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governing bodies

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governing bodies

Postby klewlis » Sun May 02, 2004 3:22 pm

a coworker and I were discussing government this morning (great topic after a night shift! lol). She suggested a form of national government wherein we'd have a group of five co-equal leaders, each with a specific area of responsibility (finance, international trade, etc) in which they had to be specially qualified. These leaders would be elected individually (so they wouldn't be all of one party). This way there wouldn't be one person with too much power, thus avoiding the problems inherent in our current systems of presidents and prime ministers who have too much power and not enough integrity. If you had to pass everything through FIVE people instead, there would be more accountability and varying viewpoints, better representation, etc. You could still have your other various ministers underneath as we do now.

I am curious as to whether it has been tried before... I can't think of a culture or country which has had such a form of government, and would be interested to hear more about it if someone knows of something similar and how it worked... any ideas?
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Postby xon » Mon May 03, 2004 3:02 pm

Well, the term is an "oligarchy".
More exactly, "a benevolent oligarchy."

There was the French Triumvirate, and wasn't there also some similar thing in the Roman Empire at one time, immediately after Caesar's murder?

I think this would be a good idea. But the five need to be elected for life, much like the supreme court justices.
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Postby Mongoose42 » Mon May 03, 2004 6:35 pm

The problem with such a system is that it would be slow to go through five departments to act, and it would not solve the power struggles in government. As the post-Caesar Romans proved an oligarchy will eventualy break down into warring factions trying to gain more power. This leads to civil war and eventually to a dictator or emperor. If the leaders work together perfectly and don't fight for power, then the government will become seperate from the people and more powerful than any modern presidential or prime minister has ever been. The US is based on making the president strong and the legislature stronger, and equalizing the power by forcing the two sides to fight each other in a "civil manner :twisted:."
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Postby klewlis » Mon May 03, 2004 7:47 pm

xon wrote:Well, the term is an "oligarchy".
More exactly, "a benevolent oligarchy."

There was the French Triumvirate, and wasn't there also some similar thing in the Roman Empire at one time, immediately after Caesar's murder?

I think this would be a good idea. But the five need to be elected for life, much like the supreme court justices.


but it wouldn't really be an oligarchy because you'd still have your parties and ministers and all of that with the same amount of influence that they have now. In my mind it's still as democratic as ever, but instead of giving one person the final say on things, a team would have to agree on it instead.

The Roman Empire had a triumvirate *during* Caesar's time (Caesar was one of the three) but it was unstable because their politics at the time were unstable... I think today we have a lot more checks and balances in our system that would prevent many of the problems they had, such as rampant power and the buying of positions, etc.

The appeal to Canadians is that we don't trust any of our leaders, so it's easier to trust a multi-party team than to trust any given party leader. ;)
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Postby Emma_85 » Wed May 05, 2004 7:28 pm

Hmm... I think that our current democracies need more than just a reform like the one you are suggesting. What you are suggesting sounds like just getting rid of the President (or similar figure) leaving only the ministers (elected by the people of course and not the parties themselves). Now I don't think this will be very effective. Sure, it might stop one man having too much power in politics, but then again this is a problem that doesn't evolve in every country, so I'm sure there are better ways of making sure one person doesn't have too much power. The reason why this wouldn't be such a good idea is because such a government would be very divided and often enough different ministries must work together in order for some reforms to work - difficult if people are from opposing parties and just trying to be a nuisance to each other.
Germany has a very good system to make sure no one can have too much political power (for obvious reasons). The German head of state is the President, who's there to represent the country. Then you have the Chancellor, who is often also the ruling party's leader, but not always. About a month ago Schröder resigned from that post and was replaced by Müntefering. The ministers also have a lot of power, as well as the various prime ministers of each state.
Because of the German coalition system, over half the ministers are from the ruling labour party the rest (among them the foreign Minster) are from the Greens/communists.
I think such a government system similar (not like the German one exactly as that has loads of problems too) to what they have in Germany might be better than what you're suggesting.
Personally I think our democracy is a bit rubbish. People aren't interested in politics really, because to be honest it's not like they can do much about it anyway. People don't feel they are actually deciding anything when they vote, which I think is true. Direct democracy has its problems, but so does parliamentary democracy, something in-between is what's needed.
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Postby klewlis » Wed May 05, 2004 9:39 pm

how do we find that something in between? :)

Canadian politics frustrates me for the very reasons you mentioned--we never feel like anything we do can make a difference. There is so little practical difference between the "liberals" and "conservatives" that it doesn't matter which we vote for... they are both going to screw us; they are both going to push through bills that we don't want. ick.
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Postby primitive » Wed May 05, 2004 9:44 pm

I think history displays that mankind is a power hungary race. It is our nature. If someone was in charge of, lets say, trade. They could use their power to their advantage and possibly gain more power over the other 4.


