Technology for the Federal Government
This blog post is not about how federal departments can use technology for their work, but rather how the very process of government itself can be transformed using modern technology. Our system of governance including fundamentals such as election methods and the money supply are basically 19th century (or 18th) models only slightly adapted. Perhaps we can say that one government core function, defence, has done better in using technology.
This post considers two specific ideas for using modern technology to transform key aspects of the federal government.
In our republic, congressmen and women are meant to represent certain districts. Senators are to represent states. However, as congress has changed from a body which met for brief periods each year to a nearly full time body, this has meant that the members nearly all move to the Washington D.C. area even if they maintain homes in their home states and districts. This has several perverse effects:
- Members of congress are more assessable to lobbyists than to constituents.
- Members of congress spend far more time socially with each other than with constituents.
- Members are more in tune to the needs of federal bureaucracy than to either national interests or their districts/states because they live among all the people who work in the D.C. area.
The proposal is to use technology to make all meetings of congress remote. We have the technology to have a meeting room in each district/state when members go for meetings, whether committee meetings or general sessions. Large screens, with 3D if necessary, and with wrap around if desired could provide very adequate facilities for debate, discussion, interviewing (i.e. hearings) and voting. All voting would be electronic so there were never be any question of who voted yea or nea on any vote.
With this simple proposal, members would now live among their constituents, not each other, lobbyists and the federal bureaucracy. This could become a lobbyist nightmare – having to cover 435 house districts and 100 senators, all in different places.
Furthermore, such a system may encourage high quality men and women to run for office knowing that they would not have to uproot their families and move to the D.C. area.
II. The Monetary System
Our current monetary system is rooted in very low technology systems. Money has changed since the start of the republic with the widespread use of fiat currency and the Federal Reserve System.
One competitor to government currency today is the virtual currency Bit Coin. I propose that the US government create its own virtual currency using technology similar to Bit Coin. I would suggest that this should be instituted via constitutional amendment because a key feature of such a virtual currency is that the amount of the currency being created is known and fixed. By putting this in the constitution, inflating the currency by simply creating more would require a constitutional amendment which requires great consensus.
There are two great challenges to this use of technology:
- Transition from the current dollar.
- How to implement cash.
For transition, I would propose allowing a free market for trading from dollars to the new currency. However, there would be a “drop dead” date for the current dollar. On that date, anyone could convert remaining dollars to the new currency at a rate which is computed based on the historical exchange rate of the two currencies with a built in penalty for being late so as to encourage everyone to do the exchange. After this date, old dollars (including cash) are not valid US currency.
To provide cash, the government can coin/print money that can be used in place of the virtual currency. However, all such cash is part of the total supply of the virtual currency, not in addition to it. I would suggest that the cash be of two forms:
- Larger amounts (e.g. $20 or more equivalent?). The “cash” would be an electronic token with unique serial number whose movement is tracked. This destroys the counterfeiting industry, a major source of criminal revenue and rogue state revenue (e.g. North Korea).
- Smaller amounts would be metal coins whose metals tend to be worth nearly their equivalent value thus making counterfeiting of them of little profit.
Both of these proposals are intended to cause readers to think. Each certainly has potential flaws and would require extensive debate and thought to hammer out the details. However, I believe that we are foolish to persist with outmoded technologies in government when we see so many other areas of life enhanced by technology.