Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Fri Oct 19 17:49:07 2007
Relative Mandates
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I've been thinking about ways to formalise a government system with relative mandates - I recently have come to see that if we are to take democracy as a good (which I generally do not but am willing to do so for the purpose of some thought experiments), a relative mandate may act as a way to both encourage fuller voter participation (as while being the largest bloc or not still is a threshold, more votes for it still may have an effect) and partly diminish the effects of gerrymandering. One disadvantage I can immediately see is that it increases the duties of the "Constitutional" part of a "Constitutional Republic" - by shifting the ease of government of the largest bloc (or party, in a non-bloc system), we need to have a more fluid notion of the "realm of democratic consideration", and that would require a less or non-political buffer for management. We have mechanisms like that in majority-mandate systems, although they're partly invisible and generally low-profile (the entire Judiciary in the United States survives behind such a buffer, the nonelected civil-bureaucracy of each branch behind an even stronger buffer). There may be interesting costs relating to public support and notions of legitimacy involved in administering a more fluid mandate (allegations of corruption and favouritism, well-founded or not, for starters).

On the chance you have no idea what I'm talking about, the basic idea is that the degree to which a bloc/party enjoys popular support, which for now we'll assume to be as measured through elections, could be used to adjust the ease of their ability to wield/alter the mechanisms of the state. A bloc that is elected with 83% approval might have wide-ranging powers to reform the government while one that has 52% approval might have significantly less ability to change things. A minority government (in electoral systems that permit such a thing) would have very little power.

Here's a sketch of a way such a system might work. We'll assume a coalition government with plenty of political parties, a minimum party size for participation in coalitions of a tenth of one percent, and that the government (but not the state, obviously (I am using the British political terms here)) would dissolve whenever a new coalition that is composed of more of parliament than the present one forms or when a coalition breaks to the point where it is smaller than an existing party/bloc. We'll further assume that minority governments are permitted in the system (with the obvious restraint that no other bloc/party enjoy greater support). Details of replacement of MPs and dissolution of parliament are not important for this thought experiment. We'll further assume a parliamentary system with no president, the PM being chosen by the bloc in government, and a division in offices between state offices (which are significantly more independent and less politically mutable) and government offices (which are closer to the party in government). Unlike the British system, the position of PM is assumed to be codified into law.

We'll define a diminished government as one consisting of 45.0% or less of parliament, a partial government as one with more support than a diminished but less than 65%, and a unity government as one with greater support than a partial government.

Under a diminished government, state departments are strongly independent from the bloc in government, requiring a supermajority of 70% support in Parliament for any kind of intervention (which may be broken apart by bureaucratic department heads, a la "line item", and accepted/rejected by Parliament in that form or further challengable by plebiscite called by either). Government departments are reasonably independent from the bloc in government in a diminished government, their officials replacable or directives given only with a 60% supermajority of parliament (although with 50% approval, direct elections for these positions can be called). Diminished PMs lack the authority to sign treaties without full consultation of Parliament (with 60% approval), generally lack other privileges/roles assigned to the PM under stronger governments, and at any other state functions, any shadow government(s) with at least 10% representation have the right to have their delegate "shadow PM" present in situations requiring the PM.

Under a partial government, state departments are reasonably independent from the bloc in government, requiring 55% support for any kind of intervention. Government departments are directed by the bloc in government (although the heads of such departments may hold a plebicite up to once every year asking for independence and election of an independent head until the next change of government), with their leaders otherwise replacable and directives given. PMs under a partial government have the ability to sign short-term treaties (covering their span in government) without congressional approval, and with 55% approval of Parliament may sign longer-term treaties.

Under a unity government, state departments are largely subservient to the bloc in government, with the option for a plebicite for independence and election of an independent head holdable once every two years. PMs under a unity government have the ability to sign treaties with a 1-month opportunity for parliament to either reject/nullify those treaties or close that period for reconsideration. Unity governments have the ability to introduce legislation to significantly change state institutions, requiring a 65% supermajority for such changes to be accepted.

In any case, that's a pretty bare sketch of a possibility - if we wanted to go further we might make gradations within each category and possibily remove the hard lines, in order to have a more fluid incentive for greater participation in voting.

Dances to Bhangra music in movies and on MTV often give me the impression that they're demos for the human body. Amusement: Playing depressing darkwave music at faster-than-normal-speeds. Imagine the Chipmunks singing "End of Days" by VNV Nation (although I normally don't speed it up quite *that* much). There are a lot of types of music that feels like it's too slow at its native speed - there were a few years when I had my music players configured to play everything 20% faster than default..

Work irritation: Dealing with scoping in the dialect of BASIC we use for psychology experiments - because we have to use the code generator for the basic shape of the experiment, each code snippet has to import/export its variables from the "scope level" it's called from (dynamic rather than lexical scope). Unfortunately, this dialect seems to lack references and does shadow-and-copy-on-write (for logging and related reasons) when writes to variables defined in a higher scope are attempted. I am unaware of languages that allow one to walk through variable shadows without pointers (it would be kind of strange to hook variables together by name to allow this.. but not unimaginable) (oh, and please pretend I made some awesome reference to Zelazny's Amber here). I'm reminded how much I dislike BASIC and wish it would be kosher to write the scanner part of my experiment in Perl or C..

I've been thinking about writing a new shell to play around with some oddball ideas I've had on other ways shells could work, possibly writing wrappers and/or replacements for a number of standard unix utilities. I'd like to have more flexibility/power to manage the data programs generate - things like always saving the output of the last few commands (even if huge) for easy summary/retrieval/piping onward, having structured "profiles" for programs that can be queried by other programs (can you output in a different format? what are your arguments so I can better tab-complete for you? Let's have agreements on variants of the STDIN/STDOUT/STDERR trio that C programs normally deal with), and a few other things that go a bit beyond what's possible/easy in the standard environment would be nice.

Solitude continues... Life doesn't feel very real. Schrödinger's Pat - exists?