Picking Up Where Jefferson Left Off

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While we attribute big advances in technology to the work of scientists and engineers, it happens that those same people are also responsible for advances in human governance. From the writing of the Magna Carta to the Icelandic Constitution to the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, we owe whatever freedoms we have from despotism to people with an engineering mindset. Systems that deliver liberty have come from those who were able to step back, define the problem, and then set out to write specifications - textual engineering drawings if you will - that define structures that preclude known sources of failure. In this case, "failure" usually means accumulation of excessive power by one person. 

That is engineering.

Engineers, and those who have an engineering mindset, tend to understand the role of constraints in systems. They understand the tendency of systems to fail in specific ways if constraints are not properly engineered. A system of checks and balances is engineered to prevent the consequences of the built-in tendency of power to corrupt. It's no coincidence that Jefferson and Washington and Franklin et al were engineers, even though the term was not widely used in their day.

Politicians have learned how to play electorates with instantly-provoked passion about fictional distinctions such as right-vs-left, Democrat-vs-Republican, libertarian-vs-governed. Those political passions have repeatedly led us into wars, depressions, and generally avoidable misery. It's time for an end to bumper-sticker politics and demagoguery. It's time to end the practice of campaigning. Optimocracy has a tendency to diffuse emotional appeals and to limit the effectiveness of aggressive campaigning, because every voter by definition knows the complexities of the issues in the area where she or he is entitled to vote.

Optimocracy In Brief

In an optimocracy as in a democracy, everyone who is qualified may vote. "Qualified" in both systems implies residency or citizenship. However, residency itself means different things in the two systems.

Because optimocracy is designed to serve communities of interest that exist independently of geographic boundaries, and because those communities typically convene in online space, they require a means of establishing accountability in the form of measurably reliable identity credentials. Residence in an optimocracy requires an x.509 identity certificate, supported by a minimum Identity Quality Assurance score specified by the given optimocratic community.

The word "qualified" also has a different meaning in the two systems. Any resident may participate in the governance of an optimocracy, regardless of age.

In an optimocracy, governance is performed by commissions, each of which is itself created by a governance commission. Anyone may qualify to be a commissioner by meeting two requirements:

  1. Digitally sign log entries showing that the person has followed all of the debate in the commission
  2. Participate in the deliberations of the commission
The original conception of Optimocracy also called for the member of a commission to pass occasional short tests put forth by the moderator of the commission, demonstrating that the person taking the test understands the issues before the commission. This might be workable if we can develop a means of preventing manipulation of a commission's constituency by skewing test questions.

Just because voting takes place in commissions does not mean that optimocracy succumbs to the indecisiveness of govrnance by consensus. As long as the moderator of a commission has a requisite level of support, he or she has a good deal of autonomy. Support is measured as a number between 0 and 1 representing a six month trailing average vote of confidence. That way, one unpopular decision won't tend to derail the chief's mission.

Konrad Adenauer: History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.