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Related to the problem of political ignorance, I was thinking about a goverment system as described below, and I want to know if this or something similar even has a name ("decentralized goverment" doesn't fit because it usually means territorial decentralization):

  1. There's not a centralized goverment that rules ALL political areas. Each ministry/department, like education, transport or immigrancy is voted independently has their own elections with their own set of political parties and candidates. That invites the creation of parties specialized only on specific ministries (I'll use the word ministry from now, but I mean any kind of division of power by specialized areas of responsability "by topic").

  2. Of course, traditional politics would still need a niche here because there are always areas that are kind of transverse to the state as a whole (I'm thinking about state budget right now).

  3. The state must be flexible at defining how many ministries there are, because people change and so do their needs, so ministries shall not be absolutely fixed in number and responsibilities.

How does it solve political ignorance? (and other consequences; optional reading)

  • It would cause an increased amount of options for voters, and they will have to take one decision (who do I vote?) per ministry. Ignorant voters probably won't spend energy on even trying to take so many decisions if they have no idea. So they won't vote for every ministry, only for those they care about. The core of the idea is forcing the voters to spend "more mental energy" to vote, as proof that they care about specific topics. If they care about specific topics, the voters of that ministry are less ignorant than before, thus reducing the "power of the ignorant" in the areas they are ignorant about, because they won't participate there.

  • I'm using the equivalence of "caring about" = "knowing more". While that's not neccesarily true, I think it usually is.

  • The power of the government is decentralized on ministries because each piece of goverment (each ministry) is now independently controlled by a tinier mass of voters but with a higher understanding than before, and a set of potentially independent parties that try to fit themselves to those voters. Conversely, the power of each citizen is now split in as many ministries as there are, where the number of unused pieces of power will be proportional to their degree of disinterest/ignorance (number of ministries for which they didn't vote). That would cause the power of domestic and foreign propaganda, that usually targets the most ignorants ones, to be greatly disminished, hopefully discouraging propagandists to even try, unless propagandists convince enough ignorant victims to participate in all affairs, which I believe is too much to ask.

  • It's important to recall that voters still have 100% freedom to participate, so citizens are not discriminated against by their education (as other "proposals" to solve the political ignorance problem do). It is the system which "forces" the citizen to be more specific in his/her opinions. The human nature of "not actually giving a f**k" will do the rest. By parallelism with bitcoin, votes now become in some sense "proof of work" that allows them to participate in the system by overwhelming them with options and testing their resolve. If he passes the test by voting, it means that he cares.

  • It also helps those who feel that no existing party fits them. Consider, as an extreme case, a transgender person who believes in aggresive capitalism. That person will tend to agree with a left-wing party when considering social problems, and with a right-wing party when considering economic issues. Which party should that person vote for in our traditional democratic systems? With "my approach", that person now has a chance to use his/her power as a voter in a more satisfying way.

  • I think it will also reduce hatred between political parties, because in the usual bipartisanism a lot of people interact with parties as though they were futbol teams, encouraging competition too much and making political collaboration difficult. Thanks to this decentralization of power, politics wouldn't be based so much on two giants trying to destroy each other at all costs or using problems as arenas to fight the adversary.

  • It will also help tracking the main concerns of citizens by inspecting the participation rate per ministry. If the participation rate of the "ministry of immigration" increases year by year, it's obvious that people are becoming increasingly worried about immigration. Scratch votes are also more meaningful now than before because those who are concerned about an issue but are not sure about who to vote for, their "vote of concern" will be registered. Of course that won't help to know exactly what is the voter is worried about, but at least scratch votes give more information than before.

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    It not only solves some problems, it also creates others. One description might be fragmented government because one could expect different fractions to fight against each other. May 22, 2022 at 18:23
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    The difference is that today, most fights happen in the legislative branch, while this system would move those fights to the executive branch instead. That means that the day-to-day operations of government would be affected. It also causes issues of conflict resolution: Say the minister for immigration decides to close the borders to immigrants but the minister for security decides to not run border patrols anymore. Either the minister for immigration gets a say in another minister's decision or the minister for security has a de facto veto on every decision enforced by state violence.
    – xyldke
    May 23, 2022 at 9:40
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    Interestingly this system is both somewhat similar to and also completely different from the Federal Council of Switzerland.
    – xyldke
    May 23, 2022 at 9:56
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    Most people will probably vote in every election based on who their party tells them to vote for. May 23, 2022 at 10:45
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    It seems like you'd still need some level of central government overseeing the ministries - who decides what funding everyone gets? Who determines what matters fall under the remit of which ministry? Who is responsible for adding/ removing/ merging/ splitting the ministries as under your third bullet point? May 23, 2022 at 11:09

2 Answers 2

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This is sometimes called a "divided executive" and is common at the state level and at the county level and New England town level in U.S. government organization, where many major departments of government are run by independently elected boards or elected officials. Another term that is used is a plural executive with the members of the plural executive being called "row officers" (see pages 22-23). Typically, there will also be special districts with specially elected officials as well.

Plural executives were designed in U.S. political history largely to provide an independent electoral basis for ministerial less partisan tasks in hopes of divesting that power from more political county commissioners or Governors and state legislatures.

For example, in Colorado, the executive branch power is shared by an elected Governor (and Lieutenant Governor who is the head of the Department of Indian Affairs ex officio), Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, State School Board, and University of Colorado Regents. There is also a legislatively chosen state auditor.

At the county level, the three or five county commissioners who are a governing board with executive and legislative power, who share power with an elected sheriff, district attorney, coroner, county clerk, county treasurer (who in turn appoints an independent public trustee to handle mortgage foreclosures), county assessor, and county surveyor, each of whom are largely autonomous with respect to each other and report only to the voters. Denver has an elected auditor and until recently had an elected elections board.

But, most states have separately elected local school boards in addition to county government, and often will have separate elected boards handling transit systems, and water and sewer management, and in some places, separately elected mosquito control districts and dog catchers.

Most U.S. states also select judges independently of the local government executive officials and sometimes in elections independently of state government officials, but I've omitted judicial branch selection from the executive branch selection discussed in the question.

While this form of government is common at the state and local level in the U.S., it hasn't necessarily been a resounding success. It means that election administration is largely partisan, which almost no other country thinks is a good idea. It makes a lot of ministerial positions (e.g. county treasurer or recorder of deeds) more partisan than they should be (this system largely predates civil service reforms that used merit selection to achieve the same objectives). It makes the ballot longer that makes it harder to be an informed voter with partisan preferences often overriding competence in technocratic jobs like being a coroner (which sometimes is a real problem).

While the question suggests that this may be desirable because: "It also helps those who feel that no existing party fits them." In practice, voters overwhelmingly don't examine the individual candidates for particular positions and vote a party line on row officers without regard to individual qualifications unless there is a long standing incumbent in a position of another party who has grown popular and trusted as an individual over time.

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  • This is fascinating. I'm not aware of anything similar in UK local elections - but it is used in UK university student union elections. The Wikipedia article on slates ("a group of candidates that run in multi-seat or multi-position elections on a common platform") says this: "Most student unions in the United Kingdom have the places on their executive committee elected simultaneously, but separately. Groups of candidates may run together so as each candidate can campaign for themselves and the other members on the slate at the same time". May 25, 2022 at 15:32
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Variants of this system exist in Switzerland and China, although the ministers are not elected by the people but by parliament and the party respectively.

However, outside of politics, I found a system of governance that fits your definition. That being a Board of Directors. These boards exist in a variety of organizations from clubs of a few hundred members to global business conglomerates worth billions of dollars

The boards themselves are about as varied as the organizations they govern. One thing they tend to have in common is that they have low separation of powers.

To understand that, we need to understand, what separation of powers actually means:
Laws need to be enacted, interpreted and enforced. These are the responsibility of the legislative, judiciary and executive branch, who are all seperate. Note that separation of powers refers to bodies, not people. A parliament of 500 members is still one body for the purpose of separation of powers.

A board fulfills all of these functions. They decide on overall strategy (legislative), make day-to-day decisions (executive) and also serve as the arbiter of disputes (judiciary).

In a corporation or club, that doesn't matter as much, because the board is bound by external laws. If the board breaks these laws or tries to take power illegally, they can be sued and prosecuted by the country they operate in. Over here in Germany, boards can even be sued in regular court for violating the statute of their organization.

If the board is the highest government, there is very little to stop them from taking power away from the people. After all, they make all the decisions already.

As to how to make it work: I could see a system similar to a presidential democracy, where the people elect ministers instead of a president. The ministers then solve disputes by majority opinion (or referral to parliament) and select the (mainly ceremonial) president from amongst themselves.

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    Jun 9, 2022 at 12:23

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