With PeopleCount, you’ll love politics. You’ll love the experience. In the last two articles, we looked at how politics could be wonderful, and then we looked at the costs. Here, we’ll look at the benefits.
We can have wonderful politics, starting in 6 months.
Wonderful politics by design
Our government was designed, but not our political system. For a long time now, its purpose has been to enable powerful political groups to fight for control of America. That’s what it’s good for- fighting. Not just party against party, but candidate against candidate and even voter against voter.
But a new political system could have a new purpose: Continue reading
Democracy does not exist. Let’s look at some definitions.
Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
We lack Democracy’s: Government-by-the-people
“Government by the people” is a nice phrase. It should mean that the government does what people want. It doesn’t have to always do what a simple majority wants. This is especially true in a constitutional democracy (a republic). But it should always do what a sizable number of citizens wants. In a real democracy, if not even a third of the people want a law, should it be passed?
The 2014 Princeton study found that American government is not democratic at all. They found that since 1980, “mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” Who gets what they want? An elite set of business and wealthy interests.
We lack Democracy’s: Representation
I’ve written previously about how representative democracy isn’t representative. Some of our representatives try to represent us, but to represent us, they’d have to know us. They’d have to listen to us, and we’d have to inform them. These don’t happen well at all. We simply don’t have ways of communicating with them that work.
We need to be able to communicate with them.
They need to be able to hear us.
Besides knowing us, unless we’re lucky enough to elect great people, we’ll need them to be accountable to us. Because they need money to be re-elected, they’re naturally accountable to those who provide money.
Between inability to know us and not being accountable to us, they can not represent us.
The idea of “representation” is just an idea. For the last 240 years, people just assumed that elections would magically cause politicians to represent their constituents.
America could have real Democracy
PeopleCount proposes a system which will deliver both government-by-the-people and true representation. The lynch-pin of this is accountability of politicians to voters. To understand this, you first have to see that Americans are actually blind to the fact that accountability is missing. Then you can move on to the nuts and bolts of the system.
It’s helpful to have a well-developed “Theory of Mind”. We should realize that people with different opinions have a whole world-view that justifies them. And we should get to know their world-views.
Angelos Sofocleous wrote an article: The Need for an Expanded Theory of Mind in an Era of Increasing Polarisation. In it, he recommends that we: “get outside our bubble and, possibly, visit the bubbles of others”.
But what does this mean? Should liberals get a group together and go to the next KKK lecture and understand their world? Should conservatives should go to a Robert Reich lecture? How much good would that really do? We should consider a systemic approach.
A systemic approach
Many on the left and in the center were shocked by the results of the US presidential election. Clearly, many of our “theory of mind” about voters was inaccurate.
Currently, our political system is completely undesigned. It is random. It started from nothing, except some warnings not to form political parties. They quickly formed and it evolved from there.
Today, it is an antagonistic system in which people give their power to groups. The groups then fight for political dominance. They fight for control of society.
Media is mostly for-profit. And the best way to gain an audience is to incite people’s emotion and entertain them, not to expose them to opinions they disagree with. So most people live in “a bubble” of opinions they agree with. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A designed political system
In effect, this is what I’ve done, with the solution to rolled out (someday, if there’s support) on PeopleCount. My original intent was personal- to give up being resigned about politics. But in the end, I saw that resignation is an appropriate response to politics today, though an evil one. That is, accepting resignation is giving in to evil. And in my personal inquiry, I glimpsed a societal solution.
In developing it, I realized I had designed a new political system. The purpose of the system: for citizens to design and built their future together. The key to it is the word “together.”
- Want the mentally ill not to be allowed to have guns, and ensure everyone’s background is checked before buying a gun?
- Want to curb Congressional corruption, such as the “revolving door”, and stopping members of Congress from receiving donations from industries their committees regulate?
- Want increased border security?
- Want single-payer health care?
Designing for a more accurate “theory of mind”
Part of PeopleCount’s design is to have everyone easily know what we all want. PeopleCount’s design is to have something much better than polling, and much more informative. (How well do polls inform us now?)
First, simply knowing that 35% of citizens want a border wall would cause many people to wonder why. Second, a less-publicized feature of the future site is to give you the reasons at your fingertips. Such articles aren’t too difficult to find, but PeopleCount will put them a single click away.
Disclaimer: While PeopleCount is much more than an idea, progress is very slow due to the lack of support and funding. Please help.
Acceptance is not embracing “reality”, it’s embracing “your reality.”
In her April 26, blog post, psychologist Robin Chancer writes great advice about coping emotionally with Trump. But she oversimplifies a bit. She probably does this on purpose, but to me it creates two serious mistakes.
The sin of optimism
She wrote that optimism in bad times is bad, because we’ll be frequently, and seriously disappointed by all the bad stuff that’s happening.
