Questions from TL Hines, Feb 2 2004
[First out of the gate this time around is TL Hines (TLH). I thank Tony for getting me rolling again on this. For a more entertaining presentation of the questions and answers below, I heartily recommend you read the interview at www.tlhines.com, instead. No reason we can't keep a sense of humor, eh?]
TLH: I currently maintain an online blog at www.tlhines.com, and I want to feature interviews with presidential candidates often overlooked by traditional media. I'm hoping you'll participate. [...]
What's the central theme of your campaign?
DS: Every presidential action will be dictated by majority will.
TLH: Why are you running?
DS: I'm not running. I have an idea which people can accept or reject. (Note that if the majority rejects majority rule, we have a major paradox on our hands.)
TLH: What's the single most important issue to you?
DS: Ah ha, see? you don't get it! What's most important to me doesn't count for any more than what's most important to anybody else. We would all share the power equally. I have 1/200,000,000 of the power; you have 1/200,000,000 of the power; etc. We would all be, in effect, co-presidents.
But now that that's cleared up, I will tell you the single most important issue to me as a person - not as your ruler. It is justice, or more specifically, the complete lack thereof in this society. You can read about my thoughts on justice on my web site. However, if the majority are perfectly happy with our so-called "system of justice," I would not lift a finger to change it.
TLH: What will be your first official act as president?
DS: Not give a speech, as a first step in dissociating politics from show business.
TLH: What are you planning to do to set yourself apart from the traditional two-party candidates?
DS: Continue to not even think about them.
[Then Tony supplied some follow-up questions.]
TLH: So you'll do whatever the majority of the people want?
DS: That is somewhat sloppily stated. Every presidential action will be dictated by majority will. (Is there an echo in here?)
TLH: How will you determine what the majority wants?
DS: I think you're asking, how do people vote when a presidential action is required? I imagine telephones would do a fine job. Also the internet. If we trust the internet to send money, we can surely trust it to send a vote. If the majority wants inefficient, old-fashioned methods of voting, we could stick with that. But this is really a nuts-and-bolts question that I shouldn't be suckered into unless you've signed off on the fundamental idea of majority rule. There's something much bigger here than getting hung up on rotary dial phones.
TLH: Hung up on phones. What a punster. Hey, and if it's a 900-number, you could charge for each call, thereby generating revenue: democracy and capitalism in action, all in one big, juicy pie. Whaddya think?
DS: I think it's great. As the Washington Post wrote in 1996, "Sauter would open a 1-900 line for voting on decisions. The toll call, he said, would make the voting system pay for itself and discourage frivolous callers."
TLH: Also, how would you determine what should come up for majority vote? Would people have to call in to vote for issues for voting, and ... hey, I smell another major paradox in that.
DS: I'm not proposing any change in the mechanism by which matters come before the president for action. I can envision that once the people get a taste for democracy that the process by which their desires get placed in front of Congress and make their way through Congress will be expedited.
TLH: And seriously, how would this work? Would people call in for each and every issue separately, or would they maybe call in once a week and be presented with a menu of voting options?
DS: Ah ah ah! Naughty, naughty! There you go again, trying to sucker me into an argument over simple nuts-and-bolts. When they were developing the automobile I'll bet you stood there spluttering, "This thing'll never work! I mean, what're they gonna do about windshield wiper blade refills!??" Send me a signed statement, "I, Tony Hines, do agree with all my heart and soul that pure democracy in the executive branch knocks the spots off any power-crazed ol' politician making my decisions for me," and we can start talking about phone menus and web sites and listserves and newspaper columns and radio spots and tv news segments and office chats over the water cooler and... and... and...
TLH: Well, Mr. Smartypants, I happen to know that our population is really 292,000,000, so we'd all only have 1/292,000,000 of the power. :)
DS: I have serious doubts about whether the majority is ready to extend voting rights down to the cradle.
TLH: You really think we as a society are ready for such unbridled democracy in action?
TLH: I mean, I don't know if I want the folks wandering the aisles at the local Wal-Mart making decisions for me.
DS: You'd be making the decisions together.
Do you know how many times I've heard this "But everybody else is stupid!" mantra? Funny thing is, I've never met a single person who said, "But this'll never work - I'm too stupid!" Did you ever stop to think that from the point of view of the other Wal-Mart shoppers, you're an "everybody else"? And not to belabor the Wal-Mart thing, but tell me honestly, how many times, upon walking into the store, do the other shoppers jump in attacking, robbing, or even screaming at you?
I suspect not too often, but even if you can honestly answer, "Oh, yes, all the time," you're still not out of the woods. I will then ask, "But is it more than 50 percent of them?" If you can answer that in the affirmative, you still lose. I will say, "If more than 50 percent of the population believes it is good and right to beat up on Tony Hines, who am I to say they shouldn't?" (That's not to say, though, that I wouldn't cast my single vote in your favor when a trial comes up.)
TLH: On the surface, it seems interesting, but I can see celebrities, media and others with instant access to a huge number of people being able to skew presidential decisions in their favor. What's to stop Martha Stewart from marshalling the masses to get herself a presidential pardon? That would be a lot more than a 1/200,000,000 share of the power.
DS: If more than half the people think someone should be pardoned, who are you to say he shouldn't be?
TLH: You also say you don't want to be a ruler, but in a way, don't we WANT rulers in America? Yeah, we blab about democracy, and power to the people, and all that jazz, but I once again point to my Wal Mart example above. And, we've demonstrated a fondness for "royal" families in our country: the Kennedys, the Bushes, the Clintons.
DS: If you need somebody to make your decisions for you, vote for somebody else. I worked up a slogan for you some years ago: "If you want strong leaders... go back to kindergarten."
TLH: But what if everyone called your phone lines and said they WANTED you to give a speech? (See? I'm picking up on this majority rule thing.)
DS: If the majority wants a speech, they get a speech. Somehow, I doubt that the majority goes around thinking, "Dang, I really gotta have a presidential speech - gotta have one right now!" Fifty percent of the population didn't even watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
To make your question a little more interesting, you should go for broke: "What if the majority wants you to plow your car into a group of first-graders waiting at a bus stop?"
Again, I will say that you are being ridiculous; that the chances of that happening are so infinitesimal that I don't even think about it.
But you become insistent: "What if? What if?" And I say, look at my contract with the people: If I ever act in opposition to majority will, somebody shoot me. In this example, they would have to shoot me and install somebody else to do what they want.
Simple as that.
TLH: What led you to this idea initially?
DS: Actually something very specific. I served on a jury in 1989. It was the first time I saw our "justice system" in action. What I saw made me so sick I've never recovered from the experience. I won't go into details here, but I couldn't get it off my mind and one morning I had an epiphany - my simple system of justice without judges, lawyers and lawmakers; just large, randomly selected juries deciding disputes based on common sense and conscience. Then, just thinking so much about majority rule on juries got me thinking about majority rule in government. The thoughts went along two main lines: pure democracy 1) as a desirable end in itself, and 2) as a possible first step on the road toward eliminating government altogether. After all, if government just does what people would do anyhow, why have it? (Of course, if government doesn't do what the people want, the same rhetorical question stands - and even moreso. Whoops! either way, it doesn't look good for government!)
TLH: If you're not making any decisions on your own, what are you doing? Why would we need you as president?
DS: Anybody with my vision would do. As it stands now, I'm the only show in town.