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Scott Adams Proposes a Fourth Branch of Government 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-about-the-psychohistorical-branch dept.
LoLobey writes "Dilbert creator Scott Adams is proposing a fourth branch of government in the WSJ. He describes it as 'smallish and economical, operating independently, with a mission to build and maintain a friendly user interface for citizens to manage their government.' It's a humorous article with some interesting ideas including internet access as a constitutional right and a constitutional ban on all election contributions for any candidate that polls above 10%. He's primarily proposing a method of getting verifiably accurate information on various issues to aid voters in making decisions, but despairs on his own blog about reader's comments on the article."
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Scott Adams Proposes a Fourth Branch of Government

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  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:40PM (#37988958) Homepage

    How about getting rid of corruption? Corporate donations, professional lobbyists, etc.

    Just make it flat out illegal, and consider it treason.

    • Re:Better idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:44PM (#37989008)

      Isn't corruption already illegal?

      Also, can you please point out an example of a government that is less corruptible than our own?

      • Re:Better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chainsaw1 (89967) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:48PM (#37989066)

        Assuming "our own" is the United States, there are twenty according to this list:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_index [wikipedia.org]

        • by Bob-taro (996889)

          Assuming "our own" is the United States, there are twenty according to this list:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_index [wikipedia.org]

          Note that is an index of the PERCEPTION of corruption. The ones scoring better than the U.S. might just be better at hiding it.

          • by Intropy (2009018)
            There's also the issue of cultural norms. What people in one country might consider to be corrupt, people in another might think is fine behavior or so commonplace that despite being bad it's expected and so doesn't count.
        • by Canazza (1428553)

          I refuse to believe Jamaica is more corrupt than China :|

          Hell, I refuse to believe there's any crime in Jamaica and it's entirely populated by Bobsledders and Malibu drinking DJs.

        • by Americano (920576)

          twenty who are "perceved to be less corrupt"; that does not mean that they are less corruptible.

          But in broad strokes, looking at that list you'll find that most of the countries at the top of your list are fairly liberal democracies/republics. I'd say that offers a pretty strong suggestion that liberal democracy and free market economies are relatively less corruptible than the alternatives.

      • Re:Better idea (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @04:02PM (#37989324)

        Isn't corruption already illegal?

        Also, can you please point out an example of a government that is less corruptible than our own?

        If by "our own" you mean the government of the United States of America, then I can point to several less corruptible governments including:

        Denmark
        New Zealand
        Singapore
        Finland
        Sweden
        Canada
        Netherlands
        Australia
        Switzerland
        Norway

        While I might be taking a bit of liberty in the interpretation (this is Slashdot after all), this is based on Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results)

        "The 2010 CPI measures the degree to which public sector corruption is perceived to exist in 178 countries around the world"

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Now how much of that is the structure of the government vs the culture of the country?

      • Canada has less corruption. This is mainly because offering bribes is impolite.

        The USA comes in 22nd [wikipedia.org]. Not bad, but room for improvement.

    • Campaign donations not spent in a campaign can be pocketed afterwards, so there is a legal way to basically bribe any politician.

      I believe Australia makes it illegal to give money to politicians, period. The government gives parties money to run the elections. Politicians are well paid, so you don't get all the private-sector failures. But they can't be bribed.

      • Sortition also eliminates election bribes- gives a better cross-section representation of our society- allows for a more diverse viewpoint than a "this idea or that idea" 2 party system.

        Would kill the lobbying industry.

        • Lobbyist: Hey, you! Want to win a real lottery? All you have to do is sign here/vote/walk through that door...
          Representative (best case): Hmm...
          Representative (worst case): Ker-ching!

          While I like the idea of sortition, I think it would only stop repeated bribery of one representative.

        • That is only if they drop out of the race, or don't run again. So long as they finish their campaign and run for office the entire time, they get to pocket what is left over. That money is used to repay a candidate for any expenses they occured directly. The rest stays in an account for their next campaign bid. Or they donate the remainder to the party and get a tax write-off for the donation.

          http://blogs.wsj.com/wallet/2008/11/04/what-happens-to-leftover-campaign-money/ [wsj.com]

          • by Surt (22457)

            I don't know what you mean by pocket. Your linked article says specifically, they don't get to do that.

            "“The rule is that [campaign donations] can’t be used for personal use,” says FEC spokesperson Bob Biersack."

