Friday, December 12, 2008
On Suggestions for Reforming America's Political System
The preamble to the United States’ Constitution begins, “We the people…” This choice of words, together with its placement at the beginning of the document, evidences a clear demarcation of intent infused by the Framers into the Constitution: power within the Republic would flow up from the people, not down from any elected individuals or eventual bureaucracy which might evolve.
Officials elected to terms in Congress were expected to vote according to the wishes of the voters within the Representative’s or Senator’s district. Elected representatives were valued for their intelligence and insight, oratory skills, and personal honor. Here, Thomas Jefferson supports my remarks on this subject. “There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government.”
Today, American elected officials ignore the public will, are manipulated by corporations and special interests (non-voting entities), and aver a responsibility to their own convictions over the will of the public. The republic “of the people, by the people and for the people” (although the quote provided actually comes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it does reflect the intent of the Framers as codified in the Constitution) envisioned by the Framers is now a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich, which is organized according to the designs of the super-wealthy for the benefit of corporations and shepherded through the legislative process by corporate and special interest lobbyists upon immoral wads of plastic money. As such, it meets the Aristotelian definition of an oligarchy, not a democracy or even benevolent aristocracy.
The resulting political system resembles the English Parliament America’s forefathers fought in order to gain independence, to wit: individuals endure exploitative taxation even though major corporations (the owners, CEOs, and other corporate officials of which constitute America’s nobility) rarely pay their share of taxes due to a tax code which favors them and creates loopholes so they can avoid liability for their full and equal share of tax payments. Meanwhile, only lobbyists, special interests and corporations (each, technically, are non-voting entities) are really represented, while the individual‘s right to privacy is constantly eroded by the Government.
There are solutions available which, if implemented, could assist a return of power vesting with the people. That Thomas Jefferson would urge us to seek solutions is evidenced by this Jeffersonian quote, “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust.” Jefferson‘s statement is actually a pretty fair description of what has been occurring during the 8 years under Bush’s Repugnican control over the government followed by nearly 3 more under Obama’s Demoncratic tenure.
To determine what potential solutions might be effective, let’s look at some of the basic premises comprising the foundation upon which the Framers built the U.S. political system.
Jefferson, along with the other prominent revolutionaries, believed those who amass economic prosperity owe a debt to the nation which provides that prosperity. The debt should, they felt, be paid through service to the nation. The Framers did not seek much in the way of compensation for service to their country. They wanted to fulfill their perceived debt and responsibility to society. Jefferson revealed this upon leaving the Presidency, “I have the consolation of adding nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and retiring with hands as clean as they are empty.”
Let me provide a rundown on the earnings of elected officials during the early years of America’s government for the readers’ general information. Presidents received $25,000 per year from 1789 until 1873 and Vice Presidents $5000 per year during the same period. Members of Congress received $6.00 per diem from 1789 to 1815, when it was increased to $1500 per annum. That payment lasted until 1817. From 1817 to 1855, members of Congress received a payment of $8.00 per diem. From 1855 to 1865, remuneration accrued at the rate of $3000 per annum. Then, from 1865 to 1871, Congress was paid $5000 per annum. The rate of compensatory pay which remained in place from 1871 to 1873 totaled $7500 per annum. These were hardly significant yearly salaries even in their day, especially compared with what the individuals would have earned from their private economic concerns. It is also important to note, elected officials in the early Republic were rarely career politicians precisely because they could earn a significantly larger income from their private interests than from service to the government.
Another anticipated manner through which the Framers hoped government would remain free of corruption lay in the expectation that the prosperous would give the country approximately a decade of service at most before retiring back to their private, commercial interests. Naturally, politicians who don’t receive much of an income from governmental service won‘t want to pursue a career in the arena because the financial reward won’t entice them to choose the public sector over the private sector. Jefferson and his revolutionary cohorts subscribed to the axiom, “power corrupts.” The Framers sought to seal corruption out of government by denying public servants any opportunity to accumulate wealth during periods of public service. Such service, with little remuneration, was expected to remain altruistic and brief.
It was common practice during the Revolutionary War for Continental Congress’ delegates to return to their constituents regularly, hold town hall meetings, explain recent developments, encourage broad discussion and offer insight into details, ramifications and options. As consensus was achieved, they reassessed public sentiment and returned to Philadelphia armed with the arguments of their constituents (although I freely admit some representatives, like John and Sam Adams and Patrick Henry, sought to mold public opinion more than represent it).
By creating a government built on a constantly evolving public caucus and underpaid public service, how could the Framers have anticipated the need to codify the sanctity of the relationship between voter and elected representative within the Constitution? This is a clear oversight, since one can find hundreds of pages of Jeffersonian quotes which reflected the consensus of agreement he shared with the Framers of the Constitution, reinforcing the notion of power flowing up from the people and averring the essence of representation as being: 1) finding out what those being represented actually want to see done and 2) then having the elected representatives, in good conscience and in harmony with a highly ethical stance, govern accordingly.
My assessment is in conformity with what Jefferson did have to say on the subject, “A government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns: not indeed in person, which would be impracticable beyond the limits of a city or small township, but by representatives chosen by himself and responsible to him at short periods.” [Emphasis added.]
The areas of concern, in our contemporary climate, for the preservation of any truly representative government lie with: 1) the infusion of money into public service, 2) the rise of career politicians, 3) the expense involved in running for office, 4) the breadth of the bureaucracy, and 5) the present-day allegiance of elected representatives to lobbyists and corporations instead of their constituents because of the perks and campaign donations lobbyists and corporations offer.
Jefferson would likely be aghast to discover voters decide how to cast their vote primarily because of 30 second television commercials and a handful of 5 second sound bites broadcast on the news. He would be shocked to learn legislation is primarily inspired and driven by corporations and special interest groups, as well as that funds and perks have been channeled by those entities to elected representatives through lobbyists in order to sway elected representatives’ votes on bills passing through Congress, almost always in a manner which contravenes the actual will of the people.
Our world is far different from Jefferson’s. I do not believe it is possible in this socio-political-economic age to have a democratically selected, representative government of elected officials if those officials do not earn a living from their service. Payment should be fair. However, the idea that elected officials (who are, as a class of people, among the wealthier people in the nation) should receive on top of large (to the average citizen) salaries, a host of benefits and specific insurance coverage which exceeds what is available to most of their constituents, is something I find reprehensible. I think Jefferson would agree.
I would suggest that, other than a salary and benefits schedule, both of which should be commensurate with the median received by their specific voting constituency, no additional income should be allowed to derive from public service. If politicians want to write books at the conclusion of their service, the funds which arise as profits from those books and related speaking engagements should divest in charities for which the politician is not an officer. I mean all the profits, even those earned by the publisher. If one considers the possibility that publishers might not want to acquire manuscripts for publication if there will be no income to be derived from the sale of the books (even though they can take away the knowledge of having performed a great public service and they can still advertise other examples from their catalog in those books as well as gain in prestige because they publish books written by former elected officials), one can still suggest the Federal Government create its own publishing company for these purposes.
All lobbying should be illegal. The only entities having influence on the considerations facing elected representatives should be the voting public who are elected representatives’ direct constituents, and consequently, should be seen as the elected representatives’ job supervisors. Elected representatives should be required by law to vote in a manner consistent with the wishes of their constituents. If this so-called Republic is to reflect the will of the people, as any republic, by definition, should strive to do, then these kinds of modifications must be instituted in order to facilitate that most basic and defining goal of any and all republics – that representatives should remain at all times responsible to and voices of the public which elects them, and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the wishes of their constituency.
In this day and age, representatives can convene with their constituency via the internet. All citizens could be issued voting cards, the identification number being tied to the individual’s Social Security number, or a new number can be created to better secure the individual’s right to privacy under the secret ballot doctrine. These voting cards should be an individual’s “ticket” into the voting booth on election days as well as the citizens’ link in communicating with their elected officials.
In any representative government that purports to serve the will of the people, the electorate is the most sacrosanct portion of the machinery which leads to installing a legitimate government. From that point of view, every citizen‘s voice needs to be heard and every precaution should be taken to assure every citizen the opportunity to vote. In other words, voting ought to be every citizen‘s birthright, a birthright that cannot be obstructed by the government or any other intervening agency or force under any circumstance whatsoever.
Voting cards could have an additional user password for restricting control and use to the legal user. This could be a touch password which accepts only the allocated voter’s fingerprint, or some other, similar safeguard. As issues arise, representatives could email their constituents information on both sides of the topic. Citizens would be encouraged to write back, seeking clarification whenever necessary. Online town hall chat rooms can be arranged for group discussions. These virtual town hall meetings must not be operated the way modern town halls are conducted, where candidates and representatives talk at their constituency and tell them what and how to think on a subject instead of listening to their constituency and discovering the will of the people so they can vote accordingly. The meeting should be factual, honest and fair to all sides of an issue, allowing voters an opportunity to arrive at their own conclusions. I would expect elected representatives would find great satisfaction in assisting their constituents to understand the complexity of an issue, providing pros and cons, and generally breaking down for their constituents what the expected impact of a bill may be, and then using their oratory skills to promote their constituents’ wishes. At a point when discussion has resolved into a consensus, the dutiful public servant should be in a position to vote according to the wishes of the body politic.
Television stations and radio stations should not be allowed to charge sums to candidates for campaign ads. Why should these super-wealthy corporations be enriched still further at the expense of the taxpayer for performing a public duty? Legal guidelines ought to be written into all FCC licenses mandating minimum amounts of free time which all stations (including all cable stations) must provide to candidates during elections. Print media should be given some similar requirement. It should continue to remain the law of elections that equal time be apportioned to all candidates for an office. However, not just in coverage of the news, but also in terms of advertising air time and print space provided to candidates. This would provide a greater opportunity for every citizen to run for office, not just the wealthy, as well as offering a level playing field for each and every candidate.
Isn’t it the point of a democratically elected government to represent the will of the people? How is that achieved by creating an electoral system which favors the candidate with the most money to spend? It isn’t. Instead of creating a system allowing all voters to decide among the political candidates equally and fairly, casting their votes for the candidates most reflecting the voters’ interests, today‘s system skews the public’s attention toward the candidate able to purchase the most television advertising time.
With regard to elections, no person or organized entity should be allowed to make any comments (other than to offer their support or non-support to specific candidates) about any other candidate during any campaign. In other words, candidates (and all other non-candidate entities as well) should not be allowed to talk about anyone running for an office, only their own vision, beliefs and qualifications. Let’s not tell the voters what to think about others. Instead, let’s allow the voters to arrive at their own decisions based on their own assessments of each candidate.
These measures would go a long way to effectively end negative campaign ads, slander and libel during elections, and false statements in campaigns. It should be a further requirement that if any candidate is found to have misrepresented themselves during a campaign, then that elected representative should be immediately stripped of office and a special election scheduled so a replacement representative can be elected. Meanwhile, all sums earned during the term of public service should be forfeited.
The next issue I’d like to address concerns the manner and amount of government funding. Yes, folks, let‘s have a look at the income tax system in the United States. The first matter that requires mention regards how the income tax came into existence. Then, let’s take a brief look at the events regarding U.S. involvement in WWI and follow that up with a review of matters concerning the development of the American income tax system because of WWI and governmental needs thereafter since both issues impact the initiation of American income taxes as well as the degree of tax imposed.
Europe became embroiled in The Great War (WWI) in the summer of 1914 when Serbian “terrorists,” as they were branded, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Serbian assassins sought freedom and security for themselves and their compatriots, and an improved climate in the Balkans as they stood in opposition to Imperial influence and the designs of continually growing and managing empires, all of which disdained, denigrated, and devalued their heritage, hopes and needs. It was the Austro-Hungarians and Germans who branded the Serbians as terrorists. Ironically, the description stuck, even though it was the Allies of England, France, Russia (at least for a while) and Americans (who entered the war later on the side of the Allies) who defended the “terrorists” and defeated the German-Hungarian alliance. I expect that if Ronald Reagan had been President at that time, he would have called the Serbs freedom fighters as he did insurrectionists and revolutionaries who practiced terrorist activities against the legitimate (at that time) Nicaraguan Sandinista government during his Presidency.
