PDF The Coming Age of Direct Democracy: Californias Recall and Beyond

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How do we convince them to turn back the development clock? We cannot which is why such ideologies seeking to dismantle the global economy versus changing the basis upon which it is organized and operates, i. Rather, in keeping with pragmatism, we need to question not if but how to deal with large-scale management of global resources in an egalitarian and sustainable manner. Second, bureaucracies are distinct from a government Max Weber, []. Consequently, it is important to understand that bureaucratic administrative structures, e.

However, this type of governance must not be confused with a state government per say. Rather this is the professional technocratic staff that will facilitate public decisions. It is a form of stateless governance. This raises the old question of power relative to permanent professional bureaucracies. Specifically, it is often the case that the expert staff will use their knowledge to wield power, e. This is especially the case with volunteer or temporary legislators who may lack the expertise and or the institutional history of the structures that they are overseeing.

This however is a problem related to organizational structures in general regardless of ideology. Max Weber had identified this fact when referring to the "iron cage" []. Specifically, he realized that large-scale operations are inevitable in modern "rationally" oriented societies necessitating a bureaucracy resulting in the aforementioned problems with the staff - a conclusion that was said to contribute to his chronic depression. One may argue bureaucracies would not be required in small-scale autonomous communities which is true.

But, as stated, the return to small-scale local societies is not pragmatic. In general, local governments can practice direct democracy as demonstrated by the Juntas de Buen Gobierno Councils of Good Government set-up by the Zapatistas in mexico.


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In order to protect against corruption the Juntas de Buen Gobierno rotate service on the council with each citizen within the jurisdiction required to serve for two weeks, after which a new council is organized. How could millions meet in a single space to discuss legislation? Even if this were possible in physical or internet space, there would be a cacophony of voices.

Technically, this was the justification behind representative democracy. Libertarian socialists who accept the need for larger-scale societal organization concede to this point which is why they derive systems where representatives are selected to join assemblies at higher levels with various safeguards such as instant recall.

But this raises once more the issue of how representative the selected individuals would be if based on some form of election or appointment.

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For example, how would such selection avoid the problems with existing democratic systems which devolve into "personality" contests - think of Ronald Reagan. In fact, the whole point of direct democracy is that it is as representative of the peoples' will as possible, which does not result from "likability" selection criteria. Representative democracy based on theoretically unbiased elections also attempts to reflect the will of the people as closely as possible. But, if the purpose of a democratic system is to reflect as closely as possible the overall will of the entire demos we are really talking about a system of representativeness as used in statistical terms.

This has prompted various theorists to propose systems of random selection of decision makers Burnheim, ; Carson and Martin, Statistically, a representative sample will reflect the entire population from which it came from. This is a fact that many scholars who are not mathematically inclined seem not to comprehend or accept assuming the statistical process is monitored and certified as fair and scientific - which is not the focus of this paper. Such a representative sample cannot be generated from voting even though in the popular usage of the word the elected officials are considered to be representative of the electorate.

For example, who represents those that did not register to vote, or those who did but did not actually vote? Furthermore, who represents the mentally ill, prisoners, hospitalized, disenfranchised, and the list goes on and on. For example, political scientists have found that the typical consistent voter in the United States is older, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, well educated, and materially better off, hardly a reflection of the nation.

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On the other hand, a statistically representative sample does represent the entire population. However, statistically representative samples are not generated through elections but by random selection, meaning anyone in the population has the same chance of being picked. Therefore, if all citizens are equals and the goal is to have everyone represented then random selection is as good as it gets.

If democracy is understood as the will of the people then it also follows that a representative sample is as democratic as it gets short of ideal type direct democracy.

Representatives selected this way will be as reflective of the demos as scientifically possible and absolutely far more so than those generated by elections under any existing system. Furthermore, I propose the demos or the qualifying pool of citizens from which selection is to take place should be defined as all residents over the age of sexual consent. No other qualifying limitations should be considered other than a basic competence test in cases where mental disabilities, etc.

This gives a voice to just about all regardless of legal status, including the incarcerated, people with addictions, all professional groups including manual labor, all sexual orientations and identities, all religious, political and other ideological beliefs, all races, ethnic and linguistic groups, people of all educational levels, ages, subcultures and countercultures.

