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Let’s Change the Government:

Let’s become lawmakers

Mike Gravel, U.S. Senate (Alaska 1969-81) January 2005

This article attempts to induce the present generation of Americans to make a change in the structure of representative government. The constituent sovereignty of the people, our natural right acting collectively to make laws and amend constitutions, equips us to make the necessary changes. It is our responsibility as self-governing citizens to improve how government facilitates the pursuit of our happiness. We do this by bringing the people into the operations of government as lawmakers. Acknowledging the great advancement to human governance our constitutional Framers made does not preclude a critical analysis of their actions and the institution they left us. The Founding Generation of the United States was no different than our own.

This article attempts to situate the American Constitution within the context of the historical development of democratic governance. Second, it exposes the structural problem: representative government and its root cause. Third, it addresses a specific structural solution: citizen lawmakers. And fourth, it introduces and explains the actionable elements of the solution: the enactment of the National Initiative.

Historical Context of the Constitution 1

The American Constitution, a significant advance in the long search for democratic governance, created the first democratic republic in history with a written constitution. The antecedents of this advance began in ancient Greece with Solon’s seminal concept of law, maturing with the experiences of the Athenian and Roman democratic/republic city- states. 2 The Swiss introduced the concept of federalism in 1291 with the Bundesbrief. 3 The British punctuated their advances with the Magna Carta in 1215 and the revolutions of the 17 th century. American colonists established constituent governance –– the town meeting as one example. 4 The Scottish Enlightenment, the Scandinavian and German experiences, and English and French luminaries (Sidney, Locke, Voltaire and Montesquieu, to name some of the more prominent) brought democratic governance to full flower in the Age of Enlightenment, where individuals were defined as sovereigns.

1 Lobingier, Charles Sumner, The People’s law or Popular Participation In Law-making - From Ancient

Folk-Moot to Modern Referendum: A Study in the Evolution of Democracy and Direct Legislation,

York: Macmillan, 1909).

2 Cartledge, Paul, The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (New York: TV Books, 2000) pp. 67-70. Kagan, Donald, Pericles Of Athens And the Birth of Democracy, (New York: Touchstone 1991).

3 Fossedal, Gregory A. Direct Democracy in Switzerland, (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2002).

4 Encyclopedia Americana,“ A particularly American governmental institution, it is the most eulogized and least understood example of direct democracy. The town meeting was created by early New Englanders from a maze of antecedents.” Vol. 26, p. 882.


The population of the polity, the collective of sovereign, civic individuals, became the constituent sovereignty of the people –– the source of all political power. These advances culminated in 1776 when a representative body of colonists, speaking for the polity of the Colonies, declared the mselves equal, free and independent from Great Britain in the “Declaration of Independence,” the ultimate expression of constituent sovereignty up to that time.

The Framers of our Constitution in 1787 set up a representative structure of government that included many of the concepts of government commonly known at the time. They claimed the Constitution they framed rested on the constituent sovereignty of the

people. However, the Framers failed to consult the constituent sovereigns directly or to provide procedures for those sovereigns – – the people –– to exercise their judgment on public policy within the operations of government. The structure of government created by the Framers has stood the test of time with little change other than the expansion of the franchise. The representative structure of government has perpetuated the power of elites to successfully control government and to greatly expand that control. Little wonder that elites the world over, similarly intent on controlling their polities, have emulated our representative structure of government, now universally referred to as democracies.

In 1848 the Swiss copied our Constitution but added a seminal advance of their own. They established the first real democracy in history, correcting the all important omission of the American Constitution. 5 The hardscrabble Swiss, closing out a three-year religious civil war, wrote a Constitution that recognized the constituent sovereignty of the people. The Swiss Constitution wrote in procedures that permit the people to act as lawmakers within the operations of government. The results of this advance are astonishing. The Swiss, at the crossroads of Europe's ravaging wars, have since lived in peace. They overcame the difficulties in their society of multiple cultures, multiple religions and multiple languages. Switzerland, without natural resources, has become the wealthiest per capita nation in the world and the best governed. The only structural feature of their system of governance, which distinguishes them from the rest of the world’s “democracies,” is the direct participation of Swiss citizens in their government as lawmakers.

