I ended yesterday’s post with a very fanciful “reboot America” suggestion. I’m sure our contemporary MAGA warriors would love to reboot the country–they’re working hard to to take us back to before the civil war, when men were men and White Christians were in charge–but as I was mulling over my very silly premise, I realized that one of my favorite final exam questions actually did ask my graduate students how they would reboot governance. (It was a take-home exam.)

This was the question:

Earth has been destroyed in World War III. You and a few thousand others—representing a cross-section of Earth’s races, cultures and religions—are the only survivors. You have escaped to an earthlike planet, and are preparing to establish a new society. You want to avoid the errors of the Earth governments that preceded you, and establish a governance system that will be stable and fair. What institutional choices do you make and why? Your essay should include: The type/structure of government you would create; the powers it will have; the limits on its powers, and how those limits will be enforced; how government officials will be chosen and policies enacted; and the social and political values you intend to privilege.

Most of the students responded with a modified version of American governance–three branches, rule of law, equal rights, democratic elections and a variety of “tweaks”–interestingly, the tweaks usually included getting rid of the Electoral College, adopting national health care and paying considerably more attention to environmental issues. Students also tended to constrain–but not eliminate– capitalism. Others were more creative; I recall one student who suggested that the new world order should start with a benevolent dictatorship–with him as dictator– until the time was right for democratic governance.  (I’m pretty sure that was tongue in cheek…)

Anyway–remembering that essay question made me wonder how those of you who comment here might answer it. There are a lot of obviously bright, highly educated folks who offer thoughtful commentary to my daily meanderings, and I’d be very interested in your individual “pie in the sky” suggestions.

If you were answering my exam question, what social and political values would you make the centerpiece of a new world order? What systems would you build in, and what mechanisms for change? What problems do you wish America’s founders had foreseen, and how would you guard against the inevitable unforeseen, unfortunate consequences of your favored policy choices?

Go to it! Imagine a reboot of government– but no fair “rebooting” humans to make us nicer and less tribal and easier to govern. Just focus on the governance system…

If pigs could fly, what would your ideal government look like?


  1. Well, at the very, very end of the Meryl Streep, Leonardo DeCaprio movie “Don’t Look Up”, they all embarked from the space ship naked. No identifying uniforms or religious garb or a way to identify their financial level.

    Just a thought after this totally chaotic personal, military escalated and political week with nothing to look forward to in our future but more of the same. It may not make anyone nicer but we would all be unable to recognize tribal identities. Just a thought!

  2. My new world would include to a modified version of American governance–three branches, the rule of law, equal rights, democratic elections, and a variety of “tweaks”–interestingly, the tweaks usually included getting rid of the Electoral College, adopting national health care, and paying considerably more attention to environmental issues.

    This would be the best situation for all countries once theocracy dies.

    Of course, the most significant environmental issue in human history is stopping the burning of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. It’s already way too late to prevent changes to Earth’s climate. They are already numerous and will worsen no matter how quickly we stop making them worse.

    (Full disclosure: My family and I live in Rochester, NY, one of the few places on Earth frequented by humans that will improve somewhat due to those changes).

  3. This will take some pondering.
    One initial thought that comes to mind is how to solve the problem of the “winner take all” form of democracy we are currently enduring, which ends with a large number of people with little or no voice in the decisions that affect their lives, but has perversely allowed a few individuals to have an outsized effect on those decisions. I am thinking of the example of reproductive rights, in which a large number of people disagree with the decisions made that limit their own ability to determine for themselves whether to give birth or not, combined with the ability of Senator Tuberville to block important decisions about military leadership.
    Perhaps some form of parliamentary power-sharing in a representative democracy based on the model of some of the Scandinavian democracies that seem to be effective in legislating and creating an environment that allows for the pursuit of happiness among their people.

    Another problem that arises from your premise is the size of the population in the new world. The smaller the number the easier to make decisions. As the number grows so will the complexity in governing.

    I am looking forward to the ideas that others put forward in this conversation.

