Great thanks to Gisele Theriault for offering this discussion thread as a hosted dialogue!

A New Democracy

Public servants are just civil servants that we elect because we are giving them such an important job.

Our current forms of democracy are old and were designed when communication was much more difficult and many people were not well-educated. Modern life has different challenges than in the past. Existing political parties are so well-entrenched and well-funded that for a new party to form is extremely difficult if not impossible.

The direct democracy I experienced in camp, and some versions that developed in other places, seemed to lead to "non-leaders" becoming even more entrenched because there were no elections. The proposal system was unwieldy with some really good suggestions not making it to the head of the line while other much less consequential ones would get debated for a half an hour. Direct democracy does not seem like a viable solution on a larger scale.

Recalling that our elected representative are really our employees, what kind of system could we design that would keep power in the hands of the people? What decisions should be made more directly by the people and which should we designate to public servants?

Is there a means to combine paper ballots and electronic voting systems using one or the other depending on the issue?

Without going too deeply into constitutions, in layperson terms, what kind of rights could protect us from the tyranny of politicians? Should we even have parties? How can we keep money out of politics? Would the Supreme Court decide who was right in cases where someone believes their constitutional rights have been breached? If the people decide in some way how do we prevent the tyranny of the majority? What about police and military? How can they be controlled?

Assuming we want the United States, or in my case Canada, to remain countries, what kind of system can we envision?

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None of the solutions that Mr. Blue mentions, not even the People's Congress, are things that we can do unless the current government allows us to do them. In our current system, we don't have the final say because power is not vested in us as it would be in a democracy. We can petition the government, hope the government will at least listen to our demands, but we don't have the power to ensure that they do. We can have a Constitutional Convention and adopt a new Constitution, but unless it was passed by Congress and ratified by the States, the Supreme Court could rule it to have been adopted unconstitutionally and therefore not valid. To the extent that Iceland is succeeding, it is because their economy crashed, people lost confidence in their government, and the government no longer had any legitimacy. 

Yes, everything is intertwined because the problems are systemic, all symptoms of a disease that cannot be cured by treating each and every symptom separately, but only by correctly diagnosing and curing the disease. I've diagnosed the disease as "undemocratic malignancy," commonly known as "fascism," and I believe that the cure is not surgery, chemo-therapy, or radiation, but replacing our current political diet with lots of organic carrot juice. That's a long story, but it has worked for me three times and has worked for several other people I know. I don't have a TV but two or three times a year I watch a TV show online. Always chapters of the same show. Dr. Gregory "Mad Mark" House, at your service. ;)

If you just want to keep promoting your views please do it in your dedicated thread or create another one. If you aren't interested in this topic that's fine. Just don't drag us back into the same old conversation. This thread is for a different conversation.

The speed with which Occupy grew scared the banks into backing down on debit-card fees. That shows they were shocked. Occupy illustrated that people are ready to rise-up. We changed things for the better during the Great Depression and we can do it again. We just have to secure it better this time around.

Vote-rigging is already being broadly investigated. A complaint has been put before the UN. All around the U.S. groups of people are working on the problems the world is facing. People are grouping to fight environmental destruction from different angles. Others are working on a New Economy which would be sustainable.Some are creating a new parallel internet that would be truely peer to peer so would be much more difficult to shut down. People are investigating rampant corruption in government. People are furious at the bankers. The wealthy have formed the 1% group to defend their greed. They are feeling the heat but it is only going to get hotter. I believe we are going to reach critical mass and people are going to rise up in the millions.

When the moment comes to make demands it would be really nice to have some. People will want to attack income inequality right away which is understandable but really the democractic deficit is more important. There are critical changes that have to be made.

I would support changing the voting system first thing to give citizens control over it. Victoria has spoken of the need for paper ballots in another thread while Lindsay supported electronic-voting. Lindsay spoke of reinstating some rules that used to govern banking. Getting rid of corporate personhood and strict limits on campaign spending could create a more level playing field quite quickly. They seem like radical demands but I think the middle-class would support them.

What else would the middle-class support?

I think the middle class will support what it understands. I think most of the 99% likes the idea of democracy. If they understand that some condition is compromising democracy, they'll support changing it.

Getting them to understand it is the trick.

In US you do have your constitutional rights but it seems you still have problems, ours in UK date back to the magna carter and have never been updated. Queen government and banks have sold us down the river, ( the queen swears to protect our freedoms and has failed to ).. We do have human rights but these do not apply to minors who can be uprooted from one country to another in tug of love battles, without consultation or warning for the child, they can be uprooted from family and siblings to another parent, and they can be deemed too young to have an opinion even when they might have a high IQ and an opinion in law tey seem to be chattels.. So I guess things vary from country to country and human rights might need to be redefined inclusively and globally from the whole global movement for adults and minors as a basis for moving forward. We do have paper votes, and bank staff are recruited to count them LOL, Is it much easier to rig electronic votes?.

Electronic voting machines are ridiculously easy to rig. You are blessed to have paper votes, but they have to be counted by hand, with public witnesses, in order to be secure.

Hi Mr Blue, ours are counted in front of witnesses, but once in power both parties listen more to lobbying by the big business and banks than the elecorate  the ones who funded them to get into power in the first place have most sway. For instance I asked our government to heed the up to date and extensive german research connecting nuclear power and leukaemia proving a significant link. Instead they listenened to the nuclear lobby and forged ahead. preferring to quote our old flawed research which looked at risk over a much wider area, very conveniently losing the statistical significance by spreading the study wider.