The next significant advance in governance took place in Nebraska in 1897 6 and South Dakota in 1898 7 where laws copying the Swiss model empowered citizens to make laws by initiative. We owe this advance to reformers of the Populist and Progressive era in America (1890 to 1920) who enacted Initiative, Referendum and Recall laws (IRR). The level of government corruption and capitalist excesses at the time had so disgusted

Representative government has perpetuated the power of elites to successfully control government and to greatly expand that control

5 Fossedal, Gregory A. op, cit, passim

6 Nebraska's legislature in 1897 became the first in the nation to pass a bill allowing initiative and referendum only in municipalities, not on the state level. (See: Initiative and Referendum Institute

7 South Dakota’s legislature in 1898 adopted initiative and referendum on a statewide level. (See:

Initiative and Referendum Institute

Americans that a crack in the wall of government control by political elites created a brief fissure wherein reformers were able to gain some elective offices.

These reformers, ordinary people who rose to greatness by meeting the challenges of difficult times, were the equals of our nation’s Founders. The reforms they enacted into law have not been equaled since: women’s suffrage, secret ballots, direct election of U.S. Senators, recall of elected officials and primary elections. Their seminal accomplishment was the enactment of initiative laws: making the people lawmakers at the state and local levels of government. Why did it take 120 years to make these advances? And why has there been no similar advance in governance since this watershed era? The answer:

human nature makes change difficult, and those who hold power make change even more difficult.

The Structural Problem and its Causes

Political Self-Interest –– Excluding the People

Our nation’s founding elites, as in all eras, were guided by their self-interest. Their self- interest centered on maintaining the status quo of their political power and protecting their economic benefits in the society they controlled. The representative structure of government they set up protected and perpetuated their political power and thereby protected their economic interests. After all, they believed they were the best qualified to lead the polity and society. Hadn’t they just fought a Revolutionary War over home-rule, never doubting who would rule at home?

The constitutional Framers directed the Confederation Congress sitting in New York to refer the Constitution to state conventions for ratification. The text of Article VII: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient to the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” set up the ratification process by elected delegates rather than by a direct vote of the people in a national ratification election. (It is noteworthy that secret sessions were the norm not only for the constitutional convention but also for the

In 1778 the people of Massachusetts ratified their state constitution by a direct vote of the people.

Continental and Confederation Congresses.)

The Convention’s ratification strategy successfully kept the people one step removed from any direct role in the process. The judgment of the constituent sovereignty of the people was filtered through fifty five elected convention delegates, a number of

whom just happened to be the elected representative leaders in the Confederation Congress and/or the appointed delegates to the Philadelphia Convention. Many of the Framers considered the people a mob and therefore were justified in denying them any active role in the ratification process. 8

8 In the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, James Madison recorded under date of Thursday, May 31, 1787: “In Committee of the whole Mr. R (Randolph’s) .[resolution] ‘that the (members of the first branch of the National Legislature) ought to be elected by the people of (the several) States being taken up Mr Sherman opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the (State) Legislature. The

Many historians uncritically accept as fact the notion that the Founders were compelled to hold state ratification conventions with elected delegates because distances and communications in Colonial times precluded a direct vote of the people in a national election. This conclusion is arguable. In marked contrast: in 1778 the people of Massachusetts ratified their state constitution by a direct vote of their citizens, who rejected the first constitution submitted by their leaders, forcing changes that were then ratified in a second election. The Framers were well acquainted with the democratic model of Massachusetts and the technical difficulties of the day. The decision they made took more than two years for the 13 states to ratify the Constitution. One could travel the length of the Colonies in less than thirty days providing ample time to conduct a national ratification election accompanied by public debate with the many newspapers in operation in 1787. A national ratification election would have taken the same amount of time (less than a year) it took to secure the ratification of nine states. Nevertheless, the political elites chose a convention process that maintained their political control by keeping direct decision making out of the hands of the people.

