Judges, the Supreme Court and Cybernetic Governance
by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.
How important is the U.S. Supreme Court?
As the branch of government that interprets our laws, it's very important. And, as the Court goes through inevitable changes as it prepares to welcome two new justices, we may also want to consider how the technological innovations we are now experiencing at the beginning of the 21st century may be able to improve the way our government works.
New ways of governing could be created as a way of stopping corruption, utilizing new technology and returning the process of government to the people - where it belongs.
Under a potential new system, we would continue to have a presidency and a judicial system. The duties of the legislative branch, however, would be greatly scaled back and the people would become their own legislators.
States like California already have a rich tradition of citizen participation in the legislative process. They're called referendums, and they have brought significant change to the Golden State on issues where elected politicians feared to tread.
The idea may sound far-fetched, but recall that voting via the Internet - a pervasive communications tool - was considered and tested in the 2004 presidential election. Security prevented Internet voting from becoming a reality for overseas military personnel and certain states, but the Internet could yet pave the way for a kind of "cybernetic governance."
Under this cybernetic governance, citizens register for the opportunity to be able to lodge complaints, concerns or otherwise raise issues by sending a message to an "issue drop box." Drop box managers would tally submissions, and those matters receiving a requisite number of entries would receive consideration. Staffers would formalize legislation related to these issues, the legislation would be placed on a bulletin board and a date would be set for registered citizens to vote on the proposed measure.
How would spending decisions be made? Who would decide whether Alaska gets a new highway or bridge, for example, or whether a state university should receive funds for a new laboratory? Who would decide the budgets of government agencies? The answer to these questions would be the registered voters. Citizens elect a president, and the president's staff develops a budget. The people's representatives vote on the budget. But why couldn't the people vote on budgets and other laws directly?
The Supreme Court would remain the final arbiter in critical legal disputes, but even this role might one day be exchanged for a system where the people would decide in lieu of judges.
Many contend that average Americans are "rationally ignorant" about budgets and other issues, and that they wouldn't know how to vote on them. This same contention extends to election of our presidents, as we have an Electoral College which actually decides the presidential election. I disagree. Given the knowledgeable citizenry today, I believe that most can make informed decisions about almost any issue given sufficient time.
Why have we spent trillions of dollars educating the nation? Why have we built such strong communication infrastructure and technology? It seems that we have done so to move to the next phase of this grand governmental experiment we call democracy.
Today - or very soon - we'll have the technology to permit the people to govern themselves without an intermediary standing in the way.
There are good reasons to consider this new method. For one thing, it would be a system in which we don't have to worry about corrupt officials who bargain away the will of the people in exchange for their own personal desires or those of special interest groups.
What about consideration of future Supreme Court nominees? One factor people may want to consider is whether or not these nominees support this new cybernetic governance. If the people like it, justices would be amenable to working within such a system.
B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the National Advisory Council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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