An open space for global conversation
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?
Dam removal is so that the salmon can get upstream to spawn. Ocean protection is needed because the spawn go to the ocean and only come back when they in turn need to spawn. It isn't protecting just one generation of salmon, or one generation of people, but the species. And we're all part of an ecosystem, so protecting another species protects us.
Here are the facts about North Korea: http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3464
They have the author's name wrong for some reason. It's S. Brian Willson, not Brian S.
How to get people to stop believing the lies about North Korea is another problem.
When I want knowledge, I search for it. I don't read newspapers or magazines, I don't listen to the radio and I don't own a TV, so nobody can feed me disinformation or information I don't want. When I was a kid I loved books and wanted to be a librarian. That didn't happen but what did happen is that I learned how to do research to find out what I wanted to know and the more I learned the more I wanted to know. I soon knew stuff that many highly-credentialed experts didn't know, because they only knew what they'd been taught, while I hadn't been restricted to a particular curriculum. And I'm still learning. How to get people to want to know? Maybe if they realized that what they don't know really can hurt them?
I would like to get back to the topic of designing a more responsive democracy. It is imaginary so whether or not it is possible is besides the point. It's just make-believe, an exercise in brainstorming. It's fine to philosophize about order rising from chaos but it is equally valide to to the same on the topic of democracy.
I think someone should start a thread about how order rises or doesn't rise from chaos. You could discuss tribes from around the world.
Just finished reading all the posts on this thread.
I find it rather depressing that in a thread which is supposedly devoted to discussing what an ideal democracy would look like, almost everybody has devoted their energy to tearing down the idea. Very constructive.
It's especially appalling coming from Mark because he has so much knowledge about what prevents democracy from being possible. If he wanted to participate in the discussion instead of sabotaging it, all he would have to do is find solutions for the problems he sees. Just to prove the point, here is a list of problems Mark came up with on another thread, along with possible solutions I came up with on the fly:
• Presidential nominees being chosen by political party superdelegates instead of by the voters - if you really wanted to, you could allow anyone who wanted to run for president run, have each candidate create some videos explaining what they would do if they were president, and then winnow down the number of candidates to a manageable number (3 or 4) with a vote.
• The Electoral College being the only people who can vote directly for President and Vice President - eliminate the Electoral College
• Congress being the sole judge of the elections of its Members - settle results of elections by popular vote only
• gerrymandered districts - create a computer program that will create districts on the basis of census data and zip codes, or some other neutral criteria, then have the results audited by an non-partisan election integrity group.
• no right of recall at the federal level - create recall at the federal level
• difficulties in gaining ballot access for third parties and independent candidates - see first item on this list.
• biased media coverage and no Fairness Doctrine to allow candidates to defend themselves against orchestrated smear attacks - restore Fairness doctrine, make lying by the media a punishable crime, not protected by the first amendment, like shouting "Fire!" in a theater. Also, prevent orchestrated smear attacks by not allowing corporate money to be used to influence an election in any way.
• corporate money having an undue influence in politics even prior to Citizens United - outlaw corporate money being used to influence elections in any way; end corporate personhood
• unequal access to the polls - Election Day is a holiday; establish right to vote
• dirty tricks campaigns like phony mailers to fool voters into thinking their party supported an opposition party's candidate - outlaw corporate money being used to influence elections
• illegal voter purges - establish right to vote
• conflicts of interest where the people overseeing elections were campaign managers for a particular candidate or the election official was a candidate - elections should be overseen by international election integrity activists or organization
• mail-in ballots that can't be tracked by citizens - eliminate mail-in ballots and early voting
• elections officials having the right to tell political parties who they can and can't designate as an election observer - these positions should be taken by international election integrity activists or organizations
• elections observers not being allowed to actually see the monitor where the running vote tally is supposedly being displayed - see previous item
• elections officials forgetting to notify official observers when they tally the votes - all ballots would be paper and counted in the presence of the public
• election workers tampering with ballots - all ballots would be paper and counted in the presence of the public
• elections officials manipulating recounts - - all ballots would be paper and counted in the presence of the public
• the old "Ballot Box 13" trick where elections officials wait until the results are in and then miraculously find enough uncounted ballots to reverse the results - all ballots would be paper and counted in the presence of the public
• elections officials who violate the election codes - hopefully this wouldn't happen if election integrity organizations took care of this function
• a strange law here in California that says it is legal for an election official to violate the election codes if they claim that they needed to do so in order to hold the election - repeal that law
• no possibility for citizens to verify the chain of custody of ballots because the ballots are in the sole custody of the elections officials most likely to tamper with them - ballots counted in full view of the public
• political machines that can either ensure that a candidate runs unopposed or get two candidates with virtually identical agendas pretending to run against each other - anyone can run and the finalists are selected by the voters
• Congress swearing in candidates before elections are certified - change the law so that candidates can only be sworn in after they are certified to have won the popular vote
• a Presidential election being decided by the winning candidate conceding before the votes can be counted - make it a Constitutional amendment that all votes must be counted and the winner of the popular vote will be certified as the winner of the election
• The power of the Supreme Court to stop an election, nullify and election, call for a new election, etc.- make it a Constitutional amendment that all votes must be counted and the winner of the popular vote will be certified as the winner of the election
• Electronic voting machines which can be tampered with in dozens of different ways - outlaw electronic voting machines, optical scanners, etc.