The ratification process was consistent with the Framers’ efforts to cripple the power of the people in the text of the Constitution. By omitting, accidentally or on purpose, procedures to amend the Constitution whereby the people could realistically exercise control over government, the Framers procedurally handicapped the people if they ever chose to directly exercise that control. American citizens have been kept powerless from the beginning in contrast to the powers in Article V the Framers granted to themselves and future Congresses to alter the limits on government originally imbedded in the Constitution. Subsequent interpretation of the Constitution by presidents and judges has further facilitated the ability of government officials to define the limits of their own power without interference of the people. Nevertheless, we still hold the myth that we have a government of limited powers.

The Framers should have been embarrassed by what they were doing in light of public pronouncements at the time, by Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson and Wilson, to name a few, that the people as creators of government had the right –– no, the obligation –– to alter their constitutional garment to later fit the grown body of an adult constituency. 9 But how were the creators ––the people –– going to meet that need of an adult nation without amending procedures with which to alter the Constitution and enact laws? The Framers’ omission served their own interests; and the polity has ever since been controlled by a small minority of political elites and democracy has been undeveloped.

people, he said, (immediately) should have as little to do as may be about their Government. They want information and are constantly liable to be misled. Mr. Gerry [added;] The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue; but are the dupes of pretended patriots.” Farrand, Max, Ed. The Records of the Federal Constitution of 1787 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press 1911, 1937) Vol 1, p. 47-48

9 In a letter to Bushrod Washington several month after the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, (Nov. 9, 1787) George Washington wrote: 'The warmest friends and the best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is

free from imperfections


think the people (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of

experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alternatives and amendments which are necessary as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue than those who will come after us.” (George Washington Writings New York: Literary Classics, 1997, p. 661)

Economic Self-Interest: Protecting Slavery

As was the case in many earlier societies, the American Colonists accepted slavery, giving this vile institution an enduring foothold in the nation’s economy. The Framers wove slavery into the fabric of the Constitution, contrary to the concepts of liberty and freedom enshrined in the Declaration of Independence a decade earlier. The intertwined features of the Constitution, which protects slavery, were knotted in such a way that it was impossible for future Congresses to enact change. The Christian spirit of the “Great Awakening” lacked the moral depth to move American consciences to indignation or political action. As the French philosopher Diderot commented: Africans “are tyrannized, mutilated, burnt and put to death, and yet we listen to these accounts coolly and without emotion. The torments of a people to whom we owe our luxuries are never able to reach our hearts.”

The Framers in effect legislated the inevitability of a bloody Civil War and left future generations a racial legacy that haunts us to this day. Change denied by evolution begets

violent revolution –– a maxim as applicable today as it was in 1787. The Constitution’s ratification by means of conventions rather than by a direct vote of the people foreclosed the best opportunity to peacefully dislodge slavery from the nation’s economy if not its soul. Slavery’s weakest hold on America was during the Revolutionary era. The cotton gin, which

propelled slavery’s expansion into the Deep South, had yet to be invented. Would the citizens of the founding generation have voted for a Constitution that perpetuated slavery while violating the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence and benefiting only a small planter-class minority primarily in the south? Would the people, well aware that a significant number of blacks had fought for their freedom alongside white Americans in the Revolutionary War –– a fact airbrushed from the Revolution’s tableau –– have ratified a Constitution that perpetuated slavery? The nation continues to pay for an opportunity missed.

The Unnoticed Trade Off

There is little scholarship on one of the Philadelphia convention’s most significant compromises. Federalism, the linchpin of the new government, was a tough sell in that it made the central government’s power superior to the already existing power of independent state governments. This is not an exchange that politicians readily accept. The acceptance of this shift of political power from state governments to national government required something significant in exchange. What trade off or assurance could persuade the political leaders of state governments to relinquish any of their powers? The answer: they were granted continued control over the voting process used by the people. In exchange for federalism, the states retained responsibility for the conduct of all elections in their respective state and, most importantly, federal elections. State laws would now determine how, when and who could vote, assuring a solid underpinning for “states rights” and the perpetuation of slavery.

The Framers bequeathed the American voting public a flawed electoral process in exchange for federalism. Proof: Jim Crow slavery was maintained for more than 90 years

Change denied by evolution begets violent revolution.

after the Civil War by state voting laws in violation of the Constitution. The Florida electoral debacle of 2000 and the Ohio partisan shenanigans in 2004 are more recent examples. America’s citizenry has suffered electoral abuse from the beginning. Even George Washington complained about his costs for rum to inebriate voters to get him elected to the House of Burgesses. Congress, reacting to the problems in the Florida election, enacted the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Typically, it failed to address a failed process of state and local control of the electoral process.

A democratic Constitution?

The Framers stripped away the democratic essence of our Constitution with their inclusion of the five features below (all but the first of these are still in the Constitution):

1) Slaves were valued at three-fifths of a person, giving slave-holding states an edge in the population apportionment of the House of Representatives and thereby a substantial legislative advantage.

2) The Electoral College whose numbers are based on a state’s House of Representatives membership guaranteed inequality in the selection of presidents. Four of the first five presidents were slave owners, and nine of the 15 presidents up to President Lincoln were from slave states. The Electoral College may have lost some of its racial overtones since the Civil War, but injustice persists, affecting the right of all Americans to have their votes counted equally. The votes of citizens for president in sparsely populated states can be three times more important than the votes of citizens in heavily populated states.

3) Two senators representing each state in the U.S. Senate perpetuates unfairness when 600,000 people have the same level of representation as 35 million people.

4) Article V is how elected representatives amend the Constitution. It guarantees power to a minority in Congress, where it takes two-thirds of the membership to advance an amendment. It guarantees the power of veto to a minority of one- fourth of the state legislatures (the single chamber of 13 legislatures –– an even smaller minority). The Article V amending process makes it virtually impossible to correct the undemocratic features in the Constitution, since any one of those features would undoubtedly affect adversely more than one-fourth of the states.

5) Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution grants each state control of the voting process. States define the franchise of their voting citizens. As a result, throughout our history, we have never enjoyed fair elections under the patchwork of state regulations, registration procedures and voting, all of which are controlled by politically partisan officials.

These constitutional features translate into gross distortions of government services rendered to citizens in various parts of the United States. These distortions will continue to foster geographical rancor and citizen distrust of government. 10

Unfortunately, the only major constitutional advance over the life of our nation has been the expansion of the voting franchise to all eligible persons. 11 Credit for this does not go

10 Sperling, John, The Great Divide, P3 Polipoint Press (Newdle Design, Inc. 2004).

to the Framers for their design of government in the Constitution, but to the enfranchisement of black citizens as a result of our bloody Civil War and to IRR laws in state and local governments, which forced the granting of the franchise to women in 1920. However, having the right to vote is no guarantee that the states will conduct fair elections, as we have recently seen in Texas, Illinois, Florida, Ohio and any number of other states. Even with the broadest franchise in U.S. history, considerably more than a majority of qualified citizens do not vote –– hardly a vote of confidence in representative government.

The Power of Government

Governments force obedience to the rule of law, a requisite for freedom and liberty. However, governments have a tendency to oppress their people by the kind of laws they enact thereby enhancing the power of elites who control governments. Under representative government, the only protection people have from government oppression is vested in the actions or inactions of their elected representatives, who unfortunately have a tendency to want to expand their power as government officials. Obviously, those who suffer oppression lack control over their elected representatives.

The growth of government and its attendant invasion into people’s private lives increases the likelihood of government oppression. Wars, resource exploitation, and social

entitlements have had the effect of building special interest constituencies that encourage the growth of government in their particular

areas of economic interest. Special interests define tax and social policies, and maintain large defense expenditures regardless if a threat to the nation exists or not. In our bloated government controlled by special interests, elected representatives effectively

relinquish their ability to protect the people they are elected to represent. The power of government officials is moved to the forefront of the polity, displacing the contractual power of the Constitution to protect the people from government oppression. Political power has devolved from the Constitution to that of an imperial presidency accommodated by a compliant Congress and sustained by the interpretative skills of an obliging Supreme Court. 12

This devolution is best understood with an example. It was no accident that conservatives in the present administration’s Justice Department were able to quickly cobble together an old wish-list of police powers into the Patriot Act and stampede a panicked Congress into thoughtlessly enacting it shortly after 9/11. In the aftermath, the U.S. government has oppressed citizens and foreigners under the guise of protecting us from terrorism. Because one party aggressively controls all three branches of government, the constitutional protection against government oppression through our system of Checks and Balances is powerless.

