The Timesizing Program for automating full employment is focused squarely on the top-priority problem of our lifetimes, joblessness (or 'unemployment'), the solution to which eases more other huge world problems (e.g., poverty, hunger, disease...) than any other single point of attack. Our five solution-phases (see Quick Reference at bottom) are focused on the public sector. The reasons for this are that the public-sector half of the program is more structured and easy to understand, and also, in 1940 after 150 years of shrinking it, we froze the workweek and switched from private-sector worksharing to government job creation and war. Thus, though America unfortunately refocused on the wrong kind of problem-solving initiatives, it did refocus on public-sector initiatives, and that focus remains alive and well to this day, as demonstrated by the neo-con regime of Bush Jr. If we started the Timesizing program today, we might have a good 50 years of private-sector changes before we'd be ready for the public-sector stage. But familiarity with the five-phase, public-sector stage would ease our way through the less structured private-sector stage.
The electronic democracy phase is Phase One of the first half of the Timesizing Program, the public-sector stage. It involves direct democracy, where issues are brought directly to the voters in binding public referendums and citizen initiatives. This can and should be combined with instant run-off voting (see *Center for Voting & Democracy and *IRVwa.org). Currently as of 2004, "only two states, Maine and Nebraska, don't have a winner-take-all system for Electoral College votes" according to "As Maine goes," 8/27/2004 WSJ, A4. However, a number of American cities currently have a runoff system, such as Cambridge, Mass. and now, a "new runoff system in San Francisco has rival candidates cooperating" according to Dean Murphy in 9/30/2004 NYT, A16. Two books on direct democracy are Lawrence K. Grossman's "Electronic Republic: Reshaping Democracy in the Information Age," and Abraham, Arterton & Orren's "Electronic Commonwealth: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Democratic Politics". Another resource is *Verified Voting's website.
Referendums and initiatives are already practiced in many American cities and states, foremost being Oregon. It took Colorado just one voter initiative to embrace windpower in 2004 after the energy plan failed three times in the Legislature (see "Coloradans vote to embrace alternative sources of energy," 11/24/2004 NYT, A13). It took Cambridge, Mass., a number of voter initiatives to get itself a bottle-return bill in the 1980s and 90s that finally succeeded. In Cincinnati, an antitax group headed by former city-council candidate John Kruse recently submitted a petition calling for a ballot measure to eliminate the city's property tax (see "Ohio: Push for tax referendum," 8/25/2004 NYT, A20). At the state level, California recently had a recall referendum to get rid of its Democratic governor (Grey Davis) while the Massachusetts legislature led by 'Democratic' dictator Tom Finneran is still ignoring a referendum-based campaign-finance-reform mandate from its citizens. The 2004 election saw a further spreading of referendums; see "Voters face ballots loaded with key issues - Gay marriage, stem-cell research questions are among the 163 measures in 34 states" and "Rising property taxes across U.S. lead to a slew of ballot initiatives," both on 10/25/2004 WSJ, A4.
Internationally, the *Swiss have practiced direct democracy on the federal level for decades by voting four times a year on issue-oriented referendums - see Oswald Sigg's informative booklet, "Switzerland's Political Institutions" and John Kenneth Galbraith's "Age of Uncertainty" (Chap.12). The Swiss experience rebuts the objection that direct democracy cannot be used with very large populations. What 7.2 million Swiss can do, 280 million Americans can do, especially with the computer advances of the last few decades. Note recent referendum, "Swiss back stem-cell research" (AP via WSJ 11/29/2004, B2).
Referendums are popping up all over the world on all kinds of issues, especially emotionally charged ones; for example,
Emotionally charged issues are popping up on referendums in the USA, since it's easier for citizens to express a non-politically correct view on a secret ballot than for a representative to express such a view in public in Congress, for example, "Arizona limits illegal immigrants' access to benefits," by Miriam Jordan, WSJ 11/04/2004, A4. But then there's the confrontation of powerful economic interests that congressmen aren't eager to take on at all, for example, "Voters force Colorado utilities to use renewable resources," by Rebecca Smith, WSJ 11/04/2004, A4.
One skill required in referendum democracy is the crafting of non-directive questions. The dangers are illustrated by a headline, "Gay marriage opinions depend on how the question is asked," 3/12/2004 WSJ, A4. The approach also requires issue-mapping "decision trees" so that ballot alternatives are 'all on the same page' and not scattered, separated and out-of-communication on different branchings of issue logic. This requires the little-understood skill of surfacing and articulating a complete decision tree in each issue area so that voters can all converge "on the same page" and not flounder in completely non-overlapping frames of reference. A recent private-sector example of voting "up the decision tree" was the headline, "Procter & Gamble Co. - Shareholders asked to vote on how board will be elected," 6/17/2004 WSJ, B8.
*Buckminster Fuller's vision of 24-hour telephone referendums is a form of electronic democracy. The *Voting By Phone, group in Boulder, Colorado, is an advocacy group in this area. We can now add voting by email. The *Initiative and Referendum Institute in Washington DC is tracking the progress of the whole approach.
There are naturally debugging issues with this new technology, anticipated by Stalin's statement that it doesn't matter who casts the votes, it only matters who counts them. But this can be said of bank deposits too and that hasn't stopped us from computerizing banking. This kind of issue in the voting area is reflected in numerous recent NYT and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) articles. And now Bev Harris's book, *Black Box Voting, highlights hundreds of voting errors, large and small, in each American election, and Laurel Greenberg's film *Trouble in Paradise focuses on Floriduh.
There are also mounting pressures to implement direct democracy in American corporate governance in the wake of scandals like Enron and WorldCom. A full-page ad by CalPERS and others in 9/25/2003 WSJ p.C8A advocates "open access to director elections" for long-time shareholders.
In American politics, direct democracy seems to be expanding gradually each year as a second battlefront beside the campaign-finance-reform front, which seems to have stalled (see "Wile Reform Coyotes," editorial, 8/09/2003 WSJ, A16, which states, "The US Supreme Court...Justices attempt to make sense of a divided lower court's 1,700-page review of last year's McCain-Feingold bill [and] the reform itself is already imploding from its own illogic."). The idea that we can gain any real progress with a "representative" democracy that is concentrating wealth beyond imagination and sliding back into plutocracy is a "yeah, suuure," considering PACs, lobbyists, direct-mail technology, the consolidation of media ownership, the confusion of political donations with free speech on the part of our own Supreme Court, and the curious inability of our current "representatives" at all levels to design and enact campaign-finance reform. Every system needs feedback, and the top income brackets of this country have nibbled up so much decision-making power and money, that they can totally insulate themselves from any negative consequences of any decisions they make. This is not a feedback system, and it's not a formula for long-term stability and growth.
Two deep-structure issues we need to address with referendums as soon as possible are -
Quick Reference. The five phases of the public-sector stage of the Timesizing program (bear in mind there's a long private-sector stage preceding this) are:
6.=new 1. If the public doesn't want to squeeze imports immigrants or births, we move on to the next program, "Paysizing," and go through the same private and public sector stages of 5 phases apiece with "income and poverty" instead of "employment and joblessness".
For more details, see our campaign piece alias social-software manual, Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available from *Amazon.com online.
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