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Cellular democracy


pragmaticapproach

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An interesting concept I have read up on is cellular democracy, a system which has as its main characteristic, a bottom up rather than the top down structure that exists in most representative democracies. It is an interesting alternative to our current dysfunctional system which is prone to rent seeking by vested interests, hence, the current system is effectively a breeding ground for political whores.

In such a system, revenue flows upwards with each level of government receiving its funding from the level below. Each level 1 government consisting of around 500 people would have discretion on how much taxation is raised and how
it is raised, with the most obvious choice being a land rent or property valuation tax, as advocated by the Austrian school economist who developed the system, Fred Foldvary. Obviously the taxation burden in such a system would be far less than what currently exists, especially since national government would have no powers to tax directly.

Cellular democracy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In cellular democracy, a jurisdiction such as a county or city is divided into neighborhood districts with a population of about 500 people, with about 100 to 200 households. The voters in the district would elect a council. The small size of districts would allow for more informed voters at a smaller cost. Representatives, plus one alternate, would be elected to the council. This would be a "level-1 council"
A region containing 10 to 20 neighborhood districts would then vote for a "level-2 council". Each level-1 council elects a regular representative and an alternate to the level-2 council from its own regular membership.
A further region containing several level-2 councils would comprise a level-3 council, each level-2 council again electing a regular and an alternate representative to level 3. The level-2 representative sent up to the level-3 council would be replaced by his or her alternative.
The hierarchy would continue indefinitely, depending on the size of the state, or even going on to the top of the world.
and for a more detailed outline of the system.

http://foldvary.net/works/auspc.pdf

[video=youtube;Q_IKqvqDDwk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_IKqvqDDwk[/video]
 
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pragmaticapproach

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Is this system being used anywhere?

Good words!
The decentralised nature of Swiss governance is similar, but there is still elements of mass democracy in the Swiss system. This is like a perfected version of their system.
 

Thac0man

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It all sounds great. But is it free? Attached to any system we might try to impliment are issues such as cost effectiveness and transparancy. Now assuming that a mandated individual from every 500 is put forward, will we be paying 1 in every 500 people for their time? That works out as 11.000 extra people on the books, before anyone can actually be elevated to the level where they can take a decision.

Will it be possible to make sure all those who are elected from every 500 strong cell, are not getting back handers? I do not see such a broad and diluted system being free from corruption. Rather the opposite in fact. It might be open not only to increased manipulation, but subject to so many claims of corruption, that investigation might be impossible. The problems we have with vested interests and abuse of privilage by established political parties will not simply evapotate, because the same people involved in both will be a shoe in for early cellular election. There is no point in talking about banning political cooperation, just for the sake of making an alternative political system apolitical, so it can work. It sort of defeats the point of democracy really.

And what would happen to niche political parties in this country? The national party system we may have might make it difficult to make inroads into the political arena. But any purest cellular system promises only to dilute unified messages, rather than popularise it. The 'party whip' position has been developed for a reason, and it was not to whip the public, but to make things work jore smoothly.

And what happens if you do not like the cell you are in? Or if you are in a cell where others present are not representitive of your opinion? Would individuals be happy to see the political voice neatly and indefinietly folded into a religous pressure group/community or one belonging to a minority? Lets not pretend that simply changing cells is an easy fix, because it would not be. Such a move would simply undermine the cellualr system. We would only be increasing factionalisation and entrenching division. The Swiss have a federal system, and its not the one described in the OP. It is one which is run within a rather insular and conservative country, that has in the past been criticised for being allegedly racist.

As it is, with PR, we are pretty much at the edge of what is possible in terms of representitive government. The party system we have perhaps needs a kick up the back side, but with Mick Wallace, Kathy Synott and Ming the Merciless elected, its not possible to claim that Irish politics is a complete closed shop. The other extreme is the Brits first past the post, of the List system, which is seen amongst some European neighbours. Neiter appeal to me. But making the Irish political arena a high cost free for all, promises only to deliver paralysis (at best).
 

ibis

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Cough...soviets...cough....
 

pragmaticapproach

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It all sounds great. But is it free? Attached to any system we might try to impliment are issues such as cost effectiveness and transparancy. Now assuming that a mandated individual from every 500 is put forward, will we be paying 1 in every 500 people for their time? That works out as 11.000 extra people on the books, before anyone can actually be elevated to the level where they can take a decision.

