Direct Democracy Is The Future Of Human Governance, Part 2


Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Read Part 1 here…

War is not a foregone conclusion or a national necessity. Each successive occupant of the White House only needs you to believe that in order to centralize the power of an increasingly imperial presidency, stifle dissent, and chip away at what remains of civil liberties.

– Danny Sjursen, retired US Army officer, The Pence Prophecy: VP Predicts Perpetual War at the West Point Graduation

Whenever I mention direct democracy, a certain segment of the population always comes back with a very negative knee-jerk reaction. Since this response tends to center around several concerns, today’s post will dig into them and explain how such pitfalls can be structurally addressed.

Minority Protection

The first thing that worries people is a fear there will be no protections for minority populations within such a system. Take the U.S. for example, where approximately 80% of the population lives in urban areas and only 20% in rural. If we moved to a system where direct popular vote played a meaningful role in deciding the majority of issues, rural populations would lose out every single time. It would end up being an oppressive system for people who live in less populated areas and would tear up the U.S. even faster than is happening now.

I definitely think this sort of thing is a problem, but people misunderstand what I mean when I discuss direct democracy. Fundamentally, I’m a firm believer that governance should be radically decentralized compared to what it is today. America is a great example of a good idea gone completely off the tracks.


While the founders envisioned a decentralized structure in which core politically entities known as states would decide most issues, we’re now stuck with a centralized imperial system in which virtually all major decisions are made in Washington D.C. by gangs of hopefully corrupt and compromised politicians. But it’s even worse than that. Power hasn’t merely been concentrated in D.C., but it’s also become increasing concentrated within the capital itself in the hands of a reckless imperial presidency.

For example, the separations of powers outlined in the Constitution when it comes to war has been all but obliterated. Congress is supposed to declare war, yet the U.S. military is involved in conflicts all over the planet, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger without any such declaration.

To illustrate how insane all of this is, read the following from a Vicearticle published last year:

The U.S. is officially fighting wars in seven countries, including Libya and Niger, according to an unclassified White House report sent to Congress this week and obtained by the New York Times.

Known officially as the “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” the document is part of a new requirement outlined in the 2018 defense spending billThe White House is already required to update Congress every six months on where the U.S. is using military force.

We’ve somehow gone from Congress must declare war, to the White House will update Congress every six months on how all the undeclared wars are going. This is madness.

The U.S. is currently drowning in an overly centralized and corrupt imperial government based in D.C. For direct democracy to truly function well, it should based in local governance. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the places currently using these tools most successfully, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, focus on localism.

There are many reasons I believe decentralized, local governance is a superior model . First, it’s an insane level of conceit to assume a country as geographically and culturally diverse as the U.S. should be in the business of making one-size fits all decisions for 325 million humans. While the urban/rural divide I mentioned earlier is one important factor, so are other cultural distinctions.

Though city-dwellers in Seattle and Houston may have urban living in common, cultural differences mean these two populations will often want to handle similar problems very differently. Even within states, you often have serious friction from county to county, and power within the states themselves likewise can be too centralized and dismissive of local concerns.

A perfect example can be seen in the state of Colorado where I live. Fracking, and oil and gas drilling in general, is a very contentious issue, and what often happens is cities will try to ban or regulate drilling in their communities only to be overruled by politicians in the state capital. Who should decide whether drilling happens, the people actually living near wells, or politicians in the statehouse?

As reported by Westword:

Under Colorado law, communities have virtually no authority to stop these facilities from popping up wherever a company can acquire land, obtain a state permit and decide to start drilling.

The situation has sown a sense of powerlessness — and frustration suffused an October city council meeting in Republican-leaning Loveland. That community of 76,000 recently woke up to letters informing residents of — not asking permission for — a project that will drill a dozen two-mile-long horizontal wells underneath many of their homes and schools.

An overflow crowd packed into council chambers to hear a presentation on the drilling proposal and share concerns. Most were residents of the neighborhoods under which the planned drilling would take place — retirees anxious about how it would affect their health, parents worried about their young children. As city employees briefed council members on the plans, however, it became clear just how little control Loveland would be able to assert over the situation.

As this past weekend’s EU elections demonstrated, humans everywhere are increasingly frustrated with the political status quo and feel utterly helpless in the face of corrupt and centralized bureaucracies. Similar to how many people in Loveland, Colorado feel alienated and disempowered when confronted with oil and gas interests and a state government that doesn’t care, billions of people across the planet are experiencing a similar level of disenfranchisement and revulsion with the political establishment. Increased local decision making combined with more citizen power via tools of direct democracy, as opposed to professional politicians, could be a key to improving outcomes, quality of life and a sense of self-government so sorely lacking in today’s world.

