As a teenager, I used to think about democracy a fair amount. It's a system, I'm a system hacker by nature, so, I thought about ways of running it that would lead to better results. Of course, I ended up rejecting the state as incompatible with morality. And thus democracy doesn't seem so important; I have not given much thought to how to run it well in years. But since I have been lurking over at the FSP boards, practical politics is more in my mind. Thus, some thoughts on how to run a fairer system of democracy.
As I understand it, the idea behind electing representatives is that they represent us - they proxy our votes. My idea is simple: make vote proxying explicit.
There would be no elections, per se. Instead, it would be an ongoing fee-based project of the government to discover proxies for the citizens. There might be special times when the government organizes itself to reach out to the masses to try to get them to reconsider their proxy; and these might seem something like our current elections.
Every citizen would have the right to pick any proxy he or she wished. There would be just two types of proxying allowed: one would allow further proxying (with the proxy choosing), and the other, not. Any proxy with a sufficient number of votes proxied would be allow to sit in, and vote in, the representative body (let's call it Congress, but it might be any legislature type of body). The proxies with the largest number of votes would be allowed into Congress. This might be everyone representing at least 1m voters; or it might be the 400 top proxies.
Voting in Congress would require different voting levels to pass two fundamental types of laws. An "abolition vote" would be any vote to abolish any current law(s) while adding no new law. Abolition votes would require a 50% majority of proxied votes of the assembled, voting, legislators. Thus, people who are not represented in Congress, or whose representative did not show up that day, effectively abstain from all abolition votes. All other voting actions by the Congress would be in the second category, and would require a 50% majority of all registered voters - registered, that is, with any proxy, or with no proxy at all. Thus, people who are not represented in Congress, or whose representative did not show up that day, effectively vote against all ordinary congressional votes.
What's good about this system as versus our current system?
First, under a proxy system it should be easy to get very good representation for almost every voter. Consider a system where the 400 top proxies are allowed in Congress. Perhaps half of these would be "Centrist" representatives comparable to our Demopublican politicians. But the other half would be every imaginable flavor and combination of radical. Basically, every political group down to about the 0.1% level would be represented. If 2% of the public are libertarians, they could proxy to a handful of well known Libertarian politicians.
Second, the representation is much more direct. Changing your proxy is allowed. There would be a fee for the service under any libertarian system, but presumably that would be small. Thus, any politician would be held directly and immediately accountable to the voters. By contrast, in our current system if your representative votes wrongly, you can do literally nothing about it. One can imagine mass campaigns to de-proxy politicians after every major vote. If you think politicians are risk averse now, it isn't anything. This is good - it builds in tremendous resistance to change.
Note that the ability to reproxy also increases the effective representation ability of the system. Let's say you are in some tiny minority so small you have no representative in Congress. You might still get effective representation by switching your proxy at strategic times, based on upcoming votes. Because proxies can "pass on" the proxies (of the voters that allowed that), the fee for strategically reproxying can be spread over the entire group. Thus the group of lesbian pro life black vegetarians, for instance, might proxy to a NARAL representative some of the time, a vegan representative some of the time, The Rev. Jesse J some of the time, and the "Gay Alliance" rep some of the time.
The final improvement over the current system is that this system allows a form of opting-out. If you register, but don't vote, or if you proxy to someone who is not allowed to vote, or who can't or won't go to Congress, then you effectively are against all new law. A minority opting out is still subject to the will of the majority (that's democracy - replacing this aspect of the system would be interesting, but not democratic). But an anti-political minority can, at least, make it harder for the majority to add new law. If one third of the voters are not represented, then it takes a 2/3 supermajority of the represented voters to pass every law; but still only a normal 50% majority to remove laws.
By contrast, in our current system everyone who voted or did not vote is equally considered to be represented by the winner. Most winners get less than a quarter of the electorate to endorse them. And many laws are passed by near votes of about 50% of the representatives. Thus, looked at in terms of proxies, many of our laws really only proxy for about 1/8 of the voters; and few laws if any proxy for more than about 40%. It is no wonder most people feel so estranged from politics - it's because we, collectively, are.