© Quinn Osburn
Are You Tired Yet of Voting for the "Evil of Two Lessers?"
We have the technology now for direct, participatory, informed democracy.
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves. And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.
The 18th Century
In the 1700's, horse or wagon accomplished transportation and communication, over days or weeks. Decision-making required a "representative" to travel to common meetings and to participate in the deliberations, learn from others, and return to report the results to the "represented". At this point, the fruits of liberty had not fallen far from the tree, and the most likely candidate was probably the person the community liked having around the least. Over time, these "representatives" were allowed to centralize the power of decision making for hundreds of millions of people, an impossible task. In today's complex world, elected officials neither seek nor try to honestly represent the diverse views of the people.
The 21st Century
In an age of instantaneous communication and almost instant travel, mass communication, media and information flow, the old method is obsolete and open to abuse. With the concentration of wealth and corporate power that now finances the election of "representatives", the needs and views of a huge, complex society are ignored in favor of the desires of a privileged few.
Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?
In my lifetime, no one could represent me, or even tried to. Those elected are chosen by a minority of those eligible to vote because we are increasingly disenfranchised and disempowered by the corruption of representative decision-making. And when elected officials do begin to respond to the popular movements or will, they are too easily bribed, blackmailed, bullied or bulleted into compliance.
Who needs a representative?
We don't need representatives, we need a free and open flow of information about local, national and global issues that affect our daily lives and our futures, full and fair debate of these issues, and direct participation in the decision-making involved. To say that our option is only to vote for someone who cannot represent us, or to wait until we can vote them out of office when they do not, is a far cry from empowering people. We have the technology necessary now to make this a fully democratic society, we need only to use it to carry out the popular will.
"Mob rule" vs. Corporate rule
[People] by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes (Aristocrats) and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe (Democrats).
Those cynics who will assert that the population cannot comprehend their own best interests, that a technocratic elite must make the important decisions, or that apathy rules are only maintaining a system of wealth and privilege that is geared to make people feel powerless and to discourage them from participation. Those who contend that people who do not take part in current elections must remain silent on issues are like the players in a fixed poker game who chide those who stand on the sidelines and refuse to wager. If people had the right and power to participate fully in decisions that effect their lives, they would. This is not to say that the majority would never make a mistake, but they would have the opportunity and likelihood to correct it sooner than the current system can or will.
How Would it Work?
The "founding fathers" created a Constitution, and at the insistence of Tom Jefferson, a Bill of Rights for the people. The challenge that faced them is the same that faces us, how to define liberty and justice in our own time and in the foreseeable future. A system of direct, participatory democracy does not have to endanger the rights or views of minorities, pander to mob rule or misinformed decisions, or open itself to corporate corruption. What follow are basic ideas that would encourage participation, discourage elitism, and provide checks and balances in a truly democratic process, both locally and nationally:
Referendum and Repeal
A fair, informed and workable system of decision making on local and national issues would replace the current outmoded method with decisions made directly to either repeal existing laws or establish new precedents by popular referendums. The role of "representatives" might then change to one of carrying out and implementing the popular will as expressed, with a clear system of oversight and the right to recall them instantly if they were failing to do so. The goal of these referendums would be to involve all the people actually affected by an issue in making the decision, including whether the issue is really "local" ...
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Music Credit: Elegy by Edvard Grieg