Civil Liberties

Another key thing to keep in mind when thinking about future political systems is civil liberties. One of the great gifts provided to the American people by the founding fathers is the Bill of the Rights of the Constitution. These civil liberties protections, which include freedom of speech and the press, are the highest law of the land. While they’re subject to interpretation by the courts, they cannot be legislated away by Congress or suspended by the president (at least in theory). In a future system more defined by direct democracy, similar protections should be institutionalized. A conscious and healthy political system should define up front certain basic civil liberties considered untouchable, while empowering the community to experiment widely beyond that.

Propaganda and Manipulation

The other pushback I get when mentioning the merits of direct democracy is how easy it is to fool and manipulate people. This is used as an argument against putting more power in the hands of average citizens, which is considered by some to be dangerous and irresponsible.

It’s undoubtably true that while the social media era has made it easier for humans across the world to directly communicate and collaborate, it has also made mass propaganda and psyops easier to perpetrate amongst a population. Nevertheless, this isn’t a good argument against the need for more direct democracy. Remember, the primary purpose of injecting more direct democracy into political systems isn’t to get rid of a separation of powers, but to disrupt the archaic and broken practice of representative democracy, i.e., the goal is to disempower professional politicians by giving more direct say to the public in matters that are currently handled by elected representatives.

In a representative democracy, propaganda and manipulation is probably an even more effective tool than it would be in a direct democracy. All you have to do is manipulate people every couple of years to vote for some sleazy, self-interested politician, and once the vote is over, special interests simply need to target that person and compromise them. In most cases, this is easily accomplished. In contrast, manipulation must be more regularly engaged under a direct democracy where citizens are more actively involved beyond just voting for some puppet every few years.

This also demonstrates another reason localism and direct democracy go hand in hand. When you centralize decision making for hundreds of millions of people in a nation-state capital, you make the job of special interests that much easier. Compromising a few hundred representatives is trivial compared to manipulating and compromising millions. Moreover, it becomes even harder to control when hundreds or even thousands of cities/regions/communities are making most decisions for themselves via direct democracy. In that sort of world, an oligarch or lobbyist who wishes to rig things in their favor must deal not just with myriad distinct largely autonomous political entities, but also with the empowered citizens residing in those areas. The more political entities an oligarch or corporation has to interact with, the harder and costlier it becomes to capture and control large swaths of society.

People will dismiss this idea and claim your average person is lazy and won’t really be involved in local politics, but I think we’d see far more involvement than we do currently since local decision-making is far easier to get a handle on and influence than the infinite levels of Orwellian bills constantly being passed by a national legislatures

In order to clearly demonstrate just how broken our political system in the U.S. is, here’s something Hunter S. Thompson wrote all the way back in 1972.

That’s the real issue this time,” he said. “Beating Nixon.  It’s hard to even guess how much damage those bastards will do if they get in for another four years.”

The argument was familiar, I had even made it myself, here and there, but I was beginning to sense something very depressing about it.  How many more of these goddamn elections are we going to have to write off as lame, but “regrettably necessary” holding actions?  And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?

Now with another one of these big bogus showdowns looming down on us, I can already pick up the stench of another bummer.  I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing this year is Beating Nixon.  But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960 – and as far as I can tell, we’ve gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.

—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Sound familiar? It’s the exact same argument shoved down our throats during the 2016 campaign in order to guilt people into voting for Hillary Clinton. Likewise, it’ll be the exact same argument used in 2020 to guilt people into voting for Joe Biden if Democratic Party donors somehow succeed in getting that clown nominated.

Fifty years and nothing’s changed when it comes to politics in this country. It’s no wonder things keep breaking down and getting worse for more and more people. Citizens have virtually no power or influence on public policy by design, and have been reduced to food on the table for oligarchs and other assorted special interests. This is a global problem, and it’s why the time has come to alter governance in order to provide the people with more direct power.

I want to conclude by making it clear that I don’t think I have “the answer” to anything. The only thing I am 100% certain of is human beings across the globe, whether they live in an in your face dictatorship or a representative democracy, have very little agency when it comes to the public policy that intimately affects their lives on a daily basis. All governments are more or less controlled by a very small group of powerful interests who use carefully selected politicians to do their bidding. In the more ostensibly free societies, we’ve centralized legislative power in a few hundred easily corruptible people, but it’s become clear this no longer works. Such a system merely serves to separate the voter from the professional politician as soon as an election is over.

I’m fairly certain representative democracy as we know it is on the way out, and the purpose of this series is to think out loud about what might come next, and how we can improve upon the better parts of the systems we already have. As things continue to fracture and break down more dramatically in the years ahead, I believe the idea of direct democracy will catch on like wildfire, and it’d benefit all of us to start thinking about what this means and how best to go about it.

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