It seems, whether one is branded a terrorist or commended as a heroic freedom fighter in this age has more to do with who is administering the moniker and what their geopolitical mindset is than any other consideration. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when Osama bin Laden and his Mujahedeen fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, American neocons branded Osama and his movement with the term freedom fighters and gave them financial support and arms. Now that those former freedom fighters are fighting to expel American military, corporate, cultural and political influence from their region, they are called terrorists, even though their essential cause remains the same, advancing the cause of self-determination for the people of Afghanistan. As one can see, a name often has more to do with the perspective of the person applying the name to those advancing a particular cause than the one being categorized.
During the lead up to WWI, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia, an ally of Serbia, countered the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war by mobilizing forces to aid in the defense of Serbia. Germany was an ally of Austria-Hungary, so they entered the war in response to the Russian mobilization. In August, the Germans trotted out their old feud with the French by declaring war on Belgium and France and initiated an invasion. Consequently, the British declared war on Germany to assist their allies, the French.
From 1914 to 1917, the U.S. stayed out of the fray. In February of 1915, the Germans announced a naval blockade would be imposed on England which would be enforced by German U-boats. In May of 1915 and as a consequence of that blockade, the Germans sank the Lusitania, a passenger ocean liner which was the sister ship of the Titanic. The Lusitania went down with 1198 civilians, including 128 Americans. U.S. protests against German indifference to civilians’ deaths and the killing of American citizens led Germany to finally agree, by August, to cease sinking ships without advance warning.
By April of 1916, Woodrow Wilson, then President of the U.S., warned Germany to stop its unconditional submarine warfare policies. In November of 1916, Wilson was re-elected President under the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” presaging the campaign approach LBJ would later apply as he branded himself a peace candidate and Goldwater a dangerous warmonger who would embroil the US in a nuclear war as a result of his intentions to escalate the conflict in Vietnam.
In the middle of January of 1917, the British intercepted a telegram to Mexico from the Germans which urged Mexico to enter the war by attacking the United States. Indeed, at that time, General Pershing’s troops were fighting skirmishes on the Texas-Mexico border, including raids deep into Mexican sovereign territory, in a military action against Pancho Villa. Wilsons’s goal in those border skirmishes was not to see democracy flourish in Mexico. Frankly, Wilson knew that Villa, and other rebels with whom he was allied, were in the middle of pursuing a revolution against a repressive regime which served the Mexican oligarchy as opposed to the interests of the public. What Wilson sought was to influence the outcome of that revolution and hand pick the successor in Mexico, someone who would help advance the interests of American corporations and bankers who were heavily engaged in investments and commerce in Mexico and sought to preserve and increase their profits in the region. About two weeks after the telegram was intercepted, Germany declared its intention to recommence unconditional submarine warfare. So, on April 6, 1917, Wilson asked for, and received from Congress, a declaration of war against Imperial Germany and Imperial Austria-Hungary. On May 18th, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, granting the Government authority to conscript men into the armed services.
Woodrow Wilson had, until then, believed in American neutrality. He hoped to stay out of the conflict so the U.S. could play the role of peace broker between the warring nations. He saw himself as the great mediator. However, the sinking of the Lusitania combined with the unconditional submarine warfare tactics employed by German U-boats and the telegram to Mexico pushed Wilson over the edge of neutrality. He claimed it was incumbent on the United States to defend its “dignity and honor.” Consequently, he found his only course was to come to the aid of America’s allies, England and France, against the so-called German aggressor (although it was the Serbians who initiated the war and the Germans should be more accurately cast as the allies of a nation seeking to prevent a hostile faction from breaking away, much like the North vis-à-vis the South in the American Civil War). As a consequence, Wilson faced the major task of mobilizing his completely unprepared nation.
Wilson knew he could count on some volunteers as well as a draft to raise the necessary troops. However, he also knew he needed a motivated public, with an unwavering will to prosecute the conflict. So, Wilson created an arm of propaganda which he called the Committee of Public Information (CPI). A legion of artists combined with the fledgling Hollywood film industry to create pamphlets, posters and movies depicting Germans as the “savage Hun.” James Montgomery Flagg provided the now famous “Uncle Sam wants you!” poster for this effort. Not surprisingly, everything German became suspect, from sauerkraut to German last names to Beethoven. During Wilson’s prosecution of WWI, it was in response to this general, yet pervasive, bigotry towards all things German that Americans of German descent coined the term “Pennsylvania Dutch” to denote their heritage and distance themselves from being perceived as German sympathizers.
Does this remind anyone of the treatment France received from the U.S. citizenry when France opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq? In that sense, it should also remind Americans how white America interred Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps after Pearl Harbor, how Native Americans were moved off their land and herded onto repressive reservations during the American conquest of the West, as well as the mistreatment of Arabs, Persians, and Muslims after 9/11 by many white American civilians. Another example of American intolerance caused by geopolitical concerns becomes apparent in the American intolerance of everything “communist” during the Cold War amid McCarthy’s HUAC witch hunts. This kind of reactionary approach to everything and everyone perceived as “enemy” is no different than Nazi anti-Semitism, Stalinist anti-religion crusades and anti-Semitism, or Mao‘s Cultural Revolution.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 carried Vladimir I. Lenin to power and he extracted Russia from WWI in 1918 through negotiating a peace agreement with Germany. Out of that climate, Lenin released the then-deceased, former Tsars’ papers and secret treaties with the allies. Included among those papers were secret pacts which discussed matters such as how the Imperial European allies would divvy up German and Austro-Hungarian holdings after the war. Thus, the secret papers provided an impression among huge sectors of the public that the war had nothing to do with protecting democracy, instead inferring that the war was just another of the allies’ (the British Empire, France and it’s empire-like colonial holdings and Imperial Russia) machinations designed to further the expansion of their imperial ambitions. Since Wilson was also pursuing imperial influence in the Western Hemisphere, had grown a bit of an empire with the acquisition of the Philippines after the Spanish American War, and was imposing American will in countries as far reaching as Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, and Panama at the time, and Wilson was in the process of influencing the winner in the Mexican Revolution, his claims of entering The Great War “to make the world safe for democracy” seem a bit hollow, reinforcing Lenin’s claims and evidence.
