Direct Democracy and the Safety Net

 I must admit I enjoy reading nineteenth century novels. Behind their dusty covers dwell men and women still deeply concerned about the dictates of morality, though like us they live within an increasingly modern, dehumanizing world.

Honest and good people there endure grim straits the likes of which our own poor and disadvantaged, protected by various welfare programs and not much limited by class distinctions, will never really know. Yet these fictional characters often strive to maintain their dignity, their values, and their independence.

I don’t enjoy such reading because I harbor any sadistic inclinations toward my fellow human beings: I simply recognize and appreciate the profound truth that even marginally good people, when individually burdened by the full weight of their own moral decisions, will often nobly rise to the occasion — and so receive the aid of those around them who judge their actions worthy of it. Yet I realize as well that these same marginally good people, if forever afforded the chance to shift a part of that moral burden onto others, may do so without much concern for the people who now must share the consequences of those same important decisions.

This dramatic human dynamic, of course, could be dismissed as just another element of good, effective fiction; and so it is. But the best fiction also rings true.  And the truth is that when our moral duty to one another is preempted by a government and its safety net provisions, the concept of morality itself becomes for many a vague, lazily appreciated abstraction.

It might be asserted — quite convincingly as well — that it would be better to eliminate opportunities for moral distinctions among us altogether than to subject the poor and disadvantaged to what might prove to be our moral failings. But if our beneficent government then fails to make the proper distinctions between those who merit aid and those who do not, thus exacting sacrifices from honest and moral people for the sake of supporting dishonest and immoral ones, not only have we forsaken our own sounder moral judgments and our strongest virtues to an increasingly immoral, collectivized state; but we may well be imperiling the state itself by so burdening the best among us in order to support the worst among us.

Properly designed,  a system of direct democracy provides the responsive, dynamic flexibility necessary to set and reset the aid given in each community to the poor and disadvantaged to the right balance between the private sector and the public sector — a balance that may well shift over time and between locales — hopefully always in the direction of replacing public sector aid with private sector aid and in the direction both of encouraging individual responsibility and of restoring financial solvency and civic good faith.

The National Budget under Direct Democracy

 The so-called “power of the purse,” one among an enumerated few bestowed upon Congress in the Founders’ Constitution, has long since proven, to the surprise no doubt of fewer still, by far the most corrupting. Indeed this indispensable authority to appropriate tax revenue now represents the greatest threat to the future prospects of this nation. Naturally then it also constitutes one of the more challenging powers to tame and to integrate into the faithful service of a national system of direct democracy.

Currently many revenues raised and already appropriated by Congress may yet be blocked by a handful of powerful budget committee chairpersons  — according to whatever criteria might force or stay their hands. But neither these “gatekeepers,” nor even the committees over which they preside, were ever mentioned by the Founders in the Constitution: These were the innovations of subsequent Congresses.

In spite of — or perhaps owing to — these and other congressional innovations,  rare now are any full, year-round budgets appropriated and authorized by the various committees of Congress. Instead, many may pass but one continuing resolution after another in order to ensure the funding of the many agencies, departments and programs of the federal government.

And this proposed direct democracy, at least with respect to the federal budget, is itself a form of national continuing resolution.

All other departments, agencies, offices and courts of law not superseded or abrogated by this Constitution shall retain the same allotted percentage of public revenues, powers of regulation, oversight and enforcement, and restrictions under law as established prior to ratification, until a proposition alternative for reform of that government body or office, introduced by the People or by the principal officer of the government body or office in question, certified in at least ninety-five percent of precincts subject to its oversight and authority, receives an aggregate of fifty-one percent of votes among said precincts.

(from Article 1, Section 4)

As the priorities of the voting public naturally shift over time, this budgetary “frozen pie chart” might be altered in any national electoral initiative — altered perhaps concurrently with the election of a presidential candidate as a new form of electoral mandate akin to today’s party platform: Thus, with the election of a given candidate the defense segment of the budget, which now stands near 24% of the whole, might be reduced to the 22% health care is now allotted and vice versa.

If these important percentages stood unaltered longer than many might like, the actual revenues raised and spent, as ever, would depend upon existing fees and tax rates. The proposed constitution provides for its own major source of revenue akin to the abolished income tax. (see The Immoral Income Tax and Direct Democracy) A property usage fee, specifically, would serve as a progressive form of revenue generator that, unlike the income tax, neither discourages small business enterprise nor encourages mass resource exploitation and blind urban sprawl.

Some might believe that budgetary appropriations ought to be much more fluid, subject to constant voter correction. But these governmental expenditures are not mere figures on a page: resources are committed and lives changed. Were daily polls to decide the fate of previously authorized, let alone disbursed, government expenditures, the ensuing waste of resources would no doubt prove worse than what prevails today.

