HOW TO REALLY FIX WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH OUR GOVERNMENT
Plutocracy is governance by the wealthy. America is not really a democracy but a plutocracy that overwhelmingly favors powerful wealthy elites, much to the detriment of the rest of the populace. This book offers a partial redesign of our government that moves our nation beyond plutocracy to true democracy and a just society.
Table of Contents (ToC)
Plutocracy is governance by the wealthy. Most of America’s many political, economic, and social ills are caused or aggravated by its most fundamental problem: America is not really a democracy but a plutocracy overwhelmingly dominated and operated by a wealthy few. Our government was created by, is populated by, and first and best serves wealthy elites that hold a perpetual hegemony of power and wealth through the generations, much to the detriment of the rest of the populace.
Elections are left to a marketplace, mass media, and political parties that are mostly owned and operated by the wealthy. Elections, offices, and the favors of government are bought just like any other commodity. Most of the populace is effectively disenfranchised and rendered powerless while individual freedom and economic security are increasingly crushed by the twin assaults of ever growing governmental and corporate power.
The existence of two major political parties and a few minor ones at times gives the illusion and feeds the myth that America is a democracy and we have real choices during elections. But the principal electoral choices have already been made by the wealthy and by the preliminary electoral process long before the electoral process ever reaches the vast majority of the electorate. The government remains perpetually populated by the wealthy and wealth-serving who mostly haggle over how to best manage their plutocracy. The economic bottom half and its needs are effectively excluded from government and its decisions.
A political cartoon comes to mind that illustrates our true situation: A giant wealthy fat cat complete with a top hat, a big cigar, and a cynical smile is standing legs apart and arms spread outward above the many tiny people below, the electorate. He laughingly exclaims, “You may take my Right hand or my Left hand, but you always get me!”
Applying superficial Band-Aids to our government such as reforming campaign financing, creating term limits, cleaning up scandals, kicking the current “bums” out of office, or struggling with third parties or independent candidates will never fix the problem. The problem is not about people; it is not about who currently occupies political office, “our” party or candidates verses others.
The real problem is the political system itself, the fundamental design and structure of our government. While creating a constitution and government in the name of all of the people and claiming to favor no particular faction, the founders—fifty-five powerful wealthy men—in fact wrote a constitution and created a government that overwhelmingly favored themselves and similar others. It continues to favor similar others—powerful wealthy elites, the plutocrats—through the generations to this day.
Until the fundamental imbalance of political power that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy is corrected, all attempts at repairing our nation’s many ills are doomed to very limited success or outright failure. Correcting this imbalance of power requires a partial redesign of our government.
Most political correctives offered today fail both at overcoming plutocracy and at adequately achieving and securing the freedom of the individual. This book offers for your consideration a partial redesign of the American government that really fixes in just the right way what is really wrong with it.
The government design presented here strikes a judicious balance of political power that, unlike the design of the founders, really does not unduly favor any particular group. It achieves a truly democratic process and the consensus of the entire electorate on our nation’s most important issues. It results in the honest representation of all members of the electorate in the representative branches of government. It mitigates the worst and brings out the best that our market economy has to offer. It achieves and secures the fullest freedom of the individual and liberty in the nation. And it nurtures responsibility and excellence in each of us.
Also, of crucial importance for the existence and success of any truly democratic process involving a busy electorate whose members have varying capability, the democratic process presented here is very convenient. It requires surprisingly little time and effort. And it is simple enough for those who are not politically sophisticated and sophisticated enough for those who are politically astute.
The distribution of power is the most fundamental of all political issues. Good government and a good society require the correct distribution of power as their foundation. Excessive power cannot be held by an elite few, the simple majority, or any other faction of the populace.
Joining direct democracy and representative democracy together in just the right way achieves a correct distribution of power resulting in a government that overcomes the shortcomings of both. Direct democracy is people directly voting on issues. Representative democracy—truly representative democracy!—is people voting in truly free elections for representatives that honestly represent the entire electorate and populace in government.
Most people mistakenly believe that America already practices representative democracy. But it does not. This can be readily seen when our current so-called representative democracy with its extreme concentrations of power and wealth and widespread social injustice is compared by you, dear reader, with the truly representative democracy proposed in this book. Understand that it is by the inclusion of just the right kind and amount of direct democracy that the representative branches of our government (or any government) are rendered truly representative.
By itself, so-called “representative” democracy only results in the tyranny of plutocracy, exploitive governance by the wealthy. But the usually proposed alternative, unlimited majority-rule direct democracy, were it ever tried, would only result in “the tyranny of democracy,” the political, economic, religious, and behavioral tyranny of the simple majority over the rest of the populace. And, examined more closely, this “majority” would really only be a highly organized, doggedly active, radical political minority.
However, limited direct democracy and limited representative democracy joined together and judiciously balanced as described in this book results in a wise amount and just distribution of governmental powers that does not unduly favor any particular group.
The limited direct democracy proposed here would be added to our government as a new fourth branch called the demos, pronounced as in democratic. Adding a new definition to those that already exist for the word, a demos is a direct democracy branch of a government consisting of a nationwide electronic network in which an electorate consisting of all of-age, able citizens practices consensus democracy by deliberating, voting, and achieving consensus on a fixed set of a nation’s key economic and electoral issues, setting economic values the government and the nation must use as they function and electing to the representative branches of the government bodies of officeholders that demographically resemble the entire electorate and truly represent the entire body of citizens.
Less precisely but more simply stated, a demos is a branch of government in which all of-age citizens directly vote and achieve consensus on a fixed set of a nation’s key economic issues and elect officeholders to the representative branches of the government.
The focus here is principally on a particular demos to be added to the American federal government. But the problem of plutocracy plagues all governments. Adapted to the specific needs of other locales, a demos could and should be added to every government in the world and to every level of government.
In the demos, practicing a new kind of democracy called consensus democracy that will be described briefly in this introduction and discussed at length within the chapters of this book, the electorate directly deliberates, votes, and achieves consensus on a fixed set of twelve issues—three electoral issues and nine economic issues.
In the three electoral issues, in an entirely new electoral system from that which we have today, the electorate directly elects the president, all senators, and all representatives:
And the electorate directly deliberates, votes, and achieves consensus that becomes law on the following nine economic issues:
This may be a moment of doubt for you. While repairing our electoral system may seem reasonable, given our current mess, it may seem impractical and even shocking to you that the entire electorate would be directly involved in making such important economic decisions. How could millions of people participate in deliberations? How could the entire electorate possibly discuss and set something so complex as a tax scale? Even if effective deliberation and consensus could somehow happen, shouldn’t experts, not average people, handle such important economic issues? And what kind of democracy is this, when the electorate only votes on a fixed set of twelve issues, as opposed to an open stream of referendums over time about many different social issues?
All I can ask of you at this point, dear reader, is to set aside your doubts for now, keep an open mind, and keep reading. There are compelling reasons for the kind and amount of direct democracy included in the partial redesign of the American government presented here. Please remain receptive to an understanding and appreciation of both the necessity and the desirability of placing the above electoral and economic powers directly into the hands of the electorate. And tools and methods will be presented to you that not only make it possible but surprisingly simple and convenient for members of the electorate to effectively deliberate, vote, and achieve consensus.
Unlike the winner-take-all, majority-rule democracy of old in which the simple majority vote wins and all others lose, the consensus democracy described here and practiced by the electorate in the demos has no winners and losers but results in the consensus of the entire electorate, a moderate “golden mean” that avoids all extremes.
As discussed in Appendix 1, this consensus of the entire electorate is possible because the vote tallies for the nine economic issues included in the demos are processed by computers resulting in mathematical values that are equally influenced by every person’s vote. Thus, each member of the electorate equally affects economic values our government and nation must use as they function. And the electoral system included in the demos automatically results in a demographic resemblance to and the honest representation of the entire electorate in the representative branches, which may also be considered to be the consensus of the electorate.
The electorate’s consensus in the demos on the economic and electoral issues creates in a third way what may be considered to be a consensus of the entire electorate. Functioning using the economic values set by the entire electorate; demographically resembling the entire electorate in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook; and truly representing the entire electorate, the now truly representative branches of government will write laws and rules for government, corporations, business, labor, mass media, environmental protection, etc. that wisely serve the entire electorate and the nation as a whole.
Unlike today’s periodic elections, voting in the demos is ongoing. Each member of the electorate has a vote permanently “riding” on each issue included in the demos that, with one exception discussed later, he or she may change at any time. Demos computers continuously recalculate vote tallies to maintain the current consensus of the electorate which serves as our “social contract.”
The demos has been designed to function as an integrated homeostatic system. Heartbeat, respiration, and temperature regulation within our bodies are homeostatic systems. The tendency of a homeostatic system is to avoid the extremes and to hover around a moderate norm. Each of the economic issues included in the demos functions like a homeostatic system, ever hovering about a moderate economic norm. And the carefully chosen issues form an interrelated whole. Taken collectively, they function like the interactive, self-orchestrating systems in a living organism. The electorate uses the demos as a tool to achieve a moderate consensus on a few values that our government and nation must use as they function, keeping our society functioning smoothly and evolving peacefully as demographics, conditions, and our decisions change.
The three demos electoral issues involve the direct election of the president, senators, and representatives in an entirely new electoral system.
Our current electoral system is a set of loaded dice that overwhelmingly favors the powerful, wealthy few in two principal ways.
First, elections are left to a marketplace, mass media, and two political parties that are mostly owned and operated by the wealthy rather than being within and supported by government where they belong, equally accessible to all of us. Most of us are resigned to rapidly selecting what we guess might be “the lesser of evils” from among a few poorly known, fork-tongued candidates financed and, therefore, pre-selected by the wealthy. Few run for and win office that do not have the blessings and support of and now owe "big money" big-time.
Second, if throwing huge amounts of money at the electoral process were not enough of an advantage for the wealthy, dividing states into electoral districts and electing only one senator or representative within each of them virtually guarantees that wealthy or wealth-serving candidates will win the lion’s share of electoral offices and that the wealthy will hold a permanent hegemony of power within government while the poor and minorities go vastly under-represented. When only one candidate can be elected in a district, a candidate with lots of money to throw around will usually successfully buy the electoral office or seat being contested. While the wealthy inevitably manage to buy the first seat in a district, others—the lower middle class, the working poor, and minorities—could elect their champions to second, third, etc. seats in the district. Oops! There’s only one seat in the district.
The demos electoral system completely eliminates these and other problems making the electoral process honest and fair.
In the demos electoral system the Electoral College (which currently elects the president) and all state electoral district systems are entirely scrapped. The president and all senators are elected by direct popular vote from the nation at-large, and each state’s quota of representatives is elected from the state at-large.
All periodic elections, including all primary elections, are scrapped and replaced by a simple “ongoing” electoral system. In a manner similar to the nine demos economic issues in which each member of the electorate keeps a vote riding on each issue, each member keeps a vote riding on one candidate for president, one for senator, and one for representative.
The demos electoral system has a single national Presidential Candidates list and a single national Senatorial Candidates list. Each state has its own single Representative Candidates list. Any number of people may run for office. The person currently receiving the most votes in the Presidential Candidates list, the top 100 people in the Senatorial Candidates list, and each state’s quota of representatives from its Representative Candidates list are currently seated in office. Discussed in detail later, a person gains or loses office when he or she gains or loses a sufficient number of votes relative to other candidates in the office’s Candidates list.
Candidates (who need not be wealthy or wealth supported) may take any amount of time to run for office for free within the demos and build a following. Members of the electorate may take any amount of time to study and deliberate about candidates and to reach out to each other across states or the entire nation to directly elect their champions, truly representative officeholders that resemble them in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook.
It is the electing of senators from within the nation at-large and a state’s quota of representatives from within the state at-large that overcomes the wealth dominated, one elective office per district problem and empowers each member of the electorate to join with others to select their champions. While others vote for their good candidates (who I may consider to be bad) from within these large pools—from the entire nation or an entire state—I and others like me vote for our good candidates from within the same large pools (who others may consider to be bad).
Thus, no member of the electorate is stuck selecting a “lesser evil” from a small group preselected by the wealthy as is done today. All voters support their goods, their champions, those who resemble and truly represent them. The resulting senate and house automatically demographically resemble and serve the true and balanced interests of the entire electorate. No quota systems, political parties, or complex electoral schemes are required. People just get to directly vote for whom they really want.
The ongoing nature of the demos electoral process and its at-large method of voting have immense virtues. Any number of candidates may run for office, and all candidates, rich and poor alike, have a free place—an Internet-like “web” site containing one or more pages within a nationwide electronic demos network—and unlimited time to run for office, present themselves and their positions and proposals, and earn a following. By the time candidates receive enough votes to gain office in this ongoing electoral process, they, their proposals, and their entire political and voting history in previous offices will have been long studied and deliberated. The candidates will be well known and trusted by those who support them. A candidate and his or her supporters will be able to extend their political views and efforts outside the demos in ways that best serve their needs. Just as today, the wealthy may buy any media and other electoral advantages they may find. But unlike today, the free, ongoing, at-large demos electoral process also gives non-wealthy people the means and unlimited time to reach out to each other across their states or the entire nation in support of candidates that serve their needs and interests, even as they also go out into their neighborhoods and communities, organize, and educate friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others as to their true interests.
Two proposals in this book are designed to make the senate and the house more democratic by breaking up their current “old-boy’s clubs” with their excessive concentrations of power and self-serving legislative rules and processes: 1) All current systems of seniority and appointment in the senate and the house are scrapped, all committee and other chairs and positions being filled by the secret voting of their entire memberships. 2) All rules regarding parliamentary and legislative processes within the senate and the house are determined by the secret voting of their entire memberships. The debate and the voting on legislation being proposed and considered remain public.
The demos practices consensus democracy to achieve economic consensus and electoral consensus on some of our nation’s most important issues. Now demographically resembling and honestly serving the entire electorate, congress creates laws and policies that may be taken to be the legislative consensus of the entire electorate. Founded upon the principle of including and achieving the consensus of the entire electorate, I have named this form of government consensus government. It gives real meaning at long last to the phrase government by the consent of the governed.
Summarizing this government design and function in a paragraph: All of our nation’s political, economic, and social activity takes place within or under consensus government’s largest framework of just the right kind and amount of direct democracy judiciously balanced with what has now become truly representative democracy. The consensus democracy practiced by the electorate within the demos achieves economic and electoral consensus on twelve included issues and a deliberative process that informs the representative branches and, indeed, the entire nation as to the true mind and will of the electorate on the many other issues it discusses. The demos directly sets nine fundamental economic values that the government and nation must use as they function. This always-moderate, ever current consensus of the electorate changes slowly over time as demographics, conditions, and our decisions change. The demos electoral process empowers the members of the electorate to come together within states and across the entire nation to elect to the representative branches their true champions, those who resemble them in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook. The resulting representative bodies, (which, recall, have been made to function more democratically), automatically demographically resemble and truly represent the entire electorate and all of its interests. Using (by constitutional law) the economic values set by the electorate in the demos and informed by its deliberations, members of the representative bodies deliberate, compromise, enact, and enforce legislation and rules that truly serve the entire electorate. This just, inclusive, consensus-building design that does not unduly favor any part of the populace achieves a stable, long-lasting government and society that functions sensibly, always tends toward moderation, and evolves peacefully over time. The results are a strong moral compass, a steady sense of direction, and the good government and society that we all seek.
Oh, but as a potential member of a future demos all of this possibly makes you nervous or even fearful, if not for yourself then about certain others who couldn’t chew gum and turn a door knob at the same time? “The responsibility! The difficulty! The time! I’m so busy! I’m not sure I’m capable! Economic issues? What do I know about economics? I’m not really a political person! And those idiots down the street, they couldn’t make a wise or even a sane choice to save their lives!”
Let’s take a look at what would be involved, at what your involvement might be. (You get a wide choice as to how involved you want to be in the demos.)
What about your capability on some of the economic questions included in the demos? As you answer these questions, just use your own good sense. What do you think would be in your self-interest? What do you think would be good for our nation? Okay, here we go: 1) Do you think our national government should be larger, smaller, or stay at its current size? 2) Do you think the amount of our national debt should be increased, decreased, or left at the current amount? 3) Let’s say that the current minimum wage is $5.75 per hour. Do you think the minimum wage should be increased, decreased, or left at the current amount?
You see? This is not rocket science. You won’t be running the economy or the country. But those who are running the country will be people selected by you and the rest of the electorate—people you really want in office!—and, by constitutional law, they will have to run the country using economic values that are set by you. You and the rest of the electorate will also decide how the tax burden that we have set upon ourselves is distributed among us. There is no reason to fear this because a way has been figured out that makes it really easy for you to make the right choices for yourself. Even the idiots down the street will be able to do it. And yet, as easy as these questions are to answer, you will be answering some of our nation’s most important questions.
What makes it possible for an electorate of busy people possessing widely varying capability to vote on such important issues? When just the right issues are selected, only a few issues need to be included, and with these issues it is easy to understand one’s true self-interest. A surprisingly simple method of voting on economic issues is used based on the traffic signal colors green, yellow, and red. (It is described in Appendix 1. Other colors and voting methods would be available for those who need them.) The voter never comes in contact with any mathematical calculations but only makes a few simple choices.
Your votes continuously “ride” on the issues. Your economic situation and interests have significantly changed? You changed your mind about who you want to serve as a senator? Or you have come to believe that our nation should move in a different direction? When your situation in life changes or you change your mind about this or that issue, you can conveniently change one or more of your votes at any time from almost anywhere including from your own home. Whether kept as is or changed, each vote must be “refreshed” at least once a year.
While voting on the nine economic and three electoral issues included in the demos is a civic obligation, participation in demos deliberations is optional. If you know your mind, as most of us will, voting can take as little as five or ten minutes per year.
“But,” you might ask, “shouldn’t economic matters be left to the experts? And, other than picking a famous name on a ballot, I wouldn’t know who to vote for.”
Do not confuse the expertise that politicians and corporations have mastered at swindling you with scientific and economic expertise. Millions have been swindled out of their private pensions, investments, and life savings; many millions have never had healthcare while millions more have joined them in recent years; and taxes are routinely dumped by the wealthy onto the middle class. Both parents working today struggle harder to finance a family than one breadwinner did decades ago. Hundreds of thousands of low-paid foreign technical workers have been imported into America on special visas and millions of others have been allowed to sneak across our borders to replace our more expensive workers, suppressing the wages of most Americans, (except, of course, those of the wealthy elite). Millions of good jobs have been exported to cheap abused labor in countries that do not protect the environment. One trade agreement after another help multinational corporations while destroying increasing numbers of American workers. Our nation is now several trillion dollars in debt and the middle class is awash in a sea of debt while the super wealthy hold many trillions of dollars of accumulation. In the last three decades trillions of dollars have been taken from the middle class by the wealthiest Americans. America has become divided into a relatively small super wealthy class while the vast majority has found itself in economic decline. And everywhere government-favored, super-sized multinational corporations reign supreme. The corporate elite and the members of both political parties work together against your interests.
Exactly which experts do you think are on your side and are going to make better decisions for you than you? On certain important matters elected officials never honestly represent you. You must represent yourself.
And you may feel a bit lost at first having the freedom to choose anyone you want to represent you in Washington. But all kinds of smart and good people in the middle and bottom of the American economic heap, people who will work hard for you, are going to step up to the plate and be recognized by other smart and good people. The demos, your circle of family, friends, and co-workers, your neighborhood, and your community will be abuzz with wise opinions. By the time you are empowered to make such choices, you will feel adequate to make them.
At this point the more politically astute and capable reader may feel that to accommodate the less capable voters the demos has been made so simple that it cannot handle the more sophisticated or subtle aspects of political thought. Not so!
Each of the twelve demos issues’ voting pages will link to pages hosting deliberations of the issue. Those who opt to participate in deliberations may make their own arguments on issues, bringing any ideas into the debates. And they may vote on favored arguments of others causing the best and most relevant expressions of arguments to rise to greater visibility within the demos. (Only voting by the entire electorate on the twelve demos issues results in economic law and the election of officeholders. Voting on arguments by those engaged in deliberations only raises the arguments to greater visibility within the demos, nothing more.) While the deliberations on the nine economic issues will focus on the issues themselves, in the three electoral issues, when discussing the pros and cons of particular candidates for office who express various political, economic, and social positions and proposals, the electorate will discuss a host of significant issues and views.
There should also be a special area of the demos where the Constitution is discussed and debated. The members of the electorate could debate, for example: Would a single legislature be wiser than our current bicameral legislature, i.e., our current house and senate? Should there be a new way to amend the Constitution? What new issues should and what current issues should not be included in the demos?
All demos deliberations would be accessible to everyone including those working in the mass media and people serving in official capacities in the other branches of government. Even those who are too young to be demos members and the citizens of other nations could explore the demos as non-voting, “read-only” visitors. This would teach and create demand for true democracy in other nations as well. In this way members of the demos could express opinions and exert influence well beyond the strict limits of their voting.
With everyone 1) studying both high and low politics and the theory and practice of true democracy (including actual “guest” participation in the demos) for four years at the high school level, as is proposed here, 2) possessing equal voice and vote in the demos on truly important issues, 3) having a meaningful role to play in government, and 4) enjoying the ability to have a real effect on the nation in which they live; political interest, thought, and expression would flower throughout the land. An electorate that for generations has been deliberately misled and rendered politically confused, apathetic, and impotent would, in time, become astute, politically streetwise, and perfectly capable of looking after its true self-interests.
The question was asked earlier, how could millions of people participate in demos deliberations? This will be discussed briefly here and at length later in the book.
The demos is a nationwide electronic network with one central site that all members of the electorate visit to deliberate and vote. We are already familiar with large numbers of dispersed people coming together on Internet web sites to converse and debate. But many millions deliberating and voting at one demos site? Yes, given the overall design of the demos system and a rightly designed site, it is possible.
Recall that while voting on the twelve demos issues is a civic obligation that all members of the electorate must fulfill participating in demos deliberations is not. The vast majority of voters will already know their minds and only visit the demos a few minutes per year to refresh their votes, the minimal civic requirement. Their views and choices will be formed within the milieu of their daily lives by family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood and community groups, mass media, etc.
Of those that venture beyond basic voting and into demos deliberations, most people will merely read and be guided by what others write. Still, we can safely assume a very large number of people will actively participate in demos deliberations, and many more views and arguments will be expressed than any one member could ever handle in a lifetime.
Thus, we encounter the concept of what I call “visibility” within the demos. Demos members may vote on favored views and arguments of others causing the best and most relevant arguments to rise to greater visibility.
As described in the chapter entitled Consensus Democracy, to prevent the most favored views and arguments from remaining always visible while all others remain forever unseen, member voting on views and arguments works together with a computerized mathematical “round robin” method of presenting views in a timeshare process. More votes translates into greater visibility for a longer time. But views and arguments earning fewer votes also get their durations of greater visibility and the chance to earn more votes and even greater visibility. Thus, demos members encounter new views, arguments, and ideas and have the opportunity to give them increased presence and effect in deliberations.
The demos would serve as the principal place in the nation for most members of the electorate to participate directly in the political process. Because it is their views and arguments that would usually be voted into greatest visibility, the demos deliberations would attract our finest thinkers from all economic levels and walks of life. But this would be just the focal point of a much larger deliberative process. Demos deliberations would spill over into, affect, and add focus to our national debate in the mass media, schools, workplaces, homes, public places and events, and the representative areas of our government. Thus, even that vast portion of the electorate that would likely not participate directly in demos deliberations would be influenced and guided by them. In this way our national political debate both inside and outside of the demos, a debate not owned or dominated by the wealthy or any other political faction, would become focused on our most important issues and our best thinking about them, including the best of our new ideas.
The debate would not be dominated by the wealthy? Keep in mind that under consensus government with the electorate in the demos directly setting some fundamental economic values and electing members to representative bodies that truly serve the entire electorate, the wealthy would likely not be so excessively wealthy nor the poor as poor as today and the use of mass media for political purposes would likely be regulated much more fairly than today.
What is the point of government if it is not to secure the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individual? And yet, the most endangered constituent of the large, modern state is the individual. The freedom of the individual is constrained and crushed by all things big: big government, big business, big labor, and even big religion. The two greatest enemies of freedom are those who insist “You must serve me!” and those who insist “You must be like me!” Serve and conform. The first condition predominates under unopposed or insufficiently opposed plutocracy, e.g., the political-economic oppression and exploitation created by so-called “representative” democracy left to the marketplace. The second condition would exist under unopposed or insufficiently opposed and incorrectly designed direct democracy, were it ever tried, the oppression of minority views and ways by the simple-majority.
But government is necessary, in one form or another. Plutocracy or democracy or… By balancing these two great enemies of freedom—the powerful few and the powerful many—against each other and by including only a limited measure of each within a limited government, the freedom of the individual is increased and preserved. This is not irresponsible freedom. The consensus government presented here nurtures the personal responsibility and good citizenship of each individual.
Some argue that we increase personal freedom simply by limiting the size of the federal government. Such thinking really misses the point. What liberty is gained by weakening government and strengthening private power if that private power resides principally in the hands of unchecked, ruthless, carnivorous corporate elites? Whether ruled by the political mighty or the corporate mighty, the populace still remains with a bent back and on bent knees. The problem is not merely one of the public sector verses the private sector. It is not about the size of government as such. And it is not about government verses liberty. Government is essential to liberty! The question is, or should be, what changes to our government will correct its current shortcomings, effectively mitigate the dysfunctions and bring out the best of our market economy, and maximize the personal liberty of everyone and the nation as a whole? It is correct governance that maximizes freedom both in relation to government and outside of government.
The greatest measures of liberty and responsible personal freedom for everyone are not created by maximizing direct democracy and minimizing representative democracy to the fullest extent possible but by adding to our government just the right kind and amount of direct democracy. They are created by achieving the correct distribution and balance of powers within government (ultimately at all levels) and by focusing the electorate and government most centrally on just the right body of economic and electoral issues of greatest importance to our society.
Even the more truly representative officeholders that would be elected within the demos electoral system could not be entirely trusted, particularly with certain critical economic issues that profoundly affect everyone’s life and welfare. The nine economic issues included in the demos give the electorate direct control over economic powers that the wealthy few currently use to wage economic warfare against the rest of the populace.
This partial redesign of the American government does not make the mistake of overreacting to current imbalance and injustice by assigning too much power to the demos. Limiting the demos to deliberating, voting, and achieving consensus resulting in law on only nine economic issues and deliberating and voting on only three electoral issues permanently specifies and limits its powers. The powers assigned to the demos, including the sole power to tax, are permanently denied the representative branches of government, thus limiting their powers as well and the power of government as a whole.
Also, as discussed in the chapter entitled Reorganizing the Powers of the American Government, limiting demos lawmaking to a fixed set of easily understood issues avoids the serious mistake of including a large number or an open-ended stream of complex, subjective issues that are best handled by other areas of government and in other parts of society. Creating law on difficult, subtle social issues by popular referendum is a huge mistake. Simplistic, ill-designed, self-serving referendums are usually proposed and supported by moneyed, organized, radical corporations and interest groups that deviously manipulate unsuspecting others to win their way. Even proposals made by well intentioned but perhaps naive ordinary people may be unscrupulously supported or fought by radical interests for selfish purposes.
Laws regarding complex social issues are best created by legislative bodies whose members are selected in demos-style elections. The bodies demographically resemble and serve the entire electorate, and their members can gain or lose the support of the electorate. As a result of demos deliberations legislators are informed as to the true thoughts of the members of the electorate on issues. Thus, all competing interests and ideas are wisely considered, balanced, and coherently fitted to other new and existing legislation and law.
This design places our greatest trust where it really belongs, on a true consensus achieved among all of us. Along with our better qualities, everyone from the political and economic mighty to average citizens and groups of them harbor bias, prejudice, hard-headed injustice, unreasonableness, selfishness, and shortsightedness. Our trust is best placed not in the elite few, the simple majority, or in any other faction of the populace but in the deliberations of and a consensus achieved directly by the electorate as a whole in the demos and in the deliberations and compromises among representatives who are fairly elected by and who fairly represent the entire electorate.
In addition to setting right our government’s current mal-distribution of power, the government design presented here also repairs our divisive political process. Rather than pulling us apart into angry, polarized, gridlocked fragments as our political process does today, it brings us together in a single political body designed to achieve our consensus on our most important issues and honest representation in the other branches of government. In doing this, it makes possible the correction or mitigation of most of our nation’s other political, economic, and social ills.
Any government worth its salt must be robust enough to function in the real world with people as they currently behave. It cannot idealistically depend upon people being high-minded or behaving rationally. It must function well within our current world, but it should also help us move toward a better world. The consensus government presented here is very robust. It is designed to begin with people as they are today and then to facilitate our evolution toward ever better citizens in an ever better society.
The government designed by the founders is very extreme and undemocratic. It places an overwhelming amount of power and wealth into the hands of an elite few while excluding most of the populace from meaningful participation and representation within government. While correctly avoiding the extremes of Left and Right, most political moderates today offer incorrect solutions that do not address the real problem. There is a school of thought in the middle of the political spectrum called radical centrism. In an attempt to transcended that which simply doesn’t work, radical centrists propose various “truly new” ideas at the political center. But even their ideas do not adequately address the fundamental problem of the incorrect distribution of power within our government.
The partial redesign of the American government presented here is centrist in that it avoids the extremes and screams of both the Left and the Right. It lies squarely in the moderate center of the political spectrum. It is only radical in that, unlike all that has come before, it modifies the fundamental structure of our government sufficiently and in just the right way to get the job done. It corrects the problem of plutocracy by adding to our government just the right kind and amount of direct democracy. It reduces excessive corporate and governmental power. It achieves the consensus and honest representation of the entire electorate within government. It produces the moderate golden mean of centered, balanced, peacefully evolving government and society. And it achieves and secures the freedom of the individual.
Note carefully as you read Beyond Plutocracy that while it contains criticism of the current distribution of wealth in America or, more precisely, the huge inequity in the current distribution—10% of the populace holds 90% of our nation’s wealth—not one penny of wealth is redistributed by the government design proposed here. Also, this book includes no guaranteed minimum annual income or hint of a “welfare state.” (The electorate may, if it wishes, set a minimum wage of zero and allow no government entitlements at all.)
This book is not about what choices should be made about certain issues of central importance to our nation but about who should make them. The entire electorate is empowered to directly make a few choices of central importance that are currently made by a powerful few.
Using the demos as its tool, by the taxes that it levies, by the other economic values that it sets, and by the people it elects to office, the electorate is empowered to directly create some and indirectly affect other laws and policies that ultimately control, among other things, that most important of all things: the overall distribution of wealth in America. By the political, economic, and other decisions that it currently makes, a powerful few already controls America’s distribution of wealth and many other things. The only new thing here is that some of these important decisions would instead be made by the electorate.
At this point, let’s examine a question—a fear!—some readers might have. By the choices it makes on the demos economic and electoral issues, could the electorate impose upon us a complete economic leveling and some form of communism or socialism? No! Perish the thought! This could happen only if 1) over half of the electorate were communists or socialists, a laughable notion, and 2) the demos practiced majority-rule democracy, democracy as commonly understood today where as little as 50% of the vote plus one wins. A communistic or socialistic simple majority could outvote all others and impose its will upon everyone else.
But the demos does not practice majority-rule democracy. It practices consensus democracy, something new under the sun that produces a very different result than the majority-rule democracy of old.
Consensus democracy produces a consensus of the entire electorate on the demos issues. There are no winners and losers. There is no one group that overrules another. Every vote always counts, continuously and equally affecting the current consensus. This slowly evolving consensus directly and indirectly affects our nation’s entire economic system including ultimately its overall distribution of wealth. The votes of many members of the electorate on the demos issues—on tax levies, on the representatives they select, etc.—tend to increase the inequality in the distribution of wealth while the votes of others tend to decrease the inequality. The result over time is a slowly varying, moderate, just (i.e., unequal but equitable) distribution of wealth.
The electorate would likely choose less inequality in the distribution of wealth than is chosen by the elite few today, but there would still be a reasonable and functional inequality in the distribution. Inequality in the distribution of wealth is desirable and necessary to maintain a robust level of entrepreneurial incentive and activity and a healthy work ethic. And we all know this! We are a nation of true believers in capitalism, the market economy. We well understand that it is the engine of our nation’s prosperity. And we would vote accordingly.
But we also believe in fair play. Most of us do not believe that unlimited accumulations of wealth should exist alongside wracking poverty. We understand the elite now take too much, more than they are worth and more than is morally justifiable. We see that many who are working sufficiently hard to earn a decent living in a just society are denied it in our current one.
And, just as we do not want elites taking too much or a free ride on our backs, we also do not want to be forced by government to give a free ride to malingerers who are capable of working but are unwilling. That is why in the demos the electorate is given direct control over the overall amount the government spends on entitlements. We are a generous people, but we want tax revenue used wisely.
The consensus government proposed here empowers the electorate and our nation to achieve an unequal but equitable and functional distribution of wealth and honest reward for honest work.
It should be clearly understood that in removing control of our nation’s overall distribution of wealth from the hands of the few and placing it into the hands of the entire electorate, we do not gain control over the amount of any particular person’s wealth. How much wealth any particular person possessed within the overall distribution would depend, just as today, on accident of birth and the person’s talents, ambitions, study, hard work, and luck.
I do not possess and did not in this book strive for some particular distribution of wealth that I consider to be the most moral or functional. This lies beyond my wisdom and, I believe, beyond the wisdom and capability of a powerful few, the simple majority, or any other faction or person. The necessary wisdom can come only from all of us making this and certain other decisions together, as in the demos.
While the actual distribution of wealth that resulted from the choices made by the electorate in the demos would be an important moral issue (and likely a subject of hot debate within the demos), the fact that it is the entire electorate making the choices and not just a powerful few is of vastly greater moral importance. In my view it is the only truly moral way to make such choices. By whatever name and in whatever exact form, achieving a demos and consensus democracy is a profoundly important step in and signifier of our progress from beasts to high-minded beings. It is a necessary step for our moving beyond our current state of purgatory and even for our very survival.
Repairing the federal government is task enough for this book, and we will not stray far from that task. But the problem of plutocracy exists at all levels of government, and, as the right cure, every governing jurisdiction at each level—federal, state, county, and local—could and should have a demos. The electorate dwelling within each governing jurisdiction would participate in its demos, deliberating, voting, and achieving consensus on the most important dozen or so economic and electoral issues appropriate to the jurisdiction.
A given governing jurisdiction, whether a national, state, county, or city government, should never be subdivided into electoral districts in which one person is elected from each district for the purpose of electing members for its governing bodies. All officeholders—governors, state legislators, judges, school board members, city council members, etc.—must be elected at-large within the area encompassed by the governing jurisdiction. Each voter would cast a single vote for a candidate for each governing body within the governing jurisdiction the membership of which is selected by popular elections, choosing his or her champions from the same large pool or area, the pool depending on the jurisdiction of the government of which the demos is a part. Thus, all governing bodies at every level of government in every governing jurisdiction would automatically demographically resemble their electorates in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook and serve their entire electorates.
The included issues and voter participation in every demos would be very similar to and have the same look and feel as those at the federal level. The voter would need to learn only one simple method of demos participation and would electronically participate in the demos of each level of government from any convenient location in the nation including from his or her own home. If you moved from a city in one part of the country to a city on the other side of the country, the names of local candidates would be new to you and possibly an economic issue or two, but you’d already know how to participate and vote in the demoses of the levels of government under which you now live.
Thus, the various electorates—not just the most powerful few, as is done today—would set the fundamental economic values that all levels of government and the nation as a whole must use as they function and elect to the other branches of government at each level bodies of officeholders that resemble and truly represent and serve the entire electorates.
The proceedings of all governing bodies such as legislatures and councils should be democratized in a manner similar to that discussed above for the senate and the house of the federal government. All subcommittees, etc. of a governing body should be filled not by seniority or appointment but by the secret vote of all members of the body. And all rules and procedures applying to the legislative process of a governing body should be determined by the secret vote of all members of the body. The debate of and voting on legislation being proposed and considered should remain public.
Capitalism, the market economy, is our best form of economic relationship. It motivates personal and local decision making, creativity, improvement, entrepreneurship, and productivity; and it creates much wealth. But an unbridled capitalism that reigns supreme concentrates excessive power and wealth into the hands of ruthless, greedy elites within and among nations who then create, populate, and use self-serving governments to exploit the rest of the populace and override the common good. Unbridled capitalism plays nations and people against each other in a most underhanded way in search of its Holy Grail: maximum growth and profit and minimum responsibility no matter what the environmental and human costs. Creating constitutions, governments, laws, rules, and economic entities that cause the fruit of the labor of millions to be taken from them and handed to the sly, cunning, manipulative few is economic rape, and it becomes, at its worst, economic terrorism.
