|Make it a great day|
August 15, 1999
Ted J. Albrecht
MAKE IT A GREAT DAY
7097 Montrose Road
Woodbury, MN 55125
(651) 735-4356 Ph/Fax
Table of Contents
"Keep Pace With The Times"
(Remainder being researched and yet to be written)
One of the major objectives of the Founding Fathers was to ensure that all citizens would have an equal opportunity to 'Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness'. That those who held different believes/views than the majority or were economically disadvantaged, would not be relegated to a lower class of citizenship. So the Founding Fathers established the 'Bill of Rights', which guarantees all citizens certain inalienable rights, that regardless of the type of government that would be set up or evolve to, could not be impinged upon.
By the use of advanced technologies, we now have the opportunity to expand the level of governance participation to all citizens. I call it "Consensus Governance" which differs significantly from our current Republic approach. But, it is not democratic Majority rule either. The differences will be highlighted as we proceed through the scenario.
The need to transition to a more citizen participative form of government is well stated by Alvin and Hiedi Toffler in their book "Creating a New Civilization", with forward by Newt Gingrich, excerpted as follows:
Page 98 -“Years ago we had the pleasure of keynoting an historic event - the world’s first “electronic town hall” - over the Qube cable TV system in Columbus, Ohio. Using this interactive communications system, residents of a small Columbus suburb actually took part via electronics in a political meeting of their local planning commission. By pushing a button in their living rooms, they were able to vote instantly on proposals relating to such practical issues as local zoning, housing codes and proposed highway construction. They were able not only to vote yes or no, but to participate in the discussion and speak up on the air. They were even able by push button to tell the chairperson when to move on to the next point on the agenda.
This was only a first, most primitive indication of tomorrow’s potential for direct democracy. Using today’s far more advanced computers, satellites, telephones, cable, polling techniques and other tools, not to mention the Internet and other communications networks, an educated citizenry can for the first time in history begin making many of its own political decisions.
This is not an either/or issue. It is not a question of “electronic town halls” in the crude form referred to by Ross Perot. Far more sensitive and sophisticated democratic processes are possible. And it is certainly not a question of direct democracy versus indirect, representation by self versus representation by others.
Many imaginative arrangements can be invented to combine direct and indirect democracy. Right now members of Congress and most other parliaments or legislatures set up their own committees. There is no way for citizens to force lawmakers to create a committee to deal with some neglected or highly controversial issue. But why couldn’t voters be empowered directly through petition to control a legislative body to set up committees on topics the public - not the lawmakers - deems important.
We hammer away at such “blue sky” proposals not because we unhesitatingly favor them but merely to underscore the more general point: there are powerful ways to open and democratize a system that is now near breakdown and in which few, if any, feel adequately represented. But we must begin thinking outside the worn grooves of the past three hundred years. We can no longer solve our problems with the ideologies, the models, or the leftover structures of the Second Wave past.
Fraught with uncertain implications, such novel proposals warrant careful local experimentation before we apply them on a broad scale. But however we may feel about this or that suggestion, the old objections to direct democracy are growing weaker at precisely the time that the objections to representative democracy are growing stronger. Dangerous or even bizarre as it may seem to some, semidirect democracy is a moderate principle that can help us design workable new institutions for the future.”
Page 103- “As industrial society developed, becoming ever more complex, its integrating elite’s, the “technicians of power,” were in their turn continually compelled to recruit new blood to help them carry the expanding decision load. It was this invisible but inexorable process that drew the middle class more and more into the political arena. It was this expanded need for decision-making that led to an ever wider franchise and created more niches to be filled from below.
If this picture is even roughly correct, it tells us that the extent of democracy depends less on culture, less on Marxist class, less on battlefield courage, less on rhetoric, less on political will, than on the decision load of any society. A heavy load will ultimately have to be shared through wider democratic participation. So democracy becomes not a matter of choice but of evolutionary necessity. The system cannot run without it.
What all this further suggests is that we may well be on the edge of another great democratic leap forward. For the very implosion of decision-making now overwhelming our presidents, prime ministers and governments unlocks – for the first time since the industrial revolution – exciting prospects for a radical expansion of political participation.”
For those who feel the Constitution was cast in concrete, I suggest the following which Thomas Jefferson stated in the Federalist Papers in 1816:
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the Ark of Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it and labored with it. It deserved well of its country ... laws and institutions must go hand in hand, with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."
