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In "My Experience with Communism," a Medium contributor chided me for using the term “communism” incorrectly. When I use that term, the following thoughts come to my mind: a one-party state, centrally controlled economy, most property owned by the state, a police state, and no criticism of government. Am I that wrong?

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Try talking sense to an American who states the-USA-is-not-a-democracy-it-is-a-republic. It seems that when my usage does not line up with my discussion partner’s definition, that is enough criteria to disregard whatever I am trying to say. I don’t know enough about politics. End of discussion.

Here’s a challenge for you. Go to Wikipedia. Look up “conservative.” Or “socialism.” Or whatever political term for which you may want a more accurate definition. You will first read a broad definition. Then you will read about a whole bunch of sub-divisions, like “liberal conservatives” or “conservative liberals.”

The writers of these Wiki articles seem to take great pleasure in splitting hairs and following these hairs until they find a second root. One would need to be an academic in this field to see the relevance. But for most of us, we just want some general definitions to help explain the things in a general way.

Take “anarchy,” for example. Many of us consider this term as a political condition where law and order breaks down and there are no real rules anymore. But anarchy has a philosophical meaning in that it describes a society where people can resolve civilly their differences without any formal laws. For example, if your neighbor’s dog poops on your lawn, you and your anarchist neighbor would have a little discussion and your neighbor would see the inconvenience his dog has caused for you, and he will take responsibility for his dog’s mess. No need to call in a bylaw officer who cites the law and issues a ticket to your neighbor. But somehow this “no rules” definition of anarchy has morphed into a world where you solve your dog poop problem just by shooting your neighbor—and his dog. Which definition would most people use when talking about anarchy?

Circa 1990, Canadian documentary maker Patrick Watson went around the world and interviewed many political leaders about what constitutes a “democracy.” His series “Struggle for Democracy” really could not come up with a good definition of this term. We all kind of know what it is, but we can’t agree on how to define it well enough such that most people will agree on that definition.

So, when we use political terms differently, we all can be correct. And we all can be wrong. So, to me, it is futile to put a lot of emphasis on using the political terms “properly.” We just need a big fuzzy definition to help us communicate to a point and we could clarify our position later. For example, the pre-1989 communism in the USSR was a little different than the pre-1989 communism in Czechoslovakia. And both of these communisms were much different than the communism in today’s China. There really isn’t a precise definition of communism that these three examples will fall into.

If we want precise definitions, then the alternative is to study all those Wiki articles and associated academic papers and be able to split all those political hairs. Then we can talk politics in the correct way, right? But I doubt 99% of the people are going to read these Wiki articles and apply them to their political discussions anytime soon.

I have a different way to get around all this fuzziness and/or confusion with political definitions. I have devised a political ideology with these four features:

1. There are situations where governments need to let individuals make their own decisions and live with the consequences.

2. There are situations where governments need to take collective action to improve the conditions of citizens.

3. The difference between #1 and #2 shall be with democratic due process.

4. Whatever the decision is, it needs to be monitored, evaluated, and changed if needed.

Rather than getting into a lengthy diatribe on my opinion of how well western democracy fills these roles, I’m going to describe how Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG) can bring these features to life.

Tiered Democratic Governance is an invention I somehow concocted in 1992. I did a fair amount of thinking and started putting my ideas down in 1997. Four versions have been written: 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2017. The 2009 version was when my ideas matured. 

Elected representatives in the TDG won’t be concerned will their re-election. If they are high enough in the tiers to make ‘big” decisions,” it will because they have earned the trust and respect in the lower tiers. Their experience in those lower tiers will be useful.

As well, TDG representatives are not beholden to any ‘ology or ‘ism. Their thinking can line up like a socialist on one issue and a capitalist on another. So yes, these representatives can work on both sides of #1 vs. #2—and without contradiction. Much depends on the situation and its background.

The representatives don’t have a mandate to do something specific for their voters. And there are no donors to appease in the TDG. Rather, the representatives are free to listen to facts, opinions, and perspectives from others. They will be often changing their minds as the final decision comes together.

The due democratic process will come from several years of experimenting with how local TDGs work. As local TDGs are learning how to govern themselves, some interesting democratic arrangements will be created to handle more pressing societal matters for later. I believe these arrangements will be much more streamlined than our current legislative processes, many of which were designed for governance in the 19th century.

And the representatives will be humble enough to know their final collective decision will never be 100% predictable. We all know even the best plans can take a different path than intended. No one person or  group is that all-knowing that they can claim uncertainty does not exist in their decisions. Therefore, the representatives will be open to having evaluative processes to monitor their decisions. Their ego will not be tied up in keeping a bad decision by pretending it to be a good decision.

Doesn’t this TDG sound interesting!

My TDG book is freely available on this website. It will take you about three hours to read it and see how the various pieces of the TDG fit together. Those three hours might help you change the world.

Published on Medium 2021

My Experience with Communism

Life Inside a Political Party