Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Meta-Politics 3: Objectives

Meta-Politics 3: Objectives

Part one of this series discussed Meta-Party principles, and then principles we would apply to reforming government.

Part two discussed the opportunity we have right now and laid out the basic methods.

In the comments to part two, adolfo velasquez asked for examples of what such a group might accomplish, outside of Porkbusters. By chance, that is tonight's topic.

Porkbusters is a good example of the type of thing the Meta-Party would concern itself with and the methods it would use. Let's add a few things: Proven reformers would be helped with research, letter writing campaigns, campaign fundraising, re-election assistance (signs, pamphleteering, etc.), and in any other way the Meta-Party could support them. Proven opponents of reform would be hounded and hindered in every legal way.

So, what else would we attempt to do?

Our four principles for government are transparency, comprehensibility, accountability, and effectiveness.

Porkbusters is a good example of an effort toward transparency. Another goal would be the elimination of secret holds, or secret anything unless it supported reform in some way1. Another would be getting all the government records possible online. Another would be re-starting the effort to declassify classified documents more than 50 years old, which Clinton mismanaged and Bush simply ended. Yet another would be strengthening free speech. Also, simply publicizing what's already reported and making sure key information has an impact, typical reporter / blogger functions, would be part of this.

Toward comprehensibility, Clinton's initiative to require all legislation be in plain English, banning legalese, would be one effort. Another would be to require summaries of all bills to accompany their publication, including all amendments, etc., and that this be put online immediately. Another would be to require both House and Senate to wait a minimum of one day for each 20 pages of a bill before voting on it to give everyone time to read it, with an exception clause in the case of national emergency.

Efforts toward accountability are a bit more complicated to explain, so I'll put them in a list format.

1. Politicians and government employees who commit a crime in office haven't just committed a crime, they have damaged the public's trust in government. My suggestion would be to work for tacking on something like 'breach of public trust' and a mandatory two years in prison (no plea bargains, etc.) for any politician or government employee convicted of committing a felony while in office.
2. Make party leaders in Congress more accountable by flattening the heirarchy within each house of Congress. There is no reason a long-term congressman should have significantly more power than a new one, for the same reason that one set of constituents shouldn't have far more representation than another set.
3. Make bureaucrats more accountable, meaning easier to fire if they obstruct policy. Allow the President and Congress to request investigations of leaks, with leakers forfeiting all contract rights and liable to criminal prosecution. At the same time, strengthen whistleblower laws to protect government employees from abuse.
4. I would also like to make the judiciary more accountable, but I haven't looked into reasonable ideas to do this, and that's probably a dangerous area to go into.

Finally, toward effectiveness, legislation should be put in terms of effect whenever practical. For example, on securing the border, 370 miles of fencing and doubling the Border Patrol are efforts, not effects. It would be better for legislation to include something like 'reduce illegal border crossings by 90%.' This, however, is probably the hardest thing to really know. Luckily, the government itself has agencies that assess such things, and there are other organizations that do as well. Until the Meta-Party could pay for expert studies to be done, publicizing agency and other organization studies on the effects of proposed legislation would be one way to approach this.

As you can see, I'm a bit short of ideas on effectiveness, and I haven't developed any of these ideas. Obviously, a lot of research, study, and thought will have to go into this. I've just started my thoughts on the Meta-Party, but I think it has promise. Any comments?


1For example, in voting for committee heads, a public vote would be nice, but would also allow Democratic and Republican party leaders to punish party members who voted against the leadership's choice. In situations like this, secret ballots would be acceptable.

Update 6/8/07: Part four is here.

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