Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Plan for Local Government

I'm a big advocate of local government. I believe that one of the reasons so many people are so down on government is the fact that someone, somewhere who is supposed to be representing your interests does not care about you. They care about their parties, about their special interests, and about keeping their job. What really ought to be a government "by the people" is now government from the government; "consent of the governed" is in many cases "apathy of the governed". By straying away from the representative-constituent system, we now have untold layers of bureaucratic nonsense. That's something anyone can disagree with, regardless of your dot on the Nolan chart.

Two options exist here: either wipe the slate and make a new system, or re-energize people about their local government, and demand that control be returned to somewhere resembling "the governed". The first is clearly non-practical. But I think there's a decent shot at the second.

The term "county" was originally the demesne of a count, just as a "kingdom" belonged to a king and a "duchy" belonged to a duke. My plan is simple: reinstate the office of count. Some counties have commissioners, some have chairmen, some merged city-counties might have mayors. Who actually knows who their commissioner is? I consider myself reasonably well informed about politics at all levels, and I have no idea who the chairman of the board of commissioners of Gwinnett is. Under this proposal, not only would everyone in the county know who the count was, they'd have a sworn allegiance to him or her.

One clarification: the count is an elected position. I'm advocating federalism with a local emphasis, not feudalism. The populace elects its count and can get rid of him when it so chooses. It can use two means to accomplish this: a simple vote of no confidence, or a march on city hall with picks and shovels. If it uses the latter, the populace can then install its choice for count immediately and pillory the old count in the stocks outside city hall.

What are the duties of the count? A lot of administrative stuff, of course. But also to rally his constituents around him. If the county government wants to get something done at the state or federal level, it's up to the count to get the people to support it. That means making a circuit around the county, showing up to and organizing meetings, and delivering impassioned speeches defending his actions.

The count would have a symbol of office, a cape, that he would have to wear when conducting any official business.

Most entertainingly, and most likely to rally the masses, is the way the count deals with inter-county disputes. Under the current system, if Gwinnett and Dekalb have a fight over some trees, they bring their cases to the state government, some surveyors get sent out a few weeks later, and an appellate judge draws lines on a map, along with the aid of some civil engineer. Yawn.

Under the count system, things would be drastically different. It would be up to the count to defend both the interests and honor of the county. This means a duel with the disputant count. Rapiers, first blood wins the day and the dispute.

If this won't get people enthusiastic, I don't know what will.

Currently listening: "Desecration Smile", Red Hot Chili Peppers

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