In January of 1918, Wilson announced his “Fourteen Points,” which was a program he promoted to allegedly create a world without Imperialism and without secret treaties, where self-determination and democracy would flourish. He had already declared WWI as the “War to end all wars,” so he began to insinuate upon the American public his notion this conflict was necessary to save democracy because American participation would tip the scales in favor of the allies. To that, Wilson added his belief: an Allied victory would usher in a new era of peace and understanding. Wilson included in his vision his dream for a League of Nations which would be a global body, dedicated to a covenant between all nations, seeking to insure future conflicts could be peaceably settled within the walls of that body. As the historian David M. Kennedy explained, “In Wilson‘s mind, if the sacrifices of blood that Americans had to pay in World War I were ever going to be justified, it had to be with an outcome that didn’t simply end the fighting, but created a new international order.”
The history of the income tax in the U.S. winds around some tricky slopes. The first kind of taxes today’s Federal Government wants people to accept as being an income tax (in the sense that they were collected by the government and were considered internal revenue of the U.S.) were really property taxes (not just on land, but other properties as well, including slaves) in the 1790s and which were called a direct tax.
By 1802, Jefferson had all direct taxes repealed. To raise money for the War of 1812, Congress added to the already existing roster of excise taxes (which were never considered direct taxes because they weren’t levied by the government directly on the citizens, but were levied on products and shipping concerns). Again, in 1817, long after the conclusion of the War of 1812, these additional taxes were repealed. For the next 44 years the Federal Government collected no internal revenue. In response to the Civil War, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which re-imposed some of the previous excise taxes, and for the first time imposed a tax of 3% on the income of Americans. As the Civil War entered 1862, the costs were accumulating to the tune of about $2 million a day. So, Congress added to the excise taxes and created a two tier income tax which would levy at 3% for incomes up to $10,000 a year, and 5% over that amount. However the government provided individuals with a standard deduction in the amount of $600 along with a schedule of personal exemptions. The government also decided to guarantee timely payment of taxes by taxpayers though the policy of having taxes withheld at the source by employers. After the war, the need for Federal Revenue sharply dropped, so nearly all the taxes were repealed. By 1868, the main source of Federal revenue derived from liquor and tobacco excise taxes. The Federal income tax was abolished in 1872.
Under the Constitution, direct taxes could only be levied in direct proportion to each state’s population. Consequently, the flat rate income tax enacted in 1894 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1895. During the very early 1900s, it became obvious that Federal revenue was insufficient for governmental needs, and excise taxes and high tariffs were more of a discouragement to commerce than boon to the Government. Southerners and Westerners who were, by and large, far more land wealthy than their counterparts in the East and North (in part because the large landholders gravitated to open territories where vast amounts of land were available which would facilitate their commercial enterprises such as farming and cattle or sheep ranching), became worried that in the absence of an income tax the Federal Government would levy property taxes. Consequently, these individuals convinced their Congressmen to lead a debate intended to reintroduce the income tax.
The resulting compromise imposed a tax to be called an excise tax on business income and the introduction of a Constitutional Amendment which would give the Government the right to tax individuals’ lawful income without regard to the populations of each state. In 1909, Congress proposed the 16th Amendment, and by 1913, the amendment was ratified by enough states for it to become law. Consequently, Congress became empowered to enact an income tax in 1913 which taxed individuals on a sliding scale rate of from 1% for the lowest tax bracket to 7% on incomes over $500,000. Luckily for the American public, less than 1% of the population was required to pay any sum in the form of income tax at that time. This was also when the 1040 form was introduced. In 1916, the term “lawful income” was modified to, simply, “income.”
One of the significant effects arising from enacting income tax legislation was a change in the fundamental relationship between government, businesses and workers. Prior to the levying of income taxes, businesses earned profits from their business activities and individuals earned income as wages for their labor. The government had no role in this area of citizens’ lives and did not intrude. However, since the enactment of the Federal Income Tax laws in 1916, the Government decided it had both the right and the need to know every detail of individuals’ and businesses’ financial dealings (something Jefferson would have held as anathema and never accepted). Congress thought that could be assuaged by incorporating safeguards protecting the information and holding it confidential.
Prior to America’s entry into WWI, Congress discovered it needed an influx of capital with which to fund the Government. So, in 1916, Congress amended the tax laws of 1913. The amended tax schedule raised the lowest rate from 1% to 2% and increased the highest levied amount of the sliding scale to 15% on income over $1.5 million. The 1916 act also introduced levies on estates and excess business profits.
The cost of governing (when the expenses for WWI were included) made the budget for 1917 nearly the equivalent of the total budget for all the years from 1791 to 1916. What else would Congress do but dutifully pass along those costs to the taxpayer through the War Act of 1917 (this Act is to what I refer when I say the American public accepted an income tax to fund WWI which was never rescinded during the ensuing peace) which lowered exemptions and greatly increased tax rates. For instance, in 1916, one must earn $1.5 million of taxable income in order to be taxed at the highest rate of 15%. In 1917, individuals with a $40,000 income paid tax at a 16% rate, while an individual with a $1.5 million income was taxed at 67%. In 1918, the rates were raised again and placed the lowest tax at 6% while the highest rate went up to 77%.
One should remember though, even in 1918, only about 5% of the population paid taxes (those 5% being the wealthiest individuals and the highest earning businesses, whereas under today’s income tax laws, it is this 5% who pay no taxes or greatly reduced taxes while the primary income tax burden falls on the shoulders of the middle class). The public trusted the Government which told them, these taxes were being levied in such high rates solely because of the expenses relating to the war. The public further trusted the Government to rescind the taxes (or at least return them to the more modest levels levied in 1916) when the war had concluded. However, once the war was concluded, government forgot its promise to the American public.
It is important to draw the reader’s attention to the way the income tax was applied to the public. In each of the historical examples given as to the application of the American income tax, one can quickly deduce that nearly all sums derived from the income tax were paid by a small percentage of the population – the wealthiest. In the broad period beginning with the War Act of 1917, most especially in post-WWII America and since, the income tax has been amended with a steady stream of tax breaks and exemptions for the wealthy. We’ve gone from a nation that barely asked the average citizen to pay anything in taxes to a nation that sucks the life blood right out of the average taxpayer and provides so much relief for the wealthy that America can no longer meet its financial needs from taxation and must resort to deficit spending.
One can comprehend that Americans understood the need to raise sums to pay for the war they had been propagandized into supporting. Citizens had been so effectively relieved of their sense of security because the propaganda-demonized imperial interests of Germany and Austro-Hungary were said to be poised to subject all of “democratic” Europe to the yoke of their aggrandizing whims and autocratic rule. The “mad Germans” and the “mad Huns” were lumped together as modern versions of Attila the Hun. Whipped into a frenzy of moral indignation, the American public not only accepted Wilson’s new war tax, which he called an income tax, but the public also ran out and bought war bonds to add to the financing of the war. The taxes really only covered about half the sums the Government required. Thus, the war bonds were necessary to cover the funding shortfall.
Do you begin to see a pattern in American politics? Business interests are attacked, as in our shipping and armaments intended for England. American industry and merchant marines lost capital, armaments, ships and lives to Germany’s U-boat blockade. When Germany leaped to the audacity of sinking the Lusitania, Wilson took advantage of the opportunity to vent his indignation publicly which he knew would resound with the public due to the loss of civilian lives. The Germans stopped killing civilians on ocean liners, but they continued to pound freighters bound for England. The financial beating the industrial captains of America’s economy took led to them increasing their pressure on Wilson. He passed that pressure on when he demanded Germany cease U-boat operations.
The documents Lenin released exposed the sham of an argument that freedom loving people had to fight tyranny to save democracy. In reality, during the lead up to the war, the forces at play were competing Empires: Russian, English and French colonial empires were pitted in a high stakes worldwide economic competition with the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, not only in Europe, but throughout Africa and Asia as well. Very old enmities were also at work. For instance, 40 years earlier, Germany had taken the Alsace-Lorraine from France in the War of 1870. The allies wanted to break up the autocratic regimes, not because of an altruistic desire to free those under the colonial control of the Germans and Hungarians. They joined the war with the express intent of defeating their competitors and splitting up the spoils, thereby enriching their national coffers, increasing the size of their empires, and promoting the interests and profits of their major corporations. Another example of long standing enmity lay in Germany and England both possessing a determination to rule the seas. For decades the two waged a naval arms race. WWI, both thought, would be the opportunity to deliver their economic and naval adversary a knockout punch.
American intervention was assured by the German blockade long before the Lusitania sank. The German blockade severely hampered the natural trade relations between the U.S. and Britain. As a result of the costly losses American shipping endured through the violent blockade, American industrialists demanded Wilson take steps to protect their business interests, which were, after all, as they were certain to have pointed out, also America’s business interests. Wilson, however, was something of an idealist. He was a very genuine individual, scholarly, and deliberate. He kept America out of the European conflict for three years. Ultimately, for Wilson to lead his country into the war, he had to find a cause, because America in 1916 was isolationist, and so had he been prior to entry into the war. The Lusitania’s sinking provided the convenient excuse Wilson could use to inflame the American public and the moral imperative he needed to convince him entry into the war was his only choice.
As we saw, Wilson commissioned a propaganda machine to demonize the enemy. Wilson also authorized the Espionage and Sedition Acts which prohibited interference with the draft and outlawed criticism of the government! Not only did Wilson do all this, but he convinced the American public not only to pay for it with war bonds, but also elicited a willingness to accept the outrageous imposition of astronomical tax rates which, for the first time, would also be levied against nearly the entire American population, not just the wealthy.
Is 1917 beginning to sound familiar to 1941, 1965 and 2001? It should! It‘s the same signature. The interests of American corporations, industries and (in 1917, 1941 and 1965) naval assets (whereas in 2001 we substitute the Twin Towers and Pentagon for naval assets) were challenged, infringed upon, attacked or destroyed by foreign powers (although in the case of Vietnam, the alleged attack upon naval assets in the Gulf of Tonkin turned out to be an utter fabrication by LBJ). Consequently, in each instance, the Government provided the muscle of the operation for the nation’s super wealthy industrialists and major corporations. Meanwhile, phony and exaggerated claims about entire groups of people (Arabs and Muslims in 2001, Commies, Vietnamese, Russians and Chinese in 1965, Japanese and Germans in 1941, and Germans and Hungarians in 1917) inflamed the public to react to horrific tragedies (the Twin Towers, Pearl Harbor, the made up attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, and the sinking of the Lusitania). Intense American bigotry towards the demonized enemy followed in each and every instance.
This is a continuing cycle, conceived by men who pursue the bidding of munitions magnates and major producers of weapons of mass destruction. The British used poison gas in WWI. The U.S. used the Atomic Bomb in WWII. The U.S. used napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam. They have used white phosphorous in Iraq. Additionally, bombing raids during WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq took (and continue to take) the lives of huge numbers of innocent, civilian bystanders. [I just have to wonder how seriously the world takes the U.S. when it points its collective finger at some other group, demonizing them, saying, they’ll get and use weapons of mass destruction. Heck, the U.S. provides the greater fear to the rest of the world in that regard; it has a history of using the weapons over and over again!] These are the tactics of the American Government when it faces the pressing urges of your American super-capitalists to run amok in the world.
I’d like to suggest a reconsideration of public financing of war machines. Let’s consider for a moment a few of Wilson‘s ideals: a few items contained within his Fourteen Points which where his fervent hope for a movement leading to perpetual world peace following the conclusion of WWI.
The first point encouraged “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.” What a wonderful concept that point promotes. Let’s conduct all diplomacy out in the open, where all people can know about, not only the agreements arrived at, but also the points of view behind them and the enticements, promises and threats made to obtain them. That system would empower the public, who could imprint their interests into the types of agreements made and the partners with whom they are made. Democracy would never be stronger than when inculcating such a completely open and transparent foreign policy among all nations of the world which would always seek to reflect the wishes of the broad mass of humanity. The cause of world peace would be fostered as well, since subterfuge and secret alliances with nefarious intent would be eliminated from the world stage. This kind of frank and transparent negotiation is the only way to keep nefarious and subversive agendas from being surreptitiously pursued just outside humanity’s purview.
