[Quick Overview - This book introduces a new economic system that aims to eliminate all of the poverty, inequality, hunger, slums and so on found on Earth today. This new system is introduced as a thought experiment within the context of the million-person Mars colony recently announced by Elon Musk. This new system will radically improve the quality of life for the vast majority of humans living on planet Earth today.]
[Feedback and suggestions on any part of this book are greatly appreciated. Contact information is here.]
What will the political system look like? How will it be organized?
As I am writing this, it is mid-June in the year 2017, and I live in the United States. The amount of incompetence and evil in the U.S. political system at this moment in history is extremely uncomfortable – nearly unbelievable. Two years ago, the level of dysfunction seen today would have been impossible to imagine – what we are experiencing today in the U.S. political/governance system on a daily basis would have been laughed off as impossible two years ago. Yet, here we are. Every day there is a new revelation, a new bombshell, showing us how ridiculous our political system has become. Let me limit myself to a dozen recent headlines from just the last three weeks to offer as examples to demonstrate the level of dysfunction:
The Senate is closing in on a health care bill that could affect coverage for tens of millions of Americans and overhaul an industry that makes up one-sixth of the economy.
Only one problem: Almost no one knows what’s in it.
In a striking break from how Congress normally crafts legislation, including Obamacare, the Senate is conducting its negotiations behind closed doors. The process began five weeks ago, after the House passed its version of health care reform, with a small working group of 13 senators that included no women.
See also this
The Congressional Budget Office published its assessment of the House health bill on Wednesday, and warned that a last-minute amendment made to win conservative votes would result in deeply dysfunctional markets for about a sixth of the population [24 million people]. In those places, insurance would fail to cover important medical services, and people with pre-existing illnesses could be shut out of coverage, the budget office said. See also this.
Nepotism at the highest levels of government is or should be unlawful and contrary to regulations of the World Bank. Even the appearance of corruption or nepotism harms these important institutions, and should be resisted by the administration and the bank.
Congress, investigators, prosecutors, or ethics departments now have their work cut out for them in the case of Ivanka Trump and Jim Yong Kim. Rather than ignore these problems or optics in the White House and World Bank, Republicans in Congress, and World Bank officials, have a public duty of vigilance against corruption and nepotism. Ivanka Trump should never have been given an official role in government, and Jim Yong Kim should never pander the high principles of his office.
The attorneys general of D.C. and Maryland filed a suit on Monday alleging that the president’s receipt of foreign gifts and payments violated the Constitution. Two days later, nearly 200 members of Congress also sued Trump for the same purportedly unconstitutional conduct. Trump’s attorneys at the Department of Justice, meanwhile, are busy fighting another emoluments lawsuit, this one filed back in January on behalf of an ethics watchdog and Trump’s business competitors. See also this page .
What sort of man is the president of these United States? We know he is a habitual liar, one who tells obvious lies for no apparent reason, from claiming to own hotels that he does not own to boasting about having a romantic relationship with Carla Bruni, which never happened. (“Trump is obviously a lunatic,” Bruni explained.) He invented a series of imaginary friends to lie to the New York press about both his business and sexual careers. He has conducted both his private and public lives with consistent dishonesty and dishonor. He is not a man who can be taken at his word.
Conservatives used to care about that sort of thing: Bill Bennett built a literary empire on virtue, and Peggy Noonan wrote wistfully of a time “When Character Was King.” But even if we set aside any prissy moral considerations and put a purely Machiavellian eye on the situation, we have to conclude that having a man such as Trump as president and presumptive leader of the Republican party is an enormous problem for conservatives and for the country corporately. Allegations of petty corruption against Donald Trump cannot simply be dismissed out of hand, because no mentally functioning and decently informed adult thinks that Donald Trump, of all people, is above that sort of thing. Quid pro quo patronage? He’s proud of it. Dishonesty? He boasts about it in a book published under his name. Question: If a young, attractive, blonde woman employed by the Trump Organization came forward claiming to be having an affair with the president, why wouldn’t you believe her? Because Donald Trump isn’t that kind of guy? He’s precisely that kind of guy — that’s the main reason anybody outside of New York ever knew his name in the first place. See also this.
Endless investigations. The biggest scandal since Watergate. Coverups. An inability to govern. A possible constitutional crisis. These were all arguments that Donald Trump made against Hillary Clinton in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election. But now with the Washington Post reporting overnight that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, it’s worth recalling the rhetoric Trump used in the final two weeks of the ’16 presidential campaign.
See also this
MoveOn, Public Citizen, Common Cause and 16 other progressive organizations delivered 4 million petition signatures from Americans across the country to leaders in the U.S. House, as well as various GOP committee members. They are asking members to support a discharge petition that would create an independent commission to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and to force the president to release his tax returns. Democratic Representatives Eric Swalwell (Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.) introduced the House bill, called the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King & Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil companies.
Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page dossier prepared by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign advisor Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow.
The hard-charging New York lawyer President Trump chose to represent him in the Russia investigation has prominent clients with ties to the Kremlin, a striking pick for a president trying to escape the persistent cloud that has trailed his administration.
Marc E. Kasowitz’s clients include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager. Kasowitz also represents Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, U.S. court records show. See also this and this.
A week ago, it appeared that the probe would center around the activities of a handful of figures who are now marginal within Trumpworld: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and deposed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has changed. The Washington Post reported Friday that investigators have identified a current White House official as a person of interest in its financial probe. (The story hinted, and New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali confirmed, that the person is Jared Kushner.)
Ominously for Trump, the Post reports that the FBI is “determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president.” While Kushner’s public persona differs wildly from that of the president in the functioning of his real-estate work, he is a kind of mini Trump. Inheriting an empire from his father, he has operated in gray areas of the world economy and positioned himself to gain handsomely from Trump’s election. Kushner has met with the head of a Russian bank functionally controlled by Vladimir Putin. He appears to be eager to use his proximity to Trump to make a buck; his family business is exploiting the familial connection to sell visas in China.
To recap: In 2005, when Bush was still hosting Access Hollywood, he did an interview with Donald Trump, then host of The Apprentice, and Days of Our Lives actress Arianna Zucker. On the tape, Trump can be heard uttering disgusting comments including, "I moved on her like a b*tch" and "grab them by the p*ssy," in reference for how he treats women, as Bush can be heard laughing and goading him on. While the comments were made off-camera, their mics were still hot, capturing the audio in all its revolting glory.
President Trump's first budget can be summed up like this: Big gifts for the rich, big cuts for the poor. He would give a lot more money to the defense industry and wealthy taxpayers, and he would pay for that with an unprecedented slashing of safety net programs for America's poor. It's a "tanks and tax cuts" budget... What is known so far is that the wealthy -- including Trump himself -- would likely pay a lot less in taxes. "The majority of the benefits go to high-income people," says Joe Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.
There are so many types and angles of corruption evident in Trump's short presidency that, at this moment in history, it is nearly impossible to keep track of them all.
Perhaps the most sordid, and the most uncomfortable, of them all is the health care bill that Trump and the GOP-controlled House and Senate are relentlessly pushing toward passage as part of the GOP's "Repeal Obamacare" initiative. The House version of the bill will cause something like 23 million people to lose health care coverage [ref]. People who get sick without health care coverage can, unsurprisingly, die [ref]. If a tenth of a percent of those 23 million people who lose their coverage were to die prematurely, that is 23,000 people [ref]. And keep in mind that there are still tens of millions of people in the U.S. who have no coverage to begin with [ref]. And keep in mind that deductibles and co-pays are now so high for people who do have coverage that many cannot afford to use their coverage [ref], [ref].
How can a rich and powerful nation like the United States be willing to leave tens of millions of its citizens in poverty, and vulnerable to sickness and death through lack of health care access? It seems impossible that a society would create a situation like this for its citizens, but this is the reality in America today. It definitely does not need to be this way, as every other developed nation offers its citizens a form of universal coverage [example] with lower costs and better outcomes.
Contrast this with the goals of the Mars colony. Obviously we do not want citizens in Elon Musk's shiny new million-person Mars colony to be cut off from health care services, or to be unable to feed/house/cloth themselves, or to be living in appalling slums, etc. All of these things are happening on Earth right now for billions of Earth's inhabitants. But these absurdities should be impossible for the people living in the Mars colony. Instead, in the Mars colony, here is the goal:
Everyone has high quality, healthy food
Everyone has clean water and sanitation services
Everyone has high quality, safe, secure housing
Everyone has high quality health care
Everyone has high quality clothing
Everyone has high quality education
Everyone has high quality transportation
Everyone has 24x7 electricity and Internet access
Everyone has a computer and a smart phone to access the Internet
And so on...
And everyone has these things in a way that is sustainable, so that we do not destroy the planet we live on.
This is so obvious... Obviously we want the new Mars colony to work this way. Yet it is also obvious, from direct experience on planet Earth, that we must create a new Socio-Economic-Political System for Mars if we hope to accomplish anything close to this reality for the Mars colony.
We must find a new way to govern on Mars. The government in the United States today appears, at many different levels, to have gone off the rails. Today's U.S. government gives no heed to the needs of its citizens, unless those needs happen to occasionally align with the needs of the wealthy [ref]. A completely new political/government system must be created for Mars, or we should expect Mars to devolve into the kind of corruption and dysfunction described above.
What is Government?
What is government supposed to do? How is government supposed to work for its citizens? The Declaration of Independence for the United States has some interesing thoughts on the subject:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
1) He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good...
What is a government supposed to do for its people? To improve the standard of living, to help them get jobs, get kids to schools, and have access to medicine and hospitals. Government may not directly provide these public goods and services, but government must be accountable for whether or not they are delivered to citizens.
This is why the current health care situation in the United States is so relevant, and so indicative of massive dysfunction. The government of the United States is threatening tens of millions of its citizens with disease and death through the lack of access to health care. Ignoring all of the other problems listed and unlisted above, this single issue shows that Mars must have a new system of government that provides a strong, equitable economy and society for all of the residents living in the Mars colony.
The problem with government is human beings. When we put groups of human beings in power, it seems inevitable that they become corrupted by that power. The book Animal Farm is a fable that comes at this truth from one angle that is easy to understand, and we witness Animal Farm's described problems and inequities all around us today. The aphorism, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men" is another well-worn truth, attributed to Baron Acton [ref]. Since we know that power corrupts, why would we give power to human beings?
The Problem with People in Government, and with Elections
If you lived in the United States in 2016, you experienced an election that will not soon be forgotten: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. Both candidates put forward different ideas, policies and reforms, and then the people voted.
Voting, and "Majority Rule", seems like a valid way to elect leaders, until you look at the 2016 election and understand all of the obvious dysfunction:
One problem with putting people into power through elections is that the ideas, policies and reforms come attached to people who, depending on your political persuasion, are toxic. In 2016 there were a large number of people in America who would never vote for Clinton, even if they liked some of her ideas, positions and policies. And the same was true for Trump. There were many people who were so disgusted with both candidates that they never went to the polls. And this is important: there was no real way at all for anyone to say, “none of the above”. It's a horrible place to be as a citizen – both candidates were deeply flawed and corrupt, but you had to pick one of them or stand on the sidelines and let others decide. How much worse could a system get? Picking a random U.S. citizen in a presidential lottery probably would have delivered a better result.
A second problem with this approach is that the ideas, policies and reforms come in bundles. Ideas that you may like often come bundled with ideas that you dislike. What if you liked Clinton's ideas about the economy, but hated her ideas about guns? There is no real way to unbundle the ideas from the candidate and separate them. If you had voted for Hillary, and she had won, you had to put up with her ideas about guns, like them or not. Same for Trump.
A third problem is that candidates are in no way bound to the ideas, policies and reforms that they promote during their campaigns. So Donald Trump might have promised over and over again to help the working class voters in America, but then he can push forward a tax plan and healthcare reforms that really hurt working class voters. There is no recourse for this kind of deceit.
A fourth problem is that leaders who we elect can make unilateral decisions on different topics once in power, and the electorate has no recourse. Politicians often make unilateral decisions in opposition to “the will of the people”. A classic example of this is Angela Merkle of Germany, who opened the country's borders to a flood of immigrants in 2015 – an act that many people in Germany strongly opposed [ref], [ref], [ref].
