Tiny Democracy for Michigan and Florida
How can the Democratic Party chiefs claim they can govern better, when they cannot even manage an orderly primary election process?
March 1, 2008
Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

Here’s another fine mess the Democrat chiefs have gotten the voters into. The demagods of Michigan and Florida decided to have more punch for their votes, and they moved their primary elections to January, before the big February 5 election. But that was against the rules of the Democratic Party, and the party said they would not count their delegates. The delegates may not even have hotel reservations for the convention.

How can the Democratic Party chiefs claim they can govern better, when they cannot even manage an orderly primary election process?

If there were already one candidate who was the winner, as with the Republicans, this would not matter much. But the horse race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is now almost evenly split. The magnificent black stallion had raced ahead, but the fighting mare, having won Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, has shown she is a mighty steed indeed. So every extra state now counts big, as down the stretch they run!

It’s not the voters’ fault that the demagods messed up. The people registered with the Democratic Party should have a voice in selecting the nomination. But new elections done the establishment way would cost about $15 million apiece. A mail-in vote would cost less, but still several million dollars. The government chiefs of Florida and Michigan said they would not pay for it. The Democratic National Committee chiefs said the party does not have enough funds to finance it. The candidates, Obama and Clinton, could pay for it, but so far they have not offered the funds.

However, the elections need not be so costly if they are done bottom-up from tiny districts. Paper ballots could be counted in each voting precinct. If there are over a thousand ballots in a precinct, they could be divided into piles, with each pile separately tallied.

The counting would be simple, as each ballot would only have the two candidates’ names. Volunteers would hand-count the ballots, with monitors watching the count. The totals and the ballots would then be delivered to the county seat. There, the totals would be tallied up, and the ballots securely stored.

The state totals would then be delivered to the state capital, where the county totals would be added up to get the state total. The cost should be about a million dollars, as the main cost would be printing if volunteers count the ballots at the precincts.

Such as process is well known in computing. It is called “parallel processing.” Rather than have one big central process, we decentralize the task into small parts, and then put them all together.

Since parallel processing is well known, why have the Democratic chiefs not adopted it? Because they seek to keep voting centralized. They want to use voting machines and scannable forms so that the government can control the counting. If counting is decentralized, the government chiefs cannot control the counting.

Decentralized hand-counting would be very time-consuming for the long and complex ballots we now have. In general elections, a voter confronted with candidates for city, county, state, and federal positions, and in many cases, a long list of propositions. Even judges are approved, and offices such as the dogcatcher are elected. It is democracy run amok.

The value of representative democracy is that the voters don’t need to be experts in candidates and issues. They only need to elect worthy representatives. But this works well only if they can easily and quickly kick out bad representatives. The way it is now, in effect the elected chiefs are dictators between elections.

A “cellular democracy” system of bottom-up, multi-level elections, starting in tiny districts, would require that voters only elect a neighborhood council. That council would elect the next higher level of government, and so on to the top.

The Democratic chiefs will not use the bottom-up tiny-district paper-ballot method because perhaps some voters would have a sudden moment of enlightenment. They might think, whoa, why don’t we use tiny democracy for all our elections? Oh, yeah, too many candidates. Hey, why not just vote for local councils?

No, no, no! That would be the end of big-boss politics! Let’s not give the voters any wild ideas. Let’s just spend the millions to hold the regular elections. The party demagods need to keep the system in place to maintain their control. It’s politics as usual.

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Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.

Foldvary is the author of The Soul of LibertyPublic Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.

Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.