Will it be possible to make sure all those who are elected from every 500 strong cell, are not getting back handers? I do not see such a broad and diluted system being free from corruption. Rather the opposite in fact. It might be open not only to increased manipulation, but subject to so many claims of corruption, that investigation might be impossible. The problems we have with vested interests and abuse of privilage by established political parties will not simply evapotate, because the same people involved in both will be a shoe in for early cellular election. There is no point in talking about banning political cooperation, just for the sake of making an alternative political system apolitical, so it can work. It sort of defeats the point of democracy really.

And what would happen to niche political parties in this country? The national party system we may have might make it difficult to make inroads into the political arena. But any purest cellular system promises only to dilute unified messages, rather than popularise it. The 'party whip' position has been developed for a reason, and it was not to whip the public, but to make things work jore smoothly.

And what happens if you do not like the cell you are in? Or if you are in a cell where others present are not representitive of your opinion? Would individuals be happy to see the political voice neatly and indefinietly folded into a religous pressure group/community or one belonging to a minority? Lets not pretend that simply changing cells is an easy fix, because it would not be. Such a move would simply undermine the cellualr system. We would only be increasing factionalisation and entrenching division. The Swiss have a federal system, and its not the one described in the OP. It is one which is run within a rather insular and conservative country, that has in the past been criticised for being allegedly racist.

As it is, with PR, we are pretty much at the edge of what is possible in terms of representitive government. The party system we have perhaps needs a kick up the back side, but with Mick Wallace, Kathy Synott and Ming the Merciless elected, its not possible to claim that Irish politics is a complete closed shop. The other extreme is the Brits first past the post, of the List system, which is seen amongst some European neighbours. Neiter appeal to me. But making the Irish political arena a high cost free for all, promises only to deliver paralysis (at best).
Just in the same way all goods and services provided in the free market are priced at a level the market can bear, the same would apply to taxation and public goods. Competitive pressures from other tax jurisdictions would create a very strong incentive to maintain tax rates at as low a rate as possible, otherwise people would up sticks, making the place a less desirable place to live, driving down property prices and rents as well as harming the members of the local governance themselves who would most likely own property in the jurisdiction their policy applies to.
 

pragmaticapproach

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Cough...soviets...cough....
You're right, but this only applies to public goods, not the means of production.
 

kryton101

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This is not unreasonable if we take Ireland and a 2 level system of local and central government. The accountability works from the local areas (of which 6 to 8 would be ideal) to the upper central level.

The idea of multiple levels would invariable build in corruption as seperate groups coud be isolated and targeted just like we have today.

Ultimatley democracy is a corrupt system as it can be manipulated by individuals and groups to favour outcomes. Something that seems to slip past most western settlers in such countries. At least we have all been brought up to believe that democracy is the best system in the world without question otherwise we would be in danger of progressing beyond it to something better.
 

Hand of Abbadon

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Dat kind of aul' thing would never ketch on here!
 

Thac0man

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Just in the same way all goods and services provided in the free market are priced at a level the market can bear, the same would apply to taxation and public goods. Competitive pressures from other tax jurisdictions would create a very strong incentive to maintain tax rates at as low a rate as possible, otherwise people would up sticks, making the place a less desirable place to live, driving down property prices and rents as well as harming the members of the local governance themselves who would most likely own property in the jurisdiction their policy applies to.
What you say is true, but only in an ideal world, or a theoretical one. Leaving aside the complex and potentially expensive mechanics of running the 'cellular' model, even putting it side by side with free market models, it does not produce a promising picture. Our taxes are high because the free market has been manipulated monstrously. How else did we end up with some of the most expensive real estate in the world, in one of the most sparsely populated nations in the developed world? If manipulation was not a factor, then our free market economy would have been able to stand alone and weather the bubble bursting. As it is, even on a basic level, we have slid from having a reasonable industrial base, to becoming a services based economy, and now are finding it hard to compete at that level as well. Artificially low corporate taxes are what keeps the boat afloat. And we can have low personal taxes too?

We have essentially developed a free market economy in Ireland, whose skill set reflects that of the Public services. Yet the two are kept at arms lenght from each other by legislation and union agreements.