A fifth problem is corruption. Elected officials are often extremely easy to corrupt with campaign donations, speaking fees, promises of future jobs, contributions, gifts, etc. Clinton in particular suffered from the impression of corruption due to her extreme "speaking fees" and donations to the Clinton Foundation. [ref], [ref]
A sixth problem is that elected officials can break laws and commit crimes and get away with it because of their positions. For example, many voters felt that Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted for her antics with her email server. This sentiment expressed itself as chants of “Lock her up!” at Donald Trump events. Trump promised to prosecute her during the campaign. And then he reneged on that promise as soon as he was elected
A seventh problem with elections is all of the mudslinging and insults. Some voters like this aspect of the political process, but many find the ad hominem attacks appalling.
An eighth problem with elections is that there is no good way to throw out a bad politician who is doing a terrible job. There is little that the voters can do. Gov. Chris Christie is said to have an approval rating of 15% [ref], yet there is no way to eliminate him from office. A supermajority of U.S. voters would remove Donald Trump from office if they had a way, but they have no way, so Donald Trump is still in office [ref].
And so on... There is no question that government as seen in the United States today is broken and must be replaced with a better system.
If there are all of these obvious problems that arise from elections, and from the actions of the winning politicians that the elections produce, then why do we elect people to office? More importantly, how can we solve these problems on Mars? How can we build a political system for the Mars colony that creates a government, and creates laws and rules that are effective, but that does it in a way that does not involve elected officials who seem to become inevitably corrupted and/or one-sided?
A simple example: Direct voting
As a very simple example of alternatives, here is one proposal that would solve many of the problems that arise from elected officials: Allow the residents of the Mars colony to vote directly on individual laws and rules that will be adopted for the governance of the Mars colony. Eliminate the politicians – along with their corruption, lies, deceit, bundling, etc. – altogether.
How might this system work? It would have three steps: 1) proposal, 2) editing, 3) voting. Someone would propose a new law in the law system. People would then have a chance to edit, adjust and add to the law. In the process, there might be several different competing versions of the law that would result. Then, people would vote on the law.
How would the colony vote? It is not necessary for everyone in the colony to vote on every law. We can take a statistically significant sample – say 2,000 people – chosen at random. Then these 2,000 people would be educated on the options, hearing from experts who argue for and against the new law. In this way the 2,000 people are making an educated decision about the law when they vote, rather than voting blindly or arbitrarily as many people do in many elections on planet Earth today. Then they would vote. If the law passes, it goes into effect.
Here is an example. A Mars colonist proposes this law: “It is illegal for any Mars colonist to directly murder another Mars colonist, or to create the conditions that murder another Mars colonist.” Now this proposed law can go through a review/editing phase. People propose additions and adjustments. When the law comes out of the editing/review process, it looks something like this real example from Earth:
(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.
Any other murder is murder in the second degree.
(b) Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,
Whoever is guilty of murder in the first degree shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for life;
Whoever is guilty of murder in the second degree, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.]
Now 2,000 people are chosen at random to vote on this law, and sequestered. They listen to expert opionion about the pros and cons. They read. They become educated about the proposed law and its effects. This new law is then put to a vote, and 99% of the 2,000 electors vote to pass this law (perhaps the 99% is optimistic, but it seems like this is one law that most people could agree on). The law goes into effect.
Now there is a second question: If someone murders another person, what happens to the murderer? Eventually, after the review/editing process, there are four different proposals for punishment:
The murderer shall be put in a locked facility and receive rehabilitation and psychotherapy for a period of 6 months. At the end of this time, if a psychological evaluation finds that the murderer has been rehabilitated, he will be released. Otherwise, rehabilitation will continue for another 6 months, and so on.
The murderer shall be put in a locked facility “for life”, until he/she dies of natural causes.
The murderer shall be put in a locked room with a loaded gun the day after conviction. He can choose to starve to death or shoot himself.
The murderer shall be euthanized with an overdose of opioids the day after conviction.
2,000 voters are blindly chosen at random, they are sequestered, they are able to read and hear opinions on the options, and they vote on these four options. The option with the most votes becomes the law of the Mars colony.
There will always be people who are not happy with any decision. And there will be certain issues with a lot of intensity on both sides. Examples:
Will there be abortion in the Mars colony or not?
Will there be guns or no guns on Mars?