The third point relishes the “removal, so far as is possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.” This is brilliant, as well. There would be no need to set up sanctions for those who will not take part in actively promoting peace. Rather, a reward is offered to all who do undertake to preserve peace. It’s a cooperative approach, not a punitive one. It’s honorable. It’s simple. It doesn’t create enmity and fear, and it’s non-coercive. Most of all, it unites people everywhere into a harmonious mass instead of disuniting people amid war, mistrust, espionage, sabotage, ravages, economic sanctions, and wanton destruction.
The fourth point is the most important. This is the tenet which replaces enmity, fear, anxiety and distrust with faith, understanding, cooperation and peace. Wilson called for, “Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” It’s a great leap of faith for any nation to undertake this step. But if every nation of the world actually should disarm, that would be perhaps the crowning moment of human achievement. Imagine awakening one day to a world without tanks, without bombers, without nuclear weapons, in fact, without weapons of mass destruction of any kind. Imagine a world where nations have learned to give up their petty jealousies, their foolish greed, and the adolescent attitudes of macho pride and victory at any cost. Politicians have been selling their constituencies the idea war is necessary to preserve peace and freedom. If the weapons of armies, as well as the actual armies, were eradicated from the planet, the means by which tyrants gain and maintain power in addition to the means for building and maintaining police states and autocracies, as well as initiating and perpetrating genocides would be removed! It becomes patently obvious that we would completely obviate the need for armies, wars and conflict if we removed the tools of war.
I do not believe people, when not influenced by high strung, yet completely false platitudes and accusations enunciated by politicians that only intend to hide the greedy motives of the powerful and wealthy in the escalation of antagonism leading to conflict, would fabricate excuses to go to war with one another. I truly believe that if all negotiations are carried out in the open and hidden agendas are exposed to the light of day that people, if allowed to make the decisions, would, by consensus, find ways to get along and find common ground for cooperative relationships. This is also what Wilson believed and explains why he added this condition to his Fourteen Points.
Wilson’s final and fourteenth point was designed to create a fraternal and cooperative spirit among the nations of the world. “A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to the great and small states alike.” In a world where agreements are negotiated in the open, and where the need to maintain standing armies, navies and air forces would be obviated by the fraternal spirit of human understanding and mutual acceptance, this body of nations would provide the forum for discussion of any issues which may arise long before they become contentious. Each nation, as brother and sister to all other nations, would be empowered to eagerly come to anyone’s aid in an emergency and to help set the agendas for future human achievement – by equal voices in harmony, choosing together how to map the future.
I would suggest that this should be the highest aim of all governments on the planet. Since that is not the world into which we are born, we must get a grip on all governmental spending as well as the spending of all governments. One path to allocating funds which could remain beneficial to Americans in returning their system of government to vesting with and reflecting the wishes of the American public exists in allowing the voting taxpayers to determine where the funds from their taxes will be allocated. This can be accomplished by placing on the 1040 form broad categories (e.g. education, health, welfare, transportation, defense, etc.) with a manner to demarcate beside each category a percentage of the total tax paid by that taxpayer they wish allocated to each category. If I want to pay 0% for military, that should be my right.
We’d never again have to face the kind of disagreement between a Congress and a President which has led to shut downs and threatened to bring government to a halt. Presidents would not have to submit budgets to Congress for required approval. The taxpaying public would decide exactly where the funds should be spent. Once the amount of money is allocated to the broad categories by the taxpayers, it would then be up to Presidents and Congress to determine the funding of subprograms within each category. This practice would also be useful in cutting the pork spending out of other legislation and preclude the introduction of special projects from pet programs of personal interest to individual legislators. After all, it is the taxpayers’ money and the will of the taxpayers that a representative government is convened to advance. The public doesn’t need Congressional middle men or meddling executives to determine for them how their money should be spent or what the national priorities should be.
In addition, it concerns me that each generation, as it has come of age into the electorate since deficit spending was first accepted as a practice of governments, does not stand up in the face of the interest it must pay on the deficits accrued by earlier generations and say, “So what, show me where I signed an agreement to co-sign for debts you incurred indicating I accept co-responsibility for those debts.”
It is completely contrary to the concept of freedom and liberty for one generation to incur debts which another generation must repay, with interest I might add. Additionally, one can clearly grasp that the practice of deficit spending which requires future generations to pay for previous governmental expenditures amounts to taxation without representation. Consequently, I believe it is incumbent upon people to demand their rights and force governments to spend no more than the amount of taxes received. How about a pay as you go system which will not allow more money to be spent than received? In a world without nefarious motives, surreptitious agreements and international intrigue, the demand on all governmental spending would be far reduced, so governments should be able to make do on the sums received without having to go into debt.
Humanity need not live in a perfect world in order to begin taking steps toward engaging in strategies and values such a perfected society would embody. The sooner humanity gets started with the project of humanizing its institutions and customs, the sooner all human influenced conditions on the planet will be made more responsive to the people and more emblematic of their dreams and wishes. It will be important to create this kind of climate for human relationships, both individually and as national cultures, if we want to move forward toward a world which respects freedom and engenders peace. Change is a slow, incremental process. To deny change through delay or interference is to say, “Let us remain as un-evolved as we can for as long as possible.” To delay or attempt to prevent progress also infers that, as a species, we like killing. I don’t think we really do or really want to live that way!
Another issue regards the practice whereby so-called representative governments keep secrets from the public they claim to represent. The only legitimate goal for a representative government is to fulfill the will of the people. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The freedom and happiness of man... [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government.”
The will of the people is impossible to ascertain if the people are not given all the facts on any and every issue facing a nation. An agreement which must be arrived upon by all free societies is: 1) we the people do demand that the Government shall share with us all information it possesses 2) so we can investigate every situation the future will bring and 3) arrive at an educated, rational, logical and well thought out consensus of opinion on what action to authorize government to take given the circumstances. That sacred oath should guide all future governmental entities empowered to act by the community-at-large.
One may argue that some information is too sensitive to be released. I would counter that all information is too sensitive, in a representative government, not to be shared. No government refusing to be transparent before its populace can accurately be described as representative.
Let’s recall Abraham Lincoln’s words, “I am a firm believer in the American people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Jefferson informed us, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” On another occasion, Jefferson explained, “The laws of [our] country... in offenses within their cognizance, compel those who have knowledge of a fact to declare it for the purposes of justice and of the general good and safety of society. And certainly, where wrong has been done, he who knows and conceals the doer of it makes himself an accomplice, and justly censurable as such.”
