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COVID & Tiered Democratic Governance

Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG) is my alternative system of democratic governance. It has no political parties and no noisy election campaigns. And representatives are elected based on their character and capacity, thus enabling a culture of consultation, which we currently do not see in most western democracies.

This particular essay will focus on three features of the Covid-19 crisis: preparedness, decision-making, and elections.


Preparedness

It is perhaps too easy to say that we should have been more prepared. Past recent epidemics such as SARS, H1N1, and Ebola had shown us that we should not become too complacent with the next epidemic. When it happens, we will need a whole bunch of medical equipment. And we had learned that we can’t just manufacture this equipment on demand to fill the immediate needs if the epidemic turns pandemic. So it makes sense that health care systems need a bigger inventory for medical supplies. But all western democracies—with their “advanced” system of government—failed in this regard. Here are my hypotheses as to why we weren’t prepared:

1. Politicians need to spend a lot of time trying to become re-elected. They cannot give fully to the various social issues of society—like planning for pandemics.

2. Stocking a warehouse full of rubber gloves will not generate votes. So there is no political force to get the politicians to prepare in this way. Besides, the next pandemic is probably beyond the next election cycle, so planning for it does not matter.

3. The wealthier classes are better able to handle a pandemic, both medically and financially. Politicians are supported by the wealthier classes.

4. Politicians scramble to concoct band-aid social programs to meet the needs of people who have been economically dislocated. These social programs will render any economic planning done in the past as irrelevant.

Here’s how the TDG would handle the preparedness:

1. Elected TDG representatives will spend more time on issues, not politics. It is more likely that, in a TDG, a pandemic will be given proper attention—in advance.

2. Elected TDG representatives can weigh the pros and cons of a large medical inventory. Yes, there is going to be a cost for that inventory—and it will have to be managed well. But the inventory to handle the USA’s supply needs for a pandemic probably costs less than to operate one aircraft carrier for a year! Now that’s a no-brainer decision, isn’t it?

3. There will be a lot more people from the middle and lower classes in a TDG government. Their enhanced influence will force their country to be more prepared.

4. Social-economic plans for handling the economic side of a pandemic will be prepared in advance by a TDG. Long before the first signs of a pandemic, elected TDG representatives will take several months to build a good plan. Then they will put the plan on the shelf. When the epidemic hits, the TDG government need only read the plan and effect its recommendations.


Decision-Making

In a way, I feel sorry for politicians trying to make Covid-19 decisions. They have to balance health and safety against the economy and civil psychology. When do you put on restrictions? When do you take restrictions off? If you don’t bring any playbook to the football game, you just might not score any touchdowns, right?

At first, the economists had the politicians’ ear, so the economy kept going. But the virus got too far and threatened to crash health care systems. So the medical profession displaced the economists at the decision-making table, forcing a serious shutdown of the economy for a disease that is unlikely to kill more than 2% of the population.

To digress a bit, Sweden seems to be the only western country that has not shut down its economy. Restaurants, public places, and workplaces are still open. Yes, infectivity is higher and so is lethality. But maybe herd immunity is the better solution, especially if we are to have multiple waves of Covid-19.

So why is the medical profession so adamant that it must get its way? Here’s the answer, WE WEREN’T MEDICALLY PREPARED. Just imagine a soldier being told to charge to the front line without a rifle or bullets. Let’s tell that soldier to pick up a weapon from a fallen comrade or enemy along the way. Not a good way to win a battle!

Yet that battle is what we have given to our medical profession! If we were prepared with a large stockpile of medical supplies, the medical profession just might have taken a step back from its soapbox, realizing that an uncivil society could kill more people than the disease.

I’m not claiming to have the right answer here. Sweden is under a lot of pressure to conform to the rest of the western world. But I hope it finishes its unique social experiment so that we will know something for the next pandemic.

Here’s how a TDG would handle the pandemic.

1. The elected TDG representatives would not bow to the preferred lobbyist of the day or the media fear generators focused on one aspect of the crisis. The representatives could take in the whole picture and watch objectively as the situation unfolds.

2. The elected TDG representatives would not be influenced about being re-elected, trying to appease a certain base of voters to retain their votes. Rather, they can focus on what they believe is best for society.

3. The elected TDG representatives would have a well-thought-out plan already in place—instead of creating social programs on-the-fly. They would just implement that plan and observe.

4. Of course, plans often do not go according to plan. After the pre-epidemic plan is put in place, elected representatives should monitor that plan and make changes.

5. Even if there are strong and differing opinions among the elected representatives, these representatives would understand that no one knows for sure the best way to handle this crisis. They will express their opinions and then wait for the consensus to create a plan of action. If the adjusted plan works, great. If it doesn’t work, the TDG representatives would not waste time blaming each other. They would just work out another plan.


Elections

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 is going to affect the results of the USA election in November. But no one knows for sure the extent to which soft supporters of either party are going to risk a trip to the voting station—to possibly catch a terrible disease. The question we need to ask is: “Should we really let a disease decide who gets elected?”

Mail-in ballots are a great idea. But this new voting tool needs to be well thought out and studied, including proper administration of the ballots. Expanding whatever provisions the USA has for mail-in voting will produce cheating or perceived cheating, which then de-legitimizes the election results. When election results are questioned, civil society starts crumbling. Because both parties are looking out for their electoral advantage and not what’s best for America, don’t expect a well-thought-out plan for mail-in ballots. I hope the USA does not expand its mail-in ballots for November.


Here’s how the TDG would get around Covid-19 affecting its elections.

1. TDG elections are vastly different than elections in western democracies. In the TDG system, electoral districts are based on neighborhoods--groups of about 200 residents—who elect their own neighborhood representative into government. In these neighborhood elections, there won’t be a big throng of people at the voting station. So it should be quite easy to maintain hygienic standards and social distancing. And I hope the TDG develops sound mechanisms for mail-in ballots long before a pandemic hits.

2. A pandemic may still result in a lower turnout, a little cheating, some poor administration, or some fear-mongering electioneering prior to the election. But having a few TDG representatives elected in this way won’t affect the culture of consultation at the higher levels where most of the authority and responsibility belong. If a neighborhood representative is not suitable, he or she can be voted out in the next annual election. In other words, a controversial character won’t rise very high or be around very long in the TDG.

3. At the higher tiers, elections will be conducted with a much smaller number—maybe five to 25 voters. Social distancing and hygienic standards will be even easier to maintain. Mail-in ballots can be more easily scrutinized. A pandemic should have little effect on these elections.


Conclusion

A pandemic will be better handled by the TDG, both in pre-pandemic preparation and for real-time decisions.

The TDG should now be seriously considered as an alternative simply because western democracies did not prepare medically or economically for something like Covid-19.

And that pandemic will not affect the election results. There might be a few not-so-worthy people elected at the neighborhood levels. But that will not immediately affect the functioning at the higher levels, which would have had prepared plans in advance.

But there is a catch. If you want this system, you have to put some effort towards it. The TDG will be built and can only be built by WE, THE PEOPLE.

And that means YOU!

Published on Medium 2020

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