I have never bought the line that we needed a more research and innovation based economy. One person that floated that model was Mr. James Dyson, and it described his business headquaters, not the location where his actual product was built and where it sustained most jobs (China). But none the less, we have insisted on promoting that model, while increasing the monetary value of what remains once actual manufacturing industry is left to decline. And re-bracketting what qualifies as manufacturing does not adaquatly conceal the lack of production we undertake in Ireland. Hence we are back to relying on agriculture as the mainstay of our economic strenght.

Would cellular democracy deliver less taxes but more jobs? I doubt it would do either. We are at the point in Ireland where not only what qualifies as manufacturing has been redefined, but what qualifies as entrepreneurship has been too. We laud praise on wheel barrow millionaires, get-rich-quick merchants and the already rich who like to play publically with their money and pretend they are successful in their own right. Declan Ganly and Sean Gallagher come to mind. And it would be these people who would benefit most from the popularism that would inform cellular democracy. There is already a perception amongst irish media personalities that they can snap their fingers and translate their media populatiry into political credability if they wanted too. Cellular democracy would make that hapen. If our political representation now is somewhat unreflective o the general population, it is perhaps reflective of what we are prepared to put up with when needed. But Cellular democracy would see far too many unqualified clowns wasting far too much our our time and resources. Its not perfect now, but its a good bet that cellular democracy would produce a full blown three ring circus. And when the cracks start to show and it gone beyond funny, reform is reintroduced, and a new political elite end up centre stage and protected by laws designed to rectify the chaos done by the cellular model.

If cellular democracy could deliver an end to political infighting, grandstanding, cronyism, manipulation and corruption, I would be all for it. But in reality it seems only to be an avenue towards more of those things. Cellular democracy resembling free market economics, is not in my opinion a good thing. I am all in favour of reform, just not this version of it.

Just to add soe spice to the mix and illustrate how unworkable cellular democracy might be; what would happen to our public representation if we dropped the voting age to 16 as well?

Another unforeseen result of cellular democracy is me producing enormous posts on P.ie :|
 
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D

Dylan2010

I didnt read the detail of the OP , but if the last few decades have thought anybody anything it is that centralised systems increases systemic risk, decentralised systems decreases systemic risk. So bottom up systems should be more robust but I doubt you could reduce it to a formula.
 

Mattarigna

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This is not unreasonable if we take Ireland and a 2 level system of local and central government. The accountability works from the local areas (of which 6 to 8 would be ideal) to the upper central level.

The idea of multiple levels would invariable build in corruption as seperate groups coud be isolated and targeted just like we have today.

Ultimatley democracy is a corrupt system as it can be manipulated by individuals and groups to favour outcomes. Something that seems to slip past most western settlers in such countries. At least we have all been brought up to believe that democracy is the best system in the world without question otherwise we would be in danger of progressing beyond it to something better.
Look, if the general population cannot decide on who runs policy in a country, who does exactly? It's all fine and good criticising something when you have no alternative to offer. We have tried feudalism, Communism, Facism etc. They have all collapsed, and although a democracy may make it tougher to take neccesary unpopular actions at times of economic troubles, other forms of government have generally proved to be far worse when it comes to corruption and public finances. A quick glance at lists of states which defaulted on debts, or comparing levels of political freedoms to living standards would in fact suggest that a democractic system is in fact the best when it comes to raising general living standards and potential. And cases such as China's economic growth, Stalin's 5 year plans, Hitler and Mussolini's public work schemes etc. are pretty isolated cases in general.
 
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Mattarigna

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I didnt read the detail of the OP , but if the last few decades have thought anybody anything it is that centralised systems increases systemic risk, decentralised systems decreases systemic risk. So bottom up systems should be more robust but I doubt you could reduce it to a formula.
Yeah, it seems far too tidy. I cannot imagine it working in really densely-populated areas, and it would seriously encourage unsubstainable settlement patterns like mad. Finally, it's assuming that people can just pick up sticks and leave at a drop of a hat every time a local government unit changes it's tax levels, which is rediculous, as for the vast majority of people, buying a house is a lifetime investment, not something you do willie-nilly. And renting will simply never catch on in this country the way it does in Germany, which is the only way that such a system to be feadible. Our cultural attachment to property is simply too strong for that.
 

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