I've been toying awhile with an idea about the structure of government. It would probably require a Constitutional Convention. Maybe it could be tried in a nation initializing self-rule after release from tyranny.
The basic principle is this: Personal rights and property rights are often at odds. How can we preserve both in an enlightened society?
Assigning representation by counting heads follows from personal rights, but can lead to government that confiscates wealth from a few to buy votes from the masses. Assigning representation by property ownership (or tax burden) protects property rights but has historically led to abuses of personal liberties of landless masses.
Call me greedy, but I want to have my cake and eat it too!
My strategy is to constitute two parallel legislative tracks across all levels of government, one for popularity and one for property/money. At each level, there would be two legislative bodies. In order to enact a statute, both bodies would need to approve. In other words, to approve government action, both the people inconvenienced and the people who would pay would need to agree on its necessity.
First, one legislative chamber would be populist, apportioned by head count and elected directly by all legal adult citizens of its jurisdiction according to one-citizen, one-vote rules (I recommend Approval Voting). This would be much like most legislatures in the world today, so I won't go into any more detail there; the radical part of my scheme is on the other side...
The other legislative body at each level would be apportioned and elected by taxes paid, not by geography and head count. Votes would be cast by tax paying entities. Each entity, regardless of citizenship, would vote the number of tax dollars she/he/it paid to that level of government since its last general election.
Guardians would vote their children's taxes, executors would vote estates', trustees would vote trusts', boards of directors would vote corporations', and the tax-based legislature of each enclosed jurisdiction would vote whatever revenue they were required to cough up. [Subsidies voluntarily handed down would not buy formal influence at local levels.]
Ideally, only the most local level of government would be authorized to collect taxes directly, so all money and attendant representation would flow through the tax-based legislatures of enclosing levels (see Buffer State). However, some forms of property (like patents) might only be registered nationally, and some taxes (like import duties) might only be assessed nationally, so taxes paid at a level would be represented there directly.
Within a jurisdiction, taxpayers would be ranked and weighted. Then, whatever the number of seats in the legislature, the total tax roll would be segmented to the nearest dollar into as many pieces, and each taxpayer would vote for the seat(s) corresponding to his/her/its dollars in whichever tax bin(s) they fell.
A really huge entity (like California in decentralized system) might "own" several Senate seats. At the same time, the state of North Dakota might find itself in a bin with and outvoted by IBM.
Marxists will wail about how evil corporations would gain too much influence. What price influence? If they cut their own taxes, they won't have any votes left. If they buy control, they will have financed the government.
To top it off, none of their schemes will be approved without concurrence from the populist branch of the legislature, and that would remain firmly in the hands of natural persons who are also citizens.
Therefore, I'm not worried about corporations taking over such a government. However, I would be sanguine about their defending their property rights and mine, about their pouring capital into my country from all over the globe, and about their creating more job opportunities near me.
Have I invented a workable and vital substitute for Britain's House of Lords? For the US Senate? Would you like to see Bush experiment with my plan in his next nation-building project? Would you like to see it in your own country? Please let me know, and, if you like this or my other articles, please tell your legislators.
Copyright 2003-2004 by Jeff Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.