Just an interesting idea for a government, not really sure if it's a good idea, but still interested in the results of one existing.
The idea is for your traditional representative democracy, or perhaps a delegative democracy. However, a user is not limited to a single vote, instead being given a means to earn extra votes, or to lose voting power, by doing things for the government. The obvious example would be by buying more votes, but is not limited to it.
First, in this system a vote is divisible. For sake of addressing things lets say that each person gets 100 'vote units' per vote by default to start with. Anyone can vote with these.
However, the US congress says that extravagant financial expenditures count as free speech, so the rich can try to pay to encourage a given vote with advertisements and the like today. However, the funny thing is that if one rich person pays 50,000 for a pro-choice ad and another rich person pays 50,000 for a pro-life the two ads sort of 'counteract' each other, in theory one ad sways as many people to its cause as the other resulting in no net difference in voter turn out, but with 100,000 dollar worth of ads wasted. So what if, instead of the expensive advertisement wars a government decided to cut out the middle man and instead allowed each person to give the government 50,000 to 'buy' extra votes. Their votes would counteract each other, but at least the government is 100,000 richer which it can spend to fund some program to better its citizens...
My theoretical government tries to address these issues to make 'buying votes' more efficient but also theoretically no stronger or weaker. They have very tightly controlled advertisements for campaigns, limiting rich in the way they can pay for political ads and providing basic funding to political campaigns to try to ensure that major campaigns worked with the same, limited, funding for campaigning.
However, they allowed those who previously would have donated money to campaign finances to cut out the middle man by directly buying extra votes for themselves. To limit one absurdly rich person buying votes they did this on a scaling system such that:
- The cost for each 'vote' was partially scaled off of one's tax returns. The rich pay slightly more to buy a vote than the poor. However, the rich are still paying a much smaller percentage of their net income, so individual rich still have more buying power. However,
- The cost of votes purchased increases with each vote purchased in a roughly exponential fashion. So the first vote for a given voter costs X dollars, the next costs 1.1*x, the next cost 1.21*x and next costs 1.331* x etc. Keep in mind voters start with 100 votes, so to buy 100 votes, to double your basic voting power, you would need to pay ..actually an absurdly high amount if one used the simply 1.1 increase ratio, but the actual voting algorithm would likely be a more complex polynomial rather than a simple exponent. The point being that it grows prohibitively expensive even for the rich to continue buying votes after awhile due to the exponential increase in price
- Strict rules are in place to prevent giving someone money to buy votes for you (at a lower cost than you would buy votes), for now just assume that this sort of voter fraud is well enough regulated to not have a significant affect on elections.
The idea is that this system does allow the rich to buy votes with their money, but is designed to tightly regulate just how much they can buy votes, ideally lowering their overall impact compared to funding campaigns by putting an effective cap on their vote buying power due to the exponential increase of votes. In addition it allows the government to take all this vote buying money in as a small alternate source of income. Rather than wasting money having two sides bickering with increasingly expensive attack ads the government benefits from this form of vote buying.
The argument for allowing this sort of vote buying being that those that help support the government more have earned a right to be heard by the government due to their support. Of course the government can be supported in ways other than financially...
Thus the next logical step would be to have non-fiscal government support be rewarded with votes as well. The government sets up a system where any 'civic duty' can earn someone 'civic credits' that can be cashed in for votes. For instance, in addition to the usual financial rewards for civic duties one may receive 1 civic credit for jury duty. Anyone whose property is seized for eminent domain may receive some credits depending on the size/expense of property. People working for certain recognized charitable non-profits may earn credits per hours worked. Foster parents earn credits for fostering children. Perhaps much like how tax refunds are attached to various activities to encourage behaviors vote incentives will be attached. Charitable donations of money to nonprofits earn votes at 1/2 the rate that direct buying of a vote would earn etc. The government may come up with other activities they want to encourage and offer similar 'civic credits' for those who perform these credits, maybe to help protect the environment congress passes a law that rewards some credits to anyone that purchases a vehicle with better than X MPG fuel efficiency (with assorted rules to prevent rich from buying a dozen efficient cars for credits) The point being that the government sets up ways to reward citizens for other 'civic duties' with extra points.
These non-fiscal votes work similarly to the manner for purchased votes.
- 'vote credits' are earned for each non-fiscal 'civic duty' like the ones listed above. These credits can be traded in for votes but suffer similar diminishing returns that buying votes does, the more votes you already earned the more credits it costs to buy the next vote. However, I suspect credits won't suffer from quite as high a diminishing return as bought votes, a larger linear value and smaller exponential value on the cost polynomial means that while non-fiscal credits will eventually grow prohibitively expensive one can buy more of them first and the cost of each credit compared to the previous isn't as drastic.
- Anyone can store their credits to have them carry over into the next year/voting round. however, a small percentage, say 10%, of stored credits is lost when carried over to the next year, meaning trying to store credits for years to have enough to sway a key vote is not an option.
- The total cost of a new vote would actually consider the total number of votes earned from both purchase and civic credits. Buying lots of votes from civic credits will make purchasing votes more expensive and vice versa. However, it would scale such that the first few votes earned with each method are generally cheap, even if many votes are earned with the other method.
Finally, there are a few ways that votes can be lost, by doing things that are considered counter to the welfare of the nation, but only a small subset of things lead to lost votes. Being found guilty of a felony may be charged a one time loss of votes depending on the severity of the felony, as could being in jail (which doesn't mean all votes are lost, and would only last as long as one is actually in jail). Collecting welfare or other government assistance does not result in a loss of votes. Voter fraud of any type will result in the loss of all votes. Perhaps a few other "anti civic activities" are deemed punishable by loss of votes, but I can't think of any right now, generally penalizing someone's votes is rare is saved for extreme situations.
My question is how would this government function, what are its limits or benefits, and what potential problems will the government have to be aware of to serve as a fair representation. Most relevantly, could this be done in a way that does not give the rich too disproportionate a control over votes (rich always buy votes, even today, I'm more wondering if this can be done in such a way that it's not much worse than current day).
Would the extra financial income and 'civic duties' done to earn votes be enough to have any real positive effect on government and its citizens?