NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category.  In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue.  In a "hosted" discussion here at, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.  

While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.  

Ben Roberts

We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."  

As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged.  Here's Mark's initial summary:

An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.

Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"

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Dear Victoria Collier,

You're my new heroine. Love what I've read from you so far. Love your attitude and clarity.

pleasure to come across such intelligence,


I disagree, Victoria. I think that people who advocate for continued representative government should provide a full and detailed explanation of how electing a few more "good people" would change anything.

But here are your answers:

Yes, we would have legislation, it would be crowd-sourced, and everyone who is effected by it would be allowed to vote on it directly.

Voting would be done in the same way it is done at General Assemblies. 

Government does not cease to exist, but rather than a corporate or representative government, we'd have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people on all levels.

We would probably not have a standing army, as most people seem to prefer to spend money on basic human needs instead of imperialist wars.

The people in General Assembly would make any rules necessary to prevent continued domination of commerce by multinational corporations, and we would no longer have to fund a military whose primary purpose is to allow private corporations to dominate international trade. 

We deal with problems of fanatics by having a consensus system instead of majority rule, so that even one person can block consensus on something harmful like burning heretics. That way we don't get a bunch of fanatics deciding to institute torture or assassination as federal policy, the way we do not.

We would no longer dominate the UN and we would interact with other countries as equals, not as the world's sole military superpower policeman overthrowing their governments, assassinating their elected leaders, meddling in their elections, forcing them into ruinous trade deals, etc.

Taxes would be voluntary, the way things are with the Occupy Movement. People who wish to donate would, and those who didn't would not. But since the 1% would no longer dominate, they would no longer be able to hoard everything for themselves and there would be plenty to go around.

An energy policy, like all other policies, would be decided on by consensus, not by legislators funded by private energy corporations.

I don't think that corporations would thrive in a direct democracy. They wouldn't be able to control every individual the way that they control elected representatives, and I doubt if most people would want legal fictions created for the purpose of avoiding liability and maximizing profits for the rich to continue. Those which were allowed to continue would have to act responsibly and give back to their communities, which negates the whole purpose of corporations. They would probably be replaced by cooperatives and collectives.

But I can't predict anything, these are just my personal opinions. What gives me hope is that I live in a city that has many wight-wing conservatives whose favorite pastime is expressing hate for others, yet a survey taken of voters showed that the most important issue to the vast majority, left, right, and center, wasn't blocking marriage equality, prohibiting reproductive freedoms, deporting immigrants, or similar issues, but getting the potholes fixed.

That might not be ecologically sound, as it continues this country's oil addiction, but I could live with it. It doesn't frighten me at all. While many people can be easily manipulated with leading questions to express support for extremists views, when you ask them what they consider most important, in most cases it will be things involving their basic survival, such as their ability to get to work, the existence of jobs for those without work, their ability to obtain food, shelter, health care etc., and not the hot-button issues fearmongers use to get out the vote for continued corporate rule.

My god. You actually DO believe that we can decide everything on consensus, even nationally. Ok. And voluntary taxes! Yup, should be popular. I wish you good luck with that, Mark E. Smith. Thanks for the answers. 

Oh god, why am I wasting my time here . . . Ok, I can't help it, I HAVE to ask you one last question, despite myself.

So in your system, anyone can block the consensus process, and therefore avoid mob rule. So . . . again, the obvious (painfully) question. What do you do with all the people who DON'T want your way of life, who are FOR corporate power, who are FOR religious domination, and racism, and military expansionism, and who will certainly will block your consensus process. What then? 

In a consensus process, Victoria, people who block things have to be willing to give the reason for their blocks. If they can't give a good reason, their block is not valid. A good reason for blocking something would be that the proposal would result in something harmful, like religious domination, racism, wars, etc. If the reason for blocking something is because that person wants to cause harm, and is in favor of religious domination, racism, wars, etc., that would not be a valid block. 

Direct democracy and the consensus process are egalitarian and the rights of everyone are respected, but not the rights of any to harm others.

