By Arnold Kling
Stephen R. Shalom has a proposal to re-scale government institutions.
I propose that legislative functions be carried out by a system of nested councils. Here is one way that such a system might function.
There would be primary-level councils that would include every adult in the society. The number of members in these primary-level councils would be somewhere between 25-50. Each primary-level council would choose a delegate to a second-level council. (Each second-level council would be composed of 20-50 delegates, probably the same size as the primary councils, but not necessarily so.) Likewise, each second-level council would choose delegates to third-level councils, and so on, until there was one single top-level council for the entire society.
At the top, about the fifth or sixth level, would be the ultimate council of deciders, although sometimes decisions get referred back down to the primary level. It reminded me somewhat of my essay We Need 250 states, although I was trying to enhance checks and balances, not to promote participatory democracy.
I recommend reading Shalom’s entire article. He is a socialist, and so he thinks that democracy will be easy once class conflict has been eliminated. So what looks to me like an architecture for dictatorship looks to him like a beautiful system for making democratic decisions.
But he has an interesting safety valve.
One further check on the tyranny of the majority is the right of secession, a right which would be recognized constitutionally.
He would forbid secession if the seceding unit has “a disproportionate share of the common resources” or if it would “use secession as a means of oppressing some minority within its borders.”
That would be fine with me, as long as the body that rules on the legality of secession does not evolve an arbitrarily expansive definition of “common resources” or “oppression” or “minority.”