What she didn’t say was that optimism is often a veneer over denial and resignation.
These are ways of avoiding not just the truths that seem to hurt, but many others as well. Some of these are important truths needed for effectively dealing with the problem. Some of these are vital higher truths.
The main “higher truth” is that, as humans, we err. All of our thinking is approximate. By denying what seems bad, we’re denying a truth we don’t like. So we’re both pretending it’s really true, and then hiding it away so we can’t see that it’s actually just our opinion, our interpretation.
Then our denial makes us latch onto a positive truth, for hope. For many, this means getting out of politics. Of course, this is the worst thing we can do- politics needs our voices and certainly our votes in the next primary and general elections.
For others, this means joining the political fight. That’s good, but we’ve then committed to the truth being that we need to fight. Don’t get me wrong- fighting is good. But it’s politics-as-usual. Yes, it’ll probably be a great boon in the next election, but it’s still the same politics-as-usual that got us into the fight.
What’s being covered up is that these positive and negative are what’s possible. Actually, much, much more is possible.
No one need suffer
Robin talks about “radical acceptance.
“How can I just accept these things? They are not okay!” Remember that acceptance is not condoning. To accept is not to say,“This is okay.” It is to say, “This is what is.”
The problem with this definition of “radical acceptance” is that again, people are fooled into thinking they’re accepting what exists. At best, they’re accepting the part of it they can see. Actually, they’re accepting the way they think things are.
This is reflected in an a passage where she quotes Marsha Linehan:
“The path out of hell is through misery.”
While dramatic, this is inaccurate. There is a big difference between pain and misery. It’s often very difficult to see the difference because we get wrapped up in the drama. Misery is a form of suffering. And suffering has been said to be “the human condition.” Yet Buddhism teaches that suffering is due to the ego, the attachment to the meanings that occur to us.
Really, the path out of hell is through pain. When you find yourself suffering, let it go.
Even better, mostly what people call “hell” isn’t real hell. Americans had real consequences when the Trump executive orders about immigration stopped many people from coming back into the country. There were real delays and real expenses. There was even physical pain from not being able to get to medications or return and take care of loved ones in pain.
But suffering was optional. Yes, upsets and misery are normal, but they’re truly optional.
Accept YOUR reality, not THE reality
Here is my correction:
To accept is not to say,“This is okay.” It is to say, “This is my reality.”
First, this is simply more accurate. Trump’s weird tweets continue. If your reality is that they’re abhorrent, then that’s your reality. It’s not mine. To me, we shouldn’t get upset that a mentally ill president is posting weird tweets. We should expect them and laugh. If you want to pretend to be angry to impress people, that’s your choice. If you want to suffer, that’s your choice, too. I don’t.
And I DO have emotional reactions to them. But I accept them as my emotional reactions. They’re part of an emotional reality my brain creates. By accepting that, I get to have a choice of whether to suffer or not. I usually return very quickly to a mentally ill president posting weird tweets.
Acceptance opens up new possibilities
The higher truth is that we are humans with limited ability to understand. Throughout the eons, a few of us have created new possibilities that have allowed humanity to make great strides. What’s possible is always much greater than what we know.
By accepting, “This is my reality,” we are left open to other possibilities outside of our reality.
Robin wrote: “It simply means coming to terms with what is, and with what we cannot control.” Again, that’s wrong.
Better is: “It simply means coming to terms with what seems to exist, and with what we think we cannot control.”
For instance, about politics, we can exert much more control than we know: http://peoplecount.org/how.htm. There are lots of political groups with millions of people. If a fraction of those gave a few dollars to PeopleCount, we could begin to control politics in a mere 4-8 months.
You’re welcome to feel optimistic. But don’t let that stop you from signing up, donating, and getting your friends to do the same.
PeopleCount’s main challenges are two. First, I’m working on it part-time and largely alone. At times I have a person or two tries to help for a few hours per week. What I need is to be able to work on it full-time (that means funding) plus hire a couple of full-time people (more funding).
Second, people are resigned. Some of them turn to optimism as well. Almost everyone believes their own thoughts- “politics is broken”, “politics can’t be fixed,” “all we can do is fight harder.” This prevents most people from even being able to see what PeopleCount offers…
Acceptance: This is how it really seems to me- the reality I should not deny.
Clearly, almost all of America sees no way out of this political fiasco until after the 2018 election, and no way out of Trump’s reign till 2020. We should accept that. At the same time, there are viable solutions for making huge changes much sooner.
Don’t make a healing act of acceptance make you think you see the real truth. Accept that much more is possible than you know. Even wondrous things.
If an “accountability system” could enable citizens to hold politicians accountable, what would it look like?