          • by icebike (68054)

            That is only if they drop out of the race, or don't run again. So long as they finish their campaign and run for office the entire time, they get to pocket what is left over. That money is used to repay a candidate for any expenses they occured directly. The rest stays in an account for their next campaign bid. Or they donate the remainder to the party and get a tax write-off for the donation.

            http://blogs.wsj.com/wallet/2008/11/04/what-happens-to-leftover-campaign-money/ [wsj.com]

            Your own citation refutes what you say:

            According to the FEC, if a candidate for federal office (a presidential hopeful, say) loses and is a congressperson, he or she can roll over unused money into a re-election kitty. They can also repay themselves for personal funds used during the campaign up to a certain amount, depending on the race and when those funds were used. They can contribute the dollars to a charity. Candidates may also return money to contributors, but determining who gets how much is a delicate operation avoided by most, if not all, candidates. For local elections, state rules vary.

            “The rule is that [campaign donations] can’t be used for personal use,” says FEC spokesperson Bob Biersack.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        "The government gives parties money to run the elections"

        Sorry, but I'm still gagging at the prospect of PAYING candidates to screw me when they are elected. Public financing sounds all good until you realize that election starts the corruption in *earnest*. Then it seems, to me, to be public financing of the screwers by the screwees.

        • Let me put it this way: would you rather that candidates are bribed by corporations through donations, or by yourself through taxes?

    • Your representatives are all bought and paid for, it ain't going to happen.

       

    • OK, first of all, corruption is already illegal. If you can demonstrate a quid pro quo, it is a violation of the law.
      Now, let's examine your particulars. You want to outlaw corporate donations. What this means is that I cannot pool my money with a bunch of like minded people and form a corporation for the purpose of influencing the actions of government officials. That means you would prefer to see the fabulously wealthy have even greater influence over the decisions made by the government.
      You want to ou
      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        ban all contributions of cash to a politician corporate or individual.

        money is not speech, this is evident in that we don't put "speech" into our wallets

        if people want to contribute to a cause they believe in they can donate their time, every american gets 24 hours every day, and 7 days every week, how we spend our time is our own choice

        having more money, or being in a position to influence an organization which controls more money, is no justification for giving someone a greater voice

        in addition, corp
    • by codex24 (130799)

      Legally-enforced prohibition never solved anything. Look what it has done for alcohol, narcotics, and traitors. They've been reduced, but haven't gone away. If you want to eliminate something then you need to destroy its habitat, and the natural habitat of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex predator is the unchecked flow of money that drives the current political process. As Scott alludes, Campaign Finance Reform (http://www.publicampaign.org/) is the single most important political issue in this

    • by Intropy (2009018)
      My first thought was that corruption is already illegal.

      My second thought was that making something illegal doesn't stop it from being done.

      Then I saw "Corporate donations, professional lobbyists, etc." Your examples of "corruption" aren't corruption at all. You just want to shut up people you don't like.

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        So you support welfare for the rich? Because that's exactly what these people are buying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by steelfood (895457)

      There are free speech issues at play here. An individual (not corporation) can still purchase air time on television to endorse that person's preferred candidate. Even if banning non-human entities from political speech, it still gives an unfair advantage to those who have money.

      The only defense against corruption is education. The most corrupt governments are also in nations with a poorly educated populace. And it's not a cause-effect relationship, but worse: a vicious cycle. Poor education leads to govern

      • by jwhitener (198343)

        We could probably kill several birds with one stone if we strengthened and extended libel and slander laws to political speech.

        You want to buy and make a commercial to say something about a policy or candidate? You better make sure it is factually accurate and not misleading or do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go directly to jail.

    • Ban it!!! It makes you feel good, but it does infringe peoples rights. I agree that changes are needed, but you have to think these things through a bit and make sure the cure is not worse than the disease.

      Some limits are required. But the best solution is a better informed and educated population. Too bad being "elite" is soon as a bad thing in so much of current USA culture. Personally, I WANT to vote for the elite, meaning those best qualified for the job.

    • Just make it flat out illegal, and consider it treason.

      Once again...

      Treason is defined in the Constitution. Without a Constitutional Amendment to redefine it, none of this would meet the definition.

      And good luck getting a Constitutional Amendment redefining treason in such a way that the new definition can't be used against YOU in a court of law, if the government so desires.

    • Because lobbying is a kind of petition for redress of grievances and therefor protected against any laws. Not that I agree with that interpretation, but it makes more sense than "money is speech" citizens united type rulings.

