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Linux As a Model For a New Government? 509

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-X,-and-i-release-this-message-under-the-GPL dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The hedge fund investor who prided himself on achieving 1000% returns, Andrew Lahde, wrote a goodbye letter to mark his departure from the financial world. In it, he suggests people think about building a new government model, and his suggestion is to have someone like George Soros fund a new government that brings together the best and brightest minds in a manner where they're not tempted by bribery. In doing so, he refers to how Linux grows and competes with Microsoft. An open source government. How would such a system work, and could it succeed? How long before it became corrupt? Would it need a benevolent dictator (Linus vs. Soros)?"
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Linux As a Model For a New Government?

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:21AM (#25423707)

    How long does it take to make a phone call?

     

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Splab (574204)

      Wikipedia has proven time and time again that "openness" will be corrupted just as easily as anything else.

      • by fbjon (692006) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:57AM (#25424385) Homepage Journal
        Everything becomes corrupt quickly. The trick is, how quickly can corruption be routed around?
      • by aleph42 (1082389) * on Saturday October 18, 2008 @04:32PM (#25426171)

        False!

        Wikipedia is a lot of thing, but its governance is not open.

        As they say themselves, they are "not an experience in democracy", which in my opinion is the source of all the scandals we've seen lately.

        Disagree on the philosophy of Wikipedia? You've got to fight the delete wars.

        Disagree with an admin decision on a delete war? You're out of luck.
        You're not an admin, so you can only try to convince him when he'll "decide on what the consensus is".

        Disagree with Jumbo Wales on anything? You're out. Not only out of luck, but out of Wikipedia, too. Along with your whole IP range, probably.

        On the other hand, slashdot would probably be a pretty good model for democracy (when the admins will lose the veto power on what makes first page, at least).
        And for those who complain about the noise to signal ratio here? That's democracy for you, guys. Go back to microsoft's forum about microsoft; I heard they make the trains arrive on time.

    • by RDW (41497) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:46AM (#25424315)

      '...have someone like George Soros fund a new government that brings together the best and brightest minds in a manner where they're not tempted by bribery.'

      This is an old idea, of course, most recently known as 'meritocracy', a term that many people are unaware was originally intended to be pejorative. Here's what Michael Young (who coined the term in the 50s) had to say about this type of system in business and politics back in 2001, well before the current economic mess:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/jun/29/comment [guardian.co.uk]

      'The business meritocracy is in vogue. If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get. They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody's son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side. So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited.'

    • My point was... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith (2679)

      Government follows money.

      What allows government to be large, centralised and corrupted?

      "It's The Money Stupid".

       

    • by jonbryce (703250) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @03:04PM (#25425571) Homepage

      Linux works because if you don't like what Linus is doing you can fork it, or use one of the BSDs, or start your own operating system.

      For example when people didn't like what Xfree86 was doing, they forked the code to x.org, and now that's what most people use.

      It isn't so easy to fork your government if you don't like what they are doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:22AM (#25423715)

    Most of their proposals seem to be based on the idea of some sort of dictator, with everyone's best interests in mind. I'm sure like communism it might work well in theory.

    Democracy is basic open source government. You get what you put in. Adding in a republic aspect allows you to have some higher level maintainers to keep things orderly and to occasionally make unpopular decisions for the good of the project. Yes, it's potentially open to corruption, but as long as the democratic process itself isn't corrupted, repairs can be made.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:42AM (#25423843)
      And then along comes some group that disagrees with the project leaders and they fork it. Since the government 0.6.1.1 code is open, they start their own 'republic of Tivo', which makes consumers of government very happy and makes 'the father of open source government' unhappy.

      Soon, there are so many government distributions, each with their own election managers and schedulers (some completely fair, some not) that nobody knows which government is best for them. They only know it sometimes won't sell wireless and sometimes the open source penal code is not 100% compatible with new versions of the city manager and some people keep getting called 'blobs'.

      I'm sure that someday will be the 'year of open source on the government' and one of the distributions will Linspire us to all wear little red hats instead of tin foil. What a Novell idea!

      We'll be laughing all the way to the bank about our new, freee government until the judge hits us with patent infringement and says gleefully, "RTFM Noob!" as he issues the kill -9 sentence on us.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MrZaius (321037)

        AC wrote: And then along comes some group that disagrees with the project leaders and they fork it. Since the government 0.6.1.1 code is open, they start their own 'republic of Tivo', which makes consumers of government very happy and makes 'the father of open source government' unhappy.

        Soon, there are so many government distributions, each with their own election managers and schedulers (some completely fair, some not) that nobody knows which government is best for them. They only know it sometimes won't s

      • Complete Balkans! (Score:3, Informative)

        by petes_PoV (912422)
        the process of breaking up a large country into many smaller ones is often known as "balkanisation". When you do this, you always raise the possibility of trade barriers, and protectionism. these are the single quickest ways to screw up an economy (and to bring down a government). What we need are larger trading areas - with common interests, standards and regulations, not smaller ones.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by marxmarv (30295)

          the process of breaking up a large country into many smaller ones is often known as "balkanisation". When you do this, you always raise the possibility of trade barriers, and protectionism. these are the single quickest ways to screw up an economy (and to bring down a government). What we need are larger trading areas - with common interests, standards and regulations, not smaller ones.

          What big trade needs are larger trading areas with common interests, standards and regulations. What citizens need is smaller trading areas and smaller organizations with less effective power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sleigher (961421)

      but as long as the democratic process itself isn't corrupted, repairs can be made.

      I guess we're fucked then......

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ral8158 (947954)
      Um, I think you're confusing 'liberal' with 'all people who I disagree with and think are crazy'. Because I'm pretty sure liberalism is, in general, at odds with the idea of a dictatorship? You know, like 'liberation'?
    • by darjen (879890) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:11AM (#25424039)

      Open source is a much closer model for no government - or, in other words, anarchy. The last few years have been pretty clear to me that democracy doesn't produce government that works in the people's best interest. A linux model for government would allow people to choose how to organize themselves on a voluntary basis. Government, even the democratic version, rests on the application of force. So the two ideals really are mutually exclusive.

      • by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:17PM (#25424521)

        The last few years have been pretty clear to me that democracy doesn't produce government that works in the people's best interest.

        I think that has much more to do with the fact that people get the government they deserve, rather than failings in democracy per se. Most Americans no longer know, or have any desire to know, economics, civics, how their government works, or even their own history. They then run out and vote like the uneducated idiots they are, voting for whoever "looks most presedential" or "has promised them x" (pretty much whoever schmoozes best or promises most). Americans have been lazy and lately have not placed much priority on these basic educational building blocks, and are now getting the government they deserve. We, as Americans, are largely idiots en masse, so is it any wonder our leaders are all idiots en masse as well? One could argue that our democracy is working exactly as it should be, as it is supposed to be a representative form of government, and it is uncomfortably representative at the moment. In America, when our government starts to suck, we should really turn inward and examine ourselves, because our government is a pretty good mirror reflecting our own failings as individuals.

        And as for the whole application of force thing, anarchy will be government by force. Whoever is strongest will come along and either kill you or control you. To use the linux analogy, you will be like a process that voluntarilly used the nice command on itself, and is trying to get along and give other processes their fair share priority. And other not so nice processes will take the CPU, and will choose not to let you run again.

        This is why the nice command does nothing in modern unix OS's: if you count on the processes to work together and get organized, some greedy process will come along and spoil it for everyone. Therefore, we now have a scheduler that ignores niceness and uses force to give every process its basic rights.

        Force trying to take away rights is always with us. If you don't overcome it with a stronger force that gives rights, you will become its slave.

        • by OctaviusIII (969957) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @02:41PM (#25425377) Homepage
          We never did have a time when we were fully engaged and excited about the process. You probably don't remember Warren Harding, a man elected largely because he "looked like a president" then proceeded to appoint his friends to high places where the proceeded to rob the government blind. But perhaps we can go back further, to the election of 1800, where John Adams called Thomas Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." To be fair, though, Jefferson had accused Adams of having "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

          If you take any single slice of American history, you will find rancor, stark disagreement, outright corruption and near-militant partisanship. Right now, though, it seems like at least one side may get a full-fledged parliamentary majority: large House majority, filibuster-proof Senate majority, and a president. Even if you disagree with Democrats, you can agree that those most obviously associated with the President - Republicans - are going to be punished for letting him run us into the ground. If Democrats do the same, it'll be Carter to Reagan all over again.
    • by eobanb (823187) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:14AM (#25424055) Homepage

      Most of their proposals seem to be based on the idea of some sort of dictator, with everyone's best interests in mind.

      As a Mac user this sounds strangely familiar [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gyrogeerloose (849181)

      Only thing being, the U.S. is not a democracy. It's a enfranchised republic.

      A true democracy would be something like the annual town meetings held in some places in New England where the entire populace gets together and votes on how they want things to be run over the next year. It's a great concept, and it works on the small scale but it would be far too unwieldy to work for an entire country.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @02:28PM (#25425301)

      > Most of their proposals seem to be based on the idea of some sort of dictator, with everyone's best interests in mind.

      Of course there are important differences between a project such as Linux and a government.

      Linus works as benevolent dictator because:

      a) he is a good dictator. Everyone knows a good king is the best form of government, but nobody has ever solved the problem of evsuring a steady supply of good kings.

      b) If enough people were to ever decide Linus were a bad dictator that can use the GPL to remove him with a minimum of fuss. In the real world removing a dictator involves a wee bit more effort.

      c) Being a highly technical project focused on making the 'best kernel' it is easy to get agreement on most issues since everyone agrees on the meaning of 'best' after a few arguments and benchmark runs. Now consider the socialist/capitalist divide where there is zero agreement as to the definition of a 'good' government. Makes Windows vs Linux a petty squabble.

      Not to mention the inescapable fact George Soros is a communist opposed to everything our form of government stands for so anybody who gives that asshole the time of day on the idea of reforming our government should be suspect.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:26AM (#25423727) Homepage

    ... there would be illicit "code" sharing with interns and staffers, killing of wives and ex-wives. And then there would be religious differences (devil worshippers and penguin followers) and we would be polarized into two parties once again: The Penguins and the Little-Red-Devils.

    The more we try to change, the more we stay the same.

    And ultimately, who do appoint as our "constitution-kernel" manager to approve any constitution-kernel amendment-patches?

    I propose a new driver... a pro-choice driver that does not pass moral judgement over others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh (602064)
      And when the government makes a bad decision, can I fork my government? Of course, no government is all that bad if you can just opt out. Not that effective either...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        And when the government makes a bad decision, can I fork my government?

        In USSA, government bailout forks YOU!

        ... and they didn't even give you the courtesy of a reach-around ...

  • Fork. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jadedoto (1242580) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:27AM (#25423737)
    Well, I think the real question here is how long till it forks?

    And which one to choose, there are so many! Would it be possible to try each fork on my family first in a sort of LiveGOV program instead of committing to one particular fork of the government?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by paroneayea (642895)

      There was a serious threat that the government was going to fork. Then they switched to a distributed VCS, everything went better, and world hunger ended.

      Until, of course, the next week, when a brand new flamewar erupted on the mailing list.... the mix of politics and free and open source philosophy and development styles... it was just inevitable...

    • Re:Fork. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Znork (31774) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:22AM (#25424099)

      Actually, the lack of the ability to easily fork may be one of the most deeply ingrained flaws and problems with current political systems. It's a privilege largely reserved for corporations and/or the very rich, to easily change into and out of what political system you currently prefer.

      It would be interesting to explore the options of more modular political systems where citizens, when they dislike their unit enough, could reasonably easily disengage and join another unit. A system could be designed on multiple dimensions ranging from geographic protection through healtcare through trade-related aspects, and comprise both low-level units up to world spanning organizations. If nothing else it might at least provide more interesting and intellectually challenging politics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Some say its already forked.

  • The ability of anyone to suggest changes, managed and seconded by those who maintain the project on a day to day basis.