Do 65-year-olds need to work, or do they get to retire with no further work obligations? If not 65, what other age? How is the age determined?
And so on...
No matter what the decision is, some group of people will be dissatisfied. What do we do with all of the dissatisfaction? For one thing, the education system will need to teach people to be graceful if their positions do not win a majority of the votes. It is simply part of the process. In addition, once a law is decided, it will be reviewed every two years and re-voted. In this way, as the opinions and norms of the Mars colony evolve over time, the laws can naturally change.
In this way, the Mars colony can pass and revise laws without ever needing elected officials. All of the problems and corruption that elected officials create can be eliminated.
What if 2,000 people vote, and there is an uproar about the decision? Then there can be a mechanism to register dismay, and a second vote can be held. Statistically there is likely to be an identical result. But if not, there can be a mechanism to disentangle hair-thin majority opinions in the population.
Can human beings be trusted to consistently make good decisions? Clearly politicians cannot be trusted, based on widespread evidence on planet Earth today (see above). But can randomly chosen groups of Mars colonists be trusted? Is "majority rule" a good idea to begin with in human populations? And if not, what is the alternative?
One proposal to eliminate the problems with human governanace is to develop artificially intelligent governance:
Given some of the recent occupants of the White House, many might consider it an upgrade. After all, humans are prone to making decisions based on ego, anger, and the need for self-aggrandizement, not the common good. An artificially intelligent president could be trained to maximize happiness for the most people without infringing on civil liberties...
AI politicians are the likely culmination of trends already underway. Think about cars. Tesla owners are thrilled to let their Model S’s drive themselves, and auto manufacturers are rushing to produce vehicles that won’t even have steering wheels. Within a decade, tens of thousands of people will entrust their daily commute—and their safety—to an algorithm, and they’ll do it happily...
In fact, the chess program on the phone in your pocket has more strategic know-how than most residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, past or current. Imagine an AI presidency in 2003. The software would have analyzed decades’ worth of reports on Saddam Hussein, absorbed the intelligence about WMDs, and concluded that an invasion of Iraq was obviously a dumb idea and unlikely to spread democracy. Ditto Vietnam.
We might see a completely automated and ever-present legal system that runs on sensors and pre-agreed-upon contracts. A company called Clause is creating “intelligent contracts” that can detect when a set of prearranged conditions are met (or broken). Though Clause deals primarily with industrial clients, other companies could soon bring the technology to consumers. For example, if you agree with your landlord to keep the temperature in your house between 68 and 72 degrees and you crank the thermostat to 74, an intelligent contract might automatically deduct a penalty from your bank account.
Experts say these contracts will increase in complexity. Perhaps one day, self-driving-car accident disputes will be resolved with checks of the vehicle’s logs and programming. Your grievance against the local pizza joint’s guarantee of a hot delivery in 10 minutes will be checked by a GPS sensor and a smart thermometer. Divorce papers will be prepared when your iPhone detects, through location tracking and text-message scanning, that you’ve been unfaithful. Your will could be executed as soon as your Fitbit detects that you’re dead.
Most people will agree that it is our ability to make value judgements that sets us apart from machines and makes us superior. But what if we could program agreed ethical standards into computers and have them take decisions on the basis of predefined normative guidelines and the consequences arising from these choices?
If that were possible, and some believe it is, could we replace our fallible politicians with infallible artificially intelligent robots after all?
The idea may sound far-fetched, but is it?
Robots may well become part of everyday life sooner than we think. For example, robots may soon be used to perform routine tasks in aged-care facilities, to keep elderly or disabled people company and some have suggested robots could be used in prostitution. Whatever opinion we may have about robot politicians, the groundwork for this is already being laid.
A recent paper showcased a system that automatically writes political speeches. Some of these speeches are believable and it would be hard for most of us to tell if a human or machine had written them.
Politicians already use human speech writers so it may only be a small step for them to start using a robot speech writer instead.
The same applies to policy-makers responsible for, say, urban planning or flood mitigation, who make use of sophisticated modelling software. We may soon be able to take out humans altogether and replace them with robots with the modelling software built into itself.
The Mars colony would be the perfect place to research, create and test AI government. We will discuss this possibility in the next chapter, on experimental cities on Earth...