A Kinder, Wiser Democracy

Chapter 3: Tiered Democratic Governance

“A democracy should aim at equality, but it can be ruined by a spirit of extreme equality, when each citizen would fain be on a level with those he has chosen to command. Where this is the case, virtue can no longer subsist in the republic. The people are desirous of exercising the functions of the Magistrates, who cease to be revered. The deliberations of the Senate are slighted; all respect is then laid aside for the Senators, and consequently for old age. If there is no more respect for old age, there will be none presently for parents; deference to husbands will be likewise thrown off and submission to masters. This license will soon become general; the people fall into this misfortune when those in whom they confide, desirous of concealing their corruption, endeavor to corrupt them. The people will divide the public money amongst themselves, and having added the administration of affairs to their indolence, will be for blending their poverty with the amusement of luxury.”


I find this citation from the famous French philosopher rather appropriate for this chapter. He seems to suggest that the old system of governance—aristocracy and monarchy—is no longer effective. Yet the democracy he experienced during his exile in England was not the final answer either. In this quote, he seems to prefer to stay with the old, known ways rather than engage in a new experiment in governance.

It’s a good thing our forbearers did not listen to Voltaire! Otherwise, the ideas generated from the American and French Revolutions would have never taught the world very important lessons about modern democracy. If our predecessors had feared these changes, much of the world would still be governed by aristocracies. We would have never moved on to something better.

This chapter contains some different ideas about democratic governance that many readers have not yet encountered. I ask them not to dismiss them too easily as Voltaire seems to have dismissed a maturing English democracy. If our goal is to have better governance, we have to be open to new ideas—especially ideas that are outside mainstream thinking.

The alternative is to accept the western democratic model as irreplaceable—the last and highest form of government that humanity can invent, and that we will cling to it despite all its shortcomings.

Instead, I propose a new system of governance, and I call it the Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG).

The Neighborhood

The foundation of the TDG is the neighborhood. Citizens who live in close proximity to each other form an electoral neighborhood. Unlike contemporary electoral districts of the western democratic model where most people do not know much about their elected representatives, these neighborhoods should have 25 to 250 people and constitute an environment in which citizens have the opportunity to form some kind of community.

Every year, the citizens in each neighborhood gather to elect their neighborhood representative. All citizens are eligible for election, and there are no nominations or campaigning. Before the voting, the citizens are reminded to vote for the individual in their neighborhood who best exemplifies good character and capacity for governance.

Voting is done by secret ballot, whereby each citizen writes in the name of the person of their choice. Votes are counted, and the individual with the most votes becomes the neighborhood representative for the next 12 months.

Duties of the Neighborhood Representative

The neighborhood representative conveys the ideas and concerns of the neighborhood to the higher tiers of government and also the ideas and concerns from the government back to the neighborhood. He or she can use formal meetings and one-on-one conversations to communicate with the neighbors.

Another responsibility of the neighborhood representative is working with other neighborhood representatives in the same district, representatives of higher tiers of government, civil authorities, and leaders of citizen groups to solve problems within the community.

The last responsibility of the neighborhood representative is electing the representative to the next tier of government, which is the district. This process is discussed in the next section.

The District

The next tier of the TDG is called, for the purposes of this book, the “district.” Each district will consist of three to 20 neighborhoods. In the district, the neighborhood representatives will be working together to resolve various issues of governance within the district. As well as resolving the issues of governance, the representatives will be getting to know each other’s characters and how they perform in the field of governance.

The neighborhood representatives in each district gather to elect their district representative. Only neighborhood representatives are eligible to vote in this election. Similar to the elections of the neighborhood representatives, no nominations or campaigning are allowedand voting is based on good character and capacity for governance.

The individual with the most votes becomes the district representative for the next 12 months.

Elections of the neighborhood and district representatives should be staggered by six months which gives the neighborhood representatives the opportunity to work together and see how each representative performs in governance.This six-month period gives opportunity to wisely choose a high quality of district representative.

Duties of the District Representative

The duties of a district representative will be more involved in governance than the neighborhood representative. There will be more meetings with neighborhood representatives, higher levels of government, civil servants, and citizens’ groups to discuss and resolve the affairs of governance. Higher levels of government may assign specific duties to the district representatives; district representatives may assign specific duties to the neighborhood representatives. The district representatives will be an important conduit of communication between the higher levels of government to the neighborhoods.

A number of districts will constitute the electoral area for the next tier. Six months after the election of the district representatives, the district representatives will elect an individual for the next tier of governance. This term will also be for 12 months.

The Tiers

The TDG selects the representatives on a tier-by-tier basis. The citizens elect their neighborhood representative to constitute the first tier. The neighborhood representatives elect the district representative to constitute the second tier. The district representatives elect the representatives to the next tier. This process continues, tier-by-tier, until the final tier of government is elected. The number of tiers would depend on how each jurisdiction wants to govern itself.

Each tier provides an important communications link to the tier below and the tier above. Any citizen can provide a question, suggestion, insight, perspective, or idea which can then travel to the highest tiers, via the various representatives.

