls before the swine. In modern west 50% of people are just to willfully ignorant to understand what civic rights and duties mean.

I am not in favor of any kind of representative model I am also not in favor of direct democracy.

One mechanism would be imposing a citizens tax of 5% of income for those who want their civic rights. That should clear the field pretty fast.

Well, I decide that, to fully participate in a democracy, you have to write in correct English all the time, so hey, you're excluded already, dear JanezStupar. How does that feel? Sorry, no repeated tests, once you're out it's forever.

Let's say that tomorrow that 5% of income is what makes a difference between life or death from hunger; and at the same time, (rich) "people" are proposing a law that will literally kill whoever does not pay that 5%; do you pay and vote against the law, then die from hunger, or do you not pay and die from the hand of "the people"?

"In modern west" (as opposed to "in Soviet Russia"? lol), in some countries, less than 50% bother to vote in most elections, so the "to willfully ignorant" [sic] already don't take part; it's important they maintain their rights nevertheless. How many HN readers never bothered to deal with the US Congress before SOPA was proposed? Would have been right to deny them a voice?

By now I'm pretty sure you're either trolling or a dangerous elitist, "to willfully ignorant" to be trusted with any decision on political systems.


The only argument I am making is that Democracy means "rule by the people", where "the people" is an arbitrary bunch. And in no way has it always meant "everybody living on this land". This populist form of democracy is an invention of 19th century.

What I am arguing is that I have noticed in historic annals that democracies that have been virtuous and didn't implode after a generation all had built in safeguards from populism. And that citizenship was never viewed as an universal right, but always as privilege that one has to actively protect and exercise else it will be taken away.

Indeed many people do not vote, however when some drastic measures need to be taken, short term sacrifices for long term gain - these people will turn up and block any hope of change.

Also I would like to remind you, that popular democracy was viewed as an instrument of change, that mass participation in political process would enable society to evolve faster into better forms. What it has proven is that rule of the mob is the best "status quo" preserving device anybody ever imagined.

You chose to attack the proposed mechanism, but I merely used it as an example. Should you read this thread, you would notice that I proposed random draw as another alternative.

All I am arguing is that some very wise people eons ago noticed, that for prosperity to happen, you need an elite.

Thats what kept Roman republic strong for so long - the balance between elite and the mob. Once the mob managed to break all the "privileges" of the elite, Rome was effectively doomed.

I am not advocating policy here, I am discussing politics and history. No need to call me names and mock me.

Thank you.

Edit: Soviet Russia (or any communist country) was not a country ruled by an Elite. One does not become Elite by killing previous Elite and proclaiming himself one. Building Elite class takes generations. What happened in communist countries is what you get when you eradicate the Elite and let inmates run the asylum.

What? There is so much untruth in the part about Switzerland that I have to question your grasp on history and political science.

If one rejects the military service in Switzerland, he has an alternative, civil service. He also doesn't lose any voting rights. Certain communes and cantons even have given foreigners the right to vote and to be elected.

The historical situation in Switzerland can also not be reduced to "only allowed armed men to vote" since in its core, Switzerland was a confederacy. Certain cantons had strong aristocracies, others were de facto ruled by the church and so on.

I am no historian and no expert on Swiss government. And if I got these facts wrong I apologize. My source may be bad (honestly I don't remember where I picked it up) but I am not trying to deceive anyone.

But I believe that what I said if it doesn't hold true today it did so 50 years ago, before Swiss got voting rights to women.

And yes I forgot to mention that within Switzerland things are done very differently from place to place.

On the other hand, these signs of "progress" may be the first signs of decay of Swiss democracy. Please don't get offended I am just debating and viewing the world from an unpopular perspective. As usual only time will tell where the Swiss will go.

For one I hope that Switzerland endures for another thousand years.

Thank you for your input.

