Friday, November 11, 2011

For a Direct Democracy

A few months ago, a Rasmussen Reports poll found that 46% of Americans thought that most members of Congress were corrupt.

Also, the poll found that 85% of voters think that most Congress people are more interested in themselves than helping other people. And conversely, only 7% actually thought that politicians were driven more by aiding others.
Today, the approval level for Congress is running at about 9%.

The time is ripe in America to consider a new view of democracy and politics.
It seems that what the US needs is movement that ends politics as usual, a political party whose goals is the end of conventional politics and conventional political parties. Such a movement does not really exist yet in any significant form today, and if it did, we know that the progress of this idea would proceed through stages and transitions. In any case, our long term goal should be the formation of new kind of republic, one based upon some new principles that we might have garnered after more than 200 years of negative experience with our “representative” style democracy.

The rising concept must be “direct democracy” -- a system that dispenses with middle men and allows the citizens to rule directly. Directness has always been a cardinal rule for the individual.

Direct participation, direct action, direct knowledge, direct communication , and direct responsibility are healthy life principles in general. They allow one to get control of personal existence freeing one from “indirectness” – which includes information given that is secondhand and revised, relying on professionals and “leaders” who are more interesting in their own careers, navigating complex and bureaucratic systems designed to frustrate popular initiative, and more.

In the case of politics and government, directness is absolutely essential. Ultimately, true democratic power cannot be held without direct control by citizens. When the people are excluded from governing, then elite strata arise who do the governing in their own interests.

Directness is a necessity in a Social Diverse, that is, in a society and culture of many people, many social groups and many institutions. In the end, democracy is based on the power of an individual, and directness enhances this power by propelling the citizen into action and participation. In fact, there is no way that a person is going to know and manage the world around herself or himself, unless she or he gets involved. And this way one gets involved in one’s own Fate, rather than allowing some selfish individual to determine the course of your life for you.

The Social Diverse applied to government is simply democracy. In fact, democracy is the whole Social Diverse trying to run the whole Social Diverse, not a part trying to run the whole. In a Diverse democracy all social sectors, all views, majority and minority and individual, are represented, given access, funded and supported.

Also, Diverse thinking yields a referendum kind of democracy where politicians become more like “functionary legislators” helping the citizen, and where the role of experts is elevated to help the citizen. The political party which we want to create is the one whose primary goal is the elimination of the old “politician” and the old type of “political party”.

This kind of system will probably not come soon, but it is the ideal that we should be striving for, and it will arrive in stages.

In such a government, Citizens select “functionary” legislators who help develop legislation. They work with experts to present alternative ideas. Citizens vote on general choices in direction, then the functionary legislator works with experts on details and problems. Citizens then vote on particular proposed policies and laws. There are then periodic reviews of legislation to correct its problems or to replace it. The functionary legislator’s job is essentially to support the citizen’s activity of investigation, development, discussion, dialogue and debate.

Such a legislator can be given more responsibility but only by popular vote and this charge can be easily removed. So some issues can be discharged to the legislator, if she or he is trusted. In this system, support staff for the legislator might be expanded. And citizen’s groups would play a very important role in raising issues, independently putting forward alternative legislation, conducting discussion and debate on these proposed laws, and rating the performance of legislators.

Ideally, the old style political party would come to an end with its monopoly on ballot access, war chests from corporations and the rich, backroom deals, control of political creativity, manipulative hierarchy, distance from everyday people and so on.

New political organization would gather people together of like philosophy, which is only natural – but not bring forward into the future the political machine of the past.

The functionary legislator or “derivative” legislator (because he derives legislation for the citizen) is subject to instant recall and is periodically rated for performance. In the past there was the concept of “representative democracy” but this system was actually a system of the representatives representing themselves, that is to say, only representatives experience democracy in a representative democracy -- not the people.

The role of the expert is elevated in a direct democracy because the expert provides valuable opinions on legislation and policy, and aids in the detailed development of this work, and helps solve problems that inevitably arise. Experts have different points of view and provide a range of perspectives and proposed legislation.

Politicians are not experts in fields of economic, science, healthcare, education and so on. But we have them draft legislation on such things. Here is a second problem with a system of politicians, we are asking the ignorant to make decisions on issues they know nothing about.