Under Jefferson’s view, the Bush Administration’s practice of seeking out individuals who leak information to punish them for the practice is not only morally wrong, but the individuals who step forward ought to be thought of as performing a sacred trust with the public, and so, should be seen as heroes, as John Dean should be seen. Jefferson’s view would hold anyone who did not come forward as being an accomplice after-the-fact, and legally co-responsible. This is part of the rationale for the basis of the Nuremberg trials and the current application of international human rights law.
Jefferson also said, “Moral duties [are] as obligatory on nations as on individuals.” Here is still more Jefferson had to say, “Honesty and interest are as intimately connected in the public as in the private code of morality.” Jefferson gets a little closer to the mark here, “When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society... Liberty, truth, probity, honor are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society.”
Perhaps Jefferson never saw the need to protect against Government holding secrets from the people. If one looks at the record of his stated position, one must come to the conclusion his public stance was that the populace must always be informed. Remember, Jefferson also held, “A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” This idea underlies one of the premises contemporary terrorists hold: that individuals are not civilians – since everyone is morally responsible for the actions of their government, whether or not informed on specifics, everyone in that society, culture or nation can be held personally responsible. I disagree with that premise, but I understand how and why it is accepted and promoted by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
In our nation today, Americans are not in control of their Government, are not fully informed by their Government of its actions, clandestine operations, secret agreements or even the nature and details of diplomatic entanglements and discussions. The citizenry should not be held complicit with its Government. However, as long as our elected officials continue to promote the façade that our Government represents the will of the people, terrorists will likely hold the public responsible for the actions of its Government. Herein lies another good reason for people to demand Government activities actually mirror the public will.
This same basic tenet of representative government also impinges on the concept of “Executive Privilege” so often promoted by Presidents with something to hide like Richard M. Nixon, William J. Clinton and George W. Bush. Representative governments, all their branches of government, and the individuals employed both as and by those representatives, have no legitimate expectations of privacy with regard to their official capacities.
All elected representatives owe a duty of complete disclosure to their constituents. There is never a time when a representative government (or any branch or official of a representative government) can retain its (or their) legitimacy and correctly be classified as still being representative where transparency of the government and all its operations and deliberations is thwarted: 1) by secrets withheld from the public or other branches of the government, or 2) by branches of government (or persons within a specific branch of government) asserting an expectation of privacy in regard to the operations and deliberations of government.
Right-wingers suggest, in the current climate of coping with a perpetual terrorist threat and with many governments not being open societies, it is possible that one or more nations (or even merely individuals acting on their own or in concert with terrorist cells) would want to do harm to the United States, its assets and/or its citizens. They further insinuate the possibility that to disclose all of the information surrounding such government knowledge concerning any such threats may exacerbate the antagonism felt by the other entity, cause them to hurry their intended act, or provide them with an advantage in any action which might arise. This circumstance sounds to me rather like the Cuban Missile Crisis.
JFK’s handling of that situation made us more secure rather than less secure (although I acknowledge the public was frightened out of its wits during the crisis), and he handled matters very much out in the open, leveling with Americans. JFK’s method was aided by the efforts of noted philosopher, anti-nuclear activist, and lifelong pacifist Bertrand Russell who (following up on: 1- the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, 2- his previous role in 1958 as President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 3- his formation of the Committee of 100, and 4- being arrested for civil disobedience in 1961 while in his 80s) sent telegrams to Kennedy, Khrushchev, UN Secretary-General U-Thant and British Prime Minister Macmillan, engaged the leaders of the world into a more frank and open discussion of differences leading to Khrushchev’s long reply by letter, published in ITAR-TASS, and which, because of the openness of dialogue, led to eventual nuclear arms agreements and a reduction in hostilities between the two nations. This suggests diplomacy supersedes conflict in efficacy of achieving accord and greater national security, and that open discussions which express and include the public better lead to understandings than cloak room diplomacy between mistrustful and antagonistic enemies.
I can only suggest to those paranoid, right-wing and neocon militarists, if security is your preference, perhaps you ought to relocate to a nation which does not operate through a representative form of government. However, I refuse to cede to you, or anyone else, the right to strip me of my inalienable rights in a free society operating under a representative form of government, including the rights to be knowledgeable about and to express my informed opinion on any and every decision facing the nation. As far as politicians who prefer the ability to hide their actions from both the electorate and other branches of government charged with the duties of oversight, perhaps it would behoove them to leave for a new land where they can exercise their power like the tyrants, autocrats and despots they prove to be through actions which make a mockery of freedom, liberty and transparent, representative government.
Term limits has often been suggested as a means of curbing governmental corruption through preventing any individual from becoming so inured into a particular sphere of governmental influence as to be able to require favors in return for political action. However, in my view, term limits only relocates those who are corrupt into another office (usually of greater significance). This is even more apparent when considered with regard to the current electoral system. Funding of campaigns through donations from corporations, special interests and the super-wealthy, along with continued corporate support through lobbyists’ gifts and perks, allows a corrupt representative to just move from one office to another, circumventing the intentions of term limits. I’d rather suggest “lifetime limits” be placed on all elected and appointed public servants. Who is to say what the proper length should be? Would eight years be too few, or are 20 too many (maybe the 10 or 12 years, which the Framers expected, would be best)?
One concern which, no doubt, will be offered by all currently elected and appointed officials as well as all those dedicated to maintaining the vesting of power just as it is, to counter my suggestion involves the maintenance of a fluidly functioning government. Those vested in office today, as well as the special interests dependent on elected officials to promote their agenda, will make a self-serving argument that it takes time to learn how Congress works and move bills through the body when all they want is to be assured of a continued financial relationship between lobbyists and representatives to produce legislation favoring corporations and the super wealthy.
It would be a good thing, and it would better serve the public, if less happens in Congress more often. Why? Because every time a new Congress is elected, those new representatives feel the need to justify their positions by leaving a legislative legacy behind them. The problem with that motive lies in the continual erosion of individuals’ liberty and the commensurate rise of taxes (or at least governmental budgetary deficits) with each new bill enacted. Really, it ought to be difficult to enact legislation: only occurring by the will of the people. In a crisis, the people’s will is never hard to ascertain. I do not fear inaction because, in an emergency, the public would both demand action and dictate what that action should be. More deliberation, however, is never a disadvantage. Reduced government legislation would also result in reduced governmental intrusion into the lives of the citizenry. Perhaps the only sectors where governmental regulation and intrusion ought to vest concern: finance, corporate oversight, and in areas where government intercession advances the safety, rights and opportunities of individuals.