People spend hours every week on politics, making little difference
Imagine two citizens- Debbie and David. They spend about two and a half hours per week engaging in politics. They spend about 10 minutes twice a day listening to political news during their commutes. About 20 minutes per week of their time on Facebook is spent reading and commenting on political posts. They spend about 30 minutes per week reading political news. Could that time be better spent?
Currently, that time makes almost no difference. No matter what they learn or say or share on Facebook, they only have two ways to make a difference- vote and write letters. When they vote, they choose a candidate who seems most aligned with their positions. If they write letters, they rarely get a decent or timely answer and it seems not to matter.
With the right system, they could hold politicians accountable
Imagine designing a system that would make part of that involvement make a real difference. Imagine in that time, they could actually hold their congressional representatives and senators accountable. Even the president! What would such a system look like?
Most people simply think, “it’s impossible.” But that’s thinking “inside the box”. Yes, it’s very clear that it’s impossible, in our current thinking. Otherwise we’d be doing it!
Yet much more is possible than we know. People respond and react to their environment. If we designed a system to do the above, what would it let us do?
300 million people, two good ideas
America has about 250 million adults. I’ve come up with an effective design for an accountability system. One other person has come up with a promising design, though in my estimation it’ll have a lesser effect. In all fairness, it’s designed to improve politics, not to fix it.
Adopt a new perspective
The purpose of this article is to give you a new perspective. It’s very, very uncommon to even consider that our political system is fixable, much less that a solution exists.
If you’re capable of thinking a new thought, take this on: Fixing our political system is possible, and the solution is outside our normal thinking. Eventually it’ll be done, and you’ll look back and say, “Wow- I was blind to that whole problem. I was completely blind to the possibility of a solution.”
Be hungry for a political accountability system
Something you don’t know is on the horizon. You can make a huge difference in making it a reality, but first you’ll have to consider that it’s possible. Be open-minded. Be curious. Even better, be hungry for the details.
About 7 months ago, Ben Rattray, a founder of Change.org, wrote an article about some ideas for how tech could help politics. Unfortunately, they weren’t well developed. They were not solutions.
How Tech Fixed Search
Imagine it was 1990 and there were no good search engines yet. People spout ideas like, “We need more people searching,” “We need better communication,” “We need trustworthy information.” Those thoughts did not create a search engine.
Then someone says, “What if we made information easy to submit and readily available, so people can type in a phrase and get good information back quickly.”
This specifies what people do. People with information post it to the web. Users type. And the system returns good information quickly.
The analysis of what that makes possible is lengthy. But the description is short. And the messages are succinct. To searchers, “Quickly find what you’re looking for.” To people who want to be found, “We’ll find you.”
After this, search engine teams could focus on doing a good job building it.
How tech has failed politics
Politics is a much more involved thing. It’s purpose isn’t to give trusted information or to elect good people or to enable people to compete for office or for parties to compete for power. The purpose of politics isn’t to get more people to vote or be involved. But these are what systems (companies and consultants and web sites and organizations) offer. So these efforts don’t make much of a difference in politics.
Besides working on the wrong things, tech didn’t do what many in tech are good at- identifying and solving problems. Instead, founders like Ben assumed their understanding of politics was sufficient, even though they didn’t have a solution. It’s not Ben’s fault- he’s been like everyone else, doing the best he can. But more is needed.
With the exception of PeopleCount, no one has proposed a viable system. Change.org offers petitions, but they mostly seem to do nothing. “Make your voice heard” isn’t a solution. There are others that have tried, AmericansElect, Brigade, Simpolfy and Countable. But none have thought through to a whole solution.
What’s the purpose of politics?
The purpose of politics is to “enable the members of a society to collectively achieve important human goals they cannot otherwise achieve individually. … politics procures safety, order and general welfare within the state.”
There are all sorts of ways of doing this, but America want one that’s democratic within the bounds allowed by our Constitution, guaranteeing certain rights and liberties.
One solution, the one proposed by PeopleCount, is a system whereby politicians are accountable to citizens. I’ve written a lot about accountability. And I’ve created a succinct description of what a solution looks like:
Citizens vote on issues to express themselves and be counted. They see the results so they can form expectations of what they want and what’s possible. They request accountability on the issues important to them. Politicians regularly report to them. Citizens grade them and share the grades.
There’s much more to the details, included trusted information and deliberative democracy and crowdsourcing topics, issues, and questions. But this is a robust beginning. Working on this will allow tech to fix politics.
PeopleCount is leading the effort with an entire design of an MVP complete with a growth plan, marketing partners and sustainable financing. But we’re currently 1 guy with a full-time job, so it’s going slowly.
What’s needed is to invest in this area.
I turn 60 today. All I’ve wanted for the last 5 years is to work on PeopleCount full time, with a competent partner. We could have it launched in 6 months.