In a direct democracy, the Executive would also be subject to quick recall and a replacement election. Too much power is given to the executive today. Power to make war, give away the national treasury to banks and so on must be heavily restricted by an active populace.

Further, judges should be subject to removal. If a Supreme Court wanders too far from a current public consensus on issues, it should be repopulated with judges that do represent the new values. And more, one should consider a kind of Cultural Supreme Court that has the ability in some cases to nullify a position taken by a political court if it is far out of line with cultural norms.

The old system of politicians and ideologies that fought each other but united against the citizens will be replaced.

Diverse philosophy requires that each citizen as a member of the Social Diverse be active, so that all the views of the Social Diverse are represented. Diverse democracy is founded on "directness" and the elimination of middle men. Thus, the true check and balance is the citizen itself, not one institution or political party checking another, or certainly not politicians checking each other.

Skills, responsibility and knowledge are things that will take time for the new activist citizen to acquire. Some will scream “amateurism”, they will demand “professionals”, but in history we have found that “professionalism” is a cover for elites and upper castes. There is always a stage of “amateurism” in the formation of a direct democracy, we should not fear that. Just as some today charge that the internet is full of amateurism and we must return to the days of big media where professionalism went hand in hand with power, control and money.

Amateurism is part of democracy’s learning curve. It’s nothing to fear at all. The difference is that we have faith in the basic instincts and ethics of the people. And we know that a culture of intelligence will evolve. And also we have experts that will help us when we need them, so we do not need politicians and “professionals “for they are only experts at double agendas and power grabbing.

This condition where the people rule directly will be a creative affair because now there will be openness and flexibility in the design of legislation; no longer will there be political and economic impediments to the process.

Very importantly, previous generations had to separate church and state. The task of the present generation is to separate money and state – corruption, lobbyists, campaign funding, unfair media time and etc. A direct democracy pushes money out the political process forever including legal bribery and other forms of corruption that are tolerated today.

We now have a situation where there are no “checks and balances” in the old sense. Before we had legislators, executive and judges checking each other but all had an interest in maintaining a false democracy. So this type of check and balance system is actually a check against the people with not much balance really.

Let’s continue: The diverse view of a constitution is that it is a minimal document to maximize citizen participation in government -- a document that does not interfere with free behavior, allowing citizens to associate voluntarily; and that recognizes the diversity of needs and pursuits of an individual outside of government.

Further, democracy is more than government, democracy is “cultural”; it exists in civil society and within the state. Democracy covers all social behavior. Most importantly, democracy resides within the psyche of the individual, not only as the active citizen but, more, as the manager of an inner Diverse, for the skills of managing the inner Diverse are the generally the same for managing the outer Social Diverse. The inner democracy and the outer democracy are the same. In other words, democracy and healthy psychology go together.

“Reconstitution” is the process of reconstituting our governmental institution, it is a political concept. At the same time, reconstitution is a spiritual idea – the reconstitution of our morality and behavior. We are Diverse thinkers and we see the changing of government in tandem with changing our psychology. Politics and spirit are one. And it seems this will first manifest itself at the local level where citizens have more direct access to government, here, “Reconstitutional Congresses” may be called to take back government from elites.

But reconstitution is a very different notion from the “separation of church and state” for we uphold this wisdom. But what we recognize is that good government must come out of a culture that has a good philosophy and moral code, and from political leaders and citizens who use this philosophy and moral code to guide their daily lives. The fusing of state and church only increases authoritarianism and anti-diverse behavior in a society. But the cooperation of politics and spirit within an individual leads to enlightened social action.

Reconstitution is a very big task. When it will come and how is not clear. Probably it will occur at the local level first from city to state upwards to the federal level. But it is hard to say today given the volatility of politics today and the high potential for catastrophic national events.

But what can we do to prepare for a direct democracy right now? Beside the discussion of its core ideas, we can use the internet to create forums where individuals seriously take up the investigation, discussion and debate of important issues, with the idea of voting upon policies and suggested legislation. We can develop a process to design legislation with the help of experts. We can dialogue about the various options and then choose an option, develop it in detail, then revise it, if upon second thought it is problematic. Such a practice would keep us informed on current issues, propel us into social activism, and develop our skills as future citizens in a direct democracy to come.

The other thing that we can do is work toward the formation of a new movement that wants to end politics as usual and create a direct democracy of the people.

Cage Innoye

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