The only protection people have from government oppression is the actions or inactions of their elected representatives.

11 See: Keyssar, Alexander, The Right to Vote - The Constitutional History of Democracy in the United States. (New York: Basic Books, 2000). passim

12 Barnett, Randy E., Restoring the Lost Constitution, The Presumption of Liberty, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford 2004.

Military Industrial Complex

The Depression and the Second World War era greatly induced and abetted the expansion of government. However, it was the Cold War and the awesomely persuasive power of a fully matured, politically oriented advertising and public relations industry that finally solidified government’s control of the nation’s citizenry. The stage was set in the First World War when the nation was sold that it was “the war to end all wars.” Corporate capitalism easily saw its interest advanced by massive advertising. Modern communications facilitated its growth to a level of public manipulation referred to as manufactured consent.

Fear is the emotion of choice to secure manufactured consent for government and corporate programs. Fear develops a drug-like dependence creating an unreasoning, compliant constituency, one which automatically defers to political, military and corporate leaders.

General Dwight Eisenhower warned us of a military-industrial complex –– sustained by fear –– creating a self-serving militarist culture capable of destroying democracy. Jingoistic patriotism, the hallmark of intellectual midgets and a militarist culture, stifles critique and defines opposition as treason. The manufacture of fear sustains a need for ever increasing defense expenditures defined by corporation interests who profit there from. This climate of unreasoning fear is so pervasive, that Eisenhower was the last president to even acknowledge the problem

The tragedy of 9/11 has greatly exacerbated national fear, further strengthening the already unreasonable power and influence of the military-industrial complex. Subservient elected representatives have lost control of government and thereby their ability to protect the interests of the people. Even if uncorrupted, politicians dare not and cannot oppose the militant forces that are sustained by a continually manipulated electorate. A strong defense and an internally secure nation are clearly vital roles for government. But when these important roles are corrupted by creatively induced fear and paranoia, which stifles sensible oversight or critique of wasteful expenditures the nation and its people are at greater risk of succumbing to that which President Eisenhower warned us about.

The Self-Interest of Representatives

Representatives in government –– agents of the people –– are incapable of changing a system that guarantees them a monopoly of political power. Agents in the private sector are similarly impaired and operate no differently. Human nature makes it impossible for representatives or agents to avoid giving preference to their interests over the interests of those granting them the agency.

Our elected or appointed officials, when faced with decisions affecting the public interest, will first defer to his or her personal interests –– the next election or appointment. The representatives’ next concern will be the financial impact the decision has on those who put the money up for her or him to secure and keep public office. Next is the partisan concern over the impact the decision will have on his or her party’s control of government, which ultimately affects the power the representatives will enjoy. Then –– maybe –– the decision-maker will defer to the public interest she or he is sworn to uphold, assuming, of course, there are no ideological or outright corruption barriers. This

is the structural flaw –– human nature –– in lawmaking by elected representatives. This monopoly of representative government is not correctable by representatives. Au contraire, when the people make laws, there are no barriers to their majoritarian decisions once they are informed of their self-interest –– the strongest argument for bringing the people into the operations of government as lawmakers.

The Power of Elections

The Framers designed a system where the people would supposedly control the government through representatives they periodically elected to office. If that supposition were fact, then the Framers would not have been able to perpetuate their control of political power into the future, which history shows

they were able to do. The Election Day power of the people was grossly overrated from the beginning. We do not empower ourselves by voting; just the opposite, we give our power away on Election Day. Elections have always been bought and paid for. Purchasing individual votes was easy before Populists and Progressives brought about the secret ballot early in the 20 th century. The practice of buying elections occurs today with greater subtlety primarily through the campaign contribution and the lobbying process.

Current political practices call into question the view that citizens control their representatives through their votes on Election Day. These practices include but are not limited to the following:

1) The destructive impact gerrymandering has on competition in politics. It plays to partisan extremes and guarantees a greater than a 95% re-election rate for members of the House of Representative and other elective offices.

2) The ever expanding cult of secrecy in government and its practice by corporate interests denies the polity an informed electorate –– vital for the survival of a democracy.