Yet the national budget need not be balanced from year to year, so long as debts arising from unforeseeable exigencies were borne by current citizens rather than passed on to future generations. Thus, a constitutional amendment explicitly precludes the transfer of debt:

Amendment X – No law enacted by electoral initiative or otherwise shall establish a debt, project or fiscal program where the financing thereof would obligate future citizens to the financial commitments of current voters. Appropriations shall be drawn from revenues collected within one year of their appropriation through floating debt and the collection of these fees and revenues only:

-Usage fees levied upon persons whose activities degrade or monopolize public property;
-Usage fees levied upon persons enjoying exclusive use of land, in proportion to its acreage and the volume, mass and scarcity of natural resources therein;
-Usage fees levied upon foreign governments for involvement of United States military personnel, equipment or weaponry in operations outside the territory of the United States, at the request of said governments, which would otherwise be the responsibility of any sovereign nation to itself;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities, whether intentional or negligent, damage public property;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities damage the private property of another person, or impede its exclusive use by barring lawful access to it, or operation of it; physically altering it or its value; or otherwise converting or making improbable its peaceable, lawful, exclusive enjoyment; thereby necessitating the intervention of law enforcement or courts of law;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons who assume unnecessary risks or file frivolous complaints that require emergency public services or courts of law;
-Sales of forfeited, seized property;
-Sales of goods processed or manufactured by state-confined workers; or revenues from the contracting-out of their services;
-Sales of government property to allies of the United States, upon a two-thirds majority vote among the Governors and a unanimous vote between the President and the Cabinet—or the Defense Cabinet, in the case of military property;
-Duties, imposts and excises;
-Safety-inspection and handling charges;
-Any fiscal-program income deduction annually re-authorized by electoral initiative.

All fees shall reflect the actual duration and costs of use or misuse, so that collections in anticipation of use may necessitate reimbursement.

No law enacted by precinct electoral initiative shall institute or increase an appropriation from revenues derived in part or in full from another precinct, unless with a fifty-one percent consenting vote within the latter precinct, or unless authorized by this Constitution; nor withhold or disburse revenues lawfully collected for and due to a city, county or state government, or the federal government.

While congressional committees and their distinguished chairs would no longer hold the national purse strings, outlays of revenues would yet require close supervision and control. That critical supervisory role would be granted to the extra-congressional organizations already established under the current system — e.g. the SEC, IRS, FTC — and duly reauthorized by the incoming Cabinet, a process shepherded by the new Attorney General — now an elected official running on the same ticket with the President and the Vice President, third in succession to the highest office. (see The Presidency, the Vice Presidency and Direct Democracy)

Amendment XI – The power to appropriate revenues and the exercise of oversight, investigative and regulatory authority formerly delegated to the United States Congress by the original Constitution, where not previously delegated by the former, shall be delegated by the Attorney General to, and in turn by, the appropriate executive appointees, whose official acts may be halted by the President, the Attorney General, or by a three-fifths majority of the Governors, when deemed unlawful, wasteful or predominantly political in nature…

In most cases, the People themselves surely lack the time and the enduring interest to study the issues concerned, to weigh their competing priorities, and to stipulate the requirements for each prospective budgetary appropriation. The proliferation of the internet, doubtless, will broaden the capacity of the voting public to determine even the minutiae of appropriations democratically; but until such time as a secure, reliable system were designed, approved, and disseminated, these responsibilities ought remain with dedicated professionals. 

The President, insofar as the budget were concerned, would be only a coequal to the Attorney General and the Governors of the States and would retain the veto power only over those legislative measures enacted as regulations by the agencies created or reauthorized by an acting Cabinet for that task.

We the People, however, through our electoral initiative process, would inherit, the authority not only to enact and to alter existing statutory law; but, in rare instances and with rarer consensuses — to alter the American political system itself.

Evolution and War: Self-Sovereignty in Direct Democracy

 To defend one’s life is to vindicate one’s natural equality — an equal right to exist in peace: our self-sovereignty. We cannot, however, merely exist together on this plane: we must perpetuate our existence, providing sustenance and shelter both for ourselves and for any children we choose to have. Yet no one person on this Earth has any natural, inviolable, exclusive claim to any material part of this planet — let alone to any other person dwelling upon it — beyond children to their parents.

Though we now guard national borders and enforce private property rights — in order to improve our chances, first, for survival and then, unconsciously, for genetic success — pitted primarily against one another — the warm light of each rising sun might just as well cross a planet newly shared by all of us — never claimed by any one of us — if we were only, in the main, a more enlightened race of beings.

That we are not so, however, does not exonerate us from the distance we put between our lives today and that idyllic, more natural state of human equality. Our almost compulsive propensity for having children — whose own needs justify the further pursuit of property and of wealth — quite often of one another’s — fuels our territorial claims, our private property ownership, our nation states — and our wars.

Those states or tribal communities, then, whose members make the least claims to territory and to property would seem in many ways the more moral ones. But they too are often blindly driven to perpetuate themselves, often heedless of resource scarcities — thus failing to provide properly for what children they have — heedless too of worldly threats from outside their socio-ecosystems — or ill-prepared to defend against them — often warring among themselves seemingly out of traditional sectarian or ethnic intolerance, even where natural resources and territory are not actually claimed.

To be moral, either as an individual or as a society, necessitates conscientiousness.

Free market capitalism may be relatively moral in comparison to other socio-economic systems by virtue of its theoretical free exchange of goods and services — thus its amenability to self-sovereignty. Yet our relatively free markets lead us only further from that graceful state of natural, non-materialistic equality.

Ours may be a rational recourse in a world where most humans cannot appreciate our fundamental equality — gathering unto us as many resources as possible and building over us a protective military shield. But that this, our system, more efficiently exploits and distributes the world’s resources, providing more people enough wealth to blindly have yet more children — while insulating all from the needs of their fellow human beings — this is neither moral nor remotely conscientious.

Furthermore, a political system like our own representative democracy, in which elected politicians provide intractable entitlements to the most active and successful resource exploiters and to the most prolific and irresponsible child bearers alike, undermines any of the theoretical virtues of a republican system. Our polity actually rewards best those who lead us furthest and fastest from an enlightened natural existence. And the characteristic American pursuit of wealth for its own sake, where the needs for survival and the basic comforts are already met — especially where there are not even children to be provided for — this is a self-evidently vulgar and immoral life: it leaves the world a worse place than it might have been.

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Like so many citizens within sovereign states have been we find ourselves at times committed by an acting head of state to armed engagements against foreign states or terrorist groups whose leaders have purportedly moved aggressively against us and our interests or against an ally in the international community. And whether an ensuing military intervention were waged overtly, as has been the case in Afghanistan, or covertly, as so many CIA operations have been — we may well incur blowback.

But are we, as mere citizens, to be held accountable for the actions of our leaders? Are we liable for their decisions and thus ourselves legitimate targets?
The reflexive, defensively patriotic answer would be: No — that’s exactly what they want us to believe.

But as moral human beings don’t we owe at least an equal regard for the relative innocence of citizens within countries condemned by our leaders as aggressive? Do they not find themselves in the exact same situation as we are in? One could even argue that the less free and fair their political systems are, in comparison to ours, the more immoral we would be to hold such citizens personally accountable for the actions of their leaders — and the more egregious would be any harm done to their persons or to their property.

Are we, who live under a constitutional republic, this representative democracy, any less — or perhaps even more — obligated morally to risk, even to sacrifice, our own lives to be rid of our elected aggressive leaders?

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No. We humans owe our lives to no one else, except those to whom we have ourselves given life — and then only while they are young and dependent. No citizens, ours, or those of any other nation on Earth, must risk or sacrifice their lives to spare the life of an unrelated other — whether a fellow countryman or a foreign stranger — unless doing so would spare the lives of their own children. The childless need not even act in defense of their own lives, though to not fight against one who knows no respect for self-sovereignty would be immoral by inaction — leaving to the innocent a world less secure.

Furthermore, if one were to risk his life, let alone to sacrifice it, for the sake of those outside of one’s relative proximity — outside of one’s immediate capacity both to judge the merits of those to be aided and to monitor the actual effects of the aid — if one were to attempt, for the sake of foreign citizens, to assassinate the President, for example — this too would be immoral. To blindly forsake those in one’s immediate proximity for the sake of aiding unseen strangers would be a retreat from one’s soundest moral footing in the direction of a defiantly symbolic amoral gesture. And if this sacrifice then proved harmful to those within one’s own relative proximity — if the President, in this example, retaliated with an ill-measured force — this would clearly intensify the immorality of an already empty sacrifice.

Better to walk the night streets in aid of strangers for whom one might, after first judging their plight, more judiciously and thus more morally sacrifice oneself. In a nation as large, as technologically advanced, and as secretive as ours, we citizens never possess all the knowledge necessary to make an informed, moral decision about the worthiness of an intervention overseas. The latest Iraq war clearly demonstrated that even our elected representatives are not necessarily in a position to weigh the appropriateness, to say nothing of the morality, of foreign military intervention. The most important decisions with regard to foreign intervention are therefore best left not to the voting public but to the widest feasible array of public officers charged with our protection:

No declaration of war, nor any peacetime initiation of military force outside the borders of the United States and its territories, shall be undertaken without the consent of two-thirds of the Governors of the states and a unanimous vote of assent between the President and the Defense Cabinet, whose membership shall include the Attorney General, the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security and the Treasury, the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; the number and composition of which may be altered by a three-fourths majority vote among the Governors of the states, but shall not exclude the Attorney General.

(from Article II, Section 2)

We Americans seem to be distinguished by our willingness to fight for our own lives, for the lives of others, and for freedom itself. But these strong convictions and lofty ideals do not exonerate us from the war deaths of relatively innocent citizens abroad. To act morally in a defensive war every effort must be made to eliminate individual aggressors or an isolated aggressive element without punishing the relatively innocent, e.g. an unwilling citizenry. Where possible, even troops ought to be considered unwilling actors, attacked only when they themselves attack or when they persist with aggressive actions after their leadership has been eliminated.

Our fighting spirit does not exempt the citizens in these foreign states from a defense of their own lives and of the lives of their children either. The firm resolve of some Americans to commit us to war, in order to spare these foreign citizens from their own governments or from killing each other — where it so often means sending someone else to risk and sacrifice his life — rather than going there oneself — is immoral. Surely this paves the road to Hell.

Political assassinations since the Ford administration have been — at least officially — prohibited. An ideal policy, though, isolates individuals for the fullest consequences of their own choices and of their own actions — or of their inactions. Where possible no one else ought to be held to account. That the one leader might then be replaced by one far worse, or that such a policy might often prove impracticable, makes it no less a worthy, moral guiding principle. And to refrain from such a policy for fear that our own leader might in turn be assassinated implies that a presidential candidate has not already faced and accounted for the dangers inherent to the office.

 The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the military of the United States and of the National Guard. But directing of forces in a time and a theater of war and determinations of rank within the forces shall be determined, or delegated to inferior officers, by the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an appointment of the President; so that the President may set, or reset, the objectives of military action, or order the cessation of military action.

(from Article II, Section 2)

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Where we begin as self-sovereign equals, yet become unequal only in our demand for private property ownership, no threat solely against property justifies a violent defense — not by an individual nor by a nation state. Only an earnest, tenable, impending threat against self-sovereignty or against national sovereignty — against the freedom to exist peacefully and to use any property as freely as any other might, under the laws or customs of a shared community — only this justifies a violent defense or the taking of a life. And in conflicts over territory, whether between sovereign nations or religious, ethnic, or tribal communities, those who more actively respect their own members’ self-sovereignty and the self-sovereignty of those outside their ranks — i.e. the more enlightened people — have a stronger moral claim to the disputed land.

As humans we gradually mature into conscientious beings only after enduring as individuals the fullest consequences of our decisions, our actions, and our inactions. Direct democracy, particularly within the constitutional design presented here, is an ideal polity then by virtue of its maximization of individual voter and public official accountability, as well as its strong limitations upon the federalization, or unnecessary collectivization, of statutory law. While we are now far from an ideal human race, this participatory direct democracy like no other political system inculcates the conscientiousness necessary to guide the greatest majority of us toward our enlightened, idyllic future.

Economic Liberties in Direct Democracy

 We each value differently. Some of us don’t value a surplus of material goods, i.e. accumulated wealth, at all. While others’ valuations are almost entirely socially comparative — such that a thing has only as much value as it has for a certain select group — and the more of such a thing the better.

If an immoral act is one that, were everyone to engage in it, the world would be left a worse place — an act that would thus at least indirectly harm the innocent — how would the accumulation of wealth — above and beyond a satisfaction of the necessities of life — rank morally? Since we long ago ensured that future generations will no longer have to struggle against the ravages of nature itself, nor face any real threat of invasion, does not our continued, compulsive accumulation of material wealth for its own sake bring more harm to our environment than good to our society?

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Evolution has yielded at least two primary offspring survival strategies: The individuals within a species or sub-species may increase the likelihood of passing down their genes to future generations by either having as many offspring as nature can sustain or by having only a few offspring very well provided for.

But in a species as generally successful as the human being has been, if success for many is at least unconsciously measured by the highest number of children marginally provided for — or even by the extent of wealth secured to only a very few children — then the consequent accumulation of humans and of wealth, which must come through the exploitation of a finite supply of natural resources, may well end up doing the world and its future generations more harm than good — all owing to a lack of awareness of strong drives inherited from eons passed.

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The mere mention of a direct democracy surely stirs within the minds of many Americans a series of nightmarish scenes — tumultuous masses scaling and toppling capital monuments to titans of industry — invading then our very homes in search of the unearned and the over-prized — finally, triumphantly passing among themselves roughly equal shares in a newly confiscated wealth — a Michael Moore-as-Robespierre bloody revolution.

And were this proposed constitution not just the democratization of our polity but equally a redistribution of our wealth, this reflexive, fearful overreaction would indeed be justified. Surely it would then contemplate the very grimmest Orwellian purge to rid the nation not only of “undue ownership” but of the inherited talent — or the accidental ambition to develop that talent — that so often manifests itself in wide disparities of wealth in a capitalistic society.

Shall we be rid of capitalism then? Make everyone an equal owner in all things? If we were to adopt such a plan, long before a requisite human beneficence were enshrined within our figurative constitutions, we would surely invite far more harm than good. It would be immoral to blindly forsake the protections afforded us by our current system absent a realistic, improved alternative.

Amendment XII – Any self-sovereign, adult citizen shall be welcome to purchase or to lease property, or to contract services or employment, private or public, subject to equivalent qualifications and on equal terms. But no contract entered into with a minor, or made by force or fraud, shall be enforceable by law.

Yet neither ought we give free reign to capitalism, particularly in light of the learned and inherited drives we as humans seem so far from transcending. Simply to unleash the free market because it is the most efficient use of available resources yet begs the question: How much of this can we take? One who acts without moral awareness, let alone an ideal, is closer to a robot than a sentient being.

No corporation reporting no current earnings or profit, or a loss, shall award raises, bonuses or other extraordinary emoluments to its executives, for or during the same fiscal period, unless with the express, contemporaneous assent of all of its owners.

(from Amendment XIII)

The presented constitutional document is therefore designed to foster a greater understanding of the morality of conscientiousness, specifically with regard to harm done to the innocent. Thus it preserves the protections of life and property inherent to a moral society; it limits to local precincts the scope of our political ambitions; and it maximizes the public accountability placed upon both our leaders and upon ourselves.

Citizens shall retain the right to form workers unions whenever the labor at issue is a service for which any citizen can refuse to pay by refusing the service itself and the product of such service.

(The provision above effectively abolishes public service workers unions, which  use the power of the state to exact payments for services from tax-paying citizens who do not need or use those services.)

Lawful unions shall retain the right to strike whenever an interruption in work would not endanger public safety, withhold labor for which a prospective striker was previously paid, or withhold a service or product for which a person cannot lawfully refuse to pay.

(from Amendment XIII)

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Money is just a medium through which we express subjective valuations. On-the-spot bartering and trading had its limitations; thus we exchange paper symbols of value that we trust will hold their worth until we exchange them again in the future. If the number of these paper symbols were vastly increased, and not everyone received their proportionate share, then some consumers would be enriched relative to others. They could then outbid the rest for goods or services and pay back debts with paper that would no longer buy what it did when it was first lent, since the prices of most things would have been raised for all of us by this bidding between the newly enriched.

When gold coins were the currency they had a value all their own, with a supply that could not easily be manipulated. Later, when new paper bills were limited in number to the supply of exchangeable gold, this too helped to stabilize the value of the paper. What we have today, of course, affords us no such safeguarding of the value of this paper: The Federal Reserve may print new money at will; and banks may lend out most of the money they were entrusted to hold available in deposit.

Whether or not a new system of indirect value exchange might be adopted upon ratification of this Constitution — or yet a return to a barter and trade economy — will be entirely up to the People themselves — and to their Secretary of the Treasury, whom they entrust with the authority to stabilize the currency — and whom they have the power to replace every year.

The Secretary of the Treasury shall have the power to assess and collect the fees and revenues enumerated by this Constitution; to issue one-year Treasury notes on the credit of the United States; to pay the debts and expenses of the United States; to coin or print money, stabilize the value thereof, and of foreign money; to fix the standard of weights and measures; to establish uniform guidelines on the subject of bankruptcies; and to safeguard against the devaluation and counterfeiting of the securities and current money of the United States. But no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations authorized by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

(from Amendment XI)

The overarching goal of this document is a moral one in nature — not one intended to optimize the free exchange of goods and services — so as to perpetuate unconscious evolutionary drives — nor to impose an economic equalization among the ingenious and the disingenuous alike — but to curb the harm we do to the innocents of today and tomorrow and thus secure unto the greatest majority of us all an enduring, moral way of life.

The Presidency, the Vice Presidency and Direct Democracy

 . In past presidential cycles a state by state comparison of available electoral votes might have determined the choice of vice presidential running mate; and such running mates would have been expected to deliver in their home states, likely swing states. But such calculations have proven unreliable; and an evaluation of the readiness of a prospective running mate to assume the role of president has now come to the fore.

In reality, even this criterion is a specious one: No specific experience nor any particular quality beyond soundness of judgment is required for almost any elective office. Every situation arises with a unique array of considerations; and every sitting president works with a new Congress, for a transitioning electorate, in a changed and changing world.

President Obama has proven ineffectual not because he lacks any backroom familiarity with the functioning of government nor any grasp of foreign affairs but largely because his judgment is hampered by his arrogant personality. Though he makes clippy speeches that decry racial and class inequalities, his first-term agenda, if one can call it that, was equal parts timid and divisive.

This underlying, millenias-old pretense — that special qualities and unique experiences distinguish only a privileged few for high office — would finally in a direct democracy be put to a much-needed rest. The judgment of Pres. Obama has revealed itself to be no less flawed than any other man’s, his arrogance no better. Such has been the case with most of history’s leaders.

Nevertheless, the direct democracy presented here, a decentralized system, does not contemplate replacing the executive branch or yet the office of the president with any popular-vote-directed administering of affairs. Quite to the contrary: Each presidential candidate would in fact be required to include upon the party ticket a selection for Attorney General as well.

Why?

Our Attorney General even today is intended to be the People’s lawyer, our chief American law enforcement officer, not a counsel for the President. In the proffered direct democracy, where the President may be replaced two years into a four-year term — either by the Vice President, or by the Attorney General — the office of the Attorney General becomes an all but co-equal with, and a very real legal constraint upon, the office and the power of the presidency:

Or the People may, after two years of the existing four-year term, in the summer electoral initiative, replace the current President when, between an option to retain the status quo, an option to remove the President in order that the Vice President may become President, and an option to remove the President in order that the Attorney General may become President, one of the latter two options receives an aggregate of fifty-one percent of votes cast for the office among at least ninety-five percent of the precincts of the United States.

(from Article II: Section 4)

Trained in the letter and the spirit of the law and added to the line of presidential succession, the Attorney General is further directed to transfer the former duties of the Congress to the executive administration and to watch over their stewardship as an equal partner to the President and to the state Governors:

Amendment XI – The power to appropriate revenues and the exercise of oversight, investigative and regulatory authority formerly delegated to the United States Congress by the original Constitution, where not previously delegated by the former, shall be delegated by the Attorney General to, and in turn by, the appropriate executive appointees, whose official acts may be halted by the President, the Attorney General, or by a three-fifths majority of the Governors, when deemed unlawful, wasteful or predominantly political in nature…

Under such a triumvirate system of executive administration, the People retain not only the recourse of replacing any one of their elected or appointed officers but also the benefit of a powerful, accountable representative whose honor and judgment may be weighed prior to the election of the administration. Should a presidential candidate then select for that position a person of questionable integrity, the People could, and likely would, turn their support to the ticket of an opponent.

And if his integrity proved insufficient only after the election, not only are the Governors equally empowered to check the executive administration themselves; but the People may also replace the Attorney General with an individual of their own choosing in the next summer electoral initiative:

Every public official within the United States but the President, either elected or appointed by an elected officer, may be replaced in a summer electoral initiative when, among an option of any precinct-certified candidates who meet all other qualifications for the office of an incumbent, an option to require the immediate replacement of an appointee by the appointer, where applicable, and an option to retain the status quo, one of the two former options receives an aggregate of fifty-one percent of votes cast for said office, among at least ninety-five percent of precincts subject to its oversight and authority. Nor shall the aforementioned appointer during the existing term remove the duly-elected replacement-appointee from office, unless for misconduct therein; though all public officials may be replaced in any electoral initiative when a vacating of their offices for any other reason shall have necessitated a special election.

(from Article I: Section 4)

Direct Democracy vs. Libertarianism: Reason vs. Logic

 A meeting of the minds between the opposing camps of any debate, political or otherwise, requires first, at the very least, an acceptance of common terms. A mutual understanding of standard rhetorical fallacies, for example, advances a debate by exacting from both parties a discipline in their argumentation, much as the rules of courtroom order constrain and focus the theories of counsel.

But in the world’s living languages even fundamental terms evolve in their meanings, more often in their nuances, in just a generation or two. Liberals, for example, are not what they once were: the American term now more closely describes a dogmatic advocate for greater governmental intervention than a free-thinking supporter of broader individual liberty.

Our poverty of language with respect to the fundamental facets of the intellect itself has also impeded our search for good political solutions and for common ground. A better understanding of this language deficiency will yield to us more meetings of the minds, allowing all sides to cast aside their respective political misconceptions by recognizing their own weaknesses.

Physics has long since accepted that one cannot grasp the reality of the universe without first incorporating the presence of the observer himself. We humans stand far removed from a full appreciation of our own perceptual shortcomings. But progress toward that end will advance our mastery of both the physical sciences and the science of politics.

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The more common set of descriptive characterizations of intellect — intelligent, smart, bright, and moral — or unintelligent, dumb or stupid, dull, and immoral — are each used almost interchangeably. But meaningful distinctions ought to be drawn between the constituent functions of intellect — some better suited to a discovery of real-world principles and appropriate political plans of action than others.

Intelligent vs. Unintelligent: (an efficient acquisition, retrieval and logical manipulation of relayed data)

A highly intelligent individual may test at the genius level in one narrow field of knowledge and yet be sub-normal in all others: the common term for such a person, often autistic, is savant. Rarely are such people productive members of society, as their specialized genius proves non-adaptive to the subjective and often illogical complexities of a human-dominated real world.

In the sordid affairs of mankind it isn’t sufficient to possess an encyclopedic knowledge in one field or another — or even in quite a few. The storage in human memory of what amounts to a knowledge of specialized trivia and even its retrieval and manipulation into logical configurations is a form of intellect best performed today by computers — devices equally divorced from any working grasp of human nature and human values, i.e. from human morality.

Some of our more sadistic serial killers were in fact highly intelligent: Extreme intelligence is an amoral quality, a trait that neither guarantees an individual’s adaptability nor precludes his evil action — or the evil acts of those relying upon his high intelligence. Any vision of a utopian society governed by the most intelligent among us would be a hopelessly incomplete and an amoral one.

Is higher intelligence preferable to lower intelligence? Of course it is. But just as in evolution bigger hasn’t always proven better and more specialized means less adaptive to a changing environment; so too, where intelligence comes to dominate the intellect — where information is thus gathered through relayed data, not through personal experience and social interaction — a social deficit, even a distinctly misanthropic disposition, is much more likely to result.

Smart vs. Dumb/Stupid: (a reasoned decision-making and a higher capacity to effectively predict and determine outcomes, informed by a real-world, experiential understanding of cause and effect)

For smart people an assessment of cause and effect in the real world informs their judgments for the proper courses of action — not relayed data assiduously committed to memory. Highly intelligent savants find even the simplest goal-oriented reasoning difficult. They cannot effectively process subjective perception, causal experience and stored memory into a ranking of probable outcomes of alternative plans.

For most of us, however, this is just our natural integrative reasoning, which generally takes place in fractions of seconds; and, intelligent or not — i.e. able to process relayed information or not — we are almost all able to learn from our own mistakes and thus make smarter decisions over time.

To be smart demands reason. Many animals are thus quite smart — but they are not intelligent, in the sense presented here. Chimpanzees and crows can problem-solve their way toward obstructed food by virtue of their advanced understanding of cause and effect — sometimes more advanced than many humans. But they still lack the resource of non-experiential, relayed knowledge — knowledge derived from the stores of others’ experiences, recorded or conveyed via a common medium.

Reasoning is a dynamic process of adaptation and may serve the individual well absent any relayed information at all. Yet smart individuals, even if highly intelligent, are not necessarily introspective. Like the best Labrador retrievers, they may find — or, in the case of humans, intelligently research — a novel way to get to their chosen goals. But they may never stop to question their underlying motivations and their values, or their larger roles in the world — let alone the underlying structure of the world itself. Higher human concepts of equality, justice, innocence and guilt — the cornerstones of morality — may still be but vague concepts or of no concern at all.

Thus logic, while an admittedly intelligent, often useful construction of and from an abstracted reality, is nevertheless based solely or primarily upon relayed data. Without adding the dynamism of reason as a real-world corrective guide, one would not be expected to adapt and survive in the real world by intelligence and its logic alone. Yet nor would one expect the smart individual, lacking all recourse to relayed data, to prevail against both a smart and an intelligent adversary.

Bright vs. Dull: (an understanding and integration of empathy, hierarchy and social reciprocity into both effective social organization and individual action)

To be bright is to be socially insightful — which is not necessarily to be socially successful. Bright people are aware of or at least interested in others’ feelings most of the time. But this may prove both a blessing or a hindrance, depending upon the values of their societies and the tenors of their times. Bright people are almost never willfully defiant,  unsociable or self-isolating.

Bright people avoid crass, selfish behavior by seeing themselves through others’ eyes, i.e., exercising empathy; they practice social reciprocity for its own pleasures, yet for its social benefits as well; and they respect the efficiencies and the justice inherent in merit-based, scarcity-driven hierarchies.

Of course, many people consider themselves very bright and are yet very far from it. There are highly intelligent, Harvard graduated, world travelling overachievers — whose smart decisions made them millions  —  and yet they are the very dullest of human beings, gracelessly droning on about themselves without any awareness of others’ true feelings about them — and without the loyalty or the affection of their subordinates or their families.

Brightness, as only the social aspect of our complex intellects, does not predict actual intelligence, per se, nor even smart decision making, let alone provide a ticket to wealth and social status. It is an innate understanding of what motivates people and how to subtly influence them — but one that becomes increasingly less welcome as the resolution of a given issue grows time-critical and therefore demands the immediate use of relayed data or of well reasoned decisions.

In such decisive situations brightness in fact may prove more a divisive element and a detraction from effective decision making than a crucial resource thereof. Bright people are not primarily interested in making decisions themselves, but only in influencing others’ decisions and solidifying or improving their positions among the decision makers.  They may, however, often excel both at analyzing the motivations and predicting the decisions of opposing decision makers and thus place themselves in a position to benefit their own supported leaders.

And in the course of everyday life bright people possess the social facility to manipulate and solidify relationships upon which most hierarchies and, by extension, most societies are determined. Without the aspect of brightness, including its finer qualities of charm and grace, “society” would be bereft of the very spirit of the term.

Moral vs. Immoral: (a judgment of innocence and guilt integrated into action)

One might object to categorizing moral sentiment as a facet of intellect. But moral judgment integrates all the facets of intellect into appropriate, effective action: One must be bright enough to universally recognize and to deeply value innocence for its own sake — i.e., not just one’s own — in turn distinguishing and condemning guilt. One must be smart enough to act effectively in defense of innocence and in the prevention of guilt. And in order to vindicate the former two facets of intellect one must be intelligent enough to benefit from the whole store of human learning.

[For a more detailed discussion of morality, see the site page, Of Morality.]

Bill Clinton is a highly intelligent, smart man, and very bright — but he is not a moral man. While he may enjoy all the facets of intellect necessary to be moral, his actions seem more often determined by something other than his intellect. Selfish base drives and ego needs are always in competition with the intellect. But moral human beings tame their individual needs and drives in order to focus more fully upon the dictates of morality itself.

Though a moral person adapts best to a changing environment, gifted in all facets of intellect, survival is by no means assured. In a predominantly immoral world such as ours, morality may require of the moral individual even a violent defense of the innocent, including, of course, of himself.

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The trouble at the heart of libertarianism is that voluntarism and non-aggression are purist ethical principles that fail to address the current negative realities of human nature. Their models may be entirely logical, using imaginary peaceable human beings in order to construct idealized ethical theories. But unbound by any realistic representations of humans existing in societies today, their proposals amount to escapist games of logic.

Without beginning with the world as it is, developing some systematic proposal for altering or at least containing the more violent aspects of human nature — aspects that would never be voluntarily suppressed by the offenders themselves —  whose violent tendencies first gave rise to the nation states — libertarianism will always remain a marginalized political ideology. It is intellectually lazy to contend that violence is largely the product of forceful state systems; and it is intellectually indefensible — stupid, in the terms presented here — to ignore the inevitable cause and effect of unilaterally forsaking the real protections of a state system in favor of a voluntary society. Ask the Tibetans about doing this.

Without introducing a transitional political system designed to shift human nature itself toward an all-voluntary, non-violent society, libertarians aren’t proposing anything at all. And in the real world, where dangerous people do exist, it is immoral to turn one’s back on this dangerous and intransigent, genetics-based reality — condemning our state system instead, which at least marginally protects the innocent from such destructive people. Finally, to argue for a system where protection of the innocent is left to private, voluntarily financed militaries is probably the stupidest, the dullest and frankly the most absurd — and therefore the most immoral — of its logical extrapolations.

[For a further explanation of the necessity of the state, see site post, The Nation-State: Law, Punishment and Immigration.]

Among the virtues of the direct democracy system presented here, its capacity to force accountability and self-reliance onto both communities and individuals distinguishes it from others: No transfer of debt to future generations is permitted. And those who necessitate government and its services are the ones who pay for its continuation. Thus prisoners, justifiably separated from the rest of society and thus at least temporarily kept out of the gene pool, are still required to work at least as many hours as do honest citizens with full-time jobs.

All convicted prisoners shall labor no less than eight hours per day, five days per week, unless two physicians certify that they are physically or mentally incapable of as much; and only in so laboring shall able prisoners earn the privileges of hot meals, visitations, educational and recreational opportunities and personal, non-toiletry possessions within cells.

(from Amendment VIII)

The design therefore is intended to direct human behavior — and where necessary human genetics — toward the development of a prevailing spirit of classical liberalism, while fostering respect for diversity as well, particularly with respect to those who don’t already share in that higher political spirit. For a realistic, workable model of a voluntary society must contemplate the probability that individuals, even within a libertarian community, may choose to reject the founding principles and yet remain citizens or at least residents. Such people must therefore either be forcibly prevailed upon, constrained or removed.

The system presented here seeks the least forceful, most foresighted, most realistic means by which to minimize that ever-present issue of ignorance and willful violation of individual sovereignty.  It forces individuals to choose the political rules by which they themselves must live, leaving others to do the same — all learning thereby — and imposes appropriate, corrective yet non-punitive costs upon those who continue to refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

But what makes this proposed direct democracy more moral than any voluntary, libertarian society — where coordinated state protections are to be forsaken in favor of voluntarily financed (i.e, unanimity based) competing private forces — and more moral than our present situation — is its smart, specific protections of the truly innocent, our own children: 

Amendment V – The intentional, knowing, reckless or criminally negligent infliction of death or grave physical or psychological injury—a disabling injury that is not susceptible to humane, restorative care or natural, restorative healing absent professional medical or mental health intervention—by an adult upon a minor, a postpartum human being younger than eighteen years of age, henceforth shall be a high crime: an offense so heinous and degenerate that, upon conviction and exhausted appeal of the convicted, the latter shall be confined by the state, apart from the public, until death.

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And the use of any illegal intoxicant by a custodial parent shall be, ipso facto, felony child neglect and cause the immediate loss of custody of all minor children upon arrest; whereupon custody shall be restored only upon exoneration, or completion of sentence and judicial consent.

(from Amendment XV)

The Immoral Income Tax and Direct Democracy

 When the income tax was enshrined within our Constitution in 1913, it had already been imposed decades earlier by statutory law. The 16th Amendment essentially granted our government the right to collect income tax whether the source was our labor or our capital and without apportioning its collection so as to reflect the unequal populations within the states.

Between its ratification in 1913 and 1918 the top income tax bracket jumped from 7% to 77%. It then swept lower in the years leading up to World War II; and in 1945 it peaked at 94%. Today it hovers at 35%.

Not surprisingly, the size and scope of government has also ballooned. How big we allow it to swell ought to depend upon many real-world variables: No abstract political ideology, however finely principled, could credibly predetermine that size. The right answer requires an integration of actual criteria — population, availability of natural resources, willingness of humans to share or trade for them, propensity for and capacity of others to expropriate them — birth rates, death rates, climate, etc.

Contrary to purist political ideologies humans are not now held back from an Earthly paradise by government itself. The rule among humans is discord; the exception, cooperation. Thus government remains a necessary evil — if also an enduring sign of human failure.

But how we fund our government certainly ought to reflect our ideals and our eventual goal. There are moral implications in play here: When the government taxes an activity or a product we are discouraged from it. Ought the government then tax work and efficient productivity? Might it not tax activities and products we would be better rid of?

Crime obviously costs society on many levels — prevention, enforcement, adjudication, incarceration, etc. Would it be so unreasonable then if prisoners were made to work, repaying society for those costs? Or when citizens file frivolous lawsuits or defraud federal programs, ought not these activities be discouraged through the imposition of a fee or a tax?

When for that matter foreign governments around the globe call upon our U.S. military to protect their national borders, ought not these countries pay for our American sacrifices? And when multinational or American companies pollute our lands and waters, shouldn’t we consistently and fully discourage this activity, imposing taxes or fees equaling the totality of our present and our future costs?

The theoretical machinery underlying this moral system of taxation is Pavlovian to be sure, but the actual output generated by it is of moral and material benefit. It highlights the potential instructive role of a limited government —  linking the funding of its services to those citizens who make the services necessary in the first place.

We all require government, for instance, for the securing of our safety, our private property, and our state and national territory; so we all should pay a tax or fee in support of the maintenance of the police and military forces who guarantee these things to us.

Finally, under a direct democracy in particular, this moral system of taxation requires that no one voting block may arbitrarily impose expenditures upon another — not solely among different segments of the public in a given year but, perhaps more importantly, between current voters and all future generations of voters.

Therefore, in order to optimize this moral system of taxation, this Constitution must specifically prohibit such transfers of debt:

Amendment X – No law enacted by electoral initiative or otherwise shall establish a debt, project or fiscal program where the financing thereof would obligate future citizens to the financial commitments of current voters. Appropriations shall be drawn from revenues collected within one year of their appropriation through floating debt and the collection of these fees and revenues only:

-Usage fees levied upon persons whose activities degrade or monopolize public property;
-Usage fees levied upon persons enjoying exclusive use of land, in proportion to its acreage and the volume, mass and scarcity of natural resources therein;
-Usage fees levied upon foreign governments for involvement of United States military personnel, equipment or weaponry in operations outside the territory of the United States, at the request of said governments, which would otherwise be the responsibility of any sovereign nation to itself;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities, whether intentional or negligent, damage public property;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons whose activities damage the private property of another person, or impede its exclusive use by barring lawful access to it, or operation of it; physically altering it or its value; or otherwise converting or making improbable its peaceable, lawful, exclusive enjoyment; thereby necessitating the intervention of law enforcement or courts of law;
-Misusage fees levied upon persons who assume unnecessary risks or file frivolous complaints that require emergency public services or courts of law;
-Sales of forfeited, seized property;
-Sales of goods processed or manufactured by state-confined workers; or revenues from the contracting-out of their services;
-Sales of government property to allies of the United States, upon a two-thirds majority vote among the Governors and a unanimous vote between the President and the Cabinet—or the Defense Cabinet, in the case of military property;
-Duties, imposts and excises;
-Safety-inspection and handling charges;
-Any fiscal-program income deduction annually re-authorized by electoral initiative.

All fees shall reflect the actual duration and costs of use or misuse, so that collections in anticipation of use may necessitate reimbursement.

No law enacted by precinct electoral initiative shall institute or increase an appropriation from revenues derived in part or in full from another precinct, unless with a fifty-one percent consenting vote within the latter precinct, or unless authorized by this Constitution; nor withhold or disburse revenues lawfully collected for and due to a city, county or state government, or the federal government.