  4. The rule of law, 3 branches of government to balance each other, combined with major tolerance of other belief systems. Hard issues are extreme variances in belief, for example reproduction as mentioned above, where one belief system has life beginning with first breath, versus life beginning with conception and keeping government out of this belief dispute. If one belief system executes group members for adultery or theft or blasphemy, should government stay out of this consequence dispute? Then there is the issue of putting some control over majority mob rule. Due process would be needed before imposing consequences and discouragement for harmful to the common good behavior. Peru requires everyone to vote, but the country still struggles. But making it a requirement for adults to vote with a fine for not voting has merit. Quick thoughts only here.

  5. No Senators and Reps….just one body with 4 year terms…based only on population. No two senators from each state business. The “house” members’ stock holdings would be in a blind trust. No gerrymandering, somehow find an impartial panel (maybe AI) to district the country. We would return to the fairness doctrine. If a news outlet doesn’t conform, their license is pulled. Civic education on citizenship, history, etc. would be mandated with scholarly input. Any political yammering by churches would remove their tax exempt status. No electoral college. Any candidate for the supreme court would have to be approved by the ABA so we don’t get Amy’s and Bretts. All gifts would be strictly limited..and must be disclosed. Jail terms for any justice that violates that. Health care would be national and very inexpensive or free. No one would be homeless or hungry. Some system for taxing corporate stock holdings over a certain amount that is fair and allows for help if the stock later fails or loses value. Banks that are run into the ground will not reward upper management and there is more oversight. Somehow we would find a way to have “house members” follow their constituents wishes. I’m think abortion and gun control where our present system simply ignores the electorate’s wishes. women’s reproductive freedom and women’s rights would be in the constitution. All elected officials would have to disclose any meeting with lobbyists and subject discussed. EPA would be strong from the onset so that we don’t bugger up this new Earth.

  6. My view relies significantly upon “Both And Solutions “ as well as “Building Community and through this Dealing with our Personal and Ancestral Fears- acknowledging the Wisdom’s of our Young People.

    The fears dating back to the Confederate loss of the Civil War not only in the South are important and still largely unresolved. The fears of those of us who are Jewish go back 2000+ years, far beyond the horrors of The Holocaust. Our (male) fears of loss of control and being and dying Emotionally alone are real.

    We need make “education” both helping our young people grow in Supportive ways as well as learning from them. They are (also) teachers.

    We need to model cooperation- love – caring and build community- not being in the Old (current) worlds of Powr from the Super Wealthy dominating us.

    We need radical visions and goals while finding practical “win-win” compromises.

    We need to learn Calling In – and Deep Listening. Our Hearts are vitally important!

    None of this is easy, but All we do- in your Imaginary World can also eas
    Ily be undone and stolen away!

  7. OK… I started to type up something and got two paragraphs into what looked like was going to be 1000+ word essay. I started to type up the short answer and it’s is still too long of an answer to type out here on a sunny Saturday morning.

  8. Plenty of good suggestions so far… that, in some cases, emulate the utopia Karl Marx envisioned. The profit motive is deadly to any reboot in that without STRICT controls and regulations, the same things will occur. Why? Because the human genome hasn’t changed.

    Nothing but government funding of elections. NO primaries. Election day is a national/international holiday – if there are such things as nations. See Lennon, John for that scenario. No religion. Teaching fact-based philosophy will also weed out the demagogues and ideologues that harm societies with very little upside. Term limits on everyone especially court judges.


    When I taught AP Biology, I ran a similar exercise for my students. I treated them like graduate students and created the “Earth 2.0” scenario for how they would structure the new world biologically. Some of the students delved into politics and political control – especially concerning health care. It was GREAT!

  9. I imagine students or anybody else would choose what is most familiar to them. Therefore, it would be like what is most known.

    As I mentioned yesterday, the oligarchs are going to rule but would fear for their lives so they use the World Economic Forum as a front to manage a unipolar government for the masses.

