"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the 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 by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson


We as Americans all remember being taught when we were young about our nation's founders, the patriots who stood up to the tyranny of the crown of England, the drafters of the declaration of independence, the constitution, and the bill of rights, the documents that became the framework for a system of governance that they believed would maintain a balance of power within a truly representative government, that would preserve the basic rights and liberties of the people, let their voice be heard, and provide to them a government, as Lincoln later put it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

What we may not be so quick to recall, however, is that there was much debate between the founding fathers as to what model our system of government should follow. Those such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry on one side favored a pure and direct democracy with the legislative power vested in the very hands of the people, while others such as James Madison, John Adams and George Washington held that a representative democracy would better serve the people than a true democracy because they believed it would protect the individual liberties of the minority from the will of the majority. Alexander Hamilton even went so far as to support the creation of a monarchy. In the end, those favoring representative democracy won the day and that is the system they put in place in the hopes of creating a "more perfect union."

Now we must ask ourselves, what would the founding fathers think if they were resurrected today to see what has become of their vision? One can only assume that they would begin to search for modern day patriots to meet them once again at the liberty tree in order to plan a new struggle for freedom and self governance. Although we continue to praise and honor those who founded our nation and sought to create a truly just form of government for it, do we really stop to reflect on whether we as a nation have in fact succeeded in preserving what they fought so hard to create?

Today, in contrast to our revolutionary ancestors, we as citizens of the United States generally observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. Over the decades and centuries we have allowed the erosion of the ideals of the founding fathers and the corruption of the principles which they enshrined in those so carefully conceived documents. We have been left with essentially no real power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. We may write an occasional letter to our senator or representative that generates a form letter in response and a statistical data entry that may or may not be weighed against the influence of some powerful corporate lobby. We may be permitted to participate in a march or demonstration of thousands or even millions, something our patriots of old would have marvelled at, only to be dismissed as a 'focus group' with no bearing on policy decisions.

How then is the government held accountable to the voice of the people? Are the people meant to speak only at the polls when given a choice between a select few candidates that may be equally corrupt? No, as Jefferson and his allies rightly believed, the people should be heard much more than that.

In spite of their good intentions, the system of representative democracy that the founding fathers opted for has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

We have become so accustomed to this failed system of representative democracy that it may not occur to us that there are other alternative forms of democracy. In various places around the world participatory or direct democracy has been instituted both in concert with representative democracy, and as a replacement for it. It is a form of democracy that is designed to take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and to politically empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the concept of participatory democracy and how this grass-roots based form of governance could help bring us back in line with the principles this country was founded upon if it were allowed to take root here. In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…



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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In advocating direct democracy we must question ourselves about our motives. Do we want to tilt the playing field in favor of progressives and keep the right wing fighting to take back its advantage? No, this would maintain the polarization that divides people and makes consensus impossible. Direct democracy is about giving more people a voice in the government, not about isolating people with different views. It is not about giving any one group advantage, but making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and contribute to the structures that govern. The debates regarding motives behind direct democracy should be further discussed and the article below raises some important questions for advocates to consider. The author sees a benefit in pushing the right wing out of politics in favor of a more progressive government and we must ask why. He points to the faults of the current administration and its own use of "democracy" as justification for invasion. But that certainly does not mean that direct democracy can suddenly sweep in to save the world from unjust intrusions. That suggestion would create the same sort of ideological imperialism that 'democracy' has come to mean for the right wing. Instead, direct democracy will have to build itself through the participation of diverse voices in order to avoid the forceful imposition of a new system that does not reflect the true sum of the public will. - Editor

How Progressives Can Utilize Direct Democracy As a Means to Create Change

Source: http://www.worldproutassembly.org/archives/2008/01/how_progressive.html

As we re-create our progressive gospel, we can reference our central themes within each line, leaving no doubt as to who benefits from the governmental system we envision. Through Direct Democracy, we can put our vision to work, sowing the seeds of an international movement which profits no one but those who are most in need of its prospects. More importantly, such work will have the effect of muting the endless struggle among progressives and instead, join our voices in a powerful harmonic convergence. - Larry Sakin

by Larry SakinJan 25, 2008

Progressives have a long history of 'eating our own.' It’s a tendency that the right wing very much enjoys watching.

There's a lot of despair and cynicism floating around these days, and it’s easy to point fingers and try to find ‘traitors’ among our ranks. If we really want to change the current course of our country, we can instead get active and working for change together, achieving a sustainable world while annoying the hell out of the right wing as a bonus.

One way to achieve our goals is through Direct Democracy. Once this system is implemented, debates can be hot and heavy, but there will be no future pumping up introverted groups by simple math and letting people indulge their dreams and proposals with little chance of getting into the mainstream. Cattle will always move to the greener grass and it is better for the American 'undecided' or 'open-minded' to grasp the principles and methods of Direct Democracy, rather than pick at the details.

Direct Democracy is a concept which unites all progressives and reformers. Even some true conservatives and grassroots Republicans can be drawn into this idea through national referenda and a new power line that eclipses the feeble and old fashioned politics of the mainstream.

We must search for ideas that have mass appeal (foreign policy, defense, prescription drugs, social security, balance of trade, and energy economics). We have to out think the government, and then make proposals entertaining and exciting. A movement for Direct Democracy has to be exciting, with new techniques, or it is doomed to fill a larger group of progressives with false hopes. Remember that the current politics of this country are vulnerable and boring as hell. Surely we can stop in-fighting and drive salience through!

I believe very much in John Quincy Adams’s quote, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” Unfortunately, our current leaders believe their worldwide quest to instill capitalist principles instead of Direct Democracy has rendered Adams’s vision archaic.

In order to bring Direct Democracy to the world, we must start by analyzing the language of our current leadership, and the thin line between ambition for profit and true democratic values.

Those who proffer capitalist values often sound more democratic than they really are. They say they want to see that freedoms are extended to all people in all places. They say that all people have a right to the basic necessities required to lead dignified lives and to pursue happiness and that America’s security and prosperity rely on the security and prosperity of people throughout the world. By helping others, they contend, we will help ourselves.

While all of the above sounds good, the open-endedness of these paradigms begs the question “who really benefits from this ideology?”

As we’ve witnessed in the Iraq War, the Bush administration and the neo-conservative architects of the invasion have said that the main reason for the war is extricating Iraq’s people from the grip of dictatorship and allowing them to live freely. Yet, the actions of the administration and war supporters clearly paint a different picture, that of using the cause they speak so highly of to fill private coffers with public money.

Advocates of Direct Democracy need to be clear in their language if they wish to distinguish their values from the deceptive blandishments of the right wing. To do this, we can pare our beliefs back to the central tenets of the left:

“Redistribution of wealth, elimination of poverty everywhere, unlimited expenditures to provide affordable or free medical care for everyone, curbs on destructive overpopulation, protection of the environment of the earth, universal freedom of expression, the spread of democratic institutions, elimination of all totalitarian regimes of any kind, and the conversion of the U.S.A. today from the present oligarchy run by an aristocracy bent on self-protected wealth and power to a genuine democracy.” ~Wolfe, 2006

With the exception of the last, these theories carried our nation through many desperate times, from the depression and the world war that followed, through the McCarthy era of the fifties, and the Vietnam conflict of the sixties. As we re-create our progressive gospel, we can reference our central themes within each line, leaving no doubt as to who benefits from the governmental system we envision.

Through Direct Democracy, we can put our vision to work, sowing the seeds of an international movement which profits no one but those who are most in need of its prospects. More importantly, such work will have the effect of muting the endless struggle among progressives and instead, join our voices in a powerful harmonic convergence.

If, on the other hand, we abandon our core beliefs and allow our democratic message agree with those of Bush and his cohorts, “spreading democracy throughout the world, even if it has to be done at gun point,” our values will be lost. Unless they mean to harm the US, let sovereign nations govern the way they want to govern. We’ve neither the resources in troops nor money to help overthrow all tyrannical governments.

That may sound cold, but it’s a fact.

1 comment:

DC13yers said...

i agree 100%
WorldUnificationNetwork.org promotes Direct Democracy via the internet
Live Love Unite = Peace!!!