    • by Americano (920576)

      You're aware that numerous groups (including ones whose political aims and goals you likely support quite fervently) engage in lobbying too, right? Unions lobby for better labor protection and business regulations; Environmental groups lobby for better wetlands protection and stricter emissions regulations; Are you going to suggest that these groups will now be put to death for treason if they hire somebody to represent them and meet with legislators about issues near and dear to the members of the group

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:41PM (#37988974)

    The Sanity Check Branch.

    Composed of 251 adult citizens with college educations (5 from each state, 1 from DC) selected at random for 1 year terms. Each law after presidential signing or Congressional override must be read aloud and provided in writing to the branch. They vote on it in secret. If it does not get 60% of the votes, it dies.

    • by dreemernj (859414)
      College educations and insanity are certainly not mutually exclusive.
      • by Surt (22457)

        But the going rate on insanity in the college educated population probably falls below the 40% threshold.

        • by dreemernj (859414)
          I would look for a study of insanity in non-college students, but all studies now solely use college students.
    • Distantly related to an idea I saw being batted around years ago, which I liked very much -- make the House of Representatives itself work this way. Serving your district in the House is like jury duty, you get a summons, you serve for a year, and then you're done.

      It's fun to think about, but the problem is that if the members (of sanity-check or my wacky HoR) are known to be short-timers, their privileges will end up being suborned by the permanent staff, who will have the institutional memory needed to wo

    • by icebike (68054)

      Much cheaper to just run a Federal Department of Turkey Farms.

      Pay them well. Give them desks and titles. Just don't let them do anything real.
      It would provide a career path for all branches of government, somewhere you could sent promote your useless employees and community organizers.

      Best if these farms were located well away from the seat of government, perhaps in Golgafrincham, Wyoming. No actual animals would be involved.

    • I suspect that it would be physically impossible to read every vote aloud in a reasonable (50 hour work week) time frame. It certainly wouldn't be possible for individual people actually understand, let alone weigh in on and discuss, every aspect of ever law of the current system. Now, maybe that's part of what you're trying to address under the assumption that your secret voters would vote down anything that was so unwieldy and cumbersome.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yes, that sounds like the point.

        We currently have a system in which the decision makers can't read every bill they vote on. Each has a staff of people who presumably can be trusted to steer the Congressperson the right way.
      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @04:45PM (#37990010)

        I suspect that it would be physically impossible to read every vote aloud in a reasonable (50 hour work week) time frame.

        If it can't be read aloud in 50 hours, it's almost certainly bad law.

        If Congress is passing so many laws that they all can't be read aloud during the Congressional Term, then Congress is passing a lot of what are, almost certainly, bad laws.

        One easy check for a bad law - the people who voted for/against it haven't read it.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      I would add to that the requirement that any law can only be presented to the committee after the President has signed it, and they have 2 weeks to approve or disapprove. At the end of two weeks, the law defaults to "disapproved".

      Good luck getting monstrous laws passed under that regime!

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        yeah, just kill checks and balances entirely. The president can just veto the party line and only allow things through that he likes.

    • Why don't laws, when tested, only need a majority of the Supremes to pass them? Shouldn't any decent law require unanimous approval of the supreme court to be good enough to apply to everyone?

      E.g. Why should the common folk be required to follow a law that a *Supreme Court Justice* doesn't think should be.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Composed of 251 adult citizens with college educations

      Sounds good, but obviously public universities won't count, and let's tack on "land owners" while we're at it.

    • The Sanity Check Branch.

      Composed of 251 adult citizens with college educations (5 from each state, 1 from DC) selected at random for 1 year terms. Each law after presidential signing or Congressional override must be read aloud and provided in writing to the branch. They vote on it in secret. If it does not get 60% of the votes, it dies.

      Two-thirds. Require 168 votes in your little organization. Other than that, I approve of the concept.

    • They vote on it in secret... great, maybe they should also be provided secret identities ala the witness protection program, so lobbyists can't find them, and then you could penalize them with threat of the death penalty if they are caught seeking out bribe money. (Hint: given human nature, this rule will be violated in every session, regardless of the death penalty.)

  • Because we all know that the government should be the one to decide what is true or not.

    Scott Adams has reached his level of incompetence.

  • by jasno (124830) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:45PM (#37989030) Journal

    How can a democracy function effectively when the government is more complex than the average voter can understand?

    In order to make intelligent decisions, voters need to understand what they're controlling. If they can't do that, you've got to remove some functionality.

    • How can a democracy function effectively when the government is more complex than the average voter can understand?

      You could ask the same thing about science or business. How can science function when the average person does not understand organic chemistry? How can a business function when most people know little about corporate accounting. The answer is that they don't have to. We elect or appoint specialists to manage those functions but retain the right to remove them from office. Any reasonably large organization is more complicated than a single person can fully comprehend but that doesn't mean they can't wor

      • How can a democracy function effectively when the government is more complex than the average voter can understand?

        You could ask the same thing about science or business. How can science function when the average person does not understand organic chemistry? How can a business function when most people know little about corporate accounting. The answer is that they don't have to. We elect or appoint specialists to manage those functions but retain the right to remove them from office. Any reasonably large organization is more complicated than a single person can fully comprehend but that doesn't mean they can't work.

        Besides, the US at least is not and never has been a democracy. Properly speaking it is a republic [wikipedia.org].

        Most "reasonably large" organizations are also fairly strict hierarchies.

  • More government to fix the problem of too much government?

    Makes sense if one accepts the idea that too much debt can be fixed with more debt.

    Too many wars can be fixed with a bigger war.

    This [slashdot.org] is how you start, not with more government, with less government.

    • I read your post and agree with the sentiments expressed. I then read your linked post. I think a much simpler ammendment to address the problem is one that has been suggested from time to time over the last several years. Every bill must contain an addendum that states where in the Constitution Congress is given the authority to enact such a law. Additionally, the courts would only have to rule on whether or not that provision of the Constitution actually did so. There would be no need to consider whether
  • by a2wflc (705508) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:47PM (#37989054)

    Unless you can find a way to make voters care, nothing else matters. I'm afraid the UI they want has 2 big buttons "R" and "D" for voting and discussion boards where only like-minded people can post.

    • by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @04:01PM (#37989302)
      Further, the R/D view is part of the reason voters don't care. It creates an US vs. Them scenario for people, I vote for my team and people who vote for the other are wrong. No thought, no discussion of issues has to occur, just keep the adversarial appearance.

      The two party system in the US has broken down to not being about issues, but about the two parties themselves.
    • And this is why it is a bad idea to make it easier for people to vote. We already have too many people who vote, but who don't care enough to pay attention for more than a month or two before the election (and then only to the major races--President, governor, mayor).
      • We already have too many people who vote, but who don't care enough to pay attention

        Partially I think this is because we have too many offices which are elected. I find it very difficult to care who the county surveyor and coroner are, yet I still have to elect them.

    • The bigger issue I think is the increase of absentminded voters. The main 2 parties are nothing but shills for businesses, and any other party or viewpoint will never actually be known by 90% of the voters, who know little more about the candidates then the 3 minute political bashing that they have done on each-other. Most candidates can win on a pure "well the democrat smoked crack in highschool" based campaign rivaling against "oh yeah the republican has a gay son" without even having to focus on their vi
  • Sounds like a joke. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300)

    But really the government has got way to complex for us. The ultra rich have resources to work with it thus any new rule and regulation that popular demand puts up they will find a way around. Leaving the middle class to do the heavy lifting and getting screwed.
    I remember I was working at a small business. They were trying to get a grant "Geared to help train employees at small businesses" They filled out the paper work, they got rejected because the training needed to be in state, they did it again, beca

    • The Democrats make government services that only the rich have the resources to take advantage of.

      Wut?
      I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that only the rich would have access to universal healthcare.
      Or only the rich would apply for low-income housing assistance.
      Or only the rich would work for minimum wage.
      Or... you know what? Sorry, that's just silly. Broad generalizations hardly ever paint an accurate picture, but this one... this one is way WAY off in left field.

      Business grants though. That could be one example that fits. Still, it's spectacular cherry picking.

  • Imagine being able to go to one website to see the best arguments for and against every issue, with links to support or refute every factual claim. And imagine that professional arbitrators would score each argument.

    I think I've seen something like this already...

    • Sort of. It's called factcheck.org, and it has a liberal bias. Whoever the "professional abritrators" are will determine which facts are used and how the claims are interpreted to be true or false.

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      No. 'Best' is the part missing on most sites. And professionals.

  • Jesus Christ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SlippyToad (240532) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:49PM (#37989092)

    Adams was at one time a funny guy, but he's long past his sell date. His cartoons are uniformly boring and predictable.

    And his ideas about anything outside of mocking office stupidity are simply breathtaking for their sheer wilful ignorance. I've read some of his other political blatherings. I filed them in the same bird cage where I keep David Brooks' meaningless self-aggrandizing bullshit, which is piled on top of the now thank-fucking-god-that-stupid-bastard-is-dead David Broder's similar excrescences.

    God save us from over-wealthy fools who think that money equals intelligence.

    • So what is your better idea? I'd love to hear how you would fix the may problems facing the USA. I know you think you are smarter and better than Adams, so please, share your wisdom with us.

      It is so much easier to find flaws than propose solutions.

    • by diegocg (1680514)

      Scott Adams has always been careful to note that his "political" ideas have no sense and that he doesn't know anything about the topics he talks about. He writes these articles just because he likes to write thought-provoking articles that make people discuss something different than the boring and predictable political bullshit that you find anywhere else. From TFA: "If you think my ideas for fixing the republic are ridiculous and impractical, you're probably right. If you have better ideas, this would be

  • The press is the fourth branch of government and it is doing a horrible job. People are busy and expect the press to research and appraise things fairly, instead we receive sensational stories or someones biased opinion. Half the time we get side tracked on discussing the wrong issues. The press as it is has failed and I hope that it is replaced with something that better informs the populace.
  • "Today, thanks to the Internet, we can summon the collective intelligence of millions. "
    Just go and read the comments on the story and the average CNN story to see just how little intelligence that is.
    Some times if you add in enough loud dumb it will over whelm the smart.

  • Give the states parliamentary control over all three branches.

    -If 3/4 of a state legislature issues a vote of no confidence in its congressional delegation, they're all removed and a new election is called.
    -If 2/3 of the states issue one within 2 years, the entire Congress is disbanded and an emergency national election is called.
    -If 2/3 of the states issue one for the Supreme Court or Presidency, either the entire SCOTUS or the entire appointed/elected executive branch are removed.
    -If a simple majority iss

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      Or how about giving the states back power as initially intended and keeping the central government around for social programs, diplomacy, the post office, upholding constitutional rights, and settling disputes among states. The only reason we have such a centrally focused government now is due to wars, domestic and foreign.

      The way we're set up now, no progress can be made due to our centralized government and corruption. I'm sure we'd be seeing a major redistribution of the population right now if the gov

  • I'm a Dilbert fan without being an Adams fan, but I like some of what he's written in this opinion piece, which is essentially about creating a more informed and more engaged voting public. What I read into this is that we already have a fourth branch of government, it's the American people, and government should make it easier for them to play a part into it. I think that's admirable.

    At one point in the essay, Adams talks about an online forum where people can debate ideas and learn about issues. It remind

    • I couldn't find it at the time I wrote this post, but a decade ago I stumbled upon an essay by Martin Carcasson that really blew my mind in how sophisticated it was in tackling the issue of of having informed debate in America. I couldn't find the original essay, but I did find is now a Professor at Colorado State [colostate.edu] and has continued writing articles on the subject. I only glanced through a few of them, but his writing continues to be very insightful. I've downloaded the essays to read later. Really advanced
  • I am at all not convinced by arguments that the problem with the current government of the United States is that it is too complex. During the late 18th century, when the U.S. Constitution was written, debated, signed and ratified, even the most optimistic views of Colonial literacy rates held them at a point 10-15% below current rates. In addition the people who founded the current government were among some of the most distinguished and learned people of the era. Many Congressional delegates were well rea

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      I tend to argue that there's a different crux of the problem:

      There's a big pile of money that government can use. Government needs to do stuff, and whenever it does stuff, it takes money off of the pile to hire people to do it, or sometimes just gives cash to some of its citizens and businesses. But that means it needs to put money back on the pile, and the only way it has to put money on the pile is to demand (using force if necessary) that people chip in some amount of dough.

      1. Everyone wants their contri

  • Scott Adams is proposing a "Fact Checking" 4th branch, but this already exists. Groups like Politifact are already evaluating politicians statements and rating them according to their veracity. For example, here is their check of Rick Perry claiming that everyone would get a tax cut under his plan: http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2011/nov/07/rick-perry/rick-perry-says-under-his-tax-plan-everyone-will-b/

    They also equally hit both sides of the aisle. Here they are disproving Obama saying that h

  • It really is disheartening. The Fair & Balanced channel is anything but. The others news outlets are biased left to very far left.

    Candidates such as Mitt Romney, who enjoy a popularity among a core group, keep getting misrepresented by those in his same party (hint, Romney is Conservative, has a conservative record, has always voted and signed bills with conservatism in mind, his statements have always been conservative - despite quotes taken out-of-context and misrepresented. I will grant he is r

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