    What keeps them from continuing to do so?

    Until they feel threatened by the commoners (like ones with access to guillotines), life and business will go along as is.

    The bigger question is how do we get to one person, one vote?

    How does my existence equal the same as those hiding behind the WEF curtains and those in Haiti?

    Without that, the oligarchs will just continue ruling…

  10. I don’t see any reason to change a hierarchy of government.

    Local town/village/city
    Federal with a Presidential Cabinet of interest areas to manage and regulate.
    World government —no Security Council.

    All patterned after our Constitution

  11. Leave what the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us, with the following additions:

    1. Publicly financed elections. Period.
    2. Candidates for office must take and pass exams that show an understanding about our form of government and the office they seek.
    2a. Graduation from high school requires evidence of understanding of basic civics.
    3. Thorough financial and membership disclosure by all office seekers, including those by appointment as opposed to the elective process.
    4. Get rid of gerrymandering, using population figures as the sole means of establishing voting districts.
    5. Get rid of Electoral College. He/she with the most votes received wins. And here’s a very radical “what if” idea to ponder: what if voting districts were determined solely by population numbers without regard to state boundaries for national elections? Would that not eradicate the concerns of states with fewer residents?
    6. Tax incentive for voting.
    7. Clarification of 2nd Amendment to exclude all forms of weapons of mass destruction.
    Whew. I’ve done enough to upset this apple cart many times over. Thanks for the question!

  12. According to scientists though we are living on a dying planet. So will it really matter what we do? We probably will just become some version of mass extinction no matter how hard we try to reverse it.

  13. The country of Switzerland has a direct democracy and elections are held every five years, I believe. They have multiple parties and everyone votes on referendums every 3-4 months. Newspapers are sent to every home that contains each canton’s candidates and referendum issues typed out. There’s still the Green Party, the conservatives and lib Dems and a couple more parties that actually state their platforms which try to improve citizens lives.

    Income taxes are about 10% but VAT is 7 & 19% so much higher. They still have gas tax, road tax, a chimney inspection required every year and motor vehicle inspections every two years. They make you clean the engine, no oil stains allowed. They have property taxes but they are reasonable because most everyone 60%, live in apartments. They work 42 hours a week but require 5 weeks of vacation every year and sick time paid. Maternity and Paternity leave is offered for couples up to about 6 months. They have proper pension plans!

    Unfortunately, they are still living in the 60s decade with few allowances for working mothers. In fact, half day schools make it nearly impossible for mothers to work and childcare is extremely expensive. The cost of living is higher than CA. The minimum wage is 25$ an hour and maids here make 30+ an hour. Food is expensive and eating dinner out tonight means we will drive 3 miles to Germany and eat cheap there. We used to spend over 100 for a dinner out, no alcohol included.

    Healthcare is expensive too. They are mostly non-profit but compared to the states, affordable. Hubby and I pay almost 1000 a month for the two of us because 90% is covered. My mammo last month was 218 dollars and included in my coverage. It’s also mandatory and low income is subsidized. I have had two surgeries the last two Januarys and our deductible was less than 500 for each as it was covered in our policies.

    I don’t know anything about the schooling. So, I know your homework assignment test should state the case but I don’t know what this country’s government is actually like because I don’t know the Swiss German, Swiss French or Swiss Italian languages. This is what I know from my Swiss girlfriend. I deserve a C for effort. Maybe? Ha

    I just know that the US should seriously consider rewriting our constitution for the 21 and 22nd century. Or try too. Just make sure the Christian nationalists don’t get a say. Those people are nuts.

  14. Lesly Livingood. I like it. I’d give you an A. Putting your suggestions into action would take us a long way toward achieving better balance. I would add ranked choice voting which would tend to discourage extremist candidates.