I think however it could work with people who are very selfless.
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Postby klewlis » Thu May 06, 2004 12:30 am

primitive wrote:I think history displays that mankind is a power hungary race. It is our nature. If someone was in charge of, lets say, trade. They could use their power to their advantage and possibly gain more power over the other 4.


But they do that anyway... I mean use their position to their advantage. Hence the current sponsorship scandal here in canada.

We already *have* people who are in charge of individual areas--we have a minister of finance, minister of international trade, minister of health, etc. But in our current system they are all appointed by the ruling prime minister out of his own party's MP's. So not only does the PM have final say on everything, but he also gets to appoint the people in charge of each area--and much of the time those appointed have no particular expertise, and portfolios get shuffled around regularly. In my opinion this gives the PM far too much power, and we can then only hope for a minority government to balance it out...

I don't know... I know there's no perfect system, but ours is in dire need of some changes... it's just hard to know how to go about it. :)
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Postby threewood14 » Thu May 06, 2004 1:08 am

I know there's no perfect system, but ours is in dire need of some changes


Very much agreed. I would think that a government must try to be as perfect as possible so it can survive the longest. That was pretty obvious though... :oops:
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Postby Bert » Fri May 07, 2004 12:11 am

I wonder if it would be better if our government had more power than it does now and stayed in power longer, but cannot be re-elected.
Sort of a benevolent dictatorship (or a group of five dictators.)
That might do away with making promises in the hope of winning another election.
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Re: governing bodies

Postby Democritus » Fri May 14, 2004 4:42 pm

klewlis wrote:... a group of five co-equal leaders, each with a specific area of responsibility (finance, international trade, etc) in which they had to be specially qualified. These leaders would be elected individually (so they wouldn't be all of one party).



It's not exactly what you have in mind, but in California many of the department heads are elected individually, and not appointed by the executive, as the are on the U.S. federal level. So we have a Republican governor but a Democratic attorney general.

Also, many U.S. counties are governed by "commissions," which are small committes that make executive decisions.
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Re: governing bodies

Postby klewlis » Fri May 14, 2004 7:15 pm

Democritus wrote:
klewlis wrote:... a group of five co-equal leaders, each with a specific area of responsibility (finance, international trade, etc) in which they had to be specially qualified. These leaders would be elected individually (so they wouldn't be all of one party).



It's not exactly what you have in mind, but in California many of the department heads are elected individually, and not appointed by the executive, as the are on the U.S. federal level. So we have a Republican governor but a Democratic attorney general.

Also, many U.S. counties are governed by "commissions," which are small committes that make executive decisions.


does it work?
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Postby Barrius » Fri May 14, 2004 7:22 pm

klewlis wrote:Canadian politics frustrates me for the very reasons you mentioned--we never feel like anything we do can make a difference. There is so little practical difference between the "liberals" and "conservatives" that it doesn't matter which we vote for... they are both going to screw us; they are both going to push through bills that we don't want. ick.

Here in the US of A it's the same thing. Those of us that believe in limited government are in the minority, even fewer are those that demand a strict adherence to our Constitution and the federal separation of powers. At one time in our history the strong state governments (more localized) prevented the federal government from overtaxing us and limited pork projects (why send our money off to benefit others?)

Essentially, despite any party labels, we have two groups, those that favour government funding of everything (a "nanny" state), and those that don't. Politics being what it is, the first group almost always wins in the long run.

Personally, I think our President should serve one 6 year term, and our Senators and Congressmen be term-limited to a total of 12 years. We need to keep the professional politicians out of government.
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Re: governing bodies

Postby Democritus » Fri May 14, 2004 9:25 pm

klewlis wrote:does it work?


LOL. :)

Honestly, I don't know. I think most of California's troubles can be squarely blamed on the Legislature. I don't think even a competent set of executives can rescue this state. But you know, in a democracy, ultimate blame always rests with the voters. It doesn't matter what democratic system you create, the voters can use it irresponsibly if they want.
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Re: governing bodies

Postby klewlis » Fri May 14, 2004 11:23 pm

Democritus wrote:
klewlis wrote:does it work?


LOL. :)

Honestly, I don't know. I think most of California's troubles can be squarely blamed on the Legislature. I don't think even a competent set of executives can rescue this state. But you know, in a democracy, ultimate blame always rests with the voters. It doesn't matter what democratic system you create, the voters can use it irresponsibly if they want.


