Blockchain Government – Part 1: Breaking Down the Existing System

Hi Everyone,

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One of the most potentially interesting applications of the blockchain is to National and State governance. A significant incorporation of the blockchain in existing political systems would be close to impossible. Therefore, the existing political system would need significant reform. This reform would need to take place in terms of role and function as well as how Government is formed. I have put together a two-part series on the possible creation of a blockchain Government (i.e. a form of governance that features the blockchain). In Part 1, I am focusing on possible changes to the existing system to facilitate the adoption of the blockchain. An important aspect of these changes is to reduce the extent of power and influence people at the top of Government and beyond have over decisions.

There are several different political structures in the world. Representative democracy is predominant in many western societies. Many representative democracies operate as a two-party system. A two-party system normally involves leadership bouncing backwards and forwards between two major parties. There are often smaller parties but they normally have limited representation.

Most representative democracies have a separation of powers. This separation is typically broken down into three branches. These are the executive branch, legislative branch and judiciary branch. The executive branch is in charge of running the country. The legislative branch makes laws and approves budgets. The judiciary branch interprets the law. These roles can vary for different countries and there is normally some overlap in responsibility and control. The separation of powers is intended to prevent any person or group of people holding too much power. However, the application of the separation of powers does not appear to have been successful at restricting centralisation of power.

The system breeds a perennial two-party dominance

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For the blockchain to play a more significant role in the governance of a country, the two-party political system needs to be removed. The two-party political system cannot be brought to an end by simply adding more parties. The new parties would not be able to compete with the established parties. Even if one new party started to become competitive, it would be pulling more votes from one of the dominant parties. In order to gain ground on the party that lost less votes, people would either choose the new party or revert to their original party. Hence, the two-party system would return.

Even if there were a complete reset, where there were many parties with similar popularity, the two-party system would return. This is because similar parties would merge to gain an advantage in attempt to become the dominant party. To combat this dominance, people will switch allegiance to the party most likely to end the dominance of the dominant party. The top two parties will pull away from the rest of the parties and we will return to a two-party system.

Breaking the Two Party System

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For the blockchain to play a significant role in governance, the existing political systems need to be changed. The first step involves ending the dominance of just two parties. I believe there are three courses of action that, if combined, could end two party dominance as well as prevent it from re-emerging. My recommended courses of action would be to abolish parties, change the voting system, and change the nature of political campaigning and candidate exposure.

Abolish Parties

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A direct approach to ending a two-party system is to abolish parties. Instead, all elected officials would be considered as independent candidates. These independent candidates would form the Government. These elected officials would have equal authority. Decisions would be made based on consensus. I would recommend that Government becomes an administration branch rather consisting of executive and legislative branches; therefore, a head or heads of Government would not be necessary. I believe leadership should be based on expert consensus. I will explain these ideas later in this post as well as in Part 2.

I would recommend maintaining or establishing (if not currently done) a two-house system (lower and upper houses); this is practiced with the legislative branch in some countries. A two-house system would further dilute control and reduce the chances of any group of people gaining too much power. These two houses would need to have different election cycles to prevent prevailing ideologies taking hold in both houses at the same time.

Changing the voting system

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Abolishing parties would not prevent the creation of two candidate systems within individual consistencies and electorates. A small-scale two-candidate dominance could lead to a greater chance of two party (informal) influence on a national/state scale. Two-candidate dominance can be reduced if the voting system is changed.

The first-past-the-post voting system, strongly favours a two-party system. This is because each person has only one vote and are unable to express any preferences for other parties or candidates. Therefore, people are likely to vote for a candidate/party they believe has a reasonable chance of winning, even though, there could be other candidates/parties they prefer.

A preferential voting system could prevent two candidates/parties dominating the field. This is because people will be able to vote for more than one candidate. I believe the two fairest preferential voting systems are the Condorcet and Borda count voting systems. In my post 'First-Past-The-Post Vs Preferential Voting Systems', I discuss and compare several different voting systems.