Switzerland in its current form is vastly different than Switzerland 800 years ago. Throughout its history, Switzerland was a loose conglomerate of individual sovereigns, its history is rife with religious and political struggle (Villmer wars, Appenzeller wars, Old Zurich war, Murder Night of Zurich, Fibourg-Bernese wars, an endless list, ). At various points theocratic Theocracies had emerged (Zwingly, Calvin), religious persecution was often rampant. After all, there is a reason the Anabaptists fled the Bernese Emmental and journeyed to America.

Peasant revolts were brutally smashed. Niklaus Leuenberger, a peasant leader, was beheaded with the sword, then quartered. His head was nailed to the Gallows, next to the Federal charter of Huttwil. His dismembered body was distributed on the four main roads of Bern. His brother in arms, Christian Schybi was tortured for "witchcraft" and beheaded.

In 1782, Anna Göldi, was beheaded as "Switzerland's last witch". She was a maid and her master, a judge and politician, wanted to get rid of her because he most likely had an affair with her.

So, I really think you should stop seeing old Switzerland as some kind of role model.

On another note, your "might is right" doctrine is shallow and repugnant.

Judging ancient events with modern standards I find devious in its own right.

Let me reiterate, I am not advocating any kind of policy. I am just trying to discuss history and politics. Since I like to take maximum out of a debate I approached this one from an unpopular viewpoint.

And the best you can do is list some anecdotes then call me shallow and repugnant.

The question of government is one of the hard questions. Where there are no easy answers, but a lot of hard ones. Today it seems that our populist democracies are leading us towards totalitarian government - a lot like what happened to Rome between Octavian an Caesar.

What I am trying to bring forward here is that successful republics have strived for maximal democracy, yet had to build in safeguards against populism and mob rule.

We can debate whether this was an important feature or not, but calling me names is not helping your point.

What are your examples of historically successful democracies?

Athens, Rome, Sparta, Switzerland, United States

Rome's been around a while and it has had several significantly different forms of government. Which period have you in mind?

Obviously the republic era, before Caesar.

The civic virtue within the republic of Rome was so great that to this day our institutions mirror those of their age. They were extremely democratic. But not in a modern sense.

Do note that all systems are bound to get corrupt, whither and die. But the best are extremely resistant to corruption. And strong anti populist safeguards are a property of all of them.

Splitting hairs over the literal meaning of a term defined literally thousands of years ago is pointless.

Democracy is a philosophical institution and you need a lot more than a dictionary of ancient Greek to define it.

Democracy is about the rule of the people. Voting, direct or indirect through representation, is merely a means towards this end. Other important elements of democracy is free speech and free assembly - if the people aren't free to organise themselves, they can't effectively rule. There are plenty of examples of non-free elections, and it's obvious that the presence of those doesn't make the host country a democracy.

Another very important - and much forgotten - factor is the protection of minorities. Americans often lament that a minority of 40 senators can filibuster a law, because supposedly it's undemocratic to give such power to a smaller fraction than 50%. Originally, it was just one senator, although he had to physically filibuster the vote - and the purpose of this rule was to protect the minority from getting run over by the majority. This protection is paramount to a democracy - whether or not the filibustering rules, current or original, in the US Senate is a good way of securing this protection is another matter.

If you want to get technical, anything less that full consensus on everything can be considered undemocratic - because when one part of demos imposes it's will on another part, then it's not rule of the people any more - it's rule of a part of the people.

A literal democracy would have everyone being able to vote on any law at any level, which is clearly impractical

It used to be impractical due to obvious infrastructure reasons. But with the internet, is it still?

And I'm not sure that there always needs to be an "ignorant majority". If people are closely involved with any aspect of lawmaking, they'll feel more responsible for being educated about political issues.

Most "politically ignorant" people I know are that because they feel voting is hardly worth the time, because it only contributes indirectly and abstractly to decision processes (and politicians say one thing and do another...). I think an important responsibility of a democracy is to educate people in critical thinking and make sure they are not "ignorant".

