Free Market Ideology Perverts Democracy

Professor Jason Stanley wrote an interesting essay on how America’s free market ideology perverts democracy. A coarse summary of his essay might be this: Americans mistake “free market” competition for freedom. Even in politics, we’re out-competed by wealthy corporations. But we don’t complain because we think that’s freedom. He says:

Free market ideology uses democratic vocabulary as propaganda, obscuring a non-democratic reality. 

It’s an interesting article. You’re welcome to share your thoughts about it in the comment sections.

But the very last sentence is off the mark:

Voters are using the proper tool – elections – to make their concerns heard. Will anyone listen?

That’s like saying neanderthals used the proper tools, rocks, to sharpen sticks. Just because that’s the only tool they had doesn’t mean it’s a very good one, or the “proper” one.

Do you feel expressed by voting?

Do you feel like the election makes your voice heard? I don’t. There are good candidates I can’t vote for because only a Democrat or Republican can win. And a vote for a candidate certainly doesn’t express my position on ten different opinions.

Are you one of those people who thinks America should have a larger military budget? Or a much smaller one? How will you make that desire heard in the upcoming election? Of course, you won’t.

Elections don’t make our voices heard.

Voters can’t use elections to make their concerns heard. That’s like sitting down in a restaurant with a huge buffet with tons of scrumptious foods. Two waiters come over to bring you your food. You’re not allowed to say anything, just to point and choose which of the waiters will go fill a plate for you.

Except it’s worse than that. Waiter A likes to give lots of sweets. Waiter B likes you to eat healthy. What we’re going to do is have everyone at the table vote on which waiter will serve everyone. That’s how you get to express yourself in elections. That doesn’t make our concerns heard.

Elections can only work if the person elected forgets about his or her party and not only tries to represent all the people, but succeeds. Given the control of our politics by the wealthy, there’s not even a chance of that happening. Even if they try, we’re not coherently expressing ourselves, so at best they could only try.

What if we had a real way to express ourselves politically? And what if it was part of a system that delivered true accountability to citizens?

Please join us in creating this. Please add your name to our announcement list and donate a few dollars.

Comparing Sports to Politics, for Integrity and Accountability

In this article we’re going to continue the first one, comparing political campaigns and the election to sports.

Sports: The competition IS the work

One difference: When sports players are competing, they’re working. This single-focus helps the players stay true to their quest. 

A politician’s real work starts when the competition is over. And good representation is useless without winning, so after the contest politicians are working as much to prepare for the next competition and they do on representation. So if winning conflicts with representing us well, what do you expect to happen?

Sports: The rules and goals are clear

Another difference: In basketball, the rules are clear. The goals are clear. 

In politics, what are the rules? How can a politician win? What earns points? Clearly winning the election is important. But once the competition is over, it’s all muddy. Is the goal “serving the people?” Or maybe “representing our true interests.” Or “crafting good bills and compromises” and “supporting good solutions?” How do we measure those? Do we even measure them? In a system where there’s no real accountability and the goals and rules are muddy, you wouldn’t expect to find either good performance or integrity. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that those are missing in Congress.

Sports: The teams are clear

And on a sports team, everyone on the team is coordinating for the effort to be successful.

Getting something passed in Congress is like herding cats. Imagine playing basketball on a playground where there are 12 different hoops. You get the ball close to hoop and then your teammate runs the ball to another hoop. Or he and a guy from the opposing team work together to get the ball to a different hoop. It’s a weird game.

Transparency

A player’s responsibilities are clear. And they perform in full view of a huge audience. And cameras! There are even referees!

What does my representative do? I don’t know. Congress seems stuck and needs a new culture, new expectations, new rules. I don’t hear her talking about those things. But she doesn’t say much. I can go to her website and read nice things, but no specific promises.

Accountability

A player is accountable to the coach and the team owner. They guide the player. Or they can sit down and decide together what they want and how to achieve it. The coach and the owners have expectations. They ask: What happened? And they get answers. The player gives promises. The opinions of the coach and team owner matter. And they can fire the player.

My representative is not actually accountable to me. I can help hire or fire her once every two years. I can’t guide her. I certainly have no way to expect results, like a boss can. I can’t judge her and reward her with a grade, like a teacher does to a student. She’s not accountable to me. Or really, to anyone, though she certainly tries to be.

Worse, she IS accountable to the party. And she is probably accountable to her big donors. She’s a well-liked incumbent so there’s really no competition. Plus she has plenty of funds in her war chest.

What we need is a new game

In the next article, we’ll see we just need a new game. Some new rules could easily make Congress more functional. In the meantime, please add your email address to our announcement list.

Integrity is much higher in Sports than in Politics in America- Why?

Integrity is much better in sports than in politics. Let’s look at why. This will be the first of four articles looking at changing the game of politics, especially with Congress.

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook (slightly edited):

– – Right now, the Warriors are playing Oklahoma City. They are in the Playoffs. .. I hope they go to the Finals, but right now, they’re in the Playoffs.
– – You don’t get to the Finals by having temper tantrums and declaring yourself the winner. You don’t get to the Finals by convincing the public you deserve it or it’s your turn. The Warriors will get to the Finals if and only if they beat Oklahoma City fair and square.

– – God help us if the NBA has more integrity than the DNC.

 

There’s more integrity in sports

I think it’s pretty obvious there’s more integrity in sports than in politics. In sports, they promise to play their best game and win. When they lose, they’ve broken their word. Yet they still honor their word. They admit they tried hard to win, but they lost. They start looking at how they could train harder or play better or smarter. They’re committed and devoted. And their bonuses are tied to their performance.

Politics is messy

In politics, it’s hard to tell what they’re doing. It looks to me like they’re vying for power instead of representing the people. It looks to me like they’re authoring sound bites and raising funds to try and convince constituents rather than listening to them. It looks to me like they’re trying to make each other wrong instead of trying to work out solutions.

And how do they win? 90% of campaigns that raise the most money win. And mostly, those are incumbents. Other than that, it seems to be based on the party prejudices of the electorate.

 It’s time to design the political game

What if politics could be redesigned? What if it could be redesigned to be accountable?

Accountability is a relationship. If politicians were accountable to citizens, then citizens would be like an employer or a teacher:

  • Citizens would guide politicians
  • Citizens would expect results
  • Citizens would ask for reports
  • Politicians would report progress and plans- perhaps monthly
  • Citizens would grade them

What if we designed a system to deliver this? Would you play? Please say yes and add your name to our announcement list.

In the next article, we’ll look at some specific comparisons between sports and politics.

The Difference between a Republic and a Democracy

In a Facebook discussion, someone objected to my saying that America is no longer a democracy. They said it was never intended to be. It was always intended to be a republic. And they pointed to this piece, on the difference between a democracy and a republic.

Democracy or Republic?

They define a republic as a “constitutional democracy”. It limits the majority rule to not trespass on individual rights. They say a republic IS democratic, but is not “a democracy”. To them, in a democracy, the majority, even 51%, has absolute power.

Technically, America was meant to be a republic.

  1. That definition of “democracy” is not common parlance. I looked it up in websters.com (democracy, republic) and thefreedictionary.com (democracy, republic). They list no such distinction. The definition of democracy in the latter does have “majority rule” as the 4th definition. And it is absent from the definition of republic.
  2. In the US, a super-majority can change the constitution.
  3. The main point- no one’s arguing for 51% rule or an end to constitutional law.
    In America, the people no longer have power.

Today America is neither a democracy nor a republic.

We have a political system that creates laws for those with money and power. Or so said the 2014 Princeton study. America is not a republic and hasn’t been one for years. (I think their study went back to the 1970’s)

Second in power to those with money are the parties, with their gerrymandering and their control of the primaries and their refusal to consider a fair voting system. Third would be the media, though many would argue they’re controlled by the wealthy as well.

The people can be restored to power

PeopleCount is designed to restore the people to power. It will rejuvenate representative government to represent the people. Today our representatives represent whoever they want. In the above technical terms, it will restore the republic.

Today our elected officials are not accountable to the people. Accountability is a relationship that involves influence and control, reporting, and the power to judge in a way that makes a difference, and to fire and hire. The people have none of these.

Please take a stand for restoring your place as a citizen as the primary power in our republic. Please add your name to our announcement list.

There’s More to Politics than Power

Someone on Quora asked:  Is power the only thing that matters in politics?
My answer:

Different things Matter to Different People

Nothing matters in itself. Different things matter to people. And people bring those concerns to politics.

For any given person, what matters? Some want power- they want to be the representative or the president. But what really matters is, Why?

Some people REALLY want to serve, to make a difference, and they think they can do it best if they have power.

Some people REALLY want their way about something- make government smaller, take care of the poor, stop an injustice – whether they think the injustice is the imposition of taxes are they think it’s inequity.

Some people REALLY want to make someone else wrong. They want to get back at all those so-and-so’s who did such-and-such.

Some people REALLY want to feel safe, whether it’s safe from hand-guns or safe from burglars or safe from Islam.

And some people have these concerns for a few minutes as they drive home from a job. Others have them while they work in politics, on campaigns, in movements, on PR. Others have them while they campaign for office, or while they sit in office.

To many people, cooperation matters. To many, fairness and fair play matter. Often though, it seems like politicians just want to get elected. Often is seems they’ll do anything, that the ends justify the means, any means. Often it seems the ends justify immorality, such as lying or falsifying vote counts.

Different things Matter to Different People, not just Power

So lots and lots and lots of other things matter in politics. And different things matter to different people

And “power” is very ill-defined. Clinton wanted the power of the presidency. But as president, he didn’t lead us to war against the Taliban because he lacked the power of “political capital”, support from the people. “Power” is often something that’s not real, but felt, as confidence. And it’s something we say is present when someone causes people to act.

In America, the Constitution says The People have the ultimate power. But we can’t use it, so the wealthy and the parties wield it instead.

In about 3 months we, The People, will be able to start using it. Listen for it. Add your name to our announcement list.

Self-Definition is Key to Creating Political Accountability for Democracy

Self-definition is key to creating political accountability. If politicians don’t buy into a rigorous, workable definition of political accountability, including defining themselves as accountable to citizens, it’s not going to happen.

Example of how Self-Definition Determines our Actions

Recently a consultant gave me a free hour of consulting. It was interesting and valuable. Plus he ended up being enthusiastic about PeopleCount and suggested we contact a particular wealthy person who lived near him. I asked if he knew this wealthy person, if he had some contact information. No, but he was connected to him on Facebook. And on Facebook, I was connected to this consultant.

So after the call I went on Facebook and found the wealthy person and sent him a message. There was no reply. On Facebook, one has to make special effort to see messages from non-friends, so people often don’t see them. So after a few days I asked the consultant if he’d send the wealthy person a message introducing me. He begged off, saying he didn’t know this person well enough. I said it was just a short message- that he liked what we’re up to. What was he committed to, a better world, or the idea that he had to know the person well to introduce me to him?

The consultant basically answered that he didn’t work for me. Sigh…

About a week later, he sent me another reply on Facebook. It was supportive and appreciative, and encouraged me to keep making requests. So I sent him a reply to please let it be a quick, little task that’s easy to do. (I haven’t received a reply yet…)

Conclusion: Our Self-Definition supports the world we know, not the world we want

My point is that however my request occurred to him, it was all due to his self definition. He felt it wasn’t appropriate to make the introduction. Why? Because of how he viewed himself and the world. And he believed the feeling instead of overcoming it. He had feelings consistent with his rules of survival as a consultant and a shy social animal. He believed those instead of creating himself in a world he’d prefer, where one can turn on strangers to great opportunities.

I get such stuff all the time from people when I explain how PeopleCount.org will work. All we need is a definition of political accountability to constituents that’s much more complete, and a structure that allows us to act in accordance with that definition. It’d help a lot if these new actions were rewarding both to us citizens as well as to politicians. And that’s what PeopleCount.org delivers.

Please join us. Put your email address on our announcement list and join us when we start our beta, in the next few months.

We’re Wasting our Power because Political Accountability is Missing

People have the ultimate power, in America. But with political accountability missing, we are wasting our power. It feels like we’re powerless.

We’re Wasting our Power Battling Ourselves

David Brooks’ recent column about The Anxieties of Impotence says it well:

The Republican establishment thinks the grass roots have the power but the grass roots think the reverse. The unions think the corporations have the power but the corporations think the start-ups do. Regulators think Wall Street has the power but Wall Street thinks the regulators do. The Pew Research Center asked Americans, “Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?” Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.

The problem isn’t that others are actually powerful. The problem is that we’re wasting our power. We have plenty of power, but we squander it on petty squabbles. We dissipate it constantly by battling ourselves. We organize it on party lines  instead of issue by issue.

No One is Coming to Save Us

Brooks does what we all commonly do in a moment like this. We pray for a savior:

To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centers) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.

Whether one is hoping for a religious messiah, a narcissistic demagogue trumpeting his anger, government imposing order or, as in this case, rejuvenated parties or a miraculously functional legislature, it’s a plea for a savior.

No one’s coming to save us. The president is trying. The next president will try. But putting your anger and hopes into a partisan leader rarely works. Simply stop wasting your own power. The first step is to stop supporting your party and stop opposing the other party.

We have Each Other, and that’s Enough

While no one’s coming to save us, the good news is that we’re not alone. We have each other. We have a pretty healthy and prosperous society. We have a lawful society and a pretty healthy legal system. There are no riots in the streets. No army is threatening to either run amok or seize control. We are in this together. Many of us are well educated. Most of us are well meaning. Most of us are not members of the angry right, the far left or the wild western separatist movement. And most of us have computers or cell phones or can borrow one. Much is possible.

If nothing new comes along, we’ll have an election. If nothing systemic changes, Congress will continue to muddle along. We’ll still have groups like NoLabels.org pulling for Congress and the President to be “problem solvers” rather than partisan ideologues or non-thinking “deciders.” And we have groups like Voice of the People (VOP.org) pulling Americans of all stripes together in its deliberative democracy exercises to build widely acceptable solutions.

PeopleCount will give us a New Chance to Work Together

And, with a little support from you, PeopleCount will be the new thing that changes everything. It’ll let us focus our power into political accountability. We’ll naturally organize our power around issues instead of parties. Instead of wasting our power fighting each other, it will be focused into guiding Congress. America will be able to move forward. Our impotence will disappear and our anxiety will dissipate.

Please give your support. We’ll be running a crowdfunding campaign in April or May, but please put your email address on our announcement list and consider making half of your donation now.

Take responsibility for our future and create that solution. Create a system to harness your wasted power. Support PeopleCount.

To Design our Future is the Purpose of Politics. The Purpose of Government is Building it

Accountability is key to enabling us to design our future.

I asked a question on FounderDating about whether the law says that my corporation needs to pay me minimum wage. After a long discussion and some conclusions, I thanked everyone and pointed to the web page that says what we’re up to – political accountability. One person showed he actually read the page and replied:

“… just a quick note to congratulate you on setting your sights on a really important topic. I had been thinking of how to address the problem of accountability once upon a time before getting distracted by other things, and I’m really glad to see this being picked up.”

Something really important:  Accountability

Wow- I’m so glad he noticed how important accountability is! To me, accountability is crucial. In fact, one of the things I want is for all of YOU to hold ME accountable for fixing democracy!

Similarly, what I’m finding is that politicians WANT us to hold them accountable. They don’t want to be accountable to wealthy donors any more. Most of them don’t want to do any fundraising at all!

They don’t even want to be accountable to parties. The parties are a necessary evil. They came together for one purpose, but they end up taking sides on everything. Most of our states are pretty close to 50/50 Democratic/Republican and progressive/conservative. If the parties were to line up on different sides of everything, we’d have constant stalemate!

Like we have. The parties should organize people to lobby their own representatives and senators. They shouldn’t own the officials.

Most of our politicians went into politics to serve us.  And most of our people want compromise. Today neither are happening.

Accountability to the people will change that. And what I love is that it’s to ALL the people.

The Foundation: We Design our Future

What is the foundation of a government that’s accountable to ALL of us? The foundation is all of us people saying what we want. All of us being in a conversation about what we want for our future. Designing our future, together.

Isn’t that what we want, to have the future we want?

And that makes it clear what government is for. Government is not the protector of the military industrial complex. It’s not the protector of the health insurance industry or the banks. It’s not to push American values on the rest of the world, unless that’s really what we want. Is it?

Government is just us working together to build the future that we want. To build the future that we design together.

Come build that future with us. Donate $2 and put your email address on our announcement list. That’s the price for powerfully moving America forward into a future of our own design.

American Political Apathy and Ignorance are not Causes of our Political Problems

American political apathy and ignorance aren’t the causes of our political problems.

Apathy isn’t a cause of our political problems. It’s a symptom.

If people who are apathetic about voting suddenly cared, what difference would that make? Would most of them vote conservative so Republicans could take over? Would most of them vote liberal so Democrats could take over? Would money stop determining elections? Would better people run for office? Would campaigns become less expensive? No.

Probably, if fewer people were apathetic, they’d vote in elections similarly to how people vote now. We’d have more people voting in elections. Probably the results wouldn’t change or wouldn’t change much.

Apathy isn’t a cause of our political problems. It’s a symptom.

Ignorance isn’t a cause of our political problems. It’s a symptom.

Similarly for ignorance. Why wouldn’t people learn about politics? Why would people ignore world events or history? Either because they don’t matter or when they care, it’s frustrating. People learn when there’s a reason to learn. Yes, some are curious and they satisfy that curiosity even if it’s uncomfortable. But not everyone’s like that.

Being uninformed isn’t a cause of our political problems. It’s a symptom.

Plus, apathy and ignorance support each other. If you don’t care, you don’t pay attention to the news. If you don’t pay attention, the news is boring. If you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t care.

Our political party system is frustrating.

Our political system is frustrating. Imagine someone is fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Which party would they join? Which party would they vote for? Imagine someone who likes socialism and equality, but thinks homosexuals and abortion are sinful. Who would they vote for?

In 2015, 42% of Americans identified themselves as independent. Only a quarter, 26% identified as Republican, 29% as Democratic. Maybe these are half of our citizens. So maybe 2/3 of them don’t vote. How can they care about elections when the Democrats and the Republicans won’t compromise?

And of the 55% who identify as affiliated with a major party, many must be near the edge or have at least some issues where they prefer the other party position or are more centrist.

We stick with the party system because it’s part of our culture. Because they’ve collected power and keep the system going, not because they’re good, right or fair. Not because there’s no better way.

There’s a better way.

A better way would be to have representatives and senators truly represent all their constituents, not just their parties. A better way would be to have a system where they’re accountable to us, the people, ALL the people. This is what PeopleCount.org is proposing. Please, join us.

Please, add your email to PeopleCount.org’s mailing list. We’ll start our beta in the next few months, and launch soon after. Try a new way of communicating. Help rejuvenate Democracy. Help end ignorance and apathy.

PeopleCount is a Good Idea Only If You are Responsible

PeopleCount is a good idea, if you are willing to be responsible.

One guy, in his 30’s, was all set to join me in working on PeopleCount. But his friend argues that it’s a bad idea:

“If you get 10 elected officials on board and you get funding and it’s a non profit then it MIGHT be a decent idea.”

Let’s look at this. He wants to make it a non-profit, but it has to be funded. He wants to make sure we don’t make money, but he’s not willing for his friend to risk not making money for 5 months.

I talked with 3 congressional candidates, one of whom isn’t currently running, and a recent candidate for senator. The two current candidates said they will use the site and pay for its services. The other two said they would if they were running. But for this friend, 10 is the magic number. My plan is to have at least 20 by the end of February, but we’re not there yet.

And the whole “if X and Y and Z then it MIGHT be a decent idea” is wrong.

If it succeeds, then it was a good idea.
If it fails, but another effort succeeds, then it was still a good idea, creating the possibility that someone else can build atop.
If it fails and nothing comes of it, then either it wasn’t a good idea, or it wasn’t well enough executed, and people were too cynical to get past the failure.

PeopleCount is not a non-profit because, as I understand it, in California a non-profit requires an independent board. I don’t have that.

Right now, It’s too late for it to be a non-profit. We’re heading to market, low on time, lower on funds. Changing the form will just slow us down. Maybe in June. What I’ll need is some good people I trust to be on the board. I need to trust them to keep it non-partisan and to run it well. If it becomes a non-profit, I lose control. And no one else seems to get the vision yet. So I’ll need good people.

Basically, though, this guy is trying to judge “what PeopleCount is.” But PeopleCount is a work in progress. It’s nothing yet, except a possibility.

PeopleCount is what we say it is. It can work if we make it work. From what I’ve heard from politicians and citizens, it can work. People react to it like it’s impossible. But the ones that can listen and think for themselves change that idea. All the ingredients are available for it to work- users that want it, customers (politicians) that want it and are willing to pay for it, plus a population that’s crying out for it. It solves are most pressing problems.

The challenge is marketing- communicating the possibility.

This whole concept of whether PeopleCount is a good idea or not – it’s bogus. People can either make it into a good idea or not. You have that power. Take responsibility for your judgement. Take responsibility for your future. You can live a life of fear and worry and not doing what needs to be done, or you can step up and create the future you want.

If you haven’t already, please add your name to our announcement list. Or if you’re reading this after we’ve launched, become a user.