The Founding Fathers of the Colonies of America, had before them the following mandate as they deliberated on the forming of the United States of America Constitution:
That their government would be-
OF THE PEOPLE
BY THE PEOPLE &
FOR THE PEOPLE.
There were three major constraints (time, communications & education) that necessitated them to select a representative form of government rather than a democracy. The vast majority of people had to spend most of their time to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families. So there was little time available to debate the many issues that needed to be addressed. The ability to inform everyone of the issues, covering all aspects, was limited to the horse, which was the only means of transportation/communication at that time. And finally there were very few formally educated people who could read, write and fully understand all the complexities of the many issues.
So the Founding Fathers devised the following three branches of government with checks and balances that would best serve the will of the people:
House of Representatives
Proposes, debates and passes laws.
Signs or vetoes passed legislation. Implements and administers enacted legislation.
Courts and Judges ( criminal & civil)
Ensures constitutionality of passed legislation and is the court of last resort for appealed lower court decisions. Determines innocence or guilt in criminal and civil cases. Enforce laws, apprehend accused, gather and present evidence and punish the guilty.
There is no argument that the United States Constitution has met the Founding Fathers intents. But the constraints of time, communications and education which necessitated a republic (representative) forum of government is no longer the situation. And as the Toefler's point out, we are ready to broaden the level of citizens participation in government. A combination of frustrations with our current system: regulations; unresponsiveness; special interests influence; IRS encroachments; court decisions; etc. and the advance of technology has caused many to look at examining significant changes to the United States Constitution.
Couple all this with Thomas Jefferson's urging "to keep pace with the times", I would like to offer my thoughts on what I call 'Consensus Governance' outlined as follows:
First--In GENERAL, for all elected officials:
a) Full disclosure of all campaign contributions, NO exceptions.
b) Term limits.
c) Dismissal referendum.
Next-- Continue with the current three branches of government, but modified as follows:
Public Delphi forum on issues.
Public sets Congressional agenda.
Congress forced to vote on issues decided by referendum.
Gradually replace the House of Representatives with
National primary for President and Vice President.
Telecast Cabinet meetings (except security issues).
Telecast agency policy meetings.
Personal electronic surveillance/incarceration/disabler.
Electronic parking/toll/park fee collector.
Automobile black box (traffic sign compliance & accident
Finally -- Establish a national committee of respected business leaders, scholars, religious leaders and politicians to set up a public dialogue forum and lobby for a Constitutional Congress meeting in order to update the United States Constitution.
I am quite confident that history will acknowledge that Newt Gingrich's 'Campaign With America' was the seminal event of the nineties. Our current economic well being is directly tied to the reductions in capital gains taxes that were passed by the '94 congress. Just look at the Dow Jones averages or the Standards and Poors average and it is obvious that our more effective use of capital has fueled the change to the WWW economy. Where the productivity growth of automating 'busy' work has offset the shrinking labor supply, which otherwise would have ignited the inflation flame.
Coupling this with the cap on the length one can be on welfare, along with more state responsibilities, that was also passed by the '94 congress, we have witnessed the first reductions in welfare roles in 40 years. Thus reducing demand on government spending and enabling the surpluses at the federal and state levels.
So Newt's legacy is more than significant, it is phenomenal. His economic vision was right on, just as his vision of change regarding politics. For if he could have succeeded in passing campaign funding changes and term limits, he could have dramatically improved politics. It is these two issues that are restricting innovation in the public sector, which includes government, education and public safety.
Newt was determined to accomplish this, but the collective self interest of career politicians, more interested in becoming millionaires than serving the public, prevailed and Newt was forced out of office. It is too bad that Newt's inability to control his zipper will tarnish his intellectual/political contributions. Hopefully term limits will reduce politicians lecherous scandals.
So it is obvious that politicians can not be relied upon to reform the process, campaign funding and term limits, which enables them to feed at the public trough. My view regarding these two issues are as follows:
CAMPAIGN FUNDING: Many proposals have been bantered about, most containing just enough ambiguity to allow incumbents to interrupt the meaning to continue their stay in office. Thus fueling the growth and influence of special interest groups, lobbies, which is now referred to as the fourth branch of government.