    Man was not meant to rule himself. Some men are natural leaders, but no man is meant to rule.
  • Too Late... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:33AM (#25423771)

    We are already about to have a government bought and paid for by Soros

  • Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vvaduva (859950) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:34AM (#25423779)
    This has to be the most idiotic suggestions I've seen here for a while. There is nothing wrong with the current U.S. government - it is ignoring the constitution which is the problem. There are clear boundaries presented by the constitution to protect citizens from the abusive and corrupt politicians, but if the law is ignored, it does not matter who is in charge and whether or not the government is "open source" or not. Why not all put our pants down and bend over for the Linux boys...since they write good code, they obviously could be really good at coming up with constitutional law and governmental suggestions! Of course, they would never get corrupt at the first sight of pr0n, because they already have the hottest women on the block :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This has been a strong belief amongst geeks for a very long time, if you were around the culture (or visiting Slashdot) during the dot com era you know it was worse then. In summary: I can program a computer to do rocket science, therefore I can do rocket science.

      Flip through RMS's writing to see the scope of subjects he was compelled to expound upon and know that before he turned against the hivemind geeks lapped up every single essay like a cat does milk. Dude, if he is smart enough to write The Cathedral

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MaskedSlacker (911878)
        I must point out that Eric S. Raymond wrote the Cathedral and the Bazaar. Not RMS.
      • Re:Idiotic (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nightfire-unique (253895) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:13PM (#25424497)

        This has been a strong belief amongst geeks for a very long time, if you were around the culture (or visiting Slashdot) during the dot com era you know it was worse then. In summary: I can program a computer to do rocket science, therefore I can do rocket science.

        While there some some truth to that, I would point out that computers are logic machines. In general, sound computer skill implies sound logic skill. I think we can all agree we need more logic in politics.

    • by schwit1 (797399)
      "ignoring the constitution which is the problem." is just one problem. Lobbyists have a greater influence than the voters. Politicians treat getting reelected as a higher priority than their commitment to the voters.

      We need term limits and campaign contributions should be anonymous or publicly financed.

  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:34AM (#25423787)
    This is a terrible idea. Any thinking person knows that we should use BSD as a model for a new government.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We already have governments that operate that way, it's called communism.

    • And then US is microsoft using its evil proprietary wares to crush any form of communism (even non-evil variants, like the smurfs!!!) . But where does the fascist part of all attempts at communism fit in? I mean linus is a bit of a control freak when it comes to what gets into the kernel, but he is unlikely to shoot you if you fork the kernel (try and break away).

      In summary this analogy really sucks!

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:38AM (#25423809) Journal

    ... but even now as we pay taxes, we should be telling the government what we want them to spend it on.
    This way any election of persons "running' the government can at worse just bias such usage rather then run us into the ground with misusing your taxes and leaving us low and wet with no retirement or healthcare.

    Someone said to me, when I suggested we tell the government "for the people by the people" how to spend our taxes, that the constitution of the US says we do not have the right to question how the government spends our taxes.

    I agreed and said we will not question them, we will instead tell them how to use it.

    The Linux ideal was applied when this country was first started, "for the people by the people" and reason, specific reasons, given is found in the "Declaration of Independence."

    As an example of Government Abuse today, if you genuinely uphold the "Declaration of Independence" you WILL BE LABELED A TERRORIST and put of list of such people!

  • Sure that sounds great, but how are you really going to place qualified people into government positions? Open elections? We're having troubles putting competent people into the White House as is, and that's with the assistance of an 'enlightened' electoral college. The USSR tried something similar with Soviets and a Benevolent Dictator but when their economic system collapsed, their government fell too.

    The best solution falls along the lines of (1) choosing a government system that is hard to corrupt and

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wellingj (1030460)
      I think our checks and balances in the Constitution, and the Bill or Rights are pretty good too. I just think they aren't followed like they should be.
      The politicians treat the Constitution and it's Amendments as if they have to follow a little bit less every year.

      I think fundamentally we have an open source government, but it's too heavy at the top. There are too few people with too much power.
      This was mentioned as good idea [thirty-thousand.org] and i have to say I kind of like it myself.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A "benevolent dictator" is usually not benevolent, except in his own mind. Even if he is, he usually becomes less so over time as pressure builds to show results for society.

    You can bet that he will act as a dictator when someone outside his circle proposes changes, though.

    Good luck with your job search.

  • Pffft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spectrokid (660550) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:41AM (#25423835) Homepage
    He comes with some half-baked proposal, followed by a diatribe on the legalisation of dope. Big impression that is going to make.
    I do love these money-sharks turned philosophers. Yeah we took a lot of cash from those idiots, but it isn't our fault they are stupid.. What they forget is that I as a non-expert don't have a snowball chance in hell to find out if my pension is in safe hands. Fortis Bank here in Belgium was marketed as a "good housefather - sleep on it for 20 years" share and now it is poof because some fatcat financial "specialists" burned their fingers on something even they didn't understand.
  • by JWman (1289510) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:42AM (#25423849)
    Namely, how are people put into positions of power? Through growing reputation and ability? Meaning that the govt. would be populated (in theory) by the best politicians (and uhhh, do we really want that)? How would you get people out of power once they got there? Currently, you can just fork an open source project if you don't like the project leaders. Clearly this is not a good option for government because it usually involves bloody warfare to happen.

    No, this seems like a bit of a silly, not well thought out argument. Most discussions of open source that I've been a part of trumpet it as a more "democratic" process, meaning that open source mimics the current US government more than the government should mimic open source.

    Now this will likely cause a flood of comments declaring our current government as broken, and not democratic. It is fine if you think that, but if you are going to rant about a problem, you darn well better have a better solution. and if you're thinking of improving the voting process (a good place to start) you may want to check out Arrow's Impossibility Theorem [wikipedia.org] which states that no voting system can possibly be fair to everyone.
    • by Dripdry (1062282)

      Our current government is broken and not democratic!
      My solution involves free bacon for everyone. If you love bacon, vote for me in the upcoming election.

      See isn't that the way the democratic process is supposed to work?

  • Open Source Govt. (Score:4, Informative)

    by gryf (121168) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:47AM (#25423889) Homepage
    I'm all for open government, which is not to say a government based on an open source software product development group.

    Any one who has taken a poli sci class or a history class that covered ancient rome, athens or the founding of the US should see that the organization of ideas and resources in order to build a good software product is a vastly different paradigm than organizing a 'good' government.

    First, the argument should be about what government means. I'm less concerned with what a government provides me ( a product ) than what it denies me. The moment government thinks it's supposed to produce a product as opposed to leave me alone, I would describe that government as tyrannical.

    The bad mortgage/bad credit crisis was in large part created by people who felt it was the government's job to ensure anyone could get a house, regardless of ability to afford it. This is but one example of how government by good intentions invokes the law of unintended consequences for disastrous results.
  • he's stoned (Score:3, Informative)

    by gladish (982899) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:51AM (#25423909)
    I've got ten bucks that says he was stoned while writing that. The letter is very scatter-brained. He sounds like he's at a frat party when he's arguing about the legality of marijuana. Not that I disagree, I'm just saying that when you write your good-bye letter resigning as the head of a hedge-fund, you're probably better off leaving the "weed talk" out.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:53AM (#25423917)

    The last time we tried to fork the US, it didn't work too well. But actually, I do think that this could be the germ of a new idea, experimental modes of government in test communities. People will argue the pro's and con's back and forth but until the theories have been put to the test, it's just speculation. The only problem I've seen is that when a bad idea is proven to be such in a proper experiment, the true believers won't say the idea was flawed, it simply was not applied with enough vigor. We're thus back where we started, only the true believers are crazier for it.

    The thing I keep coming back to is that rigidly hierarchical models of direction and control were necessary in the pre-computer age. Just imagine trying to keep up with documents and records when they're all held on sheets of paper in real folders in real file drawers, just imagine trying to communicate with someone when long-distance communication is just scratchy phone lines and letters. It makes sense to concentrate all of the command and control in one place and issue orders from there, capital cities, corporate HQ's and all.

    With modern telecommunications, it will be easier to push the brains of the organization out to the periphery. Just drawing from my own experience, I've worked in several different corporate environments starting with food services, then telecommunications, then a mixture of small and big shops for computers and financial services. The thing that really struck me about the chain stores is that they took away the initiative from the store manager. A place could not vary from corporate standard and while this sets a base line of acceptable quality, nobody was allowed to rise above that level, either. What also happened is that management refused to accept feedback from the stores, the front lines of the business, so when they tried to implement stupid ideas, they never got the feedback that it wasn't working; either they didn't ask for it or wouldn't listen.

    Just talking about restaurants, the strength of the traditional franchise is national brand recognition, expensive marketing and research efforts to develop products for the menu, and a proven formula for success that simply needs to be adopted and adhered to. Of course, this also means that you'll often get crap. If I compare the local Denny's with the local breakfast and lunch place, there's no comparison, the local mom and pop kicks the shit out of Denny's and their "real breakfast" bullshit. Of course, Denny's gets huge advantages of scale with purchasing, etc.

    What I think would be interesting is if the mom and pops could create co-ops to do the same thing nation-wide. "Look, we're all individuals but together we represent a thousand restaurants. We promise to buy in this quantity at these prices, and if anyone drops out, the rest of the members will pick up the slack." Very hard to do 30 years ago but with computers these days, should be far easier.

    When I was a kid, the strength of the capitalist versus communist economies was described as demand versus command. Command economies tried to decide everything from the capital city and they really had no clue how many paperclips were needed, would set unrealistic production goals and would never have the right amount. A demand economy places the paperclip decision at the level of the people buying the paperclips and the people making the paperclips -- a better understanding of the need for paperclips helps limit the production to just as much as is necessary. This decentralizes the bureaucracy.

    Can the same thing be done at the federal level? Break the monolithic agencies into smaller "franchises" with the same goal but offices spread throughout the nation, all following the same game plan but fully cognizant of what's going on at the front lines? Can we bring back a meritocracy where the successful succeed and the failures go away? That used to be the strength of the western capitalist economies but now we allow such concentration of resources in oversized companies that are "too big to fail" that we've arrived at the same inefficiencies as the communist nations.

  • No "good" government (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kohath (38547) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:56AM (#25423949)

    In the history of the world, there has never been a "good" government. When things were at their absolute best, the government was mediocre and it didn't last.

    The usual quote for this situation is Thomas Paine:

    Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.

    I am glad this hedge fund guy is moving to a purely theoretical field. If he can't learn from history, at least he can't hurt the economy with silly financial deals.

    • by quanta (16565) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:59AM (#25424401)

      Alexander Tyler (a Scottish history professor at the
      University of Edinburgh) had this to say about 'the fall of
      the Athenian Republic' some 2,000 years prior.

      'A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply
      cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy
      will continue to exist up until the time that voters
      discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from
      the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority
      always votes for the candidates who promise the most
      benefits from the public treasury, with the result that
      every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal
      policy, [which is] always followed by a dictatorship.

      'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations
      from the beginning of history has been about 200 years.
      During those 200 years, these nations always progressed
      through the following sequence:

      'From bondage to spiritual faith;

      'From spiritual faith to great courage;

      'From courage to liberty;

      'From liberty to abundance;

      'From abundance to complacency;

      'From complacency to apathy;

      'From apathy to dependence;

      'From dependence back into bondage.

  • A few thoughts:

    While this is an interesting idea, it seems to me like getting a majority of people (enough to redefine government) to put confidence in a governmental system such as this would be hard. Getting people to understand it, then putting confidence in an untried system, would be difficult. It's like Linux versus mainstream OSes: Linux is being adopted because it's been working in the wings for years as a reasonable alternative in some instances. It has a reputation.

    Also, when the Founding Fathers

  • It's inner workings are totally opaque to the general public (me included, for the most part). The fact that is works at all is "magical," in the Asimovian sense.

    And for both, if you want answers, you have to ask "The Man!"