Condorcet Voting System


The Condorcet voting system compares preference votes based on theoretical one-on-one elections between all possible pairs of candidates. For example, if a person choose candidate A as their third preference and Candidate B as their fourth or lower preference, the Condorcet voting system would count that vote in favour of Candidate A in a one-on-one comparison with Candidate B. If the person had chosen Candidate B as their first or second preference, the Condorcet voting system would count that vote in favour of Candidate B. If a candidate is favoured over all other candidates based on the one-on-one comparisons, that candidate wins. Table 1 contains an example where Candidate C is preferred over the other three candidates when preference votes are compared one-on-one.

Table 1: Winner selected using Condorcet voting system

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The Condorcet voting system has several key advantages over first-past-the-post systems.

  • It allows voters to display preferences between some or all of the candidates
  • People will not feel compelled to vote based on popularity of candidates. If there is a candidate they want to vote against, they can preference them last or not at all.
  • The inclusion of more candidates does not split the votes between similar candidates.

The Condorcet voting system has a few disadvantages as to why it is difficult to implement.

  • Vote counting is more complicated and time consuming.
  • The Condorcet voting system does not always produce a clear winner. If this is the case, alternative criteria for winning is required.
  • Magnitude of preference for one-on-one comparisons between candidates is not considered.

The vote counting problem can easily be resolved if votes are recorded on a blockchain. The blockchain can be coded to summate and calculate all comparisons between candidates once voting has closed. If the code is correct, these results will be 100% accurate.

For the second problem, alternative criteria will be necessary to determine the winner. The alternative criteria may also help with the third problem.

Borda Count Voting System


Like the Condorcet voting system, the Borda Count voting system also relies on preference voting. The voting process can be identical to the Condorcet voting system (i.e. people rank candidates based on preference). The key difference is how the winner is determined. For the Borda count voting system, each preference is awarded a certain number of points. For example, first preference is awarded 4 points, second preference is awarded 3 points, third preference is awarded 2 points, fourth preference is awarded 1 point, and all other preferences are awarded 0 points. The candidate with the most points wins. Table 2 contains results based on the voting used to determine the results in Table 1. Table 2 contains the average points per candidate (assuming all voters exercised all preference votes; in reality a total point score would be shown instead) and the number of first preference votes. First preference vote percentages have been included to demonstrate how results can vary with different voting systems. In this example, we assume the voting system does not dictate voting tendencies.

Table 2: Winner selected using Borda count voting system

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The Borda count voting system has several key advantages over first-past-the-post systems.

  • It allows voters to display preferences between some or all of the candidates
  • People will feel less compelled to vote based on popularity of candidates. If there is a candidate they strongly dislike, they can preference them last or not at all. However, this could be manipulated; explained later in section.
  • Points system enables voters to demonstrate magnitude of preference between various candidates.

Like with the Condorcet voting system, vote counting for the Borda count voting system will be long and tedious if conventional vote counting is used. However, the blockchain can also address this problem. The Borda count voting system has an advantage over the Condorcet voting system, as a winner can always be determined without the need for additional criteria.

My biggest concern with the Borda count voting system is that it can be manipulated. People who oppose one of the popular candidates could choose to preference them last and preference their favourite candidate or the candidate who poses greatest opposition first. I would not expect this behaviour to be as dominant as in a first-past-the-post system but it is still likely to occur. Table 3 contains the hypothetical data I used for the examples in this post.

Table 3: Votes for all combinations of preference for an election with 4 candidates

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Proposed Solution


Both the Condorcet and Borda count voting systems would be a significant improvement over first-past-the-post systems. However, they are both flawed. I would consider Condorcet voting system slightly superior as it better addresses the problem of domination by two candidates or camps of candidates. My proposed solution involves using both systems. The blockchain could make this possible by being able to instantly produce results using both systems. The Condorcet voting system could be used as the primary system. If an outright winner is determined with the Condorcet criterion, the Borda count results are not necessary. If the Condorcet voting system does not produce an outright winner, the Borda count voting system would be used as the tiebreaker. The two can easily be used together, as the requirements from the voter is the same for both systems.