It sounds like Congress needs an ignorance quorum before passing any law:

"Congress shall pass no law, unless 51% of the electorate can pass a quiz on the content of said law. Also, individual legislators must abstain from voting until they receive passing marks."

It used to be impractical due to obvious infrastructure reasons. But with the internet, is it still?

The history of electronic voting is not particularly encouraging for the various "democracy in technology" theories.

Besides, even if you sorted out the infrastructure requirements (see security etc), you'd still be left with the day-to-day drudgery of real politics: reading thousands of pages of bills, proposals, analysis, point, counter-point, etc etc etc, is boring and a time-sink. Which is why a professional "political class" has emerged in most countries, and why part-time politicians are invariably rich from the start (i.e. they have a lot of spare time). To fix that, we'll need good AIs to summarize and simulate. I'd actually prefer to have that over a fully-networked, always-on poll booth.

reading thousands of pages of bills, proposals, analysis, point, counter-point, etc etc etc, is boring and a time-sink

A crowd-sourcing approach could certainly work here. People will go through boring work if they think it is worthwhile. Having free time is by no means restricted to the rich anymore. Github for politics? (people could do something useful online instead of playing BlaVille, for a change...)

we'll need good AIs to summarize and simulate

I don't believe that such AIs will be feasible any time soon. Also, it would raise even more security issues. Who controls the AI?

It is hard to agree or disagree with you when you don't say exactly what your eligibility criteria would be.

I, for one, find felony disenfranchisement to be deplorable.

Lottery would be way better than what we have today.

I would also prohibit government employees from voting. With an exception of military veterans.

But these are not honest criteria. I have no idea about what would be a set of good criteria. Thus far I can only see that populist rule is leading us nowhere fast.

From one-head-one-vote to one-dollar-one-vote. We should call it "pecuniacy".

(Note: "pecunia" is Latin for "money"; I know, the right way to do this would be to use the ancient greek equivalent for "money" and replace it for "demo", but I couldn't find it.)

Perhaps "plutocracy" would work. The root "ploutus" is the ancient greek word for "wealth".

Yeah, but that has already assumed negative connotations; you cannot use it for tongue-in-cheek jokes.

leptocracy: lepton[] + cracy

is exactly what you want and is an easy allusion to kleptocracy.

[] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_lepton

Isn't this some kind of explicit, well-organized, distributed bribery? Legislation for dollars?

Not saying it doesn't happen anyways. But not sure how this helps.

Edit: Ha. Okay, completely missed the parody disclaimer.

The disclaimer at the bottom states that it's a parody.

I think that we should be trying to limit what incentives there are today for politicians to become corrupt. The biggest one IMO is the campaign as it exists today. They are long lasting and very expensive, hence a politician has no chance other than to find ways to fund their campaign.

The resulting factor is that this attracts the attention of parties that do have large sums of money and that comes with an implied exchange of favors.

An option would be for campaigning to be restricted to low cost media such as the internet and maybe government provided TV time.

Another alternative to be considered. Every cent spent on campaign should be divided equally between parties, where if you buy a 20 second ad on TV than that time will be equally divided between your campaign and all other oponents.

What we need is KickStarter for Bills !

Let the people fund the bills they want.

Its time to stop poor people having soo much say..

At large scale, there's something even better than money: votes.

Make a website where I can express my point of view about some legislation (SOPA, PIPA, etc) and then, given a list of candidates for the elections in my district, show who should I vote for based on their voting history.

Excellent idea!

Consider adding a separate sign-on for politicians promising them a campaign funds dashboard, real-time tracking of most profitable causes, political profile tuner, etc

Limit sign-ons to .gov email addresses, restricting early stage use to elected officials and representatives only.

Just let the analytics be public to everyone in the name of transparency.

I think wise politics is about wise decisions that are based on todays situation but reach out in the future. The worst case scenario are politicians who make up their mind today and change it 180deg later on. While some may say they may be uneducated, lack experience, etc, corruption is also a big deal.

what I would love to have is a website like politicopedia where i could see all politicians enlisted and each vote on each bill with date they voted and why they voted this way. this would be a great tool to run statistics down the line: see who voted right/wrong way on certain issues, etc.

