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How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?

Gypsy & Willy

No. 416

A Constitution

February 7, 2005

This is the third in our series of essays on a revolution based upon extended democracy. In the first, Revolution, we discussed why a revolution is necessary. The second defined what we mean by extended democracy, Direct Democracy. Today, we will begin to talk about what steps will be necessary to implement such a plan. We will dispense with the details until somewhat later, dealing first with the Big Issues.

The biggest issue in a new political philosophy is a constitution. Without one, the movement lacks coherence and stability. Of course, such an important document can not be constructed by a couple of essayists, but we would like to put forward some ideas which we feel would be important to include.

First of all, the Constitution of the United States contained some very good ideas, not least of which is the balance of powers between the three main branches. In addition, it thoroughly advanced the notion of individual rights, stating that these rights are inherent in humankind and can neither be granted by nor restricted by a rational government. Most of these ideas about individual freedom are contained in the so-called Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to that document.

We would include most of these formulations, but add what we think are important qualifications. Freedom of speech would definitely be included, with the additional caveat that known (by the liar) lies of commission, especially those uttered by "public" figures...in this case those holding office or other peoples' proxy votes...are not protected and should, at the very least, result in the author's being forbidden from ever again holding office or voting proxies. Lies of omission serve other purposes, often to actually prevent harm, so they would not be restricted.

We would definitely retain freedom of the press, but would add radio, cinema, television and the Internet to its list of free media. As well as freedom from and freedom of religion, we would add freedom from and freedom of free enterprise. That is, government would be severely restricted from interfering with free enterprise, but enterprise would likewise be forbidden from interfering with government. This would correct one of the most corrupting influences in U.S. (and world) politics, the fiction that a corporation is a "person" and is thus free to make "political" speech...namely contributions to political campaigns.

One of the major a priori criticisms of direct democracy is that it would be very unstable. Were an issue decided by just a hair over 50% of the votes, it could quickly become reversed by the switch of only a tiny handful of votes. For a really contentious issue, this could happen again and again in a direct democracy, causing large "oscillations" in the legal system. Thus, we would recommend that "super" majority be required...more than 50%...to either ratify the constitution or to make any subsequent laws. Our personal preference would be for "Milgram's number"...about 5/6ths or 83.33%...but this is probably a Utopian wish. A famous social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, identified this as the threshold beyond which issues are no longer arguable, but become "fact." Two thirds or three quarters, the currently required super majorities to ratify certain legislative acts are probably much more realistic.

No matter what number is agreed upon, it would introduce stability into the system, since...for example...a two thirds majority would require fully half the voters to change their minds on an issue to reverse it. More importantly, having such a high cutoff for the passage of legislation would put a big damper on one of the other most corrupting features of representative democracy. That is, the tendency for the representatives to pass endless reams of inscrutable legislation to reward the special interest benefactors without whose support they could not have been elected. Not only are endless numbers of laws passed, but almost none of them are ever repealed. So, we would also suggest a "sunset clause" for all legislation. That is, after a fixed period of time...perhaps once per decade per law...all laws would be subject to automatic repeal. They could, of course, be re-enacted, but again, only by a super majority. Only constitutional clauses would not be subject to this or would have a much longer lifespan, perhaps measured in centuries.

We haven't begun to discuss how the executive and judicial branches might work. For now, we only suggest that all major positions of power be elected and that the elections always be conducted as multiple choice...first choice, second choice, etc....so that a simple majority for some candidate is always guaranteed in every election, no matter how many political parties or separate issue based candidacies are involved. Note that we are not suggesting super majorities be required for these offices. Unlike the legislative branch, which really doesn't have to pass any laws that even a moderate sized minority might not want, members of the executive and judicial branches have to be in place and working at all times.

There are many other elements to a well written constitution. We hope we have begun to stimulate the imaginations of our readers, who will then become participants in the process. After all, what we are proposing is a radical idea, a world revolution based upon reason not war. For it to succeed, most of you reading this, plus countless others, will have to join up.

Talk to you later...

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To contact Willy or Gypsy and comment on what they have written...or anything else...write to willy@dreamagic.com or gypsy@dreamagic.com.

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