(Politics) Improving Government from the Bottom-up
Imagine you develop a conviction that government might benefit from some optimization.
How might you begin?
What if you’ve become convinced that the traditional approach (top-down politics) doesn’t work? What if you wanted to identify a solution which transcends the ineffective methods of partisan politics?
I have an idea.
Parcel a city, town, or distributed community into autonomous organizational units numbering no greater than 1,000 to 1,200 people.
So, a town of 10,000 might be parceled into ten autonomous neighborhood–oriented communities of about 1,000 people for the purposes of introducing a self-funded economic stimulus.
Give each parcel the community the basis of a self-funded economic revival, using money that normally stays “under the table,“ and once the community achieves a state of financial self-sufficiency, deepen and enrich their local interaction.
For example, a community might implement a three-phase plan that looks like this:
- (step 1: “seed”) buy local first
- (step 2: “root”) produce local
- (step 3: “grow”) source (product and services) locally
Assuming that people interact with one another at the same level that they do using craigslist, Facebook, and other such outlets, by the end of a 12 month period the communities would generate about $192,000 a month in total peer-to-peer commerce, thus increasing household revenue, and each self-governing council would generate a little under $10,000 a month in revenue.
How does it work?
Most marketplaces keep transaction fees, which leave the region and rarely return.
Within our model, the transaction fees are set lower than Amazon, eBay, Poshmart, etc (representing better margins for sellers), and the fees themselves (which we recommend are set to 5%) are kept by the sponsoring community administrative team, forming the basis of what might be considered a voluntary tax to local governance.
For the “hyper-local cooperative marketplace,” that’s about $100,000 a year in transaction-based revenue to fund a locally-focused co-op, non-profit, or however the community activists choose to organize their self-governing entity.
With communities parceled with no greater than 1,000 to 1,200 residents, ($10,000 a month in self-funded revenue ~$100,000/year) opens up a lot of really interesting opportunities.
The community administrators might decide to pay themselves, they might implement a form of basic income, or they might introduce something like a co-op health insurance or retirement plan.
Eventually, each community might find it beneficial to adopt the use of a complementary currency which might stand side-by-side with US dollars, but would provide financial incentives for people to keep their purchases within the community.
You’ll notice that there’s no space for traditional political parties in this model; the parcels themselves are about the size of a medium-sized church congregation.
Therefore, any locally-funded and supplied “social programs“ would be about the same as what you might expect from a co-op, a church, a club, and would therefore not technically qualify as socialist, communist, capitalist, or any other potentially divisive political ideology, thus making it easier to negotiate hyper-local collaboration without the necessity to include traditionally destructive and frequently unnecessary partisanship.
The solution: just people within their communities, emphasizing the use of goods and services from within their communities, with benefits returning to their community.
Each person participating within the community’s economy would of course report their earnings to the IRS, and thus submit their revenue for taxation, and the baseline requirement would be that each participant verify their identity, so as to mitigate the risk of fraud.
- For sellers: better sales margins, with lower risk of fraud
- For buyers, access to potentially higher-quality goods and services from people they know, at a better price
- For the community: self-funded social services that are defined and voted upon by the community itself, and in a manner that side-steps the unnecessary divisiveness of traditional politics
One might imagine that eventually the local government will decide they want a slice of that pie, and might assert its political power in such a way designed to tax the solution to its benefit.
The activists may feel some resentment that a local government, hitherto incapable of effecting an improvement in the lives of ordinary citizens, (even while continuing to enrich themselves and their corporate constituents), feels entitled to even more of their hard-earned money.
This is where things become interesting.
In a town of 10,000 residents, the local political landscape now becomes dramatically well-positioned for change, where self-parceled by street-level activists into ten self-governing communities that have self-funded the basis of job creation, vocation-based education, and social services.
In effect, the street-level activists will have done a better job of addressing the baseline needs of the city’s constituents than the city officials themselves, and in a manner that’s more effective, efficient, and transparent.
Indeed, the system itself is designed to address the representative and fiscal inequity that exists within most communities in the most effective and efficient manner.
One might imagine in the not-too-distant future a city council meeting where street-level representatives for each of the self-governing parcels make a solid case regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of their own solution as one that might rival the one represented by city hall.
Given the off-the-shelf availability of some fairly novel new technologies, these self-governing parcels might be delivering their own services in a way that’s transparent, accountable, and easy to audit, which means that they are positioned in such a way that they can optimize their own efficiency and effectiveness, while discouraging fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption.
This provides a rich context for a public/private partnership, allowing the community to re-calibrate its governance in alignment with what’s best for the citizens, and with an explicit emphasis upon the least of our brethren, so to speak.
I believe that government officials of integrity and authentic service to their communities are going to value and appreciate an opportunity to embrace such proactive engagement, because it will allow them to finally deliver upon their aspired promises. I believe this will be great for morale.
In effect, this plan brings about a rejuvenation and a recalibration, beginning in the streets and in the home, and working its way all the way up into the formal halls of representative and direct democratic institutions.
In terms of technology, none of what has been described is rare, inaccessible, or impossible to implement. Indeed, my company has a pre-integrated app which demonstrates the feasibility and utility of just such a solution (this video preview provides a look into some of functions, behind-the-scenes, and for mobile/desktop), inclusive to the following seven functions essential for self-governance:
- Digital identity and identity verification (no fake accounts)
- Secure peer to peer communication (chat-based)
- A marketplace that’s exclusive to the community
- Peer to peer banking (so one can get a loan with only their reputation as collateral)
- A social reputation engine which rewards citizens for investment in social good, such as “blessed are the peacemakers” and “the least of these my brethren,” as well as an in-progress design for rewarding forgiveness and redemption
- Built-in conflict resolution, with an arbitration solution built upon common law, so no courts are necessary (but would be court-admissible if need be)
- Self-governance, which of course includes voting (reliant upon verified identities and blockchain for persistence), but is essentially roles and responsibilities, access and permissions, and policies and procedures; just enough transparent governance to get the job done, and not a single bit more
Almost all of the above technological modules described above exist in the public domain, many of them for free, and integrating them into a single app does not require very much engineering expense. Again, this is what my company does (currently on its fourth major architectural update).
Positioned properly, these technological tools will make it easy for seasoned, street-level community impact activists to effect an economic revival while improving government, from the streets into city hall.
It’s for this reason I have the highest confidence that things are going to work out, and everything’s going to be OK, albeit periodically rocky, but as Thomas Jefferson once said: the boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.