I’ve tried tons of other things, including working on it alone, paying for offshore people and teams, paying for remote help nearby. They don’t work.
I keep slipping into the depths of depression. Unlike most people, the truth for me is that “reality” is an illusion. So the depression, the hopelessness, the attraction of death are all illusions. They’re not as easy to let go of as switching off a TV, but they’re still illusions.
And of course, I keep hauling my ass into work and plugging my brain into projects that promise to make much, much less difference. I keep paying my bills and doing chores and pretend like my little life and family and possessions and job matter. It’s all illusion…
People tell me to “enjoy a drink”, “take your family out for dinner”. Please stop. I don’t give a rats ass about those things. I want to stay healthy mainly to work on PeopleCount, but also to avoid suffering. Other than that, I don’t care what I eat. I don’t want to sit and chat about trivial crap and pretend that I care about your petty concerns. I easily care about them, but only at the expense of the future.
Compared to the future PeopleCount offers us, the future we’re drifting into is shit.
“I” have all sorts of petty concerns. So many people have made me promises and not kept them. So many people have replied to my letters and requests with silence. Why? For a host of tiny, personal reasons, the echoes of stupid non-thoughts, irresponsible notions that cross their minds and control their actions.
People guard their money, their connections, their time as if they’re doing something worthwhile with it. The result is the world you see around you. Enjoy.
At times I want to say: If you give a damn about me, read my blog, put your email address on PeopleCount’s announcement list, add a supportive comment on the Facebook page, and make a donation.
But I don’t care about me. Do those things if you care about your life, the lives of others, the future of the next generations, or if you give a damn about the planet.
You’re welcome to do it for any reason you want. For instance, if you want me not to think you’re a complete idiot. That’s the reality I live in these years. People are stupid and blind, preoccupied with their own survival and their petty concerns.
A few of you are not. Of my 685 “friends” on Facebook and the 1004 connections on LinkedIn, about 6 have donated to PeopleCount and about a dozen seem to supportive.
I’ve written about 370 blog entries. The people who care about me read them. I’ll bet fewer than a dozen people have read more than one. I could put it into more dramatic terms, but fuck that. I’m not interested in entertaining you with drama.
Currently, our political mess is the result of a system of politics where the parties compete for power. PeopleCount is a system that will make politics be a system in which we design our future together. We CAN solve our problems. We CAN reverse climate change and build a prosperous and healthy world. But the chances of accomplishing it without PeopleCount are very, very slim. With PeopleCount, it’s virtually guaranteed.
- I summoned the courage to give up working. Twice.
- I found ICount as a partner.
- I developed the biggest list on the internet of government-transformation sites
- I talked to all of the founders that would take my calls.
- I built a prototype with very compromised technology
- I stepped up to “become a visionary”
- I reached many groups and tor their agreement to send many millions of members to PeopleCount when it launches
- I spent many, many nights and weekends reaching lots of people and talking with them
- I actually listened to them
- I contacted and met with a political author
- After he gave a talk, I gave billionaire Tom Steyer a 1-minute pitch. He said it sounded promising and gave me his card. No one ever answered his phone or returned any of about a hundred phone messages and emails.
- I was contacted by the UN and met with a guy- he’s interested once it’s up and running- the UN wants a way to represent people, not just governments.
- I spent some money on marketing help, got some articles published and learned about marketing consultants.
- Developed very promising marketing and launch plans
- Let it go after 8 months and found a job in 2013
- Continuing to work on it in the background
- Took it up full time again in 2015
- Came up with a key improvement, and later, a post-MVP killer feature
- Found a partner, worked through most of the details,
- Was heartbroken when he bailed, but didn’t give up,
- Handled severe, episodic depression since 2016, never gave in to the cynical meaning of the emotions, but accepted that severe failure effects the mind.
- Committing to work with a business coach for a year
- Began regular blogging
- Tried to build MVP (first product) using offshore help
- Found 2 real partners, one to manage the offshore team
- Wasn’t stopped when the offshore team proved dishonest
- Found a team with good references
- Took over the everything when one partner was in a car accident and the other was consumed by a divorce,
- Fired team 2 when they proved to be incompetent
- Tried a third team and fired them quickly for dishonesty.
- Found a fourth team and worked with them
- Built and rebuild much of the code myself, including learning 3 new technologies
- Let team 4 go when they reached their limit and couldn’t deliver what was promised
- Searched for others who could pick up the work and tried some consultants
- Found a 5th team- two Americans
- Let them go when they insisted on changing the tech, but cut huge corners on the functionality
- Kept successfully handling the depression
- Gave up when the election became too close to launch
- Continued to blog (370 articles are published on the blog)
- Found a new job
- Continue to work on PeopleCount nights and weekends, without a break
- Found new people to work with
- Constantly maturely handle people not keeping their word.
- Keep reaching out