But really, I as a voter have practically no influence at all. I get to vote once every 4 years or so... I have to choose one of 4 or 5 really bad options, hoping to hit on the least of the evils, the best of the bad. Then nothing changes anyway, so I may as well have kept my vote to myself.

The only way to *allegedly* see change is for oneself to become heavily involved by becoming an activist or another politician... neither of which do I have the talent or time for. So what am I to do???

Sometimes it can be helpful to write to one's representatives... but I have tried this in the past and have not seen it to be effective. I guess I should keep trying... part of the problem is that not enough Canadians *care* enough to actually put any effort into it... But my letters so far have met with only "thanks for your letter, we're going to do what we had intended all along anyway."


*sigh*
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Postby Emma_85 » Sat May 15, 2004 12:23 pm

I know what you mean klewlis.
Politics and business are similar it seems. I was a bit shocked when I found out that most businesses and corporations that go bankrupt and have to close down don't have to do so because they are producing something there is no longer any demand for. I spend a lot of time in my father's office and so I now know more about business that I really want to and I've also listened to some important business lawyers talk about bankruptcy.
Often is the management that is to blame, and that's the truth. When a firm goes bankrupt in Germany the judges appoint lawyers to sort out the mess, that is they hand over the firms to lawyers who then have to try and save as many jobs as possible.
Firms that were making losses of millions have been saved that way and now make profits, and all the lawyers had to do was chuck out the management and take control of things themselves. If the lawyers then make losses with that firm they must pay for those themselves :shock: . But the system works, and they actually manage to save about 40 to 50% of the firms they take charge of and turn them around. They don't change the production or anything, it's all down to management.
Employees can sometimes force some of the managers to resign, but they're just replaced by someone else, who's just as bad.

In politics in the US for example, the defence secretary may be fired, but he'd just be replaced with someone just like him, just doing the president's job. And if the president doesn't really know what he's doing...

But where can we find these 'lawyers'? In my opinion these are the sort of people we need. Experts in special circles that are listened too, and have to be listened to by law. Most states have such people already, experts, who make suggestions to the government, but the government can either listen to them or ignore them.
In Germany what they have is 'Die fünf Weisen'. Five people who are really good in economics and each year in November they advise the government, which must respond to their suggestions within 8 weeks. But respond just means to say, this is a good idea, we don't like this, etc...
These five people are appointed by the German President (who may be from a different party than the government, although he is not elected democratically) after being suggested to him by the government for just generally being famous economists and having achieved a lot in that area.

I think we need circles like this, which can, if they see fit, demand that their suggestions are subjected to a public vote. That would stop politicians getting in there and messing stuff up. These people normally know what they are talking about and should be listened too, and the population should have a say on things. I think something like this might work very well (although you'd then need to make sure the people in those circles were not members of any party). Specialists would not worry about public opinion, only about making good suggestions, and if the public doesn't like them, they can just reject them.
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Postby klewlis » Sat May 15, 2004 6:07 pm

That is a good idea...

My only reservation then would be whether the values of these experts represent the values of regular Canadians... if they are not elected, but appointed. But it might be worth a shot...
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Postby Emma_85 » Sun May 16, 2004 10:52 am

The problem with them being elected is that basically we might encounter the problem of election promises and election campaigns again, so I'm not too sure about that. Again another problem with electing this body... anyone elected to those bodies could then be said to be a politician. They might not work well together as a team then for example.
When it comes to them not having the same values... that's why I think that people should be able to vote on their suggestions. So if for example they have a really good suggestion to fix a problem, but no one likes the idea because it will mean a step towards a totally capitalist state, away from a welfare one (or the other way round, not too sure what Canadians want), then they can just reject that suggestion. This circle will of course be able to work out that this is the reason why their suggestion was not accepted and maybe next time they will take these values into consideration.
And let's not forget that the parliament will still exist, so if they don't come up with any suggestions the Canadians like, the parliament might. If it turns out that the wrong people have been appointed one year, and all suggestions are rejected, then the elected parliament will be making suggestions discussing them and making them law without referendums.