Everywhere today, American elites who exploit our own populace conduct business with elites of other nations who exploit their populaces. One method used among others, political and economic elites agitate and manipulate religious and moral conservatives and others to achieve their self-serving ends. And the politically and economically excluded and exploited use whatever means that are available to them, including religion, to fight back or fight for inclusion. Thus, once or at least potentially peaceful religions become radical, polarized instruments of political-economic and ultimately physical warfare.
Fanatic religious and other extremist and terrorist groups spring up like mushrooms and are empowered worldwide because we drive people to them. Insurrection and revolution within nations and now international terrorism are the result of fundamental injustice. Hatred and rage come from long experience of violence done against one in one form or another including economic violence.
Attempting to harden and protect an unjust state and its populace against insurrection and terrorism that can come from any direction at any time is enormously costly, inefficient, and destructive to personal freedom and the social fabric. When it ultimately fails and a nuclear bomb, poison gas, or infectious organism is successfully let loose on the nation and it retaliates by vaporizing… well, you choose your worst escalating nightmare. To think one can take everything from everyone else and take one’s way in everything and then live in peace with them or militarily hold them at bay forever is pure folly.
The notion that the West in general and America in particular are fostering democracy and individual freedom within themselves and around the world is also pure folly. Not being true democracies themselves but only plutocracies, the most powerful, wealthy nations are really only attempting to push a worldwide plutocratic empire unto a reluctant world. They are trying to create a worldwide plutocracy in which they reign supreme by sufficiently and permanently politically, economically, and militarily rendering everyone else everywhere else subservient to them.
Even as they engage in this immorality it must be said, wealthy nations are not inherently more evil than are others. All current nations, great and small, are authoritarian plutocracies that practice some good and much evil, each in its own way and as it sees its own interests. While great powers are capable of and all too often engage in great evil, some of the world’s worst atrocities are conducted by some of its poorest nations. And everywhere religious and other groups immorally attempt to shove their values and systems down the throats of others by brute force.
The best way to fight terrorism is to not create the terrorist, the insurrectionist, or the revolutionary in the first place. The best way to do that is to create just, inclusive governments, societies, and relationships within and among nations that do not drive individuals and nations to anger, rage, desperation, and violence. Political-economic inclusion and justness attracts people toward the current state, taking the wind out of the sails of radicals. The world’s current ‘democracies’ would find it considerably easier to attract other nations and peoples to democratic principles and governance if they themselves were true democracies in the first place, demonstrating by example the immense benefits of just, inclusive, equitable political-economic systems.
There will always be some level of competition and disagreement among us. That is only natural and even healthy. But we now exist at an extreme and in an extreme state of illness. We currently function at the level of three year olds fighting over the toys while our world spins increasingly out of control. It is time for us to grow up.
Historically, government design has long been improving. Continuing to improve it should not be considered radical or unwise. We Americans have now had over two hundred years to see and we must finally admit that while the founders got much right what they got wrong is terribly wrong. It is time and over time to improve yet again and improve very fundamentally the design of our government. This is so for all of the world’s governments.
The government design offered here creates a new kind of relationship within and among nations that takes us well beyond our current dominance, authoritarianism, and plutocracy. It facilitates peaceful, equitable, humane relationships among just nations, each possessing a demos practicing consensus democracy as part of its governing structure. Simply because people participating within a demos in each nation will not permit such conditions to exist, it makes possible a worldwide free trade that does not exploit local conditions of tyranny and misery to unduly fatten the lives of distant others. Everyone will fairly benefit from the trade.
Notice that no mention is made here of a sovereign world government, a decidedly dangerous entity. We have merely the association of and agreements among free, sovereign nations, each possessing a demos and a just political-economic system.
This government design takes us into a new national and world order that is worthy of the word new. Almost miraculously, all of this is gained simply by including within our current governments a modest measure of just the right kind of true democracy.
Some comments from people that have read Beyond Plutocracy:
Demo: A demonstration of the demos proposed in Beyond Plutocracy
Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America
1 True Democracy for America is the real subtitle of the book, which would be used if and when it is print published. The phrase true democracy is more understandable and friendly to the average person, say, browsing in a bookstore than is the phrase direct democracy. The phrase direct democracy is a more formal term used by those who discuss alternate forms of government or modifications to our current plutocratic government to correct its many ills. Since most students of true democracy on the Internet use the phrase direct democracy, to be seen by search engines and included in discussions about the subject, the phrase direct democracy is used here and within HTML formatting tags such as <title>...</title>, etc. Thus, in many web page browser programs when this book’s pages are displayed, the phrase direct democracy also appears on the browser’s title bar. 1
2 Beyond Plutocracy’s introduction goes well beyond what a book’s introduction would normally contain. It is really a synopsis containing a brief summary or view of the whole book. Some parts of its text were copied from the main body of the book. Thus, in the one or two hours it takes to read the introduction one may gain a fairly good idea of the partial redesign of the American government that is presented in Beyond and why it is needed. However, many ideas important to the design had to be left out of the introduction. Beyond cannot be fully understood and appreciated save by reading the entire book. 2