  15. Interesting question. I’d suggest the goal is a capitalist/socialist combination. Capitalism that takes care of its community, employees, retirees, the environment, and customers in addition to owners. Universal health care and education. A 3 branch government much like we have but with more of a parliamentary system to enforce the fact parties need to cooperate. A bill of rights in plain language, with a clear statement that only people are people, businesses, corporations, and other organizations are not. The bill of rights must also ensure it is subject to common sense and rights are subject to responsibilities. Politicians can run for office but are limited to a set maximum number of consecutive terms at any one level, and they must return to the community for a while before running for their old office or for a new one. Elections are paid for exclusively out of tax dollars. Taxes must cover the expenses and be proportional to the income of the taxed. ny organization that has an income ( including churches) should also be subject to taxation. The more you earn the more you are required to contribute to the community coffers. Elders must be cared for, as must pre-school children. Religion is tolerated but there is a strict wall between church and government or schools. Over all freedom from is considered no less important than freedom to. Mandatory community service for those completing what we would call high school with opportunities as part of that service for career education ( for instance, training to be a doctor or nurse, engineer, educator etc with a requirement for additional time in service) . I question if a military would be needed but a police force would be and there would be the equivalent of the National Guard, focusing on disaster relief and building rather than war training.

  16. Well we aren’t a straight Democracy. We are a republic thats ruled in segments of democracy. Mob rule and corruption in government is slowed by each state have a say thru the electoral process.
    Imagine a Hitler trying to come to power, it would be a reaction to the over reaching abuse of a federalized government. This is an awful thought but we are seeing the corruption and coverup by federalized agencies. States and their elected officials can only stop extreme government abuse.
    Robert Barnes at Hillsdale tells of the corrupt FBI
    Check out his youtube video

  17. Ain’t dreamin’ fun? Hope y’all have enjoyed it.

    What COULD actually get done ANYTIME SOON? Think about the no more than 3 things most Americans agree on:

    – The BIGs (Industrial Complexes) are too big and have too much power over everything: MIC, HIC, TIC, PIC. Break ’em up and make them pay fair taxes.

    – The 1% need to pay fair taxes.

    – Some form of term limits for House/Senate/SCOTUS is needed.

  18. I see lots of good suggestions already posted. I have a number of ideas I’d like to see instituted.
    Since the end of the semester is near, I guess that I’d better start typing, lol!

    I would propose a representative democracy that operates as a unitary system at all levels:

    Local units of government: city, village, township, etc., none of which overlap with any other local unit of government. Their boundaries would be contiguous, not piecemeal, like some current suburbs are in certain areas. These units would be the only ones whose boundaries are not determined by population. Replace counties/parishes with regional, intermediate-level districts whose boundaries are based upon population. These would answer to the federal government, and would provide for the needs that go beyond individual local governments. They would also provide services for metropolitan areas that go across state lines.

    Replace states with provinces. Province level: allow provinces to exist, but strictly limit their ability to influence public policy. Public policy must be set at the national level.

    Federal level: there should be three branches of government as there currently are: executive, legislative, and judicial.

    The Basic Law (constitution) must require that all elections at each level be publicly funded – no private financing allowed. All expenses must be disclosed to the public. Elections shall be direct, and the winners determined by popular vote. Elections shall be on Sundays or on a federal election holiday so people don’t have to leave work to vote. Eliminate the Electoral College, and the two-party system.

    For the Executive Branch: Have two automatic rounds of voting for each election. In the first round, allow but don’t require, as many as nine parties to have candidates on the ballot: 3 Left, 3 Centrist, and 3 Right. The candidate with the most votes from each of the three areas on the ideological spectrum would advance to the second round. If one of the three gets at least 65% of the popular vote, then that candidate is elected to the position. If no candidate gets that percentage, then the two candidates with the most votes will advance to a run-off third round. The candidate with the most votes wins the election (President, Governor, Mayor, etc.), but the candidate with the second-most votes is the second in command (Vice-President, Lieutenant Governor, Vice-Mayor, etc.). If the elected official dies or resigns while in office, then the candidate with the second most votes assumes that office.

