"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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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A new website attempts to give the people a say on every piece of legislation that comes before congress. Ahh.. if only our votes counted for real.. Visit the site here: http://www.govit.com/ - Editor

Govit Tries to Create a Direct Democracy

Written by Josh Catone / April 8, 2008 2:01 PM /

The knock on the type of representative democracy that is employed in the US is that the people aren't actually voting on the legislation that gets passed -- representatives for the people are doing it for them. And those representatives are potentially beholden to outside influences like political action committees and lobbyists who help them raise money necessary to get elected. The system is supposed to weed out the bad eggs via regular elections (if your rep isn't representing you, don't vote for he or she next time around), but maybe that's not good enough. Enter
Govit, a site that lets citizens weigh in on bills currently being voted on in the US House and Senate.

Govit lists every piece of active legislation currently before the United States Congress and lets users vote yes/no or abstain on each. From the voting page for each bill, users can also send a message directly to their government representatives urging them to vote a specific way, or send a message to their friends doing the same. Govit can also compare your votes to those of your representatives, those of Congress at large, and to the rest of Govit.

Govit acts something like a social network for politics. Each member of the House or Senate gets their own profile on the site that has a bio, fundraising information, and voting record, as well as how that member of Congress stacks up against Govit -- do their votes match the will of the people? Users can rate Congressional members, comment on them, and say whether or not they would vote for them.

On a more personal level, Govit allows members to befriend each other, which basically just lets you to compare your voting record to that of your friends if you have your profile set to public view. Unfortunately, by setting Govit up as a social network, the site becomes sort of a microcosm view of the American political system at large -- or at least it has the potential to. If we pretend that Govit becomes popular enough to actually have a national impact (i.e., politicians actually start paying attention to it), because it is set up in a manner where people are encouraged to shill for votes, it is easy to imagine the same back room dealing that goes on in Washington taking place on the site.

It's hard to look at Govit as the true "will of the people" because users have the option to make their votes public -- thus creating the potential for groupthink. Perhaps that is the will of the people anyway, but it would be easier to trust Govit's numbers if users at least didn't know who was voting which way until after the final ballot was cast. In other words: secret ballots tend to yield better results.

Still, Govit provites a useful tool for keeping track of what Congress is talking about, discussing it with like-minded folks, and seeing how your representatives match up with your own views. If you and your congressman are consistently voting on opposite ends of the spectrum, you might think twice about voting for he or she next term.

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