The ultimate responsibility, authority, and decision-making rests with the highest tier. However, this tier can delegate some of its responsibility to the lower tiers, or it may keep control of certain aspects of governance if it feels best. Likewise, intermediate tiers may delegate some of their control, which was granted to them from a higher level, to a lower level.

The diagram below gives a visual perspective of a five-tier TDG of a fictitious city of about 100,000 people:

Let’s explain the above diagram in a little more detail, starting at the bottom tier. First, the city is divided into 500 neighborhoods, with each neighborhood having about 200 residents. Each neighborhood elects one neighborhood representative. Second, 100 districts are created, each with about five adjoining neighborhoods. The neighborhood representatives elect the district representative. Third, 20 districts form one of five quadrants for this city. Four quadrants are delineated from the city center: northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. The fifth quadrant comprises the 20,000 residents living near the downtown core. Fourth and last, the 20 quadrant representatives elect the highest tier of governance for this city. Seven citizens are called into the highest tier.  

Sounds simple? Actually there are a lot of underlying dynamics behind this structure, which the next section describes further.

The TDG Election Process

Behind the rather simplistic explanation and example of how a TDG is constructed, there are some very powerful words that warrant a more thorough investigation. Let’s look a little closer. 

All citizens in each neighborhood are eligible.

The TDG removes the barrier of party politics to enter public office. All citizens are, in effect, candidates for the job of neighborhood representative.

Good character and capacity and ability for governance.
Citizens vote for people with whom they are quite familiar: their neighbors. Neighbors usually have a good idea about which neighbors exhibit the good characteristics of honesty, reliability, compassion, tactfulness, and other virtues. Neighbors also know which neighbors are more community-minded, open to new ideas, and have collaborative skills. In essence, theymake reasonably intelligent choices about the people they vote for.

There are no nominations . . . 

Each citizen’s vote must not be influenced by what other citizens think. Each citizen should base his or her vote on what he or she has seen of his or her fellow neighbors. With this process, each neighbor is actually being analyzed from as many viewpoints as there are voting neighbors. The neighbors who come at the top of this list have indeed been scrutinized for their good character and capacity for governance from many different perspectives.

There are no nominations or campaigning.

People who know each other reasonably well have little need to rely on electioneering propaganda to select who is better for the position of governance. In fact, a citizen who engages in some self-promotion for the position should be seen as someone who wants the job a little too much—and not worthy of casting a vote towards.

Every year, citizens . . . elect their neighborhood representative. 

The first purpose of annual elections is to hold the neighborhood representative accountable to his or her neighborhood. The citizens in a TDG always have a first-hand look at how well their neighborhood representative is doing his or her job. If the representative is not working out well, he or she can be replaced in the next election. The neighborhood is not burdened for a long period of time with an ineffective representative.

The second purpose for annual elections is to provide societies with a more continuous and yet a more revitalizing form of government. The elections in a mature TDG would probably see many of its competent incumbents being returned to office for many years, thus keeping most of its accrued knowledge, experience, and wisdom. But there would be enough new people regularly entering the field of governance as neighborhood representatives. Some of them will find their way up the tiers and generate new ideas and new enthusiasm. Thus every annual election in the TDG allows society to keep the best of the old blood yet add new blood to increase its vitality.

Voting is done by secret ballot.

In a TDG election, each voter must make his or her choice unencumbered by what other people may think of that choice. The secret ballot ensures that no citizen can be judged on the vote he or she has cast.

The opportunity to work together and see how each other performs in governance.
With the TDG, advancement is based on how well individuals have worked with their peers, not on creating marketing messages or making effective alliances to gain influence.

The Credibility of the TDG Representative

At any tier, the position of a TDG representative has great credibility. A neighborhood representative is someone who has gained the trust of people who know him or her reasonably well: his or her neighbors. People who meet a neighborhood representative for the first time can confidently assume that the he or she is someone of good character and has some capacity for governance. Likewise, a district representative gains his or her credibility from the trust and respect earned by working with fellow neighborhood representatives.

Those citizens who reach the highest levels of the TDG have actually passed informal, yet severe, character and competence tests several times. The higher the tier and the longer a citizen remains elected in the TDG, the more society-at-large can trust this individual to serve the society well.

In essence, the position of a TDG representative has credibility in itself, regardless of who holds the position. By knowing that the elected members of a TDG are credible people, the entire system of governance becomes very credible.Average citizens will be more inclined to accept and respect the decisions made by such a system even if the decisions seem, in the short term, to negatively affect the citizenry. With this credibility, governmental decisions become easier to implement, monitor, and change if needed. 

Options to the TDG

I have left out many of the details of setting up a TDG. There is a good reason for this: each jurisdiction will require a different TDG structure to best implement a TDG within that jurisdiction. It makes sense that a rural Russian community would be better governed by a different TDG than what a big American city or an African nation with 20 different cultures would use. As well, two similar jurisdictions may evolve differently, each with a different, yet still effective, form of TDG. It makes sense to let each jurisdiction design its own TDG. If citizens believe their TDG is a credible system of governance, then it is a good design.

