The problem is not with our Constitutionally-defined system of electing representatives, who appoint civil servants, etc. That is as it should be because, as someone else already pointed out, we can’t give everyone a checklist with their 1040. Representative democracy is a way to cope with the many conflicts that arise between different parties’ interests, and even in this age of advanced communications we don’t have another method that can handle the numbers of such conflicts present in even a small nation. Direct democracy barely works at the town level.

The problem, rather, is with our implementation of that system. Specifically, accountability has been lost. Government has become so big that delegation is the primary rule of government. There are so many people to whom some level of policy authority has been delegated (often unconstitutionally, IMO) that neither congress nor the president can even keep up with the appointments – let alone the individual decisions of the appointees. Whole departments escape any elected person’s attention for years at a time, until some random event brings them to someone’s attention. Even then, there’s a certain reluctance on the part of the elected folks to meddle with a department or panel whose function and political allegiances they do not fully understand and can’t afford to take time learning about. The net result is that the chain of accountability between the people making decisions and the voters/taxpayers affected by those decisions has broken.

What’s the solution? Somehow, that accountability has to be restored. The paths from voters to decision-makers must be shortened. The problem actually bears some similarity to those that arise in distributed computer systems, but I’ll spare you the detailed analogies. Suffice it to say that the only way to decrease the depth of a tree is to increase its width, which means that any solution will probably involve individuals partipating in more elections. That might be hard to reconcile with the constitutionally mandated form of government, but then again we’ve drifted pretty far from that already.

original context