Bootstrap Hint: Check out the bootstrap-scrollspy.js code to make the navigation at the top change when you scroll down to the matching anchor tag.

Thank you.

I was hoping for assassination politics, but this was amusing. Maybe I'm a bit thick, but this couldn't be legal, could it?

Haha, I came here to post the exact same thing. For those that don't know: http://technoanimal.net./ap.html

Too late, Bloomberg government[1] its already doing it.

[1] http://about.bgov.com/

Why not go the SUPERPAC route to make this viable? http://www.propublica.org/article/in-the-gusher-of-super-pac...

Jesus! I'm using JotForms for the email signup and the traffic just took them down.

I don't normally wish people any kind of death other than a good natural one when they're extremely old, but I can certainly wish the corrupt politicians slow excruciatingly painful deaths.

Hate to be "that guy", but there's a typo: "Note: Your opinion is important for us to ignore. If you must recieve a reply, donate $500 and try again."


I think the US election system is fundamentally flawed.

Why wouldn't a UK like approach work of limiting campaign budgets?

Focus more on politics and not lobbying/fundraising.

Because there's too much money to be made from campaigning. TV networks alone are rolling in the cash during these prolonged primaries & campaigns.

Countrys are to big, there is too much power in few places. I think a more federalistic system helps and even within one governing entity you can distribute the power more. One thing I really like that we have in Switzerland, we have 7 instead of one president and they are all elected from parlament (the president cant just get people who are his drones).

Isn't this essentially a PAC or Super PAC. Give money to a middle man, who then "gives" it to the politicians in exchange for a vote.

Isn't this what http://www.wethelobby.com/ is trying to do?

Is the site serious? If it is then shouldn't it be reported for the conception of a political corruption scheme?

Why not skip the middle and just field our own candidates?

Viral marketing > any other marketing known to man.

what the world needs are more robin hoods. anonymous is a partial example of this, an elite group that fears no organization (big or small) and the means to exact change.

checked out the site, personally i think the money angle defeats the purpose of politics, politicians should be bred to enable positive changes in society based on their core beliefs and principles, dangling a carrot in front of them is not going to foster this behavior, imho.

a better idea would be some site that promotes discussion amongst the people for certain topics and would have some angle to bring politicians into those conversations. that would really help connect the two.

It was meant to be a parody.




Over Quota

This application is temporarily over its serving quota. Please try again later.

Edit: Should be back up now. Sorry about that.

That was fast! Amusing :) Thanks!

The people we really need to be able to get our bribes to are the un-elected, appointed positions like the "czar of this and that".

Feature request: Bribes to those in appointed positions for special favors. Thanks.

> Feature request: Bribes to those in appointed positions for special favors. Thanks.

That would constitute a felony.

IANAL, and possibly a blinding glimpse of the obvious (BGO), but without some kind of parody get-out-of-jail card, the site already meets the test of bribery, paying an official to do something.

More serious comment... not sure what people have against so-called czars. The president (or congress-critters) have staffers who focus on specific issues, talk to affected constituents, recommend policy. Ultimately, the elected official makes decision based on recommendations. Is that a bad thing, is he supposed to make all decisions on his own in a vacuum?

Its actually not the "czars" per se, that I have a problem with. Its more the persistent, appointed, un-elected positions that span administrations but still have the full force of the executive branch.

You do know that the site is a joke, right? Its parody. The argument is made through absurdity. Some bribery is legal, others not. Its funny because its absurd.

Edit: The main domain is back up.

what about a political triple bottom line? Cost, Constitutionality, Efficiency.

Oh no.. Site's down!

This is absolutely brilliant.

where are the social media buttons?

You can't say "give the money"

Say "attend his next fundraising"

Wow. Bribery at its most sickening.

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