• Mail in ballots, early voting, and any other type of voting which breaks the chain of custody and allows for tampering and fraud - allow only paper ballots, which will be counted in view of the public, at the polling place
• optical scanners, electronic voting machines, and central tabulators that conceal electoral processes from the public and are therefore incompatible with democracy - only paper ballots
• Corporate money controls which candidates get to participate in debates - All candidates selected by public are required to participate in all debates as a condition of running for office
• The ability of candidates to concede before all ballots are counted - all votes must be counted before an election is certified.
• Voter suppression - international integrity activists report any voter suppression, which is punishable by enormous fines and jail time
• Statute of limitation to prove voter fraud - if voter fraud is proven, the election should be voided and held again.
Mind you, there might be flaws in these solutions, but that wasn't so hard, was it, Mark?
Here are some more ideas on how to make a real democracy possible, copied from the Peoples Congress website:
Elected officials must tell the truth (right now, officials are allowed to lie on the basis of the 1st amendment; make it an exception along the lines of yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater.
Reversal of recent media deregulation
Limit lobbyist’s access to government
Mind you, all of these suggestions are for changing the oligarchical system of the United States to a representative democracy, which so many on this thread are dead set against.
On another topic, many on this thread are talking about how the world wide corporatocracy has screwed up the environment, etc. and how creating a democracy wouldn't do anything to solve these problems.
That seems like willful ignorance to me, given how smart some of these people are.
What makes it impossible to work on these problems is precisely because the corporatocracy is running everything. The corporatocracy is a parasitical death machine. After it kills the host country its in, it moves onto the next unspoiled place to extract all life. It won't stop until the planet is dead.
The sooner the corporatocracy is replaced (and yes, it is at least theoretically possible to do this by reform), the sooner a democracy can start to address these problems.
I can already hear the howls of protest. "Reform on that scale isn't possible!" Well, you all could be right. Piecemeal reform won't cut it. The only way is massive reform, all at once, the way the Peoples Congress will advocate. The People will have to rise up and demand basic reforms to make democracy possible, using all the tools we have at our disposal, such as blockades and general strikes. And we still might fail.
In that case, the best we can hope for is to assist the government's death spiral and wait for its inevitable (without massive reform) collapse. We can hope that a direct democracy will miraculously spring from the ashes (not bloody likely), but the cost of waiting will be millions dead from crop failures, mass migrations, disease, and all the rest. Then the survivors can go live up in Northern Hemisphere in small communes. Won't that be glorious?
No thanks. I think I'll go for massive reform first. I'll try to pave the way by helping to educate the 99%, hoping like hell that 10% of the population becomes aware of the problem and active in solving it. Then we might get a tipping point and then activism will spread like wildfire. Sometimes social change can be very rapid. It's our best hope to avoid unimaginable suffering. (Or at least unimaginable here in the United States; Haitians, Bosnians, Africans on Victoria Lake, and many others have already tasted what could very well be our future.)
Thank-you so much Mr. Blue. Given that these answers are off the top of your head I am convinced there are ways to make voting securing and to get money out of politics. I do believe a storm is gathering of angry people generally fed-up with the way things are. Of course everything can't be fixed at once but some key changes could make a huge difference.
Regaining control of the election process is key to being able to make other changes. As the details you listed show there are ways we can made the process much better. I don't expect a representative to make all the same decisions I would on every topic. That would be impossible as I have neighbours who don't share my opinon on everything. I do want a representative that has the same overall priorities that I do.
So that is an interesting side point. What are our priorities?
I would have to say that the first one is the environment by a mile. Aside from immediate day to day survival I think most people are very worried about it whether or not they believe in man-made climate change. People are very worried about the food-chain and the chemicals and hormones in our systems. I think this one would be easy to get support for.
The second issue would be addressing income inequality.
Third - health care
Fourth - helping those who have been living in extreme poverty to "catch-up".
Fifth - education
What priorities would you want a representative to have?
I find it very interesting that you would name the environment as the top priority. It's not that I think you are wrong (it's a life or death issue after all), but my impression is that people in the U.S. aren't particularly concerned overall, probably because of corporate disinformation campaigns. Maybe it's different in Canada. Here in the U.S., I'm not sure what it would take for people to wake up around the environmental issue. Probably major crop failures, catastrophic rises in the prices of food, stuff like that (I mean, much worse than the ones that have already occurred).
Here, probably the issue most ripe for change is income inequality. My own priorities? Probably about the same as yours (although I'd include a major infrastructure works program in order to achieve full employment or close to it).
Come to think of it, most of the issues you mentioned are intertwined. (Wealth is siphoned off by the insurance, health care, and pharmaceutical industries. Education is a pathway into relative affluence.)
"Come to think of it, most of the issues you mentioned are intertwined."
Please sustain that thought!
However, if you do, you risk finding yourself saying "Yes, and..." inconveniently. You might even be scolded for going off topic.
I think you are right, income inequality would probably top the pile. But there are a lot of people very worried about the environment. They just can't get government to pay attention. People got together and temporarily stopped the XL pipeline. Oregon is working on the watershed issue. There are large groups working on food contamination and against GM foods. There have been people saving heritage seeds for decades. People along coastlines have seen oil spills and whales beaching themselves. We focus so much on climate change that we don't see all the other battles being fought even by people who don't believe in it. The younger generations are even more concerned. It's just never a major part of the political platforms of the 2 major parties.
I think we are coming to a point where millions are going to take to the streets. All it needs is the right spark. When enough people take the streets power does listen. They know there is no wealth without us. We just need to be ready for it and we need to know where we want all that energy directed. I don't believe the majority of Americans want to overthrow the government. That means reform. I think the first thing that will get them into the streets is income inequality. But, once people know their power, it will be easier to get them to demand more.
I really think our ability to communicate across vast distances is going to make a huge difference to the next mass movement. If they come out for income inequality we may be able to tap that energy and direct it towards environmental issues, or better yet, the issue of corruption of government. Everything else rests on that.
And yes, major infrastucture makes sense.
Gisele, you make a good point about the XL pipeline. And maybe I just haven't been paying attention to environmentalist groups doing work that gets ignored by the corporate press. If folks are as concerned as you think, that's great news.
"I really think our ability to communicate across vast distances is going to make a huge difference to the next mass movement."
One thing we have to be prepared for is that the government will shut down or otherwise severely restrict the internet in the event of civic unrest. We need to start looking into alternate ways of communicating (FidoNet, ham radio, etc.) in order to be prepared. On the bright side, folks managed to create massive social movements back in the early part of the 20th Century without the internet.
Yes, people are that concerned. Remember most of the middle-class have children. It is our girls who are "maturing" at 9. We worry that we are poisoning our babies with breast-milk.Kids have tons of allergies. Other people fish and are freaked out by the birth defects. Right now everyone is fighting their own particular envionmental issue. But if a national movement starts over income inequality it will create a national populist conversation.
If Egypt could keep communication lines open surely we can. I know there are people working on a new independent internet too. The internet began as a completely open unrestricted place and they say there is too much corporate control of it now. Different groups are working on parallel systems that wouldn't be easily controlled.
I also think as fast as they used some kill switch to shut down the internet the vast sea of amazing techies out there would find a way to force it back up.
"... folks managed to create massive social movements back in the early part of the 20th Century without the internet."
The press was a different animal then. The USPS was in place and working.
I appreciate that you acknowledged the great vulnerability of this channel we're using.
Post USPS, alternate communication may be with people we can see, hear and touch. Thanks for your involvements in that.