I am on a roll now about this new republic of New Zealand. So I think I would like to sort out the structure of our new republic this week so we can get on with other things. As a starting point I need to study other republics around the world and see if there is a model we can base ours on.
I will start with the big one, the US of A. It is a pretty complex system. In their Republican Constitution, at national level alongside the local town and city Councils, they have two houses: the Senate and Congress, oddly based on the British system of House of Lords and House of Commons. The purpose in the British system is so the Lords and masters, the unelected and wealthy minority, can over-rule any law the common people wanted. I guess that is the rationale behind the American system although the Senators are elected not appointed. In the USA, the Congress is the equivalent of the British House of Commoners. Congressmen serve two-year terms representing a local district. They are publicly elected in bi-annual elections. The President and Vice President have four-year terms. Prior to the presidential election the candidates for the two major parties go through a dress rehearsal full-scale national election to select the final candidate. In the final presidential election each state is allocated a number of “Electoral College Electors.” The number of electors is equal to the combined number of senators and congressman in the State. Congress appoints these electors and it is these electors who cast the votes for President and Vice President on behalf of the American people. The Senators get the longer term influence with six-year terms. With a third of the Senate seats coming up for election every two years. There are 100 senators all told, two per state. Senators can veto legislation. So the real power is with the Senators who have a six-year term and the power to block.
In theory the people get to vote their representatives, in practice we know that money elects them. Money, and a lot of it, is the only way individual candidates get the publicity necessary to get recognised; and positive recognition is the only way to get a respectable number of ticks on the ballot papers. So the ‘elected’ representatives owe their position and livelihood to those who ‘invested’ in them. Selected by teh rich to be elected by the poor. Like other investments they can invest at different levels, Mayor, Congressman, President or Senator. Investors demand a dividend and a commercial dividend may not necessarily be in the voting public’s best interest.
The USA was built on the democratic principle of government of the people, by the people and for the people. I am not sure the outcome, so heavily reliant on commercial investment, can truly be said to live up to that founding principle in the 21st century. The control of money is vested in the top of the USA Government structure and trickles down to the grass-roots. And with such a large structure there are many leaks and diversions on the way down. So lets see if we can reverse it for a better model. What if we went all the way down to grass-roots and created little community boards which would have primary responsibility for the infrastructure of their own geographic area and for the employment and well-being of their own community. Taxation would be collected at the community level and a trickle-up funding flow would be created. Welfare, for example, may become a community responsibility rather than being processed by a faceless bureaucracy. They could organise a community security team; authorise construction projects and build community assets. Each Community Board then appoints, apart from its office bearers, one representative to the City or Town Council.
The Local Council would be responsible for the infrastructure and interests that are common to more than one of the community boards. The common roads, water and power supply, local police, courthouse and prison. So from, say, twelve community boards we would have twelve democratically representative members on the Local Council. Each Council would then appoint, apart from its Mayor and office-bearers, one representative to the Congress. The Congress would then represent the interests common to more than one city or town: internal armed forces, roads and rail, etc. and they would appoint 10% of their members to the Senate.
The Senate would appoint the President and Vice President and this body would manage the international diplomatic and commercial relations, border control, currency supply etc.
The key thing is that there is only one election, that of the local community board member. The President was elected by a small community and his position is reliant on continuing to be elected to the Community board, continuing to be appointed to Congress by his Local Council, continuing to be appointed to the Senate by Congress and continuing to maintain the confidence of the Senate. The taxes collected pass up the line, they do not trickle down. So taxes are collected at community level, community projects are financed at a community level and a portion of taxes are passed up the line from Community Board to Council level. And from Council to Congress and from Congress to the Senate.
In theory it looks good, certainly democratic. A single chain of authority rather than so many elections to different compartments of the constitutional structure. It is of the people, by the people and for the people with the people in control of their own community and national funding. But would the trickle up be too slow to effectively allow the country to compete or even survive in the global community? And I wonder if in practice we just finish up with a government dominated by well-meaning soccer moms. Goldfish in a global shark tank. We may scorn the corporates and the money traders and the war mongers, but if the US dollar collapses against the Chinese Yen, life as they know it ends. McDonald’s becomes fine dining. The USA would be just like Italy after the Roman Empire collapsed and we will all look to China, India or Russia to be our new best friends. It has happened to every other empire humans have created.
I don’t think I have found the New Zealand model yet. This could be trickier than it first looked.