It won't let me reply to your reply below, Mark, so I have to hit Reply here. Don't know where this will show up, but it's a reply to your last comment in this thread.

Ok, so in your system, it will be YOUR worldview, YOUR idea of what "harm" is, that will naturally prevail. Because someone's view will have to prevail, since we do not all share the same view. We never have, we never will.

The corporatists will say (as they do now) that you are "harming" their freedom to operate in the sphere of commerce as they please. The religious zealots will say you are "harming" their freedom to worship as they want, or as God ordains they must (which may include drinking some Kool Aid or burning some heretics). On and on and on and on, ad nauseum, forever, until someone gets out the guns.

Consensus process might work slowly and shakily amongst people who have largely the same world view, as in Occupy. But that is not the whole population, despite OWS saying it represents the 99%. It might be fighting on behalf of everyone OTHER than the economic elite, but that doesn't mean that the 99% share all the same politics or worldviews, they don't, not even close.

Meanwhile there are a million decisions that need to be made in government, and you are proposing a system of required consensus that will literally and with no doubt absolutely stall and crash, with no way out. It is unworkable. No one will ever embrace it who has worked in government, that's certain, so you can count all those people out. And no one who doesn't WANT to endure consensus process will ever embrace it, so those folks are out, too. You know, the people who work for a living and have families to support, who don't have the time or inclination to be mired in consensus process, but just want to elect public servants to represent them? Like, farmers out in the fields day and night, rain or shine, making the crops grow -- I can just see you proposing this system to the hard-bitten Colorado farmers I used to work with who barely have time or interest in small-talk let alone perpetual consensus based process. They would look at you like you've got horns growing out of your nose, shake their heads, get back in their tractors and turn on Rush Limbaugh on their radios, or listen to the incredibly complex agricultural stock reports (which, btw, most people could not understand, and therefore would have no right to be voting on it in your direct democracy system).

But mostly they would laugh at me for even engaging in this discussion. But it's like a train wreck, I can't look away. Going to close this tab and get back my real work. REALLY!

Thanks for the fascinating dialog, Mark, sorry about the name mix-up. 

Hasta pronto.

Dear Victoria Collier,

I came over here at Jeannie Dean's request cuz she had some concerns about Mark hijacking the narrative and distracting too much from much needed work. But I see you have things well in hand. Nice writing!!!



Thanks Dave -- it's frustrating that there is a need to engage in this discussion, but I think there is, up to a limit of course. We know that Mark E. Smith doesn't have a track record of listening. But as he points out accurately, it may be worth countering him for the sake of the readers here. There is a strong bent toward "fuck the system" amongst OWS and many misguided thoughts of attempting to use consensus direct-democracy for all decision making. This is of course incredibly naive but beguiling for some who haven't thought the whole thing through. I can forgive a 17 year old this thinking, but do we supposedly have a 71 year old here??

Also there is talk amongst very misguided techie types of implementing online voting in tandem with an online directo-democracy system, where anyone could present a bill and the national mob could vote it into being in an unsecured online hackable "black box" system, which is so horrendous I feel my head about to explode every time I read this lunacy. But there it is. And you know, I'm sure these people mean well, but they haven't an iota of understanding of how the system works, how it should work, and why.

Anyway, I'm working on an article about this issue that I will just refer people to in the future, because this is too time consuming when we need to be putting all our efforts into real organizing in 2012.

Ad hominem attacks are not rational arguments, Victoria, and most of what was posted on BradBlog was name-calling. 

If you'd read the thread, you'd have noticed that I didn't engage in name-calling and that I was the only one who ever admitted when I was wrong. 

You favor representative government over direct democracy on the national scale, and are defending elections, both of which are politics-as-usual, so why are you trying to deny what you're openly and obviously doing and saying?

You may think that direct democracy is chaos, but I don't. One of us may be delusional, but you're the one who is name-calling.

As for the horrors of the Soviet Union, they were not caused by anarchy, by direct democracy, or by any form of democracy whatsoever, they were caused beecause power was vested in the hands of their government, not in the hands of the people, the same reason that corporate fascism is destroying this country also.

While you have more trust in oligarchs to make decisions on behalf of everyone else, than in religious fundamentalists, drug addicts, the slow-witted, and the uneducated, I do not. Many people are religious fundamentalists and drug addicts because our system forced them into the gutter by not providing for their basic needs, sent them to commit war crimes and destroyed their sanity, and many are ignorant because our educational system is geared to providing workers where there are not jobs instead of teaching critical thinking. But even they are more capable of providing basic needs such as food, jobs, housing, health care, education etc., than are oligarchs who think that only rich people like themselves are entitled to such things.

Hand-counted paper ballots used in electtions representatives would still leave representatives in power instead of people. Since you're happy with that system, that's what you, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Party, and all other political parties want--people fighting each other and blaming each other instead of uniting against an undemocratic form of government where the wealthy are represented, the military-industrial complex is represented, but poor people are not.

It is not "my" system of direct democracy, it is the principle upon which the Occupy Wall Street movement was founded. At the bottom of the OWS List of Grievances it says: "To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal." It does not ask people to vote because every single one of those grievances was caused by elected representatives.

See, Mike, the reason people call you names is cause they just get fed up with you. It's easy to do so, because they're human, and you're a problem. You're not here to talk, to learn, or to do anything, apparently other than cause trouble. And you don't go away. You show up on their blogs -- where people like Brad Friedman work really hard 24/7 providing real information and top level investigative journalism -- and you spout nonsense and you don't stop. Hence, name calling, because you are so frustrating, and you won't go away.

If what you get from what I wrote is this: "That's what you, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Party, and all other political parties want--people fighting each other and blaming each other instead of uniting against an undemocratic form of government where the wealthy are represented, the military-industrial complex is represented, but poor people are not." -- then what can I say, man?

You're either a provocateur sent to cause time-wasting trouble, or you're just not that smart, or you don't have a thing better to do with your time and your ego needs this constant attention, which you can only get by consistently provoking people with these patently false attacks that a ten year old could spot if they actually read the threads.

Whatever it is, I'm sorry for you, and I hope you do stop wasting the time of election integrity activists by showing up on their blogs and diverting the conversation, as you seem prone to do.

This time, I really am done -- unless you actually have answers to the list of questions I posted asking how the proposed "direct democracy only" system works in the big complex real world. I'm waiting, but I'm hearing crickets. If you can't answer those questions, Mike, you got nothing. And if you can't even bother yourself to post links to the resources you claim have those answers (they don't exist, making it hard to post them, I know), are we supposed to believe you really care about changing the world? 

I admit this -- after reading that interminably awful thread on Brad Blog (Mark Tucker was actually the most insipid), I came to your blog here on Occupy to out you to the rest of OWS as someone who is in this for his ego, who is here to cause trouble, and who actually doesn't really care about solving our problems. You can prove me wrong right here and now by providing, or attempting to provide, answers to the questions I posed earlier. As a constant, unyielding, uncompromising advocate for "direct democracy only" I think you have a responsibility to do this, just as the Election Integrity community has a responsibility to define and model the systems we promote -- and we do.

My name is Mark, not Mike.

The reason people call me names isn't because they get fed up with me--if they were fed up they'd just ignore me. They call me names because they cannot refute my arguments and have to resort to ad hominem attacks.

I'm not here to cause trouble, I'm here to talk, but apparently some people are opposed to freedom of speech and support the current system of representative government which suppresses freedom of speech, sometimes through censorship but often with violence.

I answered many of your questions. The fact that you simply ignore my answers, despite my having shown you the respect (something you've never shown me) to take the time to respond to your questions, and continue to accuse me of not answering your questions, demonstrates clearly that you are not here to hold a discussion, and came here to cause trouble by attacking me because your friends asked you to.

Got your answers up above, Mark. Thanks. Gonna go now, good luck with your work. -- VC


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