There are some problems with the system though, for example if we have an education circle made up of teachers. It might prove a bit hard to find the most qualified teachers for that job (we'd need teachers from junior up to university lecturers and a few parents and pupils maybe too, so it's would be a big circle). It may be known in business circles which people are very successful and know a lot about economics, but teachers? The same with other circles...
In the end they might have to be elected by teachers, but the problem is that within one school, each teacher knows the other and they'll probably elect the right one, but then when it comes to a country wide election of teachers... we're back to mere election promises :? .
It would also mean we'd need a secure way to vote online, because you can't expect people to go voting every day (that said you'd need a programme like the one the UK has at the moment, trying to get everyone online by a certain date or free internet connections in the libraries and so on.
If anyone can think of a good system of appointing the people to these circles please make some suggestions.
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Postby Kasper » Mon May 17, 2004 6:40 am

The problem lies with who makes a policy the people want and at the same time has the skill to enforce it? If you stick with a democracy, this means that it will always be a popularity contest, not so much a matter of skill. Would you select people on skill, than how would you ensure a policy is kept that the people want. Running a business is a very different thing from running a country. A business just needs to make a profit to be succesful, but a country has moral obligations. A balance of ideology and pragmatism is very difficult. Apart from that, if people would have to vote on all this stuff they would have to make the effort to keep informed. How can every average joe keep up to date on economic policies &c? Should the policies than be simplified to be explained to the people so they can choose which ever they like? But who says that what they like is good for the country? We'd be down to popularity over skill again.
Apart from all that, would you lenghten the term of a presidentship then you might be stuck with a bad president for a long time. Would you say that they cannot be reelected you could lose a great president too quickly. I suppose we just need the philosopher-king.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby Emma_85 » Mon May 17, 2004 7:39 pm

If people were able to vote on such things, then people would be more interested in politics at least and might make an effort to understand things in detail. Why people don't care about politics now is because they don't feel they're doing anything really. If they get to vote on things and feel their votes make a difference, then they would be more interested in what's going on.

But who says that what they like is good for the country?


Who says what our elected representatives in parliament think up is good for the country? They really do try to just make sure they're re-elected. If they do push through unpopular reforms they'll do it in the first two years in government (assuming elections are every 4 years) and after the magic two years are up - forget it. Only popular things are passed then if they can at all help it. They let things settle for two years and hope we the voters forget, and often we do actually.
Here's an example of a reform that the people might vote for, but the government will not pass: Germany has the worst tax system in the world, only 6 people in the whole of Germany actually understand the tax system! 6 people aren't a lot...
Germany is also swamped with tax-advisers, a very profitable career in Germany, but even they don't really understand the whole system.
If put to the vote people would vote in favour of a reform (one very good one was suggested, but then plucked apart by politicians so now nothing's left of it), which would have simplified the system and made it fairer.
But the government was scared, because they didn't want to infuriate commuters (and others too, but the communters are a good example). At the moment commuters with long commute times receive some sort of tax brakes to make up for paying for their car and petrol, but people living in the cities themselves get nothing even though they are causing less damage to the environment and are paying higher rents.
Everyone would probably loose out on some sort of specially benefit, but in the end people aren't stupid, I hate it when people say: hey, but the voters are stupid and don't know what they are doing. Well, if they are really that stupid then democracy isn't such a good idea now, is it? Fact is most people know what's got to be done and presented with the facts they will even vote for something that will not benefit, even harm them in the short term, if they think it's something that will pay off in the long run and must be done. Everyone knows getting into too much debt is bad and it's better to suffer a bit and save than to just take out more loans, everyone except the government of course. Voters aren't stupid, they may not be able to come up with solutions to problems, but when confronted with the solutions they are able to decide which ones are good ones and which are bad ones.
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Postby Jefferson Cicero » Mon Aug 16, 2004 8:21 am

I agree with Barrius concerning the U.S. system. We need state's rights again and decentralisation of power back to state and local governments. Direct income taxes should be abolished. State authorities and even county sherifs should have the power to arrest and detain federal authorities who abuse their power, violate the constitution and laws pursuant thereto, or otherwise ride roughshod over the local population or individuals. Under no circumstances should the federal government be allowed to 'nationalise' state guards into federal service without the consent of both state legislatures and governors.

As for Canadians, you used to have the advantage of a more decentralised confederal system, which has sadly withered under the march of more and more centralisation of power. I will not make definite statements here because I'm not that familiar with your system or political history, but I think that this centralisation of power and increasing arrogance on the part of your central government may be at the root of Quebec separatism and other separatist movements, say in BC. Over centralisation has caused similar though as yet milder reactions here in the last ten years as well.

The problem in my opinion is universal throughout the Western world: overcentralisation of power into the hands of increasingly arrogant, overbearing, and criminally irresponsible governments run by politicians and bureacrats who seem to lack souls much less concience. Decentralisation, looser forms of confederal government based on the principle of subsidiarity, and dismemberment of large governments through breakups of larger political systems into smaller ones, or secession from them seems to be the best answer I have found for our dilemma. It may not solve all problems but it would help a lot if governments were smaller and less powerful.
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