An open space for global conversation
As I become more educated about the national and global issues that have given rise to the Occupy movement, I am also running across some alternative ideas - regarding how we get from where we have been, up until this present moment; and where we might find ourselves next. So, I hope to share in this space, from time to time, the best that comes my way to spark discussion and allow for further rippling of thoughts that may spur improvement for us all.
Beyond Plutocracy - True Democracy for America by Roger Rothenberger
I have long sought to best summarize in as few words as possible my book's redesign of our government. I believe the following approximately 1,000 word summary to be my best effort to date. ~ Roger Rothenberger
Plutocracy is governance by the wealthy. America is not really a democracy but a plutocracy dominated by the wealthy who, both in our market economy and in our government, serve themselves first and best, much to the detriment of the rest of the populace.
In my book Beyond Plutocracy - True Democracy for America, available free at www.beyondplutocracy.com, I offer a partial redesign of our government that, I believe, really fixes in just the right way what is really wrong with it. Achieving true democracy is the right repair of our government. But as the phrases the tyranny of democracy and the rule of the mob suggest, not only plutocracy but also democracy has deep shortcomings and pitfalls and must be handled carefully.
My book's mission statement is: To overcome the tyranny of plutocracy and maximize the responsible freedom of the individual while avoiding the tyranny that the wrong kind of democracy can become. Listed below are the principal elements of my repair of our government.
The demos: A new direct democracy branch, the demos, is added to our government.
Congress automatically demographically resembles and honestly serves the entire electorate. No quota system, political parties or complex electoral schemes are required. People just get to vote for whom they really want.
These direct economic and electoral powers put the electorate firmly in the driver's seat of our government and redeem the currently plutocratic 'representative' branches by making them truly democratic and representative of the entire electorate as they write laws, rules and policies governing our market economy and all the rest of society, making them honest, inclusive, just and equitable.
This design empowers the electorate to choose how much government and how much private sector it wants. While I personally favor a moderate equitable market economy firmly managed by an honest government that truly rests in the hands of the entire electorate, I do not force what I favor onto the nation. My design empowers our nation (or any nation) to evolve peacefully over time and to explore a vast, always truly democratic, political-economic landscape ranging all the way from unbridled capitalism to full socialism and virtually unlimited moderate variations between them.
Consensus government, as I call it, significantly increases the responsible personal freedom of everyone and the level of cooperation among us. It empowers "we the people," all of the people, to peacefully and intelligently choose our highest wisdom.
Coming out of my birthplace - Occupy Las Cruces - whether an angel or an individual channeling divine wisdom, this person has put some thought into solutions. An interesting little bit dated Nov 5, 2011 -
At approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday, in the park outside Branigan Public Library in Las Cruces, New Mexico, home of Occupy Las Cruces, a man appeared out of nowhere, walked up to me and Kaz, and said he had something for us. He handed me a 4-page single-spaced document which he said were his thoughts on what needed to be done to correct the imbalances in our society. Then, without another word, and before I could ask him his name, he walked off. After reading the document, I believe this man was an angel in human form. Or, maybe a friendly alien. Or, maybe he was just a really smart guy. Judge for yourself. The following is the complete document, edited for a couple typos only.
Here’s a group of thoughts about what is needed to cure our economic and political problems.
The reason we congregate into groups seems to be threefold: companionship, mutual assistance, and defense against predators. This explains families, tribes, or nations. We can do this in the most Spartan fashion, which is to be the toughest in the jungle. We can do this in a compassionate fashion, which protects, nurtures and enjoys our community. No matter how we may start out, we have one factor to consider: some folks are going to stay at the jungle stage of social development, sort of like an alligator walking upright.
“Virtue is not advanced by written laws, but by the habits of everyday life; for the majority of men tend to assimilate the manners and morals amid which they have been raised. Futhermore, where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed; for it is in the attempt to build up dikes against the spread of crime that men in such a state feel constrained to multiply the laws. Those who are governed rightly, on the other hand, do not need to fill their porticos with written statutes, but only to cherish justice in their souls; for it is not by legislation, but by morals that states are well directed, since men who are badly raised will venture to transgress even laws which are drawn up with detailed exactness, whereas those who are well raised will be willing to respect even a simple code.”------Isocrates
Isocrates echoes Moses’ warning in Leviticus chapter 26. Unless the great majority of people embrace the idea that we are to treat each other with compassion, decency and honesty, no society can thrive or survive. There, of course, will always be those who don’t embrace sound morals. However, unless the great majority do, the society will decay and collapse under the weight of legalized injustice. Everything good must be built upon sound morals. The best summaries I’ve seen are: “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” or “Do unto others as you want them to do to you.” The latter has been modified in modern society to “He who has the gold makes the rules.”