3) Electoral constituencies are manipulated by the political campaigns of candidates and political parties with money raised from special interests. The last presidential race was the first in history to substantially exceed $1 Billion.

4) The Supreme Court and the Judiciary has endangered democracy by treating corporations as human beings with the concept of “corporate personhood.” As a result, it legalized the corporate use of political power –– often against the interests of the citizenry –– to monopolize communications and therewith the ability to manipulate the people for commercial and political profit, and to instill exaggerated fears in the people, making thievery by the military-industrial complex commonplace and acceptable.

Yes we can VOTE. So what! As an official of an inside-the-beltway think tank put it:

“The problem is that we have a permanent ruling class in Washington that has made itself largely impervious to elections.” 13

We do not empower ourselves on Election Day. We just give our power away.

13 David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, Washington, DC

The Solution

American citizens have had two fundamental roles under the Constitution: First, to ratify and create the government, and second, to select and elect officials to run the government. These roles presuppose control of government by the people, which is not the case as historic and current electoral practices demonstrate.

Our role in the creation was filtered through elites who controlled the polity. Our electoral role since has been secondary to the lawmaking powers monopolized by elected officials. The people were denied any role in lawmaking –– the central power of government. Laws determine who votes, how and when. Congress and state legislatures held a total monopoly on lawmaking from our founding until Populists and Progressives enacted local and state initiative laws at the beginning of the last century. However, federal lawmaking is still the monopoly of Congress.

The people, powerless between elections, can only ask, beg and protest government officialdom. The lawmaking monopoly of representative government essentially makes mendicants –– beggars –– of its individual citizens. Failure to appreciate how human nature acts as a barrier to the pursuit of an equitable public agenda by government officialdom condemns well-meaning citizens to futile mendicancy. We live in a Mendicant Democracy.

Citizen Lawmakers

We will never know if and how our history would have played out differently had the Framers provided procedures for citizens to alter the Constitution and make laws, as the Swiss did in 1848. Could the people have ended slavery during the Constitution’s ratification process and avoided the Civil War? Could the people have better controlled the expansive power of corporations? Could the people have better protected their publicly owned systems of communication? Could the people have maintained a better balance between the competing pressures for social services and defense needs? Could the people have controlled the growth of government?

Inklings as to how these questions could have been answered are found in the lawmaking experiences of the American people since 1897 in states permitting citizens to make laws. Americans have more than a 100 years experience as lawmakers. In fact, the experience is even more extensive than the presence of initiative laws would indicate. Citizens of state and local jurisdictions have at one time or other voted on bond issues, which is as serious as lawmaking gets. Studies show that states where people enact laws by initiative are measurably better governed than non-initiative states and the people have greater control over government growth. 14

The people’s legislative record shows that they have acted as responsibly as their elected officials, and on many occasions more so. There is no instance where the people, by initiative, have bankrupted any government through an excess of spending. We cannot say as much for representative governments. The record shows that the people are more

14 Samples, John, Editor, James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, Cato Institute Washington, DC 2002. See Samples article, Madison and the Revival of Pure Democracy, P.184.

conservative than their political leaders regardless of party or ideological persuasion. They know that politicians’ campaign promises are often attempts to bribe them with their own money, or better still, that of other taxpayers. Evidence of the latter is found in the disparity that exists between the tax dollars returned to the citizens of small states (primarily rural) and the lesser amounts of tax dollars returned to citizens of densely populated urban states.

The people’s legislative record is even more spectacular; when one appreciates the handicap the people legislate under. State initiative laws fail to provide deliberative legislative procedures similar to those that exist in all representative legislative bodies, where proposed legislation is normally subjected to public hearings, subcommittee scrutiny, amendments, votes in committee, and communications via extensive unbiased committee reports printed a public expense. The nature and process of such deliberation are vital to rational lawmaking.

This deliberative process is purposely denied to citizen initiative lawmaking by state and local government officials, who control the initiative process, with the hope of discrediting the people as lawmakers. Initiative laws are continually under assault by elected legislators trying to make their use by the people more difficult. Since the initiative process is controlled by representative governments, it remains subject to the same corruption by special interest monies. Critics of citizen lawmaking, apologists of the status quo, denigrate the people’s lawