Insuring Communities Work
A new government Department of Communities (DCM) would be created to ensure that individual communities are healthy, functioning properly, and successful. DCM officials would be responsible for ensuring that Local Electors and members of the CLB know how to do their jobs and would provide training when needed. Dysfunctional communities would be nurtured to health with the aid of DCM officials. Healthy communities would then be able provide individual citizens with a much needed support network, which would in turn lead to a healthier society with strong social fabric. (See “The New Department of Communities.”)
Each community would have jurisdiction over their community to the degree that is feasible and would be empowered to deal with community issues. Decisions would have the force of law, forming the basis of a system that would truly allow people to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. This would break our reliance on a patriarchal government that disempowers us, and would compel us to take responsibility and participate in democracy. (See “Community Jurisdiction.”)
The End of Corruption
Money in politics would cease to be a problem because there would be no need for it. Citizens would vote only once a year and for one position in government—Local Elector, someone in their community. Local Electors would make no policy decisions themselves and would only cast votes for candidates for elected office as part of a small group of Local Electors, thereby insulating them from outside influence. With Local Electors having direct access to candidates and office holders, and with a chain of connections all the way up the hierarchy, there would be no communication gap, so no campaign money would be needed to bridge it. Local Electors would naturally be very concerned about any undue influence by special interests on their office holders and would certainly work to ensure that all opportunities for undue influence are eliminated. In addition, special interests would no longer have an incentive to influence the public since the public would not be responsible for electing office holders who make the policy decisions they are concerned with. Public discourse would be characterized by professionalism rather than the manipulation we are subjected to today.
Special interests would no longer fight to control the government in the election process, but would rather have their needs considered by the government as specified in the Constitution—by exercising their First Amendment right to “petition the government for redress of grievances.” The public consists of special interests, and addressing their needs and concerns is addressing the needs and concerns of the public. Their petition, if accepted, would be incorporated into the government agenda and considered objectively, with all appropriate parties having a voice. Lobbying would still exist, but in an environment where office holders are held accountable by the public and special interests have no undue influence. Policy decisions would be fair and consistent with the public interest. (See future article related to accommodating special interests.)
Political parties and the accompanying partisan issue mania we are so familiar with today would become a thing of the past. Political campaigns would not be necessary since all elections would take place within small groups of connected people. Representatives, being held accountable, would be focused on serving the needs of their constituency rather than pursuing their own self-interest or that of special interest groups. Since political parties are vehicles of promotion for politicians and coalitions of special interest groups during elections, political parties, partisanship, and polarization would evaporate. (See “Why Political Parties are Antithetical to Democracy.”)
Community Is the Natural Home of Self-Government
A system of Local Electors would truly bring government to the people. Office holders would likely begin their careers as Local Electors, which would serve as an accessible bottom rung from which anyone could get started. Local Electors would form communities among themselves, discuss issues, and build networks. Those with merit would naturally be selected for advancement and elected to office. Office holders would be deeply rooted in communities, creating a foundation of accountability, responsiveness, and good government. It would no longer be “the government,” but rather “our government,” and “we the people” would be the government. Everyone would recognize government as a good and beneficial force in their lives, immune to undue influence, enabling government officials to make well considered compromises that everyone would feel compelled to accept. The public would be organized to pursue its own best interest and “we the people” would rule. Government could take on its ideal role of improving people’s lives and creating a better world.
Since democracy is about citizen participation, community is the natural place for democracy to be rooted.
Today, our participation in government is anonymous. We watch the news on television or read the news on the Internet, and then we anonymously cast our votes. This is like reducing government to a video game. We invented government to help us get along as a group, to work out our differences, and to work together to achieve common goals. This requires real participation. Anonymity robs us of the chance to work together, to learn to live together, and to enjoy each other’s company. It disconnects us from each other and causes us to get sucked into our own selfish world. Being disconnected from one another and from government disempowers us and creates a deep sense of apathy toward any real participation in democracy and an unhealthy society.
Surely part of the reason we have problems getting along at all levels of government is because we don’t have strong communities—or any real sense of community—in most of America. If we don’t even know our neighbors, can we really expect to get along at the national level? And surely part of the reason we need so many laws is because, for so many of us, there is no community where we can get to know one another, come to understand and respect one another, and work out any differences we may have. Our heavy use of laws is a sign of our lack of trust in one another, and in some cases a lack of trustworthiness.
In some ways, our current government is not much different than what we sought to escape from over two centuries ago. Because we are disconnected and unable to truly participate, we are still dependent on “leaders” and a patriarchal government. We ask, “Why isn’t the government doing something about (insert situation)?” This is now, as it was then, a disempowering situation. When something goes wrong, all we can do is complain, get angry, and say “I’m not responsible for that, the government is—it’s their fault.” We are in a state of learned helplessness that makes us shun public responsibility.
Under a system of Local Electors each of us would discover that we have the power to act—we would be empowered. We would stop waiting for “leaders” and government to do something because we would recognize that we can do something ourselves. In democracy, only organizations are able to get things done because only they have the people and resources necessary to advocate for their agenda in a sustained and targeted way. Communities would be organizations ready-made to respond to the needs and concerns of citizens, with their own Local Elector working in government on their behalf. Everything in government would flow from the actions of citizens.
This is what it means to be free in a society—having the power to shape and control the government policies that affect our lives rather than having laws imposed upon us by others who have more power than we do. This is how democracy makes us free. Freedom requires taking responsibility for ourselves and our community and participating in a democratic government. We believe that when the people are given a real chance to participate they will enthusiastically take it. This is what allows us to be fully human.
Community meetings would be schools of democracy where people would learn to be citizens in society. Being part of a group would encourage everyone to be civil, to discuss things calmly, and to be considerate and listen to other people’s points of view. People would learn about their neighbors’ problems and learn empathy, possibly helping them and being helped in return. Community members would work together to solve problems and cooperate, and would come to rely on one another. They would come to trust one another and understand the importance of being trustworthy. Friends would be made and spouses found. Being part of a community would expand our world of concern beyond ourselves and produce healthier, happier citizens and a better world for everyone.
We believe a system of Local Electors would meet the requirements we established and would have far-reaching benefits for society. Since citizens are disconnected and cannot truly participate, our current system of government responds best to the needs of organized special interests. This environment causes each special interest to fight for their own selfish interest, often at the public expense, creating a culture of selfishness and conflict. A system of Local Electors would respond first and foremost to the needs of the public and would create a culture of cooperation. It would transform us from a society of disconnected, disorganized, powerless individuals into a society of communities where each of us are connected and empowered. It would bring us together and unite us with our neighbors, and as a country.
These are some initial thoughts about what a system of Local Electors would be like. Much public discussion is needed to improve and expand upon these ideas and come up with new ones.
In order to fully appreciate why a system of Local Electors is the right solution, it is important to understand how the most frustrating problems with our government are rooted in disconnect and how a system of Local Electors would alleviate them. This is the subject of the next few articles.
“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitle
Continue Reading: How Americans Are Excluded From Democracy