This essentially is a matter of the heart and, therefore, not under governmental control, no matter how many laws we pass.
Specific thoughts about our social structure:
“We must return to a free market system of economics”? You can’t return to where you’ve never been; since I’ve never been to Russia, I can’t return there. The definition of a free market is one that anyone is free to engage in any trade that is done without dishonest or coercive behavior. That has never been the case in the US. From the beginning we embraced slavery. We taxed goods in a discriminatory fashion. We allowed bankers to rob their own banks and leave a bunch of worthless paper behind in bank panics. Our government gave land that was inhabited by natives to robber barons to pursue their dreams of wealth, and refused to punish the barons that acted ruthlessly toward employees, competitors or others they deemed to be “enemies.” We’ve waged wars to control markets. We’ve waged wars to correct the damage done by corporations interfering in politics in foreign countries. The list continues unbroken up to today’s Wall Street’s cesspool of fraud continually stealing people’s savings.
Our leaders (upright alligators) claim to be enhancing world peace through “free” world trade. However, “free” trade is conducted with Asian and Latin American countries that treat their inhabitants like slaves. They work them long hours at minimum survival wages in unsafe workplaces, while totally ignoring the damage their operations are doing to the water and air that these slaves must use. So there is no “free” market, hence there is no “free trade”. What does exist is a small group of people who have slaves produce their goods at starvation prices; these prices are greatly multiplied in captive “third world” trade zones and then sold in what is left of the increasingly unprosperous countries of Europe and North America at “top dollar”. Treaties that permit this behavior should be cancelled.
All of this concentrates economic power into a very small group of people (alligators in human drag). They then use this economic power to bribe, intimidate or otherwise “influence” governing authorities to continue to ignore the poverty their behavior produces in the lives of the vast majority of the world’s population. They have power over the “medium of exchange” (called money) via their control of their banking system, which has the legal power to “create” money on demand. If others try this, it is called counterfeiting and severely punished. It is another way of stealing prosperity by replacing money of value with worthless money. That’s why we have continually higher prices even when our wages are dropping. To move a society beyond the alligator moral stage requires that power be widely distributed throughout the society.
Let’s look at the money business first. The government has given sole power to the Federal Reserve Bank to “create money”. They did so to enable the government to engage in warfare without having to get the country’s citizens to approve it by buying federal debt with their savings. The government simply issues the debt bonds and the Fed “creates” money to buy the bonds with. This does two things: first the government gets “instant war money” to spend on the war; second, the Fed then uses the federal debt instruments as a “cash reserve” which they justify “monetizing” and making additional money available for nationally chartered banks to loan out at interest to their customers. Notice the same debt collects interest twice: once from the Federal government (taxpayers) to the Fed and second to the banks that loan out the money (created at no cost to the banks) to their customers. This is why prices always go up in wartime: more dollars are chasing fewer products in the economy. This activity produces all sorts of financial strain on the economy and is “cured” by a periodic financial collapse like occurred in 2008. It should be noted that the credit unions don’t operate this way and sustained very little damage in the 2008 collapse.
My thought is to replace all private, government chartered banks with credit unions. Credit unions are owned by their “noncorporate” account depositors, not a few “investors looking for the fastest maximum profit”. Therefore, their management must operate honestly to protect the depositors; they aren’t likely to place their employer’s money in jeopardy!! Credit Unions don’t multiply their money like banks, they simply loan out a portion of their deposits. This keeps inflation from occurring, keeps the value of the money stable, and therefore keeps the economy stable so that everyone prospers (not just the “investors”). This simple cure would spread the power over our monetary system into the hands of millions of people.
The same thing holds true with the legal device called a “corporation”. It’s a device that enables a “pooling” of financial resources to finance projects large enough to exceed one person’s savings. It also has an escape hatch that prevent debtors from collecting debts from the owners’ personal assets. It has been perverted to protecting dishonest people from having to protect themselves; they simply hide behind the corporation’s wealth and lawyers. Those who have achieved position of power within the corporate world have not only accumulated economic power, they’ve also accumulated political power. They own both the Republican and Democrat parties. They are quite comfortable with having slaves manufacture their wares and selling them on credit to people who are having their living wages taken away via inflation and “downsizing”, and they intend to keep it that way.
