"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…



WashingtonOregonCaliforniaAlaskaHawaiiIdahoNevadaArizonaMontanaWyomingUtahColoradoNew MexicoNorth DakotaSouth DakotaNebraskaKansasOklahomaTexasMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaWisconsinIllinoisIndianaMichiganOhioMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaSouth CarolinaNorth CarolinaFloridaTennesseeKentuckyVirginia West VirginiaPennsylvaniaNew YorkMaineVermontNew HampshireRhode IslandConnecticutNew JerseyDelawareDistrict of ColumbiaMassachusetts

Sunday, August 3, 2008


A new internet based party in Boston similar to others such as the Senator Online Party of Australia has chosen a candidate to run for the 8th congressional district. If the candidate should win the election, he/she will be bound by agreement to vote on all legislation in accordance with the results the of the party's online polling system. Visit the party's website here: http://www.freegovernment.org/ - Editor

New party takes aim at Congressional seat

By JOHN RUCH July 25, 2008


A new political party that calls for rule by online opinion polls claims to have a candidate for the local 8th Congressional District seat currently held by US Rep. Mike Capuano.

The Free Government Party, which has yet to identify its nominee, did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Alison Mills, a spokesperson for Capuano, declined to comment.

The Boston-based party exists mainly as the web site FreeGovernment.org, which apparently was launched on this year’s Fourth of July. The party has no political platform beyond creating a way for citizens to vote on individual pieces of legislation via online polls. The idea is that this would make government “free, convenient, and transparent.”

The party intends to run a candidate who would act like a voting machine. “If elected, you will be bound by contract to act as no more than [a] proxy for our district by voting on bills only as do online verified voters, and by introducing and sponsoring bills only with significant support,” said the party’s open advertisement for a candidate. The ad was posted July 6 on the classified ad web site Craigslist.

The party’s web site claims that about a week after posting the ad, it selected an unnamed candidate for the Nov. 4 election. The 8th Congressional District is the only district where the party will run a candidate. It is unclear why the district was chosen. The site appears to make no references to Capuano.

To get on the ballot, the candidate will have to submit at least 2,000 voter signatures to local election officials. The deadline is next Tuesday, July 29.

The party calls itself a nonprofit organization, though it did not appear to be registered with the Secretary of State’s Office as of last week. It appears the party is the brainchild of a software developer named Foy Savas and a dental student named Sophia Chou.

The web site features discussion forums and online polls. It is intended as a place to review pending Congressional bills and propose new ones. If the party had a member in Congress, that member would cast votes mirroring the site’s online poll results.

While the site theoretically has the potential for creating direct democracy, its real goal is establishing a representative system of “advisers.” Advisers are like super-members of the site who commit to voting on behalf of many other site members. Site members can select advisers who seem to match their politics and can be trusted to vote their way, allowing for a “convenient hands-off approach to voting” on the many bills before Congress.

The party’s member in Congress would then obey the final results of the advisers’ total votes. To ensure that voting is representative of the district, the party proposes that polls must have a quorum of votes equal to 50 percent of the number of votes the candidate received on Election Day. It is unclear what the member of Congress would be expected to do if there was no quorum, or in political situations that do not involve votes.

In essence, the site would create a kind of shadow Congress that ensures at least some citizens would review all legislation before its official vote.

Any person or group can be an adviser, and site members can appoint as many advisers as they want.

Voting access and voting fraud would seem to be significant issues with the process. If it were to win the seat, the party proposes spending part of the office budget on setting up a program that would cross-check the web site’s registered member list with lists of registered voters—basically, creating a shadow election department. The party acknowledges some sort of system would have to be created to allow people without Internet access to vote, but makes no suggestion about it.

It is also unclear how the site would avoid other political parties, lobbying organizations or other powerful interests from dominating the adviser positions.

Decision-making via online polls is becoming popular among new, reform-minded political parties. Another example is Britain’s Blah! Party, which uses online polls to help set the party’s agenda as a direct democracy method.

No comments: