Tag Archives: constitutional reform

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All other departments, agencies, offices and courts of law not superseded or abrogated by this Constitution shall retain the same allotted percentage of public revenues, powers of regulation, oversight and enforcement, and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.

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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 or neighbors 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 the expression of an equal self-sovereignty. Yet our own marginally free markets lead us only further from that graceful state of natural, non-materialistic equality.

Our system 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 further insulating us interpersonally from the immediate needs of our 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, i.e. the big corporations, 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 have already been 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 thus 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 — therefore 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 example, for the sake of foreign citizens, to assassinate the President, this would be immoral. To blindly forsake those in one’s immediate proximity for the sake of aiding unseen strangers would amount to 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 use of force — this would clearly only deepen 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 justify 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.

Nor does our fighting spirit exempt the citizens of these foreign states from a defense of their own lives and of the lives of their own children. The firm resolve of some Americans to commit us all to war, in order to spare any foreign citizens from fighting their own governments or from killing one another — where such a commitment so often means sending someone else to risk and sacrifice his life, rather than going there oneself — represents a particularly immoral impulse. 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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In as much as 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 self defense — not by an individual nor by a nation state. Only an earnest, tenable, impending threat against self-sovereignty itself or against national sovereignty — against the freedom to exist peacefully and to use any property as freely as any other, under the laws or customs of a prospectively shared community — only this threat to peaceful coexistence 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. Conversely, the valuations of some are largely socially comparative, such that the value of anything is contingent upon its value to a certain select group — therefore the more of such a thing the better.

Well, if an immoral act is one that, were everyone to engage in it, the world would be left a worse place — an act that at least indirectly harms the innocent — how would the accumulation of wealth — above and beyond a satisfaction of the necessities of life — rank in terms of its morality? 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 own 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 past.

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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)

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.

The Insanity Defense: A Parody of Justice

 James Holmes, 24, the orange-haired, accused mass killer, has today been charged with two separate counts of first-degree murder for each of the twelve June 20 deaths inside the Aurora movie theater. The first charge alleges his intention to cause harm; the second, his acting with extreme indifference to human life.

Court video of the accused reveals a man clearly struggling to maintain focus upon the ongoing proceeding; though the cause and even the authenticity of his disorientation is yet unknown. Whether his courtroom behavior reflects a pre-trial strategy orchestrated by him and his defense counsel or a genuine manifestation of a mental disorder, odds are good that a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity will be forthcoming.

Need it be said, however, that mental illness is real? And whether suffering from a psychotic episode or from permanent schizophrenia, the severely afflicted experience a partial break from reality. This fact may seem contestable: They navigate among us, still able to perceive both the objects and the people around them, at least superficially communicating and relating.

But beneath the surface, false internal stimuli are blocking them from an ongoing emotional tracking of, or a personalized integration with, the complex yet mundane, subjective world that forms the basis for our daily associations.

We ought not condemn their actions, therefore, as entirely or even predominantly willful, even under tragic circumstances like the Aurora shooting spree.

Our compassion, however, must not extend so far that we release those judged mentally ill, thus not guilty of their crimes, back into the community within a shorter time frame than would be a competent defendant convicted of a similar offense. The protection of the general public is the primary justification for the continued existence of government itself.

Severe mental illness has many treatments but few to none have cures. And our bodies become habituated to even the most powerful medications when taken over longer periods of time; so that even strong anti-psychotic medications likely will lose their full effectiveness. Mental patients, too, once discharged often decide to take themselves off of their prescribed medications.

For the sake of ensuring public safety, then, it would be irresponsible for the government not to confine the offending mentally ill to institutions, either until cures for their disorders are developed; until their conditions naturally remit, or — at a bare minimum — until such time as a competent criminal defendant might himself have been released.

From the presented direct democracy Constitution:

Amendment VI – In all criminal suits the accused shall have the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation upon arrest; to have assigned to the case, upon incarceration, an impartial clerk of the court, at public expense, who shall verify the legitimacy of probable cause by examination of reports and other evidence and a direct, recorded interview of the accused; to attend an information hearing, where said clerk and the accused shall be queried by a judge other than the trial judge, who shall review the evidence and determine which charges, if any, to file; or in the case of an infamous crime, whether to impanel a grand jury and with which indictments pending; to be arraigned before the same court and afforded a plea offer; and, absent a guilty plea, to be informed of the witnesses to and evidence of guilt and afforded a second plea offer; and to be provided sufficient time prior to trial to obtain witnesses and evidence of innocence by compulsory process, with the aid of a publicly funded clerk of the law, while confined or on bail, and at the discretion of the trial judge as to admissibility—to whom any other citizen with probative evidence may submit a request for permission to volunteer the same at trial, after full discovery.

The accused shall enjoy the option of a speedy and public trial, in which the accused alone shall present a defense before an impartial jury of the state and the district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.

At any time the accused may waive the right to a trial by jury; or the presiding judge may issue a ruling, upon examination of the accused and with the assent of two mental health physicians, that the accused is incapable of presenting a coherent, effective defense; whereupon the judge may appoint the same clerk of the law to act as a surrogate defendant, enjoying all the rights and privileges of the accused in the presentation of a defense; or may commit the accused to a mental health facility for treatment in preparation for trial.

An examination of prospective jurors and selection of fourteen shall be made by the presiding judge, subject to challenges for cause by the defendant, from among adult citizens whose self-sovereignty never shall have been revoked; and who shall be compensated per hour an amount no less than, but not more than twice, the federal minimum wage, to be determined by the Governors of the states, respectively. The accused shall then dismiss any two of the fourteen jurors by peremptory challenge.

The right to a neutral audience from the jury shall attend the accused; and at the opening of trial the jurors shall be informed of this right and of the nature and cause of the accusation against the defendant; who shall take the witness stand to respond under oath to any germane questions of the presiding judge and the jurors.

The defendant, or the surrogate defendant, shall then call and question witnesses and present evidence, equally subject to the direct examination of the trial judge and the jury, and to the rulings and directives of the former, who shall guide the proceeding in a manner conducive to a full, reasoned and swift finding of fact and law.

Upon the ruling of the court that the defense has exhausted all relevant, material evidence, the judge shall call to the stand for the same full, direct examination any public officer materially engaged in the investigation, arrest or interview of the accused, including the clerk of the court, ending the process similarly with the aforementioned voluntary witnesses and their evidence.

Except in the case of confession the jury shall retire to decide only a general verdict of “not guilty” or “guilty” of the charged, criminal action: All special qualifications and classifications arising from intent or bearing upon sentencing shall be a finding of the presiding judge; who shall follow statutory guidelines in identifying the class and degree of a crime and imposing the designated sentence where applicable; or else exercise the reasonable discretion afforded by law. But no defendant ruled incompetent to present a defense, or having pled insanity as a defense, then found guilty of the criminal action by an impartial jury after a competent defense, shall serve less time in state confinement than could a competent defendant convicted of an equivalent offense.

The inability of more than two jurors among at least nine remaining to assent to the majority verdict after twenty hours of deliberation shall result in a mistrial and a retrial at the earliest, reasonable date. And when, in the judgment of the jury, a material finding of the judge or the sentence imposed is in error or unreasonable, the jury by a unanimous vote may effect the filing of a notice of appeal of the decision, in the name of the defendant.

Healthcare Reform: Reason and Direct Democracy

 The strong and inelastic demand for healthcare in America — our demand for the very latest technological advances in diagnosis and treatment — sends soaring skyward the prices we pay for medical testing and procedures, far above the reach of the average American. Hospitals, to be competitive with one another,  attract the better doctors using generous fee-based pay schemes, whereby doctors, who are always vulnerable to malpractice suits anyway, are financially incentivized to perform services that might not be effective or even necessary.

Hospitals must also recover the costs of multi-million dollar medical equipment that attracts both the finest physicians and the privately insured. So even when existing medical equipment is working well, an innovation in technology imposes pressures upon hospital administrators to update their equipment in order to retain market competitiveness.

But there are other causes for this pricing predicament: Doctrinaire free market advocates would ascribe it to our government’s market interference — its limiting of nationwide insurance competition, its mandating that illegals and the indigent receive treatment, and its insufficient reimbursement models for Medicare and Medicaid.

Doctrinaire liberals, on the other hand, would bewail the corporate, profit-driven denial to Americans of our right to healthcare treatment, carried out through lobbyist influence and the consequent legislative blocking of a universal single-payer system.

But the healthcare issue is far more complex than this.

What if, for example, we Americans had no fear to face either the social stigma of disease or the blank unknown of death? What if we dutifully treated our common illnesses and injuries but accepted the onset of a fatal disease or the infliction of a mortal wound with a selfless dignity rather than with a mortal desperation? And if we refused all expensive, life-extending measures?

The consequent fall in the demand for emergency medical care might be well reflected in lower prices paid by all. So ought we struggle to forestall and overturn the verdict of Nature, even at great cost to family or to society? Is that a civil right?

The human genome is surely devolving in consequence, as diseases that might have killed yesterday’s adults are instead cured by modern medicine. The underlying pathogenic genes responsible for the disease are still passed to the next generation — whereas such genes in past generations would have brought about their own demise. Who knows how this concentration of pathogenic genes will affect future generations?

But is an enlightened attitude toward life, disease and death required in a country whose medical field advances so quickly? It seems quite likely that another century will not pass before genetic therapies have overtaken the spread of disease in humanity. Perhaps then we can “back-engineer” our own human evolution.

For now, unfortunately, we find ourselves caught in a very expensive transition to that medical paradise — that future when perhaps medical costs will have become negligible for everyone — of no import whether universally covered or privately paid.

So, assuming that an enlightened life perspective is out of the question, how do we get there from here? The advancement of medical research and technology must not be slowed; yet the costs of care today ought to be curtailed — or else this, our pricey purgatory, will prevail longer than necessary.

If free market advocates had their way, their resulting open market would not ameliorate the increasingly expensive medical-technology and doctors-fee competition between hospitals: People are so desperate to prolong life, even a few weeks or another month, that the demand for healthcare would remain inelastically high at any price.

And if the liberals prevailed — laying aside the absurdity of one person having a “right” to be treated medically by another human being — at a price point — then presumably a bureaucrat, or a body of bureaucrats, would be officially charged with administering a new universal system. Faced with finite financial resources, they would either make distinctions between those who merit treatment and those who do not; or they would ration resources across all patient care, making little distinction between a patient injured or ill through no fault of his own and one whose actions directly caused his condition, e.g. a chain smoker or a bungee jumper. But such official injudiciousness and arbitrary magnanimity by the state more injuriously debases morality and delegitimizes government than the free market in its fullest operation.

The solution then?

Because demand is inelastic, prices must be kept artificially down. The free market functions for all consumers only when both supply and demand are elastic in relation to price. But to individually set the price of every medical procedure and of all medical equipment would require endless bureaucracy and thus invite unlimited favoritism and red tape.

The real answer requires a broader principle than this.

From libertarians we find an objection to state licensing of professionals because, they argue, such government intervention places artificial limits upon the number of doctors and medical professionals in the field and upon the nature and the number of medical devices and treatments available to all.

But rather than dropping state licensing requirements altogether, why not make explicit the link between state licensing and state price controls?

In other words, if medical professionals and medical suppliers wish to receive the imprimatur of the state and whatever legitimacy accompanies such certification, the value exchanged for this bona fides would include a limitation upon the fees charged by professionals for their services and a limitation upon suppliers for the prices charged to consumers for their products:

No person to whom any of the several states or the United States has granted a license to render a service, or to own or operate a device intended to provide such a service, or to provide a good shall retain the same upon exacting a rate, a fee or a price that exceeds twenty times the federal minimum wage; two times both the actual costs of operation of the device and the resulting marginal dimunition of its functioning life, as applied to its replacement cost; or two times the cost to replace the good, respectively.

(from Amendment XIII)

Under this system the state licensing of professionals might well fall into relative disuse, likely concurrent with an explosion of unlicensed or privately licensed practitioners. The more the merrier, as this greater number of providers would better meet the constant high consumer demand, in this case for medical care, thus lowering the price for the average healthcare consumer. Yet those who retained their state licensing and abided by the fee and price limitations, no doubt true humanitarians, would exercise a secondary price-competition pressure upon unlicensed providers, keeping prices lower across the industry.

And any medical professionals and medical suppliers opting to operate outside of state licensing could still charge private patients, insured or cash payers, whatever the market dictated. Private hospitals could operate with only private licensing, or none at all, perhaps charging for the highest quality care and for the latest technology the fees that only the most affluent could afford. Even so, the technology competition between separate private facilities would fuel medical research and technology advancement and thus extend the progress of medical science for all.

That this state licensing in a direct democracy constitutional amendment was extended to all industries reflects an attempt to avoid legislatively targeting a single industry, avoiding a de facto bill of attainder. As for those citizens who, even with price controls linked directly to state licensing, still could not afford healthcare, they might either rely upon private charities — adopt an enlightened attitude toward life and death — or limit their health risks and unnecessary expenditures, perhaps even their number of children.

Thus, for the greatest number of people we preserve the usefulness of the state and the better elements of the free market system, limiting the ability of state licensed professionals to benefit from state power in exacting from their customers prices that do not reflect their actual costs — the costs that would prevail given full competition among the largest number of suppliers.

And thus we, the People, find ourselves the beneficiaries of more affordable products and services for the foreseeable — and well into the rapidly advancing- future.