The next section lists some of the options for a TDG to design itself.

Number of Tiers

A small town or rural community may need only one tier of government. A large metropolis could have as many as ten tiers.

Size of Neighborhoods

Setting up a TDG with neighborhoods having 200 or more citizens will create efficiencies of scale, but some citizens will find themselves distant from their neighborhood representative. Smaller neighborhoods probably create a closer community, but the cost of meetings and running elections will increase. As well, having too many neighborhood representatives would only deprive the volunteer sector of many capable people. Each jurisdiction will strike its own balance.

Responsibilities of Each Tier

The responsibilities of each tier will evolve within each jurisdiction. For example, some cities may assign some street repair decisions to the neighborhoods; other cities may want more central control. Each jurisdiction will create its own responsibility, authority, and budget for each tier.

Remuneration for Representatives

I believe that the lowest tier, the neighborhood representative, should be a volunteer position and thus receive no pay. For the district tier, the representatives may get a small remuneration.

In the higher tiers, the responsibilities and time commitment for representatives increase. These people should expect reasonable remuneration from their society for their time and sacrifice.

Multiple Positions

Each TDG will have to decide whether citizens can hold representative positions in two or more tiers. Some jurisdictions may be better governed if a citizen resigns a lower tier position before taking on the position in the higher tier.

Eligibility for the Higher Tiers

Because residency must still be required for the district and higher tiers, the list of possible citizens to vote for gets bigger with each tier. Rather than having all residents eligible, an eligibility list for a district representative could consist of current neighborhood representatives, the current district representative, former neighborhood and district representatives from the past three years (if still resident), and current advisors. With such a list, voters in these higher tier elections can focus their voting decision on those citizens who are serving and have recently served locally with the TDG. 

Multiple Representatives in each Electoral District

There may be some advantages to creating electoral units such that more than one person is elected. By having two or more citizens elected as a neighborhood representative or higher level, much of the desire for electioneering is reduced as the contest is no longer between first and second place, where first place gets everything and second place gets nothing. For example, a neighborhood can elect three neighborhood representatives. In a three-position election, the eventual first-place finisher probably wouldn’t need any electioneering to gain this position as this person has great respect from the citizens. So he or she would set the tone for no electioneering, and other aspirants would be looked on with disfavor if they do electioneer. If there is any contest, it is between the third and fourth place finisher—which cannot create the drama and temptation for electioneering that a one-position election could create.

The previous illustration in this chapter provides an example of multiple representation. While the neighborhood and district levels in this hypothetical TDG elect only one representative, it opted for multiple representatives for the higher levels. At the quadrant tier, the 20 or so district representatives under each quadrant elect four quadrant representatives rather than the standard one representative. This election becomes a contest between fourth and fifth place. At the highest tier, the 20 quadrant representatives elect seven members to highest tier, thus creating a contest between seventh and eighth place.

A slightly different version of the above example ensures each of the five quadrants is represented at the highest tier. For each quadrant, the quadrant representative with the highest number of votes is sent to the top tier—for a total of five representatives. The other two representatives will be two quadrant representatives who did not attain the highest vote count in their quadrant, but had the most votes of the remaining quadrant representatives. 

Multiple representatives in one or more electoral levels should reduce the number of tiers needed. This option should be seriously considered. 

Transferable Ballot

The standard version of the TDG is a plurality election: the person with the most votes earns the position. In many TDG elections, the votes are likely to split among several people, meaning the top vote earner did not get at least 50% of the total vote, which is often the level that is considered democratically legitimate. For example, a TDG election with a 100-person neighborhood has this result: A-33 votes, B-32 votes, C-31 votes, and D-4 votes. With a plurality vote, Citizen A would become the neighborhood representative.But it could be argued that Citizen A does not have majority approval since 67 votes were cast in another direction.

A transferable ballot will bring a higher sense of democratic legitimacy. If a TDG goes in this direction, the ballot might provide two places for each voter to indicate his or her first and second preference.  In the first round of counting, the first preference votes are counted. In the second round, the lower contenders would be dropped off the list. Those ballots would go to the second preference. Maybe the four votes cast for Candidate D would go to Candidate B, giving B 36 votes. Even though 36 votes is still not 50%, Candidate B is now showing a higher degree of democratic legitimacy than Candidate A.

If a TDG does use a transferable ballot, it will design its own rules for 1) how many spots on the ballot, 2) the cutoff level to be eligible for the second round, and 3) how many rounds after the first round. This transferable ballot option must be designed with care as not to enhance the drama of the annual elections (which could increase the temptation for electioneering and deal making) or make the voting too complicated. Attaining a 50% legitimacy could cause problems a plurality system would not have. 

Another advantage of the transferable ballot is that strategic voting is not a factor in the electoral decision. In the example, Citizen D only got four votes. He might have received more votes, but some voters felt he was unlikely to be elected. So rather than “throwing their vote away,” they cast their votes towards A, B, or C, whoever was actually their second choice. By not voting for D, these voters are more likely to ensure their vote is cast to one of their favored neighbors. With a transferable ballot, these voters could vote for D and not have to be concerned about D’s small chance to become the representative. If D does not move on to the second round, the ballot will be counted towards the second preference. In this way, the neighborhood learns the true level of D’s acceptance for being the neighborhood representative, which could have an implication for the next few elections in the neighborhood.

Relationship Among Municipal, Provincial, and National Governments

Current forms of western democracy have clear distinctions between these three levels of government. The TDG can replicate these divisions, which means each neighborhood would elect three representatives, one for each level of government.

Or the three levels of current government could be considered as tiers. The national level would become the highest tier, and its representatives would be elected by the provincial representatives. The provincial tier is the second highest tier and is elected by the municipal representatives. The municipal is the third highest and is elected by the lower tiers. The lower tiers would be below the municipal level.

The early stages of building the TDG need not make this kind of decision. The direction will become more apparent as the TDG evolves. 

The TDG Constitutions

Chapter 6 describes a process for the TDG to evolve into a new system of governance. Part of this process is for each neighborhood to write its own local TDG constitution. Then adjacent TDGs will merge, which means a new constitution for the merged area. It is expected that some neighborhoods and mergers will experiment with some of these options—and perhaps a few new features not thought of in this book. Each time a neighborhood or a merger tries something new, it will be a good lesson for the rest of the TDG—whether the experiment worked well or not.

The Checks and Balances

The TDG also has several checks and balances. As I mention them, I hope they will provide further insights into how a TDG works.

The Annual Elections

The TDG uses annual elections. The reason for the shorter term of the TDG is that if an elected official, at any tier, is no longer serving his or her position well (for example, health reasons or corrupt activities), that person can be replaced within one year. There is no need for any kind of political subterfuge or an impeachment process or allowing ineffective representation to carry through for several years. The person is replaced rather efficiently and without much fanfare. The TDG more or less continues with normal operations knowing the ineffective representative won’t be around much longer.

The Indirect Elections

In a TDG, most citizens will vote only for their neighborhood representative. They will not vote for people at the higher tiers. This feature ensures a better judgment for advancement within the TDG. By serving together, the elected representatives are in a much better position than the general citizenry to observe the qualities that merit advancement in the TDG. They will have first-hand experience with the words, actions, people skills, intellect, wisdom, energy, and commitment of the people serving in the same tier. In essence, any tier is actually a very good proving ground of whom, from within the tier, should be promoted to the next highest level.

With each tier making reasonably wise decisions about who should move up, the TDG will promote the more capable and trustworthy citizens to the top positions of governance by the indirect election process.

More Citizen Involvement

In that 100,000-person city I presented earlier as an example of a TDG, about 630 citizens would hold an official elected position. In contrast, a similar city in Canada (with its western democratic structure) would have less than 20 representatives at the municipal, provincial, and national levels.

With the TDG, many more citizens will be called into governance at some time in their lives. Their service, whether it be short or long time or whether it be in the lower or higher tiers, will give them a sense of fulfillment in their lives by havingplayed an important part in trying to make the world a better place. In essence, the TDG creates a more contented citizenry which ultimately should be the goal of governance.

As well, these citizens will have a greater appreciation for the complexities of governance. Not only will they, when they are no longer serving, have more respect and empathy for those citizens in the TDG trying to wrestle with the various societal issues, they will be credible spokespeople to their friends and acquaintances of how well the TDG works. They can also use their TDG experience to help make their own community stronger even though they no longer have a formal TDG position. In essence, the experience gained in those 630 positions will cascade throughout this TDG city.

Just as the western democratic model opened many opportunities for citizens who were not born into aristocratic families to channel some pent-up social pressure into more constructive activities, the TDG is going to use more people whose knowledge, experiences, and wisdom can be a great asset in governance.

An Advisory Board
The TDG should appoint advisors to itself. These advisors should have considerable experience working in the TDG. When appointed, however, they cannot serve simultaneously as a representative anywhere in the TDG or be a direct part of the decision-making process.

Instead these advisors will mostly be concerned with the process of providing better governance. They will meet with the elected tiers and provide them with experience and insights about governance. The advisors will work with several elected tiers, and this experience of seeing the TDG from different angles will become one of the advisor’s tools.

In essence, this check and balance of the TDG is a positive force rather than the negative or constraining check and balances—such as the opposition politicians and the media—employed by the western democratic model

I will discuss the advisory role more thoroughly in Chapter 5.

Anticipating the Critics

I am going to anticipate some of the constructive criticism of the TDG, and hopefully these answers will also provide some further insight into this new system of governance.

Citizens Cannot Vote for the Leaders of Society

Citizens in western democratic nations have a direct or somewhat direct electoral process to select individuals for governance at all levels. Because the citizens have very little opportunity to really know those who aspire to govern them, they must rely on the media and party propaganda to make their voting decision. I discussed this feature of western democracy in more detail in the previous chapter.

Instead of making a decision based on faulty information, TDG citizens pass the responsibility of selecting people for the higher levels of governance to their elected representatives. These representatives, by working with each other on a regular basis, are much more likely to make better selections for the next level of governance than the collective citizenry with limited and tainted information from modern election campaigns. This TDG feature has already been alluded to several times in this chapter. 

I have to concede that a significant and very vocal minority of citizens will disagree with these last two paragraphs—and there is not much hope in convincing them otherwise. However, if we ask those citizens who do not bother voting (sometimes up to 50% of the population) and those citizens who see the election process as choosing between the lesser of two evils (probably about 50% of those who do vote), we will probably find that these two groups of citizens, who do constitute a majority, would prefer to vote for someone in their neighborhood they know reasonably well and let this citizen deal with issues of governance—including voting for those citizens who should go up to the next tier.

I believe a majority of citizens would be just as satisfied voting in a TDG than voting directly for their political leaders. Many will be more satisfied voting for an individual they know personally and entrusting that individual to vote for someone to the next highest tier rather trying to find the truth by sifting through propaganda.

Governments Need a Term of Office

Western democratic societies have come to believe that governments need a two- to seven-year term to accomplish great things while in office. This term is especially important to enact much needed, but very unpopular reforms because a governing party can still see the possibility of a return to power if they enact these reforms early in their term. The one-year term of the TDG goes against this thought.

Although the TDG has elections every year, most of the current officeholders will be re-elected if they have proven themselves to be effective representatives. Therefore the TDG does not produce that major break in personnel, direction, or momentum that a society sees when one political party replaces another party in governance. If past TDG decisions had good reasoning behind them or perhaps some concerns that needed monitoring, they will not be thrown aside because new people who were not part of this decision are now in power. Thus the returning officeholders of the TDG provide that long-term continuous thought required to implement multi-generational solutions for society.

With each election, a few newly elected representatives will add fresh knowledge, experience, and wisdom to the process of governance. Previous officeholders, who have gained great experience working in the TDG, can be appointed to committees, the civil service, or task forces on specific issues. They may even become the special advisors to the process of governance, as will be described in Chapter 5. 

All These Elections are too Costly

Having annual elections in every neighborhood and at every tier may seem quite costly to society. However, the expense of each neighborhood election will not be any more expensive than running an election for a community league in a city neighborhood or a volunteer organization. One day of the year, a community hall or a school room could be rented to host the neighborhood election. An additional expense would be to pay the people to supervise the polls and voters’ list on that day.

If the cost is still a serious concern, the critic should compare the costs of the TDG to the resources a society consumes to run a modern election. First, to keep the election as fair as possible, the political jurisdiction incurs great expense with its ballot boxes, rented locations, voter lists, and paid staff. Second, political parties, to get their message out with their signs, pamphlets, and TV commercials, consume immense resources. As well, each election campaign requires thousands and thousands of volunteer hours, time that could undoubtedly be better invested somewhere else in society.

I say that the many, annual, small scale elections held in the neighborhoods will cost society much less than the mega-elections currently held every several years.

Neighbors are Actually Strangers

In many of today’s neighborhoods, neighbors do not really know each other. So a critic of the TDG may rightly complain that neighbors cannot make an intelligent vote as to who best exemplifies good character and capacity for governance. Unless neighbors spend time with each other, the TDG may not be very effective.

Such neighborhoods are not yet communities. But let’s look at how the TDG can change this dynamic.

Electing their neighborhood representative will become a common event for all the neighbors. If a citizen wants to do his or her democratic duty and make a trip to the ballot box, he or she should not find the cold and informal atmosphere of the western democratic model designed to process many voters in a short time. Instead, that person will likely be greeted by someone that already knows them. There will be some pleasant exchange and small talk before and after the person fills in the ballot, and perhaps even some refreshments and local entertainment to add to the festivities of electing the neighborhood representative. The election should be designed so that neighbors are very comfortable to stay around an hour or two to do some socializing. Going to vote once a year may actually be a pleasurable experience. 

And if these elections are held every year, then neighbors are—sooner or later—going to get to know each other.

A good neighborhood representative should hold at least two town hall meetings a year to discuss affairs of governance with the neighborhood. He or she may even host several meetings with specific themes. Like the election itself, neighbors attending these events will get to know each other better. New friendships and relationships will develop, and informal support networks will appear that would never have appeared with the western democratic model.

And let’s look at the significance of the small electoral districts of the TDG. Voters coming to a TDG election know that it is very likely that they will personally know the person who is elected. If they don’t know the elected person, they will only have to attend a few town hall meetings to learn something about him or her. If a voter has been active in the community, he or she could even be elected as the neighborhood representative even though not really seeking this position.

By making each neighborhood a center for better governance, each one will become a stronger community. The TDG will serve as a catalyst for positive social change at the local level, where the benefits of this social change could even surpass the benefits of this new system of governance.

Some Citizens Elected to the TDG will not want to Serve

There will likely be competent people who are elected to the TDG, yet really don’t want the job. In their one-year term of office, this will become apparent to the neighborhood citizens, who will likely choose someone else in the next election. The neighborhood will have ineffective representation for only one year.

Unquestionably, such an individual will not rise higher in the tiers.

A Bad Government cannot be Thrown Out

One important check-and-balance of the western democratic model is that if a political party governs too ineptly or too corruptly, then citizens have—and have exercised—the opportunity to throw it out of office and replace it with a new party. This threat of loss of power keeps most parties somewhat in line.

However, with many current officeholders being reelected each year, a culture of no campaigning to tell voters how badly they are being governed and no party system where officeholders can be easily branded for removal, it appears that the TDG has no mechanism to throw out a bad government.

If the TDG creates governments that need to be thrown out, then I should not have bothered writing this book!

The question that needs asking now is: “Is the TDG capable of transcending the 12 limitations I have described in Chapter 2?” If no, then it cannot bring better governance than the western democratic model.

Transcending the 12 Limitations

This section briefly explains how the TDG handles the 12 limitations.

Limitation #1: Political parties create a very exclusive club!

All citizens are eligible for election. Joining a party, building a campaign machine, and compromising one’s principles are no longer a prerequisite to be elected in a TDG. Many competent people who would never join a political party—let alone invest a great deal of time in a political party to build their position—will find their way into positions of governance within a TDG.

Limitation #2: Political parties are not think-tanks!

A TDG will not have the day-to-day political intrigue that pervades political parties and which politicians cannot afford to ignore. Unhampered by intrigue or oiling the political machine, TDG representatives can put more thought into their deliberations and consultations, thus making better thought-out decisions. Much of the discussion in a TDG will be related to current and future policy, not electioneering.

Limitation #3: The political process is not a screening process!

If citizens do not have good character and capacity for governance, they are less likely to be elected as neighborhood representatives. If such citizens do get elected, it will be apparent to those working with them (other representatives) that they should not rise any higher than the neighborhood level. 

Limitation #4: Political parties are mostly marketing machines!

The criteria for citizens to be elected into a TDG will be good character and capacity for governance. Ambitious people with questionable character and capacity cannot rely on using well-financed and clever marketing to find their way into positions of influence.

Limitation #5: Simplistic explanation of the problem and solution!

TDG representatives can delve into the real reasons, which are usually not simple, for society’s problems. They can explore solutions previously unattainable because of the western democratic model’s need to make complicated issues seem simple.

Limitation #6: Elected officials spend too much time on politics!

Most elected TDG representatives will know that if they do a good job, they will likely remain elected. Hence they will not need to engage in activities mostly designed to keep a party elected. Instead they devote most of their time towards governance.

Limitation #7: Voters are poor judges!

In a TDG, neighbors are probably pretty good judges of which individuals are best able to represent them. As well, the neighborhood representatives—as they work together—should be able to make a good decision in selecting one among them to rise to the district level. Much more wisdom will be employed to select and promote individuals to higher levels in a TDG. 

Limitation #8: Political parties cannot plan for the future!

Without needing to consider the party’s survival and domination, TDG representatives will be free to look much further into the future. Their ability to concentrate on the future means fewer bad decisions. Fewer bad decisions being made today means less fixing in the future. Therefore TDG representatives of the future have more available resources to tackle their societal problems—and with these extra resources, they can do aneven better job. In other words, better planning for the future will create resources and prosperity for future generations we cannot see today. The TDG should see contentment in society increase exponentially.

Limitation #9: Political parties are beholden to those who feed the marketing machine!

The elimination of a well-financed and sophisticated marketing machine to select citizens into governance means there are no favors to be paid to those who finance and operate the marketing machine. TDG representatives owe no favors to wealthy interests or any demographic group! Nor can citizens perceive the representatives as owing favors. Therefore any decision coming from the TDG has the credibility of being a decision for the benefit of all society, not influenced for the betterment of a few.

Limitation #10: Political parties are incapable of dealing with internal corruption!

The one-year term in the TDG ensures representatives who do not conduct themselves worthy of their position cannot “ride out a storm” or hide behind a party banner to stay elected. There is no need for other representatives to protect such an individual for the sake of party unity.

Limitation #11: The adversarial nature of politics!

TDG representatives will not be splitting themselves on partisan lines, thus removing one unnecessary feature that creates adversity and disharmony in governance, and ultimately leads to limited decisions. In the TDG, the representatives will be working together to resolve the issues of their society, not competing for power and influence.

Limitation # 12: Inability to shape society!

The good character and capacity for governance of TDG representatives will garner respect from the citizenry at large. Many citizens will now have role-models in governance to better influence their own characters and abilities.

Better Control of the Voter List

Most voters’ lists in western democracies are quite accurate and most people casting their ballots are properly recorded. When we see the complexities in regards to compiling and maintaining this list, we really cannot expect 100% accuracy. And when inaccuracies in the voters’ list can affect the result of an election, it’s as though two (or more) viable parties have put themselves into a position to win or lose based on the flip of a coin.If an inaccurate list is perceived to cause a different result, I would still say the “cheating” winner still had considerable support from the voters. Another way to look at potential cheating is that a voters’ list that is slightly less than 100% accurate cannot vault a “nothing” political party or politician into power. So I didn’t put the voters’ list as one of the limitations of western democracy even though many watchers of democracy perceive it to be. But I should acknowledge that the validity of the voters’ list is an important part of the acceptance of the elected politicians to have the right to govern.

Despite my assertions that slightly inaccurate voters’ list are of little consequence, voters’ lists are often called into question when a close election has been held. The losing party often cites a few inaccuracies to claim something was rigged to create a result not in their favor. While these claims usually fail to garner much political traction, they do cause some discredit into the validity of western democracy. The TDG is unlikely to be discredited in this way for three reasons.

First, the TDG neighborhood elections will be held once a year. So maintaining that voter list will be an ongoing process, not something that is done once every several years. Consider this common situation as an example. A citizen who has just moved into the neighborhood wants to vote. But he is not on the voters’ list. Because this particular TDG has developed some strict rules on the voter list and voter eligibility, this citizen is not allowed to vote in this election. But an official in the TDG will put this citizen on the list for the next election a year away.The citizen really has not lost the right to vote.

Second, an inappropriate selection of a few local neighborhood representatives will not produce an immediate result at the highest tier. Rather than dwelling on how an inaccurate list has affected who holds the power, the TDG will investigate and correct the electoral process of those few affected neighborhoods for the next election. Most neighborhood elections will not have such controversy.

Third, the voters’ lists are small. Even if a neighborhood reaches 300 people, it should not be that difficult for a couple of local volunteers to maintain that list with at least a 95% accuracy. Most of the people coming to the voting booth will be known to the poll workers, so it is much harder for a cheating citizen to represent another voter. And if a recount is needed, recounting 300 ballots is not that difficult. For elections at the higher tiers, the voters’ lists will be much smaller than 300, making those elections even easier to conduct than the neighborhood elections.

These election list issues are perhaps stated a little too gently. So let me put this topic in a very simple and direct way: it will be impossible for some sinister force to somehow manipulate the TDG elections to get its favored people into positions of governance.

Faults of Tiered Governance

I see a couple of serious faults with the TDG which need some addressing.

Loss of Entertainment

In most parts of the world, politics dominates the media and we citizens are concerned by the actions and words of the people who are governing us. While this interest is an important part of democracy—and should be encouraged—we are also entertained by the circus atmosphere that comes with politics while our society makes its decisions. The circus grabs and holds our attention, and gives us something to talk, discuss, and complain about. Many citizens are hooked on the entertainment of politics, similar to other citizens being hooked on watching professional sports or movies.

The TDG will not provide this kind of entertainment for us.


To make a TDG work, a society must undergo some formal or informal training. The traditional methods of problem solving that we learned by living in western democracies—adversarial and partisan politics, noisy electoral contests with little substance, strong-willed opinions with little attempt to listen, and ignoring discontent until an opposition can muster itself into a political force—will have to go. Obviously, new methods of governance must be learned. In Chapters 4, 5, & 6, I will discuss more of the process that is to give us this training.

Examples of Tiered Governance

Although I would really like to claim to be the real inventor of the TDG, variations of the TDG have appeared several times in history. Understanding these systems a little better helps understand how to build a future TDG.

The Early Christian Church

The first two centuries of Christianity had fast-growing Christian communities throughout the Roman Empire. However, these communities were not under any kind of central authority and were left to develop their own systems of community organization. There were influences from Roman, Greek, and Hebrew laws and local traditions. Plus there were a few inventions developed by certain communities, and later borrowed by others.

A significant number of these Christian communities developed some TDG-like principles. The members of these communities elected a council of presbyters to handle the affairs of their community. And these presbyters—not the general membership—elected the bishop, who had varying responsibilities of administration and spiritual matters depending on which community he—or she—belonged to. The relationship between the presbyters and the bishop also depended on how the church governed itself. The bishop was often the community’s representative when dealing with civil authorities and meeting with other Christian communities.

Many Christian communities were not so democratically inclined. They developed a top-down approach, where the bishop was appointed by some higher authority outside the community. My understanding of history is that there were bigger issues than systems of governance when the churches were united at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. But the Council effectively abolished the Christian communities’ ability toelect their local leaders. The top down/appointment approach became the system of governance throughout Christianity.

The American Revolution

The founding fathers of the American Revolution saw the multi-party democracy of Britain as a serious flaw in democracy. They designed their constitution such that parties were to have no part in the democratic process. The Electoral College, the set of rules that dictates the selection of the president of the United States, was originally an indirect election (and legally speaking still is). The people in each state would elect their state legislators—and these legislators would elect, from amongst themselves, the individual who they best felt should be president. The theory was that the state legislators were in a better position to know who should be president than the general citizenry—because the legislators were working with possible candidates on a regular basis.

Shortly after the constitution was written, certain political aspirants whose ambitions were greater than their talents for governance found that by publicly uniting together as a common front (and with a little bit of deal making with various legislators for their support) found more electoral success than independent contenders abiding by the spirit of the American constitution. By 1820, the political parties were more or less in place in the United States, and the original reason for the Electoral College was abandoned.

I wonder where democracy would be today if the founding fathers had had the foresight to put a few tiers between the general citizenry and the state legislators.

The Communist Revolution

In their desire to give the working classes more say in the affairs of governance, the early communists developed a system of cells. The workers in a particular cell (usually a factory or locality) would elect, from amongst themselves, a representative to take their concerns to the next highest level. Leaders would be elected in such a way, tier-by-tier, right up to the Politburo. Or so went the theory.

In practice, communism failed to produce a TDG-like system of governance for several reasons. First, voting rights in a communist system were only given to members of the communist party, which consisted of only a small minority of any communist nation’s citizens. At least 90% of citizens had little influence on the selection of their politicians. Second, the communist members were bonded to accept and apply a certain political ideology which had little use for free markets, free media, and human rights. Third, the leaders at the top wanted to remain at the top, so the elections at high and low levels were often rigged or overturned to ensure most political opponents (in the same party) found difficulties working their way into influential positions. Even many communist members came to regard these local elections as unimportant.   

Is it organic?

History has given us three examples of when altruistic people, when required to invent a new system of governance, come up with a system of tiered indirect elections—with many similarities to the TDG. And history has shown, that after a short time, the TDG-like system becomes corrupted and evolves into something else. If we are to learn from history, we could assume that a TDG is untenable—even though we may yearn for it.

Simply changing the electoral process will not work. We need at least two more democratic tools to make a TDG able to resist any corrupting influences that power-accumulating individuals will want to bring to it. The next two chapters will discuss those two tools. We can learn from our historical mistakes.

The Inspiration of Tiered Democratic Governance

I’m going to digress a bit with the story of how the TDG came in being.

For my early adult life, I was a non-partisan citizen, not really preferring one political party over the other. I recall one election in which I was extremely satisfied with the result and I thought this new leader would be like a messiah to effect the changes I thought needed to happen. I was rather disappointed a few months later as I saw this leader unable to make the changes he had promised.

A short while after my disappointment, the industry I was working in was negatively affected by a government program designed to supposedly help the industry. If the government had actually asked some people within the industry and perhaps brushed up on their first-year economics courses, it could have easily predicted the faulty results. I then took to heart the famous quote by Edmund Burke:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

So instead of just complaining about the ineptness of people in government, I thought I needed to get more involved in the process (and bring my much superior insights in how the world should work). So I joined a political party closest to my particular ideology at that time. And there I remained for about six years.

Initially, I had some ambitions about becoming an elected politician at some time. And getting involved in the party at a young age would help my quest by getting experience and developing contacts. But within my first year in a political party, I figured I really didn’t want the lifestyle of a politician and I didn’t think I was very electable. But I was comfortable in the back rooms, hoping that my presence would somehow bring more wisdom into the process of governance.  I rose to lower-level management with the party; my occupation wouldn’t allow me to move any higher.

As the years passed, I began to realize a few more things about political parties. First, the political party really does not want to hear the opinion of average party workers; our purpose was to win elections, nothing more, nothing less. If we didn’t like what our leaders were saying, we were free to leave the party or curtail our activity within the party. Second, life in a political party can be very dysfunctional at times (and I should admit that I contributed to some of the dysfunction I experienced). I questioned my sanity several times for remaining as an active party volunteer in a dysfunctional organization.

Towards the end of my tenure, I realized that the various election processes—both the internal party elections and general elections—were quite silly contests. What the candidates proffered themselves to be (with help from the parties’ propaganda machine and the media reports) had little to do with how well they could do their jobs in government. I pondered over this particular issue for a long time.

While on a long walk, I had a “eureka” moment. I saw the framework of the failings of western democracy (later to be the 12 limitations) and a replacement system (later to be the TDG). I also saw that the failings of western democracy would never allow it to evolve into a TDG; we needed to build this new system with a new foundation and from the ground level. In essence, most of this and the previous chapter came to me in less than five minutes! 

When I had my eureka moment, I was in the midst of an internal party election, which was becoming dysfunctional as three viable candidates wanted the job; it was not a friendly contest!  I was working hard backing one of these candidates. We ended up losing that election—afterward as we learned more about the winner, it became clear the party members made a bad choice.

But being on the wrong side of that election meant the faction I was involved with was likely to be put on the sidelines, which was what happened. Then shut out of attending many political meetings and activities, I had some time to think. Why did I become politically active in the first place? Answer: I wanted to bring my insights and knowledge to public decisions! But after six years of positioning myself within the party, I never had such influence whatsoever—even if my faction had won the election!

I knew that if I was a good sport about our loss and hung around the sidelines until someone needed the services I could offer, I could find my way back to the same position within the party again. But even regaining that position would not give me the influence I wanted. I decided to never get involved in party politics again.

However, I never let go of my eureka moment. This book is the result.

Markus Spiske on Unsplash
For a more comfortable read, an ebook version of TDG is available on Kindle and on Kobo for about $7.