If you were going to modernize and redesign the constitution of the United States, what changes would you make?

You and I have two huge advantages over the Founders. We have the benefit of a few hundred years of track record to see what worked and what didn't, and we have the Internet. It's hard to imagine that Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and the rest would design the constitution the same way if they were starting now.

Our biggest political problem at the moment is that we have two powerful political parties, and two is a bad number for getting anything done. Every issue becomes an endless slap fight with no clear winner.

So what is the optimum number of decision-makers?

If you have only one decision-maker, you have a dictatorship. That would be terrific if your dictator happens to be awesome. But no one wants to take that sort of risk. Dictators are rarely awesome.

A many-party system, such as Israel, has its own set of problems. You don't want too many parties all pulling in different directions.

The ideal number of decision-makers for any sort of organization is three. When you have three votes on any issue, the result is always a decisive 2-1 or 3-0. Obviously that only works if the decision is a yes-no type. The worst case would be three parties with three different plans.

So how do you design a system that has the benefits of three decision-makers without the risk of getting three different plans for each issue?

My proposed constitutional change is to allow three - and only three - political parties, as follows:

1. Liberal Party

2. Conservative Party

3. Science Party

Each party - no matter how many members - would get one collective vote in Congress on each bill. All bills would be decided on a 2-1 or 3-0 vote. So you always get a result that looks decisive to the public. That's the first benefit.

Now let's say the Science Party is all about data and rational thought. The party would recruit scientists, engineers, and other quantitative types. The Science Party would be allowed to vote, as a block, on every bill, but they wouldn't be allowed to introduce their own legislation. That prevents a situation where there are three plans for the three parties and nothing but deadlock. The Science Party would only be allowed to vote for the liberal or the conservative plan. But the Science Party would have tremendous influence on those plans because the other parties would understand they have to get the Science Party vote to succeed.

With this arrangement, the Science Party is on the winning side of every vote.  The public would always have the benefit of knowing that the facts mattered. That doesn't mean the Science Party is always right. It just means the decisions are always informed by reason. Realistically, the Science Party would usually be settling for the lesser of evils.

The risk is that the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party would each try to get their moles elected in the Science Party. But if that were a huge risk, you would see it happening under other Democratic systems, and you don't. I think well-defined parties would do a good job of filtering out the pretenders.

The Science Party would need the power of abstaining in case the other parties produce two thoroughly unworkable plans. So you still have gridlock if you need it. But members of the Liberal and Conservative parties would have a hard time getting reelected if they kept disagreeing with the Science party. Challengers would use it as a hammer.

I would also tweak the constitution to make it illegal to combine different topics into one bill. That gets rid of the pork projects.

The Science Party would be charged with keeping the public informed via Internet. Unlike the other two parties, the Science Party would fully explain the counterpoint to every argument and lay out all of the data and reasoning behind each issue.

I would also make voting mandatory, and require that it be done by Internet, assuming proper safeguards could be put in place to avoid voter fraud.

If the Founders had the technology we have today, and they had a robust scientific and analytical community to draw on, as we do, I think they would have designed the Constitution to take advantage of those assets.

What do you think?

[Note: Going forward, I'll be pruning out any commenters who are taking over the comment section. You know who you are.]

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Oct 12, 2012
"The risk is that the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party would each try to get their moles elected in the Science Party. But if that were a huge risk, you would see it happening under other Democratic systems, and you don't."

This is what keeps happening to the Libertarian Party, so I think the risk of this happening is greater than you assume. Probably 100% When something is completely ubiquitous you don't usually notice it.
Oct 12, 2012
I don't think a science party would work because I personally believe (subjectively not objectively) that once politics gets involved in science, science cannot truly exist. The "facts" will follow the money.

If I were rewriting the constitution I'd probably clarify and limit the role of the supreme court, make the right to privacy explicit and mention in what cases is exists, overturn some supreme court rulings I disagree with, and clarify any part that is generally either misunderstood or one where the purpose and intent is debated. I'd also do a few tweeks like raising the voting age to 25 (that's when it's scientifically proven your moral centers in your brain are fully developed) and the like.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
Sorry one other comment. If you make voting mandatory then you will just get more people who don't care or are not informed voting.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
Are you going to vote for the scientists? Then how do you keep them from becoming politicians?
If you don't vote for the scientists how do you decide who the reponsible (or correct) scientists are?

Best way to make sure that you get responsible politicians is to make sure you have responsible voters. Require un-paid public service as a requirement for voting.
Oct 12, 2012
not bad. gets rid of the bare margins that some bills currently pass with. I imagine the blocks would be handled in a majority of the party== the party vote. also might want to add that voting day be a national holiday. as for internet voting, i think it would be far easier to give everyone a tab on their vote forms with a unique # then let them track and confirm their votes online (no backsies, just confirmation). votes without confirmation dont count. kinda like an email confirmation with a randomly generated link. you forget one thing though, in making the science party a party, you are opening them up to major lobbyist, outside influence. science is full of data that sometimes appears to be conflicting. put money into that situation and then we are no better than we are now. a leopard cant change its spots.
Oct 12, 2012
"I would also make voting mandatory"
Surely the right not to cast your vote if you think that all the candidates are a shower of !$%* is a necessary part of democracy?
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
Sorry, but can't agree with the idea of having three well defined parties as part of the constitution. What if people want a party that doesn't fit the criteria of your three parties? What if one of the three parties, due to idiocy, becomes so unpopular that they can't really be said to be entitled to power over a third of our government?

The way things stand now our two parties change to meet the evolving standards of liberal/conservative thought. I can't help thinking the system you have in mind will harm that process.

The constitution says nothing about political parties. Our current two-party system grew as a sort of emergent property of the rules laid down by the constitution and the rules previous congresses made. It might be worth a try, as an experiment, to try and create a system similar to what you describe on that basis, not as a Soviet style requirement on which parties can have what power. As long as we keep in mind that it IS an experiment and be ready to discard/modify it if it proves worse than what we have now.
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