Sunday, July 04, 2010

Why Face-to-Face?


Face-to-Face Democracy in the UCS

There is a saying, attributed to Confucius, that no matter where you go, there you are. In the same sense, all government is local government. This relativity to the here and now has many implications for democracy.

As we discussed last time, votes -- if they are to have any meaning at all -- must be a choice among those whom the voter knows directly and personally. This principle is at the heart of not only of subjective knowledge but of cosmopolitanism too. Immanuel Kant set it out in his "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,"

"Nature has willed that man should, by himself, produce everything that goes beyond the mechanical ordering of his animal existence, and that he should partake of no other happiness or perfection than that which he himself, independently of instinct, has created by his own reason." (Kant, Cosmopolitan History, 251-252)

An individual's vote, then, is a creative act, an original flowering of heart, mind and will, every bit as much as our conversations, friendships, careers, avocations and artistic expression. None of these activities can be delegated, they are the fruit of a person's direct experience in life, a mixture of times of solitude and love made in groups.

Ideally, a voter's choice should be from among several co-workers with whom he or she has served long enough to know first-hand their strengths and weaknesses and their ability to adapt to various circumstances. Better still, the service performed together should not be wholly unrelated to the post being elected.

At first glance, this severely shackles the electoral process. How can local folks ever meet, much less work for an extended period, with those they are to elect on a broader level -- be it urban, regional, provincial, national, continental or the world level?

It is possible to do this, however, by electing electors who travel to a central place, work along with other electors on a given task, while those elected in turn elect other electors. Using such a meta-election process, it is mathematically possible to elect a world senate that would be removed by only a few degrees of separation from citizens in neighbourhoods.

The hillside infrastructure of the World Belt is designed from the ground up to enable such an electoral system. It sees to it that what Kant calls above the "mechanical ordering of man's animal existence" is taken care of, so that the individual can devote full attention to establish an original, creative relationship with self, with God, family, friends and community.

At the root of everything in a Universal Civic Society is the principle of universal participation. Each and all participate in the work force to the extent of their abilities, and all who are able practice a career. Every journey-person, in turn, has a duty to teach apprentices. By working, everybody pays taxes, gives to charity and actively serves in some sort of family, household and neighbourhood government. Many public service and leadership posts are designated as desirable for participation by all. These are rotated among all citizens in the neighbourhood. Examples might include prefects, consultancies, jury duty, judgeships and many other civil service jobs. These have short, limited terms (weeks and months, not days or years), with the next citizen to serve determined randomly.

Elections take place at the end of a citizen's term of public service at such a posting. This is the prime time when the voter is most familiar with those with whom they just served. If the work is combined with group recreational and educational activities, such as sports, games and simulations, at the end of the term of service each voter will have had a good look into the managerial talent pool of a random cross-section of their neighbourhood.

Since selection is random, every class and trade in the area is represented in this group of draftees. A cook or candlestick maker who happens to have leadership qualities will have an equal chance at distinguishing herself in this term of service to anybody from the more traditional professions from which leaders have been chosen in the past. Since these obligatory stints of public service are brief and frequent, a citizen chosen to represent a neighbourhood will simply serve his or her next period of service at a more "senior" level, such as city hall, regional government, or whatever. Again, this group of representatives will all serve together their period of service in the capital in question, and at the end vote another representative from among their colleagues.

Next time let us detail how the hillside superstructure might aid in this ongoing combined service project and electoral process.


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