My thought is to replace the corporate system with one that charters cooperative ventures. They would be able to accumulate investment capital from multiple sources to fund larger enterprises. They should be financed from the credit unions; let the credit unions set up venture capital savings accounts (similar to their CUNA operation for insurance policies). These could be pooled into larger funds in a CUNA type operation and replace Wall Street. The management of the cooperatives would be selected by a board of directors elected by the employees and the investing credit unions (like the credit unions do now with depositors selecting the boards). These cooperatives would be established wherever the economic activity would likely succeed, preferably close to the required natural resources needed for the items to be produced. There should be a means established which requires these cooperatives to obtain their resources and to operate in an environmentally responsible way (since the management answers in part to the employees who are in the community, this should be much easier than our current system). This would spread the power over our economic activity into the hands of millions of people and come much closer to achieving a free market to operate within. This should produce a much more stable employment market, because employees are not likely to give themselves the shaft and the credit unions have every reason to keep the enterprise profitable.
By spreading the power over our morals, money, and economic activity we dilute the power of any one individual to have any real power over any major part of society.
One other thought is about the mechanism we call government. This model of social order reduces the need for and, therefore, power of government. First, it reduces the likelihood of conflict because no one has sufficient power over the economy to benefit from the destruction of others. This reduces the demand for military power beyond the need of self defense. The stability of the economic activity, due to the self protection by the owners of the economic and monetary powers, will reduce the demand for safety net expenditures. This same stability would probably reduce the criminal activity, because the access to employment would be enhanced and there would be more employment available. The reason for this is the availability of resources for economic activity due to the widespread availability of financial help and freedom for new enterprises.
Our courts should be reworked to spread the power over the justice system. Money should not play a factor. Criminal activity should not be a financially rewarding activity for anyone. Whenever a person is accused of a crime, the court should be totally and randomly selected by the accused. The lawyers ought to form the “pool” from which the judge, prosecuting, and defense attorneys are selected (as the jury is selected from a pool of non-lawyers) and the accused selects each randomly as in a raffle. The jurors should be selected in the same fashion. No one, including the judge or attorneys, should have any influence over the jury selection. Then the accused has no grounds for complaining about the way the court operates, since the accused has randomly selected all the players.
Additionally, we should severely limit what we call crime. It should be limited to outlawing actual (not potential) acts that harm another’s person, property or reputation in any other context [other] than self defense. This would eliminate the drug, alcohol, gun and other “opinion” based laws, that basically generates revenue for crime processors, but punishes no legitimate criminal act. One other thought: pensioning off crooks to prisons is nonsense. The very first part of justice is restitution (making the victim as whole as before the crime was committed) and it ought to be automatically part of any sentence passed. Second, the government should be reimbursed for its expenses in having to chase down and try the guilty party. Third, the second part of justice is retribution; a punishment that is severe enough to discourage others who may contemplate criminal activity ought to be included. However, the sum total of all of this is to have the guilty pay the bill, not society, and to encourage crime free behavior. With the proposed changes to the banking and corporate parts of our society, the opportunities for providing a living for one’s self should be abundant, so the demand for crime should be minimal.
Another area where we should disperse the power is in our schooling. Schools should not be a war zone for thought control. Schooling is absolutely essential to a person functioning in society. Therefore, we must make it available to all people. The basics of communication (reading, spelling, grammar, writing), basic math (arithmetic), and fundamental skills such as voting, basic health and nutrition skills, understanding basic contracts, and methods of searching for information (libraries, internet, scientific method of inquiry, etc.) and that sort of thing should be required. Beyond that we drift into the areas that can divide us (areas of belief), such as religion, scientific theory (speculation), philosophies, etc. which certainly should be available, but not required. Our schools should equip the students to form their own personal mold of life, using their own belief systems and aptitudes. Then we should help them train for what their own mold qualifies them for.
Therefore, each school should be governed by a board selected by parents, teachers and the entity providing the money to operate (local taxing district, i.e. participating voters). This, I suspect, would create more of a community atmosphere in the schools than we have currently. Besides helping our students to learn the skills of community living, it would bring the community adults together, which isn’t done very well in our modern polarized society. Schools are just as prone to having greedy, power hungry people as anywhere else. Parents, taxpayers and teachers should have “veto” power over those who are trying to use the school for personal gain instead of a stewardship for nurturing children into responsible, capable adults. By breaking the schools into smaller units, we limit the concentration of power in any one place. This can be done and still assure the schools have the buildings, books and equipment evenly distributed; however, it will not be the problem it is today because the dispersion of economic power will also disperse the wealth more evenly.
That’s my thoughts. Too much power in anyone’s hands is dangerous. Anarchy is dangerous. What I’ve suggested is a limitation of power via dispersal, but in a way that enables good government. This way the country can operate democratically and safely. The necessary power is present, but not the empowerment for tyranny.