    Legislative Branch: All legislative districts at all levels shall be drawn by computer according to population in a contiguous manner. Gerrymandering for any purpose shall be forbidden. Elections shall be conducted as is done for the Executive Branch.

    Judicial: Supreme Court justices and lower level judges shall be nominated by the president and shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate. If they are found to have accepted money in exchange for their votes, they shall forfeit their seat on the court.

    The stocks of all judges and all elected officials shall be held in a public trust for the duration of their term of office. Terms of office for all elected officials shall be 5 years. They may be elected to one additional 5-year term. The tenure for all Supreme Court justices and lower court judges shall be 10 years. At the end of that 10 year tenure on the court, they may be confirmed for one additional 10-year term on that court.

    The government at all levels shall be free from influence by religion. Any church, denomination, or other religious entity which attempts to use the force of law to impose its beliefs on the rest of the people, sway elections, or influence public policy shall forfeit its assets to the government.

    Women who are at least 18 years old shall have complete autonomy over their bodies and their reproductive health care. Trans people who are at least 18 years old shall also have complete autonomy over their bodies and shall have access to gender-affirming health care.

    The parents of minors who are LGBTQIA+ or pregnant shall have the right to seek all necessary health care for their children. If the parents refuse to do this, then the minor has the right to seek relief from a court of law to access this care.

    All United States citizens shall have the right to universal free necessary comprehensive health care that is paid for by taxes. The health care system shall be administered by the federal government.

    All adults who are employed shall be taxed at a rate of 35% of their income, but those adults who earn over $1,000,000 per year shall have the amount over one million dollars taxed at 50%. The first $999,999 shall be taxed at 35%. All minors who are at least 13 years old shall be taxed at a rate of 10% of their income. All adults who are at least 18 years old shall be entitled to a universal basic income that is 200% of the prevailing poverty level.

    All elected officials at the local level shall have earned at least a Bachelor’s degree at an accredited University or College, and shall have a basic understanding of civics and economics.

    All elected officials at the national or provincial levels of government shall have earned at least a Master’s degree at an accredited University or college, and shall have a requisite understanding of civics, critical race theory, and economics.

    All judges shall be vetted by a nationally accepted bar association and shall have earned at least a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, and shall have a requisite understanding of US, North American, and world history and critical race theory.

    First draft dutifully submitted, Professor!

  19. First thing would be to supplant the indigenous population and confine them to small area. Build a wall around their area and treat them as subordinate animals. Develop an MIC and government. Voraciously print money to propagate/strengthen the MIC and thusly have the MIC kick back a portion of those monies to finance our political parties.

    Perpetual war–because WAR IS PEACE. PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH. Religion would be a must. One could only be a member of government if one ascribed to the preferred religion.

    Media would be ubiquitous and keep the public in a continued state of ignorance and fantasy.

    Only octogenarian white-men would be eligible for the highest offices of governance.

    Crony capitalism and an authoritarian theocracy would be the zeitgeist. Genocide would be acceptable for the control of what our leaders consider to be those among lower caste origins.

    Oh snap!

  20. Lesly, I like a lot of that. I’d amend your 2nd amendment option to return to a pre-1990 understanding. Even 1990 was a time when a conservative like Warren Burger could suggest any interpretation of the 2nd amendment to suggest an individual had an unfettered right to a firearm as “fraud”. As others have noted, I’d clarify the “separation of church and state” portion in the constitution. Freedom of religion is important, but must be independent of government, and must apply to all religions not just one.