What about the argument that representatives must be "qualified", e. For example, one journal reviewer commented on this work: "leaving everything to individuals' mere voting on issues assumes that individuals already know everything.

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Where is the role for education, and who organizes that education? It is both logical and tantalizing to agree with this argument. Unfortunately it is a fallacy. If we are all equal in a democracy we are all equal to vote and represent. Establishing qualifications represents de facto disfranchisement. Poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests are also known as the past Jim Crow laws of the racist South. Also, who designs these tests?

The Coming Age of Direct Democracy

Who determines what the qualifications should be? Nobel birth? A high school diploma? A Bachelor's degree? Logically, the Ph. What about the poor that are systemically denied a quality education, should they also be denied voting or representative rights by the system that denied them the tools to participate? That would be a tautology. Those that insist on qualifications fundamentally have no faith in or desire for democracy. In this case the only logical egalitarian alternative system would be the one Plato outlined in the Republic.

Nevertheless, education is the foundation for a democracy, a fact ironically recognized by the founding fathers. This is why the highest quality free education based on critical pedagogy as developed by Freire , McLaren , and others is imperative to break the chains of backwardness and oppression, again a topic in of itself that I have addressed in my book publications given limitations of space here.

Through education people will be better equipped to identify their true interests, act upon them effectively, and resist propaganda.


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Hopefully, it will also permit people to identify and acknowledge injustices, e. This is also the ideological reason the elite gut critical education at all levels for the masses in order to control them with a semblance of legitimacy in a system that is democratic in name only Chomsky, ; Giroux, Another comment I received from a reviewer was: "If I am chosen at random to make decisions for society as a whole, I am beholden to no one; this is a complete capitulation to arbitrariness and caprice, and would induce widespread cynicism.

The whole point concerning the principled process of 'selection' of representatives is to sharpen criteria for evaluation of potential representatives' capacities to carry out broad mandates from the wider public, and to perfect procedures for control and checkup regarding their performance".

First, the commentator misses the entire point that a randomly selected representative should vote based on their own views because these represent the views of many as is the whole point of random selection. The second part of that comment brings us back to the problem of many on the Left who also think in hierarchical terms where they self-appoint themselves as the leaders of the un-educated masses. Given the above, three levels of governance should be sufficient and efficient.

There would be no executive branch at any level. The people are the executive, thus, direct democracy. Should there be an executive then the door opens up once more to bribery, bias, and all kinds of undesirable influence regardless of how the executive is selected. But, direct democracy can function with randomly selected lawmakers combined with direct voting on major negotiated legislative options via the internet. Legislatures at the state or regional and federal levels would be randomly selected by lottery from the pool of residents to serve a once in a life-time three year term.

Terms will be staggered, scheduling terms of office so that all members of a body are not selected at the same time to avoid a pool overly influenced by strong passing sentiments. No one can serve simultaneously on more than one legislature or court nor on both a court and legislature. As for the legal branch at the state and federal levels, it is disingenuous to expect nine or any other small number of appointed individuals to be the Solomons of society. Who appoints a judge can determine how cases will be voted on.

The Coming Age of Direct Democracy

In addition, a judge will always have personal biases even though he or she may think they are objective. How, then, should a Supreme Court be structured assuming one should even exist. First, people cannot be trusted to always respect the fundamental principles of a democratic process. This is due to human nature that at times can be overcome by passions at the expense of reason. In fact, psychologists have confirmed that emotions typically trump logic. Nor does the average person have the legal proficiency to understand many complex or technical legal issues.

Therefore legally trained professionals are as needed as architects, educators, and doctors for a democratic society.

Second, given the need of a legal system, a Supreme Court should be structured as the legislature. Judges would be randomly selected from a qualified pool for a one in a life-time three year term of service. At the local level, e.


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  • Local courts will be established filled by lottery from the state's pool of legally trained professionals. Each case will be presided by nine judges and a ten person jury. Cases will be decided by a simple majority vote of both bodies combined. At the next level of state or province there is a unicameral legislature meaning only one House.