As usual, the simplest approach is almost always the best approach. I join Steve Forbes and others in endorsing unlimited contributions, by any individual, group or enterprise (public or private). The only requirement is immediate (WWW) full disclosure of the amount and who made the contribution. ANY falsification would be grounds for immediate removal from office and if it was intentional, they would be barred from any other elected office for life.
The light of full disclosure will enable the public to know who is supporting the candidate and decide if that support is in their best interest.
Additionally, various groups could then analyze and make public just who is trying to buy political influence. This may or may not deter special interest groups, but at least there would be no doubt about their intentions. The public at last would know and could monitor the voting and/or decisions made by the office holder. No longer would the voters have to speculate why an office holder is doing what their doing. Whether or not the office holder is a puppet being controlled by their campaign funders.
TERM LIMITS: When the amount of money that flowed through the federal coffers was small, the incentive to become a Representative or Senator was driven mostly by ideals ... wanting to serve or support a particular cause. In the 1930's FDR championed the cause for a stronger federal role, ostensible to recover from the depression, but actually trying to insure a more equitable collection and distribution of tax monies.
As so often happens with good intentions, the result is worse than the intended good. The plan was to tax the rich and help the poor. Instead, both the rich and poor are being over taxed, mostly by hidden taxes, with the elected officials, their families, friends and bureaucrats receiving over 75% of the taxes collected. So the benefits to the poor are rather meager.
Now that the annual federal budget exceeds a trillion plus, the amount that can be skimmed by career politicians is just to tempting. We need to reduce federal spending, thus taxes, but this is not in the best interest of the politicians. The only viable way of reversing the high tax mentality is to limit the time politicians have at the public trough. Change the House of Representatives to four year term and limit all office holders to two terms. Then maybe we can get back to "Government of The People, By The People and For The People" instead of 'Government of The People, By The Politicians and For The Politicians'.
DISMISSAL REFERENDUM: The current approach of removing a Representative or Senator for malfeasance is so laborious and political, that it has only been done xx times. With only xx actually being removed. Most often they end up resigning in order to protect their pension and other congressional perks. Or they issue a lame brain excuses and half hearted apology and end up sitting out their term as a lame duck. To depend upon the 'club' to discipline one of their own is similar to depending upon doctors, dentists, real-estate agents, layers, plumbers, electricians, etc. to discipline theirs. The closets are so full of skeletons that the whole process of identifying a rotten apple needs to be improved.
With computers and the WWW, it is about time we kept a score card on services rendered and misdeeds. And when enough negative evidence is documented, then a malfeasance referendum can be put to the community involved. The referendum would contain both sides of the situation and have three outcomes to vote on: dismissal - no benefits; dismissal - with benefits; and remain in office. If a person survives two referendums, on the third they would be out of office with the referendum deciding benefits or no benefits. The person put out of office could petition the courts for a trial by jury, but if they lost, they would have to pay all the costs.
Hopefully the combination of full disclosure of all campaign funds, term limits and the ability to openly monitor public office holders activities, subject to referendum dismissal, will encourage them to live up to the Founding Fathers vision of 'Government of The people, By The People and For The People'. And that government would become more responsive to the changing world around us and that the taxes collected would be wisely spent on the true needs of the citizens.
DELPHI FORUMS: Within 'Anticipatory Sciences', Futurists conduct a Delphi study to gather expert opinion on an situation. A Delphi study is an iterative process that starts with a statement of an issue (issues can be anything, from to the ' Big Bang Theory'), that is sent to those who are considered experts regarding the issue. The experts return their opinions to the sender who posts all the opinions, grouping similar ones. Generally a consensus of opinion occurs, with some outliers. The sender sends this composite back out to the experts, so they can review all the opinions and are asked to provide comments supporting their original opinion if it is not changed. If they do change their opinion, state new opinion and why. The experts return their reviews, which the sender uses to update the 1st posting. If the review produces little change, then the study is done with the updated posting being sent out to the experts with a thank you for participating. If the review produces significant change, then the updated posting is sent out to the experts requesting a second review, etc. This process continues until a stable consensus is reached.
Now let's ratchet the process up to cover public issues like gun control, abortion, education vouchers, privatizing Social Security, Medicare changes, etc. Establish the experts consensus and then let the public respond, either confirming the consensus or changing the expert consensus to reflect/document the public's view regarding the issue. Thus providing valuable input into the congressional process.