    European at heart, there are a lot of interesting items there. I don’t like your taxation plan at all, though. Taxing a kid working a dreary, menial job that pays minimum wage the same as a lawyer who brings home $600k/year is crazy. I’d like to see something fairly simple at its heart, with margins based on income percentiles. There’s lots of room for negotiation (and economists should really be helping out) but something along the lines of:
    – margin 1: set at 15th percentile (~$25k); income below taxed at 0% (thus, max $0)
    – margin 2: set at 30th (~$45k); income from 20th to below 35th, tax at 15% (thus, max $3k)
    – margin 3: 50th (~$75k); 30% (max $12k)
    – margin 5: 75th (~$140k); 45% (max $41k)
    – margin 6: 95th (~$270k); 60% (max $126k)
    – margin 6: 99th (~$335k); 70% (max $172k)
    – above 99th: 75%

    In this example, someone making the median (about $75000) would pay about $12000 (or 16% effective), while someone making the 75%ile (about $140000) would pay about $41000 (or 29% effective), and someone making $500000 would pay about $296000 (or 59% effective). 🙂

    A few other things that haven’t gotten as much attention:
    – Make it easier to vote; automatic enrollment at 18, voter ID simplified, more voting locations, etc.
    – Short election cycles. (You guys are _always_ in election mode. Other countries do this _much_ differently, so there are lots of existing options to look at.)
    – Tax passive income the same as money made by labour. To do otherwise is simply to move money from the poor to the rich.
    – Corporations are not people. This must be undone. They have obligations to the state (to pay taxes, follow regulations, follow laws, etc.), but they should not be permitted to influence elections through money, propaganda, lobbying, etc.
    – Improve state department and diplomatic corps. No more _covert_ meddling in other countries. Public censuring of abuses by other countries (especially of human rights and warlike behaviours) is encouraged. Be consistent! Military action is appropriate only when attacked or when UN consensus has deemed it appropriate to help defend another. Civilians always to be protected to utmost. In other words, civilian casualties are not acceptable, and must be defended as war crimes in UN court when they occur.

  21. I like your students’ answers and many here.
    Since it would take a sizeable monograph to adequately express my ideas, I will try to keep this short.
    The best form of government (like your student):
    A dictatorship
    I am the only one qualified
    I DO NOT WANT the job

    So, we move on to the next best. As mentioned by others, size matters. More communal, less organized structures would suffice with smaller populations. Planning for larger populations (or growth), I concur with most of the suggestions. Most importantly, we are all equal citizens, full stop.

    Multi-representative districts are also an option (three people per district, so a minority view may still get representation).
    Primaries may still be necessary, but they could end up looking like the non-partisan city elections in the Detroit of my youth, where the term “bedsheet ballot” was used to describe the huge number of names appearing on the primary election ballot. Still sequential voting allows for some unknown candidates to make into the field for a serious second look. Serious spending limits and/or public funding are probably a must.
    We need to make corporations exist at the sufferance of the government, not the other way around.
    Mandatory two year service in either a policing or civic corp might also be an idea worth exploring, with no exceptions. Everyone knows that they have a stake in society.

    Some balancing acts will be harder.
    We need a stronger assumption that Rights belong to individuals as much as possible, but we also need to be able to protect the public good. Rights should never be adjudicated at the state level. Either the common government can interfere, or no government, at any level, can interfere. “States” can’t decide IF bodily autonomy is a Right.
    Local control is important, especially with different geographic conditions, but states are an arbitrarily drawn set of subdivisions. Sometimes region control is more effective. We have to balance local control with world health (environmental and other). Neither pollution nor disease respect borders .

    I’ll quit here for (relative) brevity.

  22. Plato’s “Republic” was an answer to your pose during his time. I find his “Allegory of the caves” just as relevant today. We’re caught up in our own shadows while there’s a more enlightened way to do things.
    Education for all children in a state approved curriculum is paramount. Research based education to encourage and enhance the development into critical informed thinking. Kids don’t choose where they go to school, but the state should ensure the civil rights of all children. Private schools taking vouchers must respect all Amercian children’s rights without bullying! Truth and critical thinking would be emphasized. Traditional religious beliefs is for the family to pass on to their children and girls are equal to the boys.
    My grandkids just arrived for supper, so this grandma needs to sign off.

  23. I am with “the other Sheila”.
    This both too hard and too easy. I am overwhelmed.
    How do you address the issue of violence? Public support for conflict resolution and non violent means of resolution.
    Educate everyone for free.
    I worry about the oligarchs.

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