  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:59AM (#25423971) Homepage

    We would all be ruled by a penguin, but not just any old penguin:

    An emperor penguin :)

  • Under the sea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wlt (1367531)

    all the current places already have governments. they need a new country for their new government.

    I vote they build a city under the sea - somewhere all the existing governments can't get their hands on.

    They'll need to bring in all the best scientists, artists, doctors and engineers in as well - I think it'd be important for them to bring in geneticists to help develop new DNA sciences in this new place so that they can build a better, newer world, no?

  • The wealthy bankers already buy and sell our elected representatives; why would they want to make it official?
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:04AM (#25423997)
    Shouldn't that be "Linux As a Model For a GNU Government"?
  • New governements (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:14AM (#25424049)
    As a social studies teacher I am happy to see people discussing the idea. Maybe the open source government has no chance of succeeding, but to hear talk of different governing styles is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love the promise and potential our U.S. Constitution offers (note the PATRIOT ACT is NOT part of the Constitution tyvm) but am also aware of some shortcomings. Society, like the animal kingdom, evolves. Therefore to say we are stuck with the late 1700s as the best we can do for a backbone is selling ourselves short. Though it can be said that Japan's postwar constitution was something of an update of that system. If the open source idea sounds terrible, then perhaps throw out some alternatives. Why not kick around ideas? With elections hinged on money and elected officials seemingly tied to a cycle of the constant reelection game, discussions on alternatives can't make things any worse.
  • I believe what's called Direct Democracy is like Open Source, citizens can pretty much vote on every issue.

    In this day and age it should be easy, if not cheap, to allow every citizen to vote on everything. I know electronic voting has a bad reputation but if the bugs could be worked out (quantum cryptography) this could allow countries with large populations the ability to hear from all citizens.

    On the dark side though a true Democracy is probably not a good idea since the majority rules un

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teun (17872)
      Had there been Direct Democracy the Brits would still count 240 Pennies in a Pound.

      That's just one funny example to enforce my belief in Representative Democracy as we know it, even in places like Switzerland.

      It takes some above average people to take risks in The Peoples name because they can see light where the average man just sees the horizon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        In the demarchist system proposed by Alastair Reynolds, the voting system tracked everyone's votes and the long-term effects of the decisions arising from them. Those people who made decisions who had their votes multiplied by a small factor (under five). This would allow forward thinking people to make this kind of decision, but only as long as they kept making good decisions. It is my understanding that Google uses something similar internally for corporate decisions.
  • Already on its way.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Metagovernment. [metagovernment.org]

  • "best and brightest" != correct

    There's a reason why we have incredibly smart people holding differing opinions on nearly every single issue. Joe six pack who has never even read a book might have the "best" idea to solve a problem, even with no idea when the War of 1812 went down. This concept of being right just because you've thought it through is just arrogance. Yes, it probably helps to have an education, but ultimately a lot of decision making is guesswork and judgment calls.

  • I haven't posted in a looooong time! Here goes: This is a good idea, in that we need better government. The thing is, it doesn't need Soros or anyone else to invest. There is an existing, excellent example governmental system already at work in the world. Six million people are organizing themselves around the world using a system originally designed in the late 1800's. The Baha'i World Community has three levels of government, it is completely free of corruption, it is non-partisan, it is based on in
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:24AM (#25424131) Journal
    Stop thinking about changing systems, start thinking about changing people. Any system can serve everyone well if it is operated by capable and good people. So, instead of trying to change a system, let's focus on education and developing people's skills and sense of duty and ethics. What we lack and what we need is people who are capable and willing to do what is right. We have lots of systems and every system is guaranteed to fail if no capable and good people can operate it, so focus on what we need most first: people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xuranova (160813)

      Except the people are all under working under a set of rules to achieve something. The system is what puts this into place. If people don't believe in the system(and in turn the rules and goals) they're working for, they will do what they believe is best which might be different than the 'system'.

      Extreme example: Capitalism vs Communism. They each have different systems in place to achieve their ends. If the people don't agree with the end goal, doesn't make them necessarily bad or good but they will do t

  • The source code is here [cornell.edu].

  • Broken summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rzei (622725) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:38AM (#25424241)

    After for once reading the article (very interesting let me tell you) it'd seem that the summary is a bit off course.

    Adrew Lahde talks about the need for George Soros (or alike) to fund or start a forum that'd discuss a new form of Goverment/economics, that could grow in the sense of Linux (one guy starts it up, other start contributing).

    He does not want Linus or Soros to run a country. He wants people like Soros (anyone with loads of money) to help wise people (not necessarily oil owners) to think about a new world order past capitalism.

    He also talks about number of different good ideas which should be put in play.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @11:53AM (#25424365)

    All "modern" government systems (democracy, communism, you name it), or in fact, all government systems until now, had one giant elephant of a problem sitting right there in the middle of the room:
    There are humans governing others.

    Now continue to read before you judge.
    The problem behind this is, that those people have a conflict of interest, between the needs of the governed and their own interests. So the ideal leader would be someone, where those two match perfectly.... which is of course impossible. But you can approximate it.

    The problem with this is, that we have no reliable way of selecting such a person. Mostly because normal people can be tricked pretty easily.

    But there is one new solution, that just came up when computers and the Internet got available everywhere:
    Do not use an humans, but a very simple mathematical model (one that is so simple that every educated human can check it for himself), that calculates descisions out of the votes of a model of cascading trust relationships. This sounds complicated but it's very simple. (If you know how CSS decides, what rules apply to a HTML element, you already know it.)
    In reality, it would work like this:

    There is a set of things, where a decision has to be taken. That set is defined by people having differences in these points. Now someone - the typical role, that a politician would fill today - can create decisions for that set. Then another one can say "I want what he wants.... but, i want this specific thing to be different". Of course someone can use the results of that as his base too. And you can combine partial sets too, as you like. For example, you could say "I'm a liberal, but I agree with person X on family matters and person Y on science matters. oh, and I want social skills to be taught in school."

    That way you could form a nice set of your own views without voting for every shit out there. (Because, it should make your life better, not worse :)

    Now of course, this does not mean that you can get everything you want... because you live in a community.
    So you assign yourself to a community/communities (country, state, town) (those are cascading too, and you can define which one has priority over which), and your views will merge with those of the community, to create the rules for that group of people.
    So a conflict of interest would not be possible, because you could change your set of rules at any time.

    Now there would of course be one simple limitation: You have to be in the same group with people that you share resources (land, water, jobs) with, when it comes to that matter (land, water, jobs). This could be automatically solved via a GPS input (or something similar).

    I think that would work great. You could even extensively test it in parallel to the current system, round out all problems, and if it works, you can simply let all people join that system by themselves, until the old government does not matter anymore and goes away. So there is also no need for a "transient" government, like in communism, which for some reason never seems to end its job of transition (again a conflict of interest).

    This idea of mine is open and I do not care who implements it, as long as you do not create a slightly modified system that becomes evil, and still associate it with me!

  • Who governs who? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Teun (17872) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:15PM (#25424511) Homepage
    I generally like the principle of the Western Democracy.

    I can appreciate certain periods , even recent, of US government.

    Talking about the USofA, the majority of it's people will probably support the idea of a Capitalist economy thriving under a Democratically elected government.

    The problems of recent are in my view caused by Capitalism ruling the government instead of the other way around.

    Democracy will get damaged when special interests are able to significantly buy votes.
    I've said it before, here in and in other places, the US needs to ban any financial contributions to political parties in the widest sense by non voters.
    And voters should be limited to say a US$ 20.- contribution per year on a party.
    Even the poorest voters could afford such a payment and thus the one-man one-vote democracy would be restored.

    If a majority of voters decided the parties need more money to operate successful they could allow tax money to be used, many countries have come up with reasonable systems to fund the running of party bureaucracies without distorting the democratic balances.

    Until then (especially in the US) the Democratic process is being diverted by funny money instead of votes.

  • Rapture (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@nOSPaM.Gmail.com> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:17PM (#25424519)

    Let me guess, since all land is already occupied by existing governments it would make sense to build a city underwater, somewhere in international waters, how does the mid-Atlantic seabed sound?

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