Hi, Gael.

I think at this point, that's a problem in most of the world. Our governments have been hijacked by the ruling class. In order to have a real democracy, there are at least three elements: clean elections, no private money in politics, and unbiased media. Of course, that's a vast simplification.

Clean elections: paper ballots, publicly counted; the right to vote; accessible polls, no voter disenfranchisement; no voter intimidation; debates controlled by non partisan, publicly funded sources; direct voting (abolish Electoral College); non-partisan redistricting (no gerrymandering); Election Day is a national holiday; no mail in ballots or early voting, which breaks the chain of custody; a federal mandate for same day registration; elimination of pre-registration requirements; all votes must be counted (elections can't be conceded; the Supreme Court cannot stop an election); the popular vote is the sole standard of victory (in the U.S., Congress is the final judge of Congressional elections); elimination of barrier to ballot access for 3rd party candidates; unfettered access for election integrity organizations; poll workers selected like juries as a mandatory public service and trained in their jobs; establish ability for public to recall officials at the federal level

No private money in politics: end corporate personhood; 100% publicly funded elections; prohibitions against private money being used for any political purpose, including PACs, initiatives and referendums

Unbiased Media: Laws against the media lying; reestablish the Fairness Doctrine, which requires that media allow for representations of multiple points of view; free access to media by candidates

And I'm sure I've missed a few wrinkles.

If we don't have a real democracy, stuff like trying to shut down the nuclear and coal industries and concentrate on renewables is going to be an uphill battle. And that goes for the rest of the grievances in Occupy Wall Street's declaration (http://www.nycga.net/resources/declaration/). No, I take that back. Without true democracy, it's more like Sisyphus, a Greek king condemned to roll a boulder up a hill. Every time he almost got to the top, the boulder rolled down to the bottom and he had to start from scratch.

Not only do we need to establish real democracies and create safeguards to keep them from being corrupted, but we need to be eternally vigilant because if there's anything history has taught us, it's that the ruling class will be relentless in its attempts to corrupt society to serve its own ends.

Excellent realistic list. At this level that is all the detail we need. There are experts in all these fields. Of course there are many other things we want but to begin to restore democracy I think you hit the key points, especially the first two. Once we have control of government we can address issues like the constitution.

Over the centuries people have gained more and more control over western governments. I think democracy is something we gain in stages, and that is by necessity. As the population gains in sophistication it becomes better able to rule itself. I suspect the dumbing down of the lower-classes in America was deliberate with the intent of creating a service-oriented under-class along with rebellious group who aren't willing to shine the shoes of their betters. That creates criminality and "terrorism" which justifies the police-state.

The key is identifying the ruling-class which is currently hiding behind governments. "know thine enemy" is an absolute. You can't fight what you can't see. We have been fighting governments and corporations instead of people.

Wow Mr. Blue! I just googled "know thine enemy" to find out where it came from and I found this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/weekinreview/23alinsky.html

It's unbelievable. It is exactly what I have been trying to promote! Just the steps are in a different order.For me:

Step one, form a small development group that can make a lot of noise and appear much larger than it is. This is easy because the Occupy movement has no leaders pretty much anyone vaguely credible who steps forward insisting they aren't a leader is taken as one. lol

Step two, identifying the target! The specific named members of the ruling class.

Step three, ramp up resentment through educating the public, focus on the majority, the middle-class. Remember my idea about the two pie charts?

Step four, bring the masses to the street to show them their power, get them on TV.

At that point experts on things like vote-rigging  have the attention of the masses who are now prepared to take to the streets. They don't need to understand the details of what has to change.

The Republicans are crazy to stand in Obama's way. If they let him make some minimal improvements the masses would feel like they had some hope and it would be more difficult to get them to rebel.

Thank you, Gisele, but I can’t really take credit for the list. I got the ideas from you, Mark, Victoria, http://peoplescongress.org, http://reclaimdemocracy.org, and many other places.

Thanks for the link to Saul Alinsky article. Although it is possible to fight corporations and governments, it is much easier to fight people. Screenwriters know this. Even when a movie features a villainous corporation, there is always a representative of the corporation for the heroes to focus their hostility on.

I liked what Alinsky had to say about change in a community, that it was necessary to “rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression.” Isn’t that what Occupy has been doing all along?

“Step three, ramp up resentment through educating the public, focus on the majority, the middle-class. Remember my idea about the two pie charts?”

Yes, I do remember. It's still a great idea.

I will be making a push to start engaging the community through public forums (libraries, community centers, coffee houses) and door to door canvassing around the issues we have been discussing on this thread, specifically “What are the elements of a functioning democracy?” “Do we have such a democracy?” “If not, what kind of government do we have?” “If the public isn’t running the government, who is?” “What can we do to get a functioning democracy?”

How would you feel about setting up something like that in your neck of the woods? I think you’d be really good at it.

"the democractic deficit is more important. There are critical changes that have to be made."

Absolutely. In terms of public rights, the Roman democratic model that the Crown gave NZ is an inferior form of Greek democracy. According to Plato the next step in the devolution is anarchy, or public policy solely based on need.

An alternative democratic model could be based on the medieval English hundred. In this model the people formed local groups of about 100 families which held court once a month to settle disputes. This model could be extended to include public policy at a national level by having a representative from each hundred meet at regional or national level to discuss issues of priority.

Do you think that is something that the majority of Americans want? I don't think Americans (or Canadians) want that major a change.

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