Archive for November, 2011

Alternatives to Elections (Parliament/Congress Duty Part-2)

I have been debating whether it would be better to make participation in the Parliament/Congress Duty mandatory, like a jury duty, or voluntary, like a driver’s license? That is, in some countries, able citizens are required to serve in a jury duty if called unless they have a valid excuse. On the other hand, people are only required to have driver’s licenses if they want to drive, and then they have to pass road rules and driving tests before they are given one.

I see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The jury duty model would expand the pool of available candidates significantly, which on the plus side means that every citizen has an equal chance of being selected to serve. On the other hand it also means that people will be forced to serve even if they have no desire to do so. There is also the issue of whether some of the people called to serve will have the capability to understand complex laws they will be voting on, but who is to say that all of the elected politicians are capable of understanding the laws they vote on.

Requiring people to pass tests before their names can be added to the lottery pool would address the qualification issue, but it would also reduce the pool of candidates to pick from. This would also avoid the issue of forcing people to serve, as only those who are interested in serving will take the tests.

I am thinking there would be about four levels of tests:

  1. the first level would qualify one to serve in the city/town/village council and for the mayor’s office
  2. level two for state/province level offices, including the governor’s office
  3. passing level three would qualify one to serve as an MP/Congress person and in the upper house/senate
  4. candidates who pass the level four test will have their names added to the pool of candidates who are qualified enough to serve as the leader/president of the country

Now to the more difficult/thorny issues: who writes the tests, and what should be in the tests? The whole reason I am proposing an alternative to elections is that, in my opinion, politicians and the political process in most countries have been captured by special interest groups with deep pockets, where I feel most of the laws passed only benefit the interests of the moneyed over those of the majority. And it is highly likely that if proper care is not taken, the contents of the tests, and those who write them, will be hijacked by the same forces in order to ensure that the candidate pools are filled with the type of people who are likely to serve the interests of corporations and the moneyed class.

So, how do you insure that those interested in serving are able to take the tests and pass them if they are well prepared and are motivated enough? First and foremost, the tests need to be free or affordable, and test preparation material should be freely available at libraries and community centers, and available to download for free.

What should be in the tests then? At all levels, I would like to see people tackle subject matters and issues such as (with the degrees of complexity and difficulty increasing with each level):

  • education, science and technology, health
  • law: constitution, international treaties, intellectual property*, etc.
  • economics: local/regional/national economic source and budget (e.g., where most of the resources go to: education, law enforcement, etc.); what the nation’s competitive advantages are (e.g., is it sciences, manufacturing, IT, tourism? etc.)
  • environment: parks, clean air/water, wildlife, etc.
  • cultures/diversity; history of labor/women’s/minority movements and their impact on society at the local, national and international level
  • national defense and security
  • local/regional/national/international history
  • much more that I can’t think of at the moment…

*At least at the levels three and four (may be even at all levels), I would like to see candidates tackle the effects of national and international intellectual property laws (patents, copyrights) on sciences and technology, entrepreneurship, health, and human rights, so that they won’t pass laws sponsored/written by special interest groups (e.g., the entertainment industry), which end up having disastrous effects on the other issues. We are seeing way too many of these draconian and one sided intellectual property and other laws being passed in many countries, which I strongly believe would have no chance of passing if parliaments and congresses were made up of randomly selected citizens, instead of being populated by professional politicians whose reelection campaigns are funded by special interest groups.


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Three simple rule changes to make football more exciting

I have come to realize that my passion for watching sports has begun to wane over the last three or four years, to the point where it’s now been months since I last watched a televised game. I used to love watching football and basketball, but now I find it difficult to watch an entire match, and usually get bored before half-time.

I am guessing there are two main reasons for this: I am getting old; and most football games are, plain and simple, boring. There is nothing I can do about the fact that I am getting old, so I thought may be I should come up with ways to make football more interesting.

I am sure I am not the only one who gets irritated by the constant interruption of the game flow because of niggling fouls, mostly committed on creative players. And unless the fouls are egregious enough to warrant yellow or red cards, a team and a player can get away with committing dozens of fouls a game as there are no consequences to doing so. Addressing this issue alone would improve the game watching experience considerably and the first two proposals are aimed at that.

  1. Five team fouls per half limit, after which a special direct free kick is awarded to the aggrieved team every time the opposing team commits another foul. For the special direct free kick, the ball is placed anywhere inside the ‘D’ or semicircle just outside of the penalty box, with only the goalkeeper facing the free kick taker. This is more like a penalty taken not from the penalty spot, but from the ‘D’.
  2. If a player commits three fouls, s/he is taken out of the game for five minutes, where the team has to play with one less player until the five minute penalty period expires. If a player commits five fouls, then that player is dismissed from the game and the team has to wait ten minutes before introducing a substitute to replace the dismissed player. This is similar to a player fouling out in a basketball game, but with the added team penalty of playing with a player short until the penalty period expires.
  3. Abolish the offside rule. It is a stupid rule, and I have always hated it. Shouldn’t it be up to the defenders to know and keep track of the position of the opposing players? Why do they need a special protection?

I think these three simple rule changes would make football much more exciting to watch, and I imagine, play to.

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