Democracy does not Exist- It’s Just an Idea

Democracy does not exist. Let’s look at some definitions.

TheFreeDictionary:

Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

Dictionary.com:

government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

We lack Democracy’s: Government-by-the-people

“Government by the people” is a nice phrase.  It should mean that the government does what people want. It doesn’t have to always do what a simple majority wants. This is especially true in a constitutional democracy (a republic). But it should always do what a sizable number of citizens wants. In a real democracy, if not even a third of the people want a law, should it be passed?

The 2014 Princeton study found that American government is not democratic at all. They found that since 1980, “mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” Who gets what they want? An elite set of business and wealthy interests.

We lack Democracy’s: Representation

I’ve written previously about how representative democracy isn’t representative. Some of our representatives try to represent us, but to represent us, they’d have to know us. They’d have to listen to us, and we’d have to inform them. These don’t happen well at all. We simply don’t have ways of communicating with them that work.

We need to be able to communicate with them.
They need to be able to hear us.

Besides knowing us, unless we’re lucky enough to elect great people, we’ll need them to be accountable to us. Because they need money to be re-elected, they’re naturally accountable to those who provide money.

Between inability to know us and not being accountable to us, they can not represent us.

The idea of “representation” is just an idea. For the last 240 years, people just assumed that elections would magically cause politicians to represent their constituents. 

America could have real Democracy

PeopleCount proposes a system which will deliver both government-by-the-people and true representation. The lynch-pin of this is accountability of politicians to voters. To understand this, you first have to see that Americans are actually blind to the fact that accountability is missing. Then you can move on to the nuts and bolts of the system.

Please support us.

The American Political System is Lousy

The American Political system is lousy. We live in a broken democracy.  But it was never much more than this.

The myth of American greatness has failed

The myth that it was a real democracy was more and less powerful over the years. It seemed powerful at the beginning. In the last few decades it has become less and less powerful. Finally, with the new dynamic of new forms of communication, it have utterly failed.

Our culture is blind to this. But it’s pretty easy to fix.

I’ve spoken with over 500 people about this. One-on-one, in a conversation, people tend to see it. Only a handful, like 1 in 100, have seen glimpses from stuff I’ve written. You can say it’s my fault, that my writing is not compelling enough. Or you can say it’s people’s fault- they’re too inculcated with their own myths. Or you can blame the political establishment. They devote their lives to unwittingly trying to make a broken system work. And pretending that it does.

How about opening your mind once more to my writing?

What have I written to show that it’s lousy?

In America, the people have the ultimate power. But we can’t use it. Voting once every 2, 4 or 6 years for a personality doesn’t control anyone or anything. We can’t wield our power. So others pick it up and wield it. This is a lousy democracy. America is a lousy Republic. What you or I think, or want, doesn’t matter.

If it doesn’t matter what you or I think, then how does it feel to learn and try? Learning feels futile. It just increases our wanting a change. Trying is frustrating. So many stop trying to learn. Many stop trying to make changes. Many stop caring. We should expect things like: many Americans don’t vote. Many don’t even register to vote. Many don’t pay attention to facts or history.

There’s nothing wrong

In a sense, there’s nothing wrong. The results we have are a perfect match for the system we have. There’s only “something wrong” when you compare what we want to our myth that America is a Democracy and we have a great system of government.

The system we have is fine. We’re just not using it well because it’s incomplete. Our system was never designed to have political parties. Our system was never designed to be able to withstand corporations (which were banned in America by our founders.) And, there’s one big thing that was never, ever designed into our system. It’s just missing.

But when you look at our system, you see “our system.” You don’t see anything missing. The way you view politics is crucial to America continuing to be broken.

Millennials are Willing to Sacrifice Broken Democracy

On October, 23rd, 2016, Leonid Bershidsky published an article, Democracy Turns Off Millennials. It Doesn’t Have To. While the contents were interesting, I found his reasoning a bit lacking.

Are millennials willing to sacrifice Democracy?

For instance, he cites this data:

In 1996, only 1 in 16 Americans said it would be good if the military ruled the country. By 2014, it was 1 in 6. Only 19 percent of millennials say it wouldn’t be legitimate for the military to take over if the government proved incompetent or unable to do its job. A growing share of young people is in favor of a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections” and a government of “experts” rather than politicians.

He concludes that perhaps a better election system, like Ranked Choice voting (also call Instant Runoff Elections) might lead to better people being elected- more of a meritocracy.

No, millennials are willing to sacrifice oligarchy and corruption

First off, millennials have seen the failure of American Democracy. Recall that the 2014 Princeton study showed that Congress is effectively functioning like it’s run by an oligarchy, of the few, by the few, for the few. This has been the case at least since 1980, well before they were born.

And they’ve seen China make steady growth in China, with about 80% of the Chinese people approving of their government. Meanwhile, in the U.S., over 80% disapprove of Congress, and it has been low for a long time.

Plus, the question said, “if the government proved incompetent or unable to do its job.” The question did NOT say, the military would never relinquish its power. And it did not ask: What if things didn’t improve under the military rule?

Learning from Congress to sell out American values

Republicans have been willing to sell out American values for years now. They support white supremacists, science deniers, birthers, and for years have lied in their propaganda about Democrats. They perform witch-hunts in order to publicize every unproven rumor, and then enjoy the press long after they issued reports that found no wrong-doing. Instead of legislating, they obstructed appointments and legislation, They voted 52 times to repeal Obamacare, but have done nothing to fix it.

Similarly, Trump holds out the possibility of selling out America’s tradition of a peaceful transfer of power to the next generation. Congress continually sells out the American people to corporate interests as 50% leave Congress for million-dollar lobbying jobs, and industry donates huge amounts to campaigns to protect their profits. Recently, John Boehner quit and will be given million of dollars as a reward for his many years of sucking up to businesses.

The recent history for millennials contained a corrupt Bush administration starting a war based on lies, spending trillions of dollars to enrich the vice president and destabilize the mideast, bringing catastrophe and death to millions. Politicians, mainly the Republicans, have sold out American values for years.

Do you want millennials to value Democracy? The solution isn’t to make a few changes. We need to create a participatory Democracy that works.

How Imperfect is American Democracy?

How imperfect is American democracy? Someone asked me on Quora so I thought I’d share the answer here.

I’m not aware of a scale. It’s very, very far from good.

America isn’t even close to being a decent democracy

Read Ozgur Zeren’s answer and watch the video he recommends. In that video, Noam Chomsky says America is, and was designed to be, a polyarchy. That’s a government by a small number of people. In this case, men of the “responsible class”. Those who were educated, which at that time was almost synonymous with wealthy.

We had a chance of a real democracy before the civil war while corporations were prohibited. But after they were unleashed, the polyarchy began to be taken over by agents of myriad wealthy corporations. Today, that takeover has been mostly completed. Legally, people still have power to choose their leaders, but the wealthy are still far better organized and able to maintain power.

Today we no longer have a polyarchy. It’s really to an oligarchy. That’s also a government by a small group of people, but it’s also for that small group.

How to improve our democracy

We could come closer to the ideal of a representative democracy with a parliamentary system. Currently, our parties don’t represent us well. They represent a few of us well, but many citizens favor issues that the wealthy don’t want to even talk about, and many share positions with both parties.

Personally, I favor a system where our representatives don’t have their own positions or philosophies. Instead, we vote on issues to say what we want, and they study and deliberate and find good solutions and compromises and report back to us. This would be possible with no changes in law, if we supported something like PeopleCount.org.

Can’t stupid people ruin a democracy?

There is a danger of stupid people voting stupidly, but we already have that with many Republican candidates (Gohmert, Inhofe…) and now Trump. Part of this, though, is a system that gives ordinary citizens no other responsibility than voting for a personality. Plus a broadcasting system that’s allowed to call propaganda “fair and balanced” and allowed to call editorials “news.”

If we had a decent system, though, perhaps the stupid people wouldn’t be so stupid or have such a poor choice of candidates. Part of the problem is as above- there’s no real reason to think deeply about issues since we only choose parties and personalities.

Please join me in fixing the first part. Support PeopleCount.org.

True Knowledge

True knowledge is realizing how much we don’t know AND how much we think we know. We are vastly presumptuous. We see through our limited perspectives, and our mostly blind to the huge worlds we’re not able to see.

I’ve come to this understanding many times.  Today it reappeared after reading this article, where a millennial realizes he’s been presumptuous.

I think a lot of people think I’m presumptuous. In a sense I am- we all are.

In a sense I’m not. I don’t think I’m right, even about PeopleCount. I think we can make me right. I think we’d all be better off if we took responsibility for our broken political system and did something constructive, something fair, something non-partisan. I think we should take some positive steps to create peaceful ways to work together, communicate together, and orient Congress toward people, rather than to the parties, lobbyists and wealthy donors.

I don’t think parties are bad, per se. It’s great when groups organize around single issues, so they can refine their arguments and see their size. What’s bad is when the pro-gun people join the anti-abortion people. Say 60% of the people are both pro-gun and anti-abortion – it seems to make sense to join forces. But it skews both issues and stops representing 40% of their members well (actually if you do the math, 57%). The upshot for the country is that Congress has ground to a halt, which is what a minority of people want.

Please, join me in trying to reorient Congress toward representing people instead of representing parties. Join me in having your voice and opinions be counted instead of just competing to be loud. Join me in having meaningful societal communication about the issues instead of just having a few individual voices be heard. We’ll still have political parties and lots of individual voices competing. We’ll also have societal communication- us all voting on issues and hearing the results, and having those results sway Congress.

I’ve been focusing on marketing, blogging and networking, but it hasn’t worked. People with resources aren’t hearing me. I’ll keep working at it, but without resources, progress is slow. I need to start building software as well, and doing less of the rest…

I understand that people don’t have the time, or confidence in PeopleCount, to join us. I’m pretty amazed that only about a dozen people have contributed money. And fewer have asked their fellow members of other groups to support us. Please help. In a few minutes, you can make a difference.

What Democracy Requires

Democracy is an American ideal. In this series of articles, we will look at the three things required for democracy to work. We’ll start with a conceptual look at democracy, and then nail down concrete ways to implement it, fixing our broken political system.

Abraham Lincoln said it best when he referred to America as, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people.” We’ll use the structure of his quote for organization.

“For the people” to me means the country is for the welfare of the people, for what the people want, for what’s best for the people. We’ll look at how these different ways of saying it provide different perspectives. Ultimately, we’ll see how it’s best for the people to decide for themselves, not to have government, parties or politicians decide for them.

“Of the people” to me means the people are in charge. The citizen must be the boss. What does a boss do? Tells people what to do and then has them report on their results. Reporting is the essence of accountability. Officials must report to citizens on the issues that are important to them. When this happens, citizens will be able to judge them.

“By the people” to me means officials should be hired and fired by the people. This begins with a working election system, which we do not now have, mainly due to the need for huge amounts of money in politics. While we often focus on who supplies the money for politics, the basic problem is that money is required. The system of parties and primaries limits choices as well.

All of these require “the people” to function together. In this country’s first two centuries, this was impossible, but web technology makes it possible now.

In the next article we’ll begin the investigation.