Regular changes in representative officials should assure that Congress does not become an entrenched, antiquated body wielding its power and obligations so clumsily as to require an apprenticeship by newly elected representatives. After all, isn‘t it just as important for the constituents of a newly elected representative to have their concerns properly advanced as those in the district of a representative who has been in Congress for some duration? Are we trying to see everyone properly represented or are we trying to insure that an outdated, hierarchical order is preserved to promote elitism and defy democratic ideals?
By opening up elections to everyone, and by making Congress more responsive to people as well as more comprehensible to everyone, we could insure elected, representative, participatory government will, indeed, remain all three.
Another area of concern lies with the Electoral College. As just about all voters in the United States must be aware, Presidents are not elected by popular vote totals. Instead, each state is assigned a number of votes which corresponds to the number of representatives in the House added to the two senators each state is apportioned. The votes from each state are not divvied up based on percentages of votes received in that state, but rather, they are given to the candidate who wins the state in-total as a bloc. This is far removed from the ideal of each individual’s vote containing meaning and significance in the election. Every vote cast for the Presidential loser in each state not only is devoid of meaning, it is as if the vote was never cast. Pundits wonder why election turnouts always seem to hover between 50% and 70%. What do they expect when the individual voice is so silenced?
Another ramification of the Electoral College is evidenced in how election campaigns are run. Presidential candidates spend nearly all of their time and ad money in the most contested states with enough Electoral College votes to matter. Polling is conducted to determine likely election results in specific states and districts. Where surpluses or deficits are large, expediency directs candidates to avoid “wasting” time, energy and money campaigning there, denying voters the opportunity to see, hear and assess candidates.
More and more, the mass media usurps the public’s perception (so it can mold the collective will and remain the dominant force in manipulating public opinion, thereby perpetuating and proliferating the contemporary techno-consumerist culture and the position of the wealthy elite, who are, after all, the advertisers who fund the media and dictate the media’s agenda with those advertising dollars). As a result, a chasm of accessibility, accountability and dialogue between voters and all elected officials divides us due to the widening gulf between those classes.
One sure way to increase the importance of every single vote is to eradicate the Electoral College and to decide Presidential elections based on the total popular vote cast. In this way, we will assure that a President will not be administered the Oath of Office who was not the choice of the majority of voters as occurred in 2000 when Al Gore actually garnered more popular votes than did George Bush. I am still at a loss to see how anyone can say the will of the American people has been advanced and the election of a new President reflects both that will and the aims of democracy when the majority of votes cast went to the loser of the election!
Furthermore, to eradicate the Electoral College would make it nearly impossible to rig a Presidential election without rigging the vote counting process across the entire nation. Altering the results of a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of votes in selected districts can change the outcome under the Electoral College system, something many people allege occurred during both 2000 and 2004 to secure George Bush’s two victories.
However, if the Electoral College were eliminated, one would be required to manipulate the results of several million to tens of millions of votes in order to alter the results of a nationwide, all popular vote system. In addition, the United States would gain the advantage of reinvesting the individual with a greater voice and greater inclusion in every government elected.
Bills should be required to deal with one subject or issue, and only one. Sometimes issues may be related and complex, that is not what I seek to address. My concern is the Congressional penchant for adding riders to bills which incorporate 1) earmark spending in utterly unrelated matters or 2) address issues on other topics unrelated to the bill. That has to stop.
Let‘s make bills do what sentences are supposed to do, stick to the topic at hand. Let’s require bills be written in commonly spoken English, not nearly incomprehensible legalese. There has been a tendency to write in legalese because most elected representatives were lawyers at one time. Writing this way, as they well know, creates an inherent indispensability for lawyers. It’s a natural enough motivation; people in all walks of life would like to be indispensable.
We do not need to secure the perpetual, future existence of lawyers as politicians and elected representatives in order to assure a continuing, legitimate, representative government. The more every aspect of government is both comprehensible and answerable to every citizen, the more representative that government will be. The reason we have a system of courts is to provide neutral arbitrators amid disputes, violence, property loss, or other interpersonally or commercially influenced needs. Our courts are perfectly capable of clarifying the intended meaning in any given law. That is, after all, why appellate courts were created and is the basis of common law. We do not need bills written with such specificity that all intended ramifications are encoded into the language of the bill. We need laws written with common sense which are fair to everyone. Plain English will work just fine.
The concept of deficit spending, briefly, involves the idea that a government can spend sums today for governmental requirements even if the government does not possess the necessary funds to pay for the expenditure. In such a case, the government just borrows money (from expected, future tax revenue) to pay for the expenditure and promises to repay the sums with interest in the future. This is not a democratic policy. In this kind of situation, the government incurs debts which must be repaid, with interest, by a future electorate having no voice in the decision. That is taxation without representation which indentures a future population to decisions made by a previous body politic. No moral authority vests in a representative form of government if one society may invest itself with an entitlement which must be paid for by any other society (including a future one). That is slavery through indentured servitude.
Every civil society which professes to promote the will of the people must, at all times, be held to the most stringent degree of accountability as to: 1) its efficacy in promoting and preserving individual freedom, 2) a continued reliance on each individual retaining one’s powers of self-determination, and 3) the investiture of all authority and legitimacy for government resting in the will of the people. It is every individual’s responsibility in a representative form of government to vigilantly safeguard individuals’ rights and preserve the proper relationship between the government and the electorate. That proper relationship is always that those in office should represent the will of the people, and only the will of the people may be done. Any President who argues he or she knows better than the people, and then acts accordingly, crosses the line from democrat to autocrat. The public would be well served to re-read Jefferson, and reassert the democratic ideals of our Republic if the Republic is to survive.
Labels: democracy, Don Coorough, freedom, necessary reforms to guarantee democracy in the US, On Suggestions for Reforming America's Political System, philosophical essay, political theory, Thomas Jefferson