Sunday, August 09, 2015

The politics of democratic communism: the people and their delegates

The basic unit of popular democracy under democratic communism is the block*, comprising between 100-500 people, including adults and children, all of whom vote. (Those medically unable to vote, e.g. infants, toddlers, and those with sufficiently severe cognitive disabilities, will have a guardian exercise their vote.) A neighborhood comprises a compact region of blocks with a total of 10,000 people. A district comprises 100 neighborhoods, with a total of 1,000,000 people. Finally, a nation comprises all of the districts; the United States, for example, would have about 350 districts.

*I will use terminology appropriate to an urban context. The rough numbers matter; the actual physical arrangement will vary from hyper-dense (very large apartment buildings) to hyper-sparse (rural areas).

District Assemblies

The blocks in a neighborhood elect the neighborhood's delegate to the district. Each block "speaks as a whole"; the delegate the block chooses receives the votes of everyone in the block. The neighborhood's delegate must receive a majority (not a plurality) of the votes; neighborhoods must use Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) or other forms of vote tranferability to choose a delegate with a majority. Blocks also meet periodically (e.g. monthly) for its neighborhood delegate to report on the business of the districts, and for the blocks to give advice to the delegate.

It is possible for a neighborhood to have "delegate churn," where two (or more) candidates are nearly equally matched, and individual blocks changing their votes may swing the majority back and forth between the candidates. However, because of transparency (I'll write on this later), churn should not have an enormous effect on the the business of the district.

Unlike republican systems, blocks may change their vote for a delegate at any time; if the formerly elected delegate loses her majority, she is replaced by a new delegate with the majority. Essentially, delegate voting is essentially continuous, rather than periodic. Furthermore, any vote made by the delegate in the affairs of the district may be reversed by a majority vote of the people in the blocks. Two-thirds of the people in the blocks may directly compel its delegate to introduce and endorse action at the district level. Finally, dependent on the policy of the district, neighborhoods may directly elect judges with original jurisdiction.

Delegates are paid 40 SVU per week. Once a person has served as a delegate for more than a certain period (e.g. two years), the delegate receives a pension, determined by years of service, and even if she later leaves the government, her total annual income (including the pension) may not exceed 2000 SVU. Finally, a delegate who serves less than the minimum may be sanctioned with the same (or more severe) income restriction for corruption, subject to due process.

Each delegate has three roles. First, a delegate is the head of the civil service in her neighborhood, with direct managerial responsibility over services provided at the neighborhood level. (Churn would more seriously hamper this management; but internal civil-service management structures can compensate.)

Second, the assembled delegates in the district conduct the business of the district by majority vote. First, they allocate the budget provided by the national government; the district can also borrow money by selling bonds. Since districts cannot create money, district-level bonds have default risk, and a district may choose to default on its bonds.

The district assembly also enacts legislation to determine how the judiciary is to resolve disputes between individuals and private organizations within the district. The district assembly also appoints appellate judges with district scope, and to appoint original-jurisdiction judges (unless the district has opted to have the people directly elect original-jurisdiction judges by neighborhood). The district assembly directly regulates areas of the district used preponderantly for commerce and industry. The district assembly also acts collectively as the head of the civil service for services provided at the district level.

Third, the assembled delegates elect delegates to the national assembly, again with the same requirement of IRV-enabled majoritarianism. As with neighborhoods, the assembled delegates of the district may replace their national delegate at any time, may reverse her vote by majority vote, and may, by two-thirds vote, compel the delegate to introduce and support action at the national level.

National Assembly

The national assembly has all of the corresponding duties of the district assemblies, applied to the nation as a whole: appointment and direction of delegates to international bodies, managing the affairs of the nation as a whole, acting collectively as the head of the civil service at the national level, and appointing judges with original and appellate jurisdiction for conflicts between districts.

The national government has the exclusive ability to create money, either directly or by delegating this authority to a central bank. The national government can also borrow money, but is forbidden from defaulting on any financial obligation denominated in the national currency: the national government must create money to satisfy its national-currency financial obligations. (How to implement this mandate is a challenging legal problem.) The national government may default on financial obligations denominated in anything other than its own national currency.

Note that unlike the US federal government, the national government may legislate in general (not just tax and spend) for the general welfare: the national assembly has, in bourgeois terminology, "police powers."

Other Assemblies

Districts may be subdivided into cities and towns. Districts can be aggregated into metropolitan areas (e.g. the San Francisco metropolitan area, which includes about 7.44 million people), regions (e.g. states), transportation areas (e.g. the New England passenger rail structure), natural resource areas (e.g. the Colorado river), and other ad hoc aggregates, created around infrastructure and natural resources. As with districts, neighborhoods included in the subdivision or aggregate elect delegates to these assemblies.


The default jurisdiction is the district. Districts may delegate business to cities and towns contained in the district; any money allocated to cities and towns must be allocated on an equal per-capita basis. Larger regions may assume superior jurisdiction if there is a reasonable basis for doing so, or if directed to assume superior jurisdiction by the appropriate court to protect the individual rights of citizens of an inferior jurisdiction. (For example, if it is found that a district is discriminating in elementary/secondary education against black people, a court could order a larger assembly, the metro area, region, or national government, to take over direct control of the district's school system.

Sorting Everything Out

It looks at first glance like we have a hodgepodge of overlapping responsibilities. However, the situation is not very different from what we currently have. Although I will later propose a unitary civil service, individual offices should have well-defined management chains. For example, regulation of an individual school will have a clear chain of responsibility from the neighborhood to the district to the region to the national government; it would not, be under the direction of a transportation or natural resource district.

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