Fractals are fascinating.
According to Wikipedia:
A fractal has been defined as "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity.
Fractals are formed by various types of mathematical repetition and can be found in many aspects of nature such as clouds, snowflakes and plants.
One of the wonderful things about fractals is that they look the same at different scales – this is particularly true of certain types of fractal such as the Koch Snowflake and the Sierpinski Triangle which are created by the repetition of simple mathematical rules. These are the same sorts of rules that can be found for naturally occurring fractals.
So what, I hear you ask, has this got to do with democracy?
Well, it occurs to me that fractals might provide a rather neat way for establishing democratic structures based on the following two principles:
1. Exactly the same democratic structures should be repeated at every level of government
So, for example, if the UK parliamentary arrangements are in fact ‘the envy of world’ then they should be replicated at every level of government. This already true to some extent for the devolved administrations but is certainly not for local government or town and parish councils (I have posted about local parliaments before). It doesn’t have to be that system of course, it could be a different one, but there has to be ‘self similarity’ at every level.
The benefit is that it is easy for everyone to understand – once you ‘get it’ at one level, you ‘get it’ at every level.
2. The distance between different democratic levels should be decided by a simple mathematical rule
How are these distances decided now? How did we decide, for example, that there should be x number of devolved administrations below central government, x number of councils below that and x number of community councils below that? I don’t really know to be honest although I’d guess the arrangements we have now have evolved for various historic and contextual reasons.
Instead why not have a mathematical rule for deciding distances? Here is an example using ‘divide by 21’ to illustrate this:
1 UK Government
21 Regional Governments (population about 3 million each – same as Wales)
441 Local Governments (21 for each region, average population c. 140,000 – about the same as Wales!)
9261 Community Governments (21 for each local area, average population 6,500)
194,000 Street Governments (21 for each community, average population 300)
I wondered whether you could use Fibonacci numbers but I’m not sure my maths are up to the task!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkuropatwa/2912488625/