Candidate Exposure

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The media as well as campaign donations and funding further assist the two-party system. The parties and candidates with the most exposure and highest funding have a huge advantage over the competition. Typically, just two parties and candidates receive the most exposure and the most access to funds. I suggest that this is changed so that all candidates are put on an equal footing. Such changes could include:

  • All relevant candidates invited to debates.
  • Celling on total value of private donations to each candidate.
  • Candidates are required to pay a participation fee to legitimise candidacy or candidates are determined based on accomplishments, see Part 2 for more information.
  • Equal State funding of legitimate candidates.
  • Local press required to cover campaigns of all legitimate candidates.
  • Mainstream Media to be heavily fined for excessive coverage of any candidates.

I would recommend that a commission is set up to ensure that legitimate candidates are given the opportunity for equal exposure.

Representative Democracy

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I argued in my post 'Raise your hand if you live in a Democracy' that representative democracy is not democracy at all. I also argued in my post 'Could democracy succeed if it was given a chance?' that direct democracy could not succeed on a large scale. This leaves us in a position where no form of democracy appears effective or practical. I believe the blockchain could lead us to a new form of democracy. So far, in this post, I have discussed how we can put an end to the two-party system. However, if no further changes are made, representative democracy will remain. Therefore, I suggest a partial form of representative democracy. The elected officials would manage and help implement decisions made through an alternative means. This alternative means would make use of the blockchain to make decisions based on consensus. Some of these decisions will be made based on expert consensus, some based on public consensus and some based on a combination of the two. I will discuss this possible usage of the blockchain in Part 2 of this two part series.

Conclusion

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In Part 1, I have focused on making significant changes to the existing political system to facilitate the inclusion of the blockchain in national or state decision-making. The changes could be considered as quite radical. These changes would not be popular with any sitting Government, opposition to Government (i.e. party that came second in the election), or the mainstream media. If we continue to participate in the system, as it is currently designed, we will not see changes that will improve it, as the system works well for those running it. A strong message needs to be sent that the system does not work for the people and it needs to be changed. This message can be sent in several ways. Below are a few examples.

  • Do not participate in obvious two-party/candidate elections.
  • Stop or limit time spent watching mainstream media.
  • Support alternative media that is genuinely trying to present reality.
  • Stop or limit support of online communities or social media that censor alternative opinions.
  • Join online communities and social media that support freedom of speech (e.g. Hive DApps).
  • Support peaceful rallies and protests that reject excessive Government control.
  • Casually spread the word about how the system is broken to friends and family.

If enough people stop supporting the broken system, the system will change. This will give us an opportunity to contribute to that change. Our collective efforts can build a much better system than the one we have now.

Coming in Part Two

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Part 1 has introduced the use of the blockchain as an instrument to enable the use of preferential voting systems. The blockchain could have a much greater role. In Part 2, I will discuss many other applications of the blockchain in relation to National and State governance. Below are some of the possible applications I will be discussing.

  • Used as a tool to quickly reach decisions based on consensus.
  • Identifying problems and solutions.
  • Identifying experts who can contribute possible solutions to identified problems.
  • Linking of expertise across various fields.
  • Rewarding the public and experts for participating in governance.
  • Decentralising power and control so that no groups have control over significant portions of the system.
  • Funding mechanism for social projects.
  • Immutable compilation of documents, opinions, evidence, statistics, etc., which can be used for transparent decision-making.

These are just some of my initial ideas. In Part 2, I will expand, modify, and add to these ideas. I will also revisit these ideas later as they are quite raw and feedback can be used to refine or change them.

If you want to read more about my ideas relating to the the blockchain, I suggest that you read my post 'The Blockchain Economy'. In this post, I outline many possible uses of blockchain technology and I explain how it can transform the economy and society.


More posts

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If you want to read any of my other posts, you can click on the links below. These links will lead you to posts containing my collection of works. These 'Collection of Works' posts have been updated to contain links to the Hive versions of my posts.

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My New CBA Udemy Course

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The course contains over 10 hours of video, over 60 downloadable resources, over 40 multiple-choice questions, 2 sample case studies, 1 practice CBA, life time access and a certificate on completion. The course is priced at the Tier 1 price of £20. I believe it is frequently available at half-price.

Future of Social Media

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