Rigatopian Governance

News from Rigatopia (offshore, way beyond the Fog Island with its mythical Tavern…)

The election of a Rigatopia president and parliament has been canceled. Mainstream media speculation about who the strongman new Un-nation might be, are wildly off the mark. Rigatopians have decided, after a long discussion, that with the introduction of the new AbbéBoulian governance system, these trappings of government are not needed. Instead, they are using the innovative community planning and argument evaluation process to effectively solve the problem of power in governance.

The starting point of the process was the introduction of the civic credit system that is part of their ‘passport’ — a revived version of the old ‘Nansen Passport’ for displaced persons after WWI. All new arrivals as well as children born in Rigatopia are issued such a passport, and it comes with a starting capital of civic credits for each new citizen. These credits are the currency and access keys to taking part in community life. People can ‘earn’ more civic credits in a variety of ways: civil service, demonstration of having acquired important skills, making contributions to community planning and decision-making discussions, in which the ‘constitutional’ provisions, citizens rights and responsibilities as well as other common rules and even short term decisions are agreed upon. The key concept for these arrangements is ‘agreement’. Elsewhere they might be called ‘laws’; a term avoided here because of its traditional connotations of having been imposed upon citizens by some ruling entity.

Of course, provisions must be agreed upon to ensure that the agreements are adhered to. This is done in the following manner. Instead of a ‘law enforcement’ agency charged with discovering and prosecuting agreement violations, a series of provisions are put in place that reward citizens with civic credits for useful, productive contributions but also subtracts credits as a consequence of agreement violations. At the extreme, people accumulating more violation points than they have credits are in fact, losing rights and freedoms, depending on the severity of their infractions. Due to these provisions, the need for ‘police’ or security agencies is kept to a minimum. Correspondingly, the tendency for such enforcement agencies — that must by definition be more powerful (forceful) that any potential violator, as long as ‘lawbreaking’ and transgressions of agreements are ‘enforced’ by sanctions consisting of threats or actual use of force — to become ‘corrupt’, is also kept to a minimum. The temptation to engage in corrupt behavior or abuse of power is recognized to be a ubiquitous feature of power itself: if the powerful agency has no ‘more powerful’ overseer, it will inevitably be tempted to persuade itself that the rules and agreements don’t apply to itself.

Rigatopians’ recognition of the nature of power — as both a necessary condition for a free human life in its form as ’empowerment’ to pursue life, liberty and happiness AND as a potentially addictive force — led to the view that yes, people should have access to power (be empowered) — just as they should have access to food and other life necessities — but that people should ‘pay’ for power extending into realms affecting other people’s freedom and empowerment. The ‘currency’ for such payments is, plausibly enough, provided in the civic credit system. But the need for ‘powerful’ people to make decisions is also greatly reduced by that very civic credit system.

For many collective decisions, the participatory discussion forum (in which participation is encouraged by the face that all contributions, questions and answers, proposals, arguments both ‘pro’ and ‘con’ are rewarded with basic contribution credits which are increased or decreased by the collective plausibility evaluation process) will lead to decisions characterized by the need to modify proposals until a solution acceptable to all parties has been achieved. Some of these discussions will be about specialized matters for which there may be spokespersons of greater than average expertise.

But of course Rigatopians recognize that there are situations in which decisions must be made quickly, either as routine adjustments to regular service operations, or responses to emergencies, and that people should be assigned to such duties. The ‘qualifications’ for such ‘powerful’ decision-making positions are sufficiently high civic credit accounts, earned by previous quality service. This may not appear very different from the ‘political capital’ of elected officials usually manifested in votes. The difference here is that decision by such people must be ‘paid for’ — with credit points appropriate to the significance of the decision. The payment may be seen as an ‘investment’ in the decision — one that can ‘earn’ more credit points if successful and beneficial to the public, but one that will be ‘lost’ if the decision is unsuccessful. The credit account will eventually be depleted by poor decisions; — a phenomenon that finally gives some more concrete meaning to the idea of ‘accountability’.

Very important decisions may be so ‘expensive’ that they exceed the ability of individual persons to ‘pay’ for them. Citizens may then transfer some of their credits to potential decision-makers (of their choice); they thereby become ‘fellow investors’ in the decision, proportionately accountable for success or failure: they lose their transferred credits for unwise decisions, but proporionately gain new credits for success.

These arrangements were soon seen as decreasing the necessity for permanent and temporary (for ‘terms of office’) decision-makers. The transfer of decision-empowering credits could be made to any qualified citizen, different people for different issues: hence the decision to do without a parliamentary body of decision-makers as well as president. Many people qualified for such positions could be designated for various ‘figurehead’ functions: receiving visitors or ‘presiding’ at official events — all at civic credit expense to their accounts.

Of course these innovations do not cover all facets of the power issue. What about the power of knowledge and information, the role of ‘propaganda’ — the ‘free speech’-justified power to bombard citizens with incessant political advertising and the like? Some such objections may be covered by the provision to have people pay (with civic credits) for any such activities exceeding the simple one-time entering their information and argument onto the common ‘bulletin board’ that serves as the basis for the public plausibility and significance evaluation. (If there is a sufficient guarantee that enough people will participate in that process, there is no need for the repetition.) But of course many issues of this kind will have to be studied and discussed in more detail before being ready to be proposed for adoption as ‘Law-like’ – agreements. The experiment is seen as a long overdue start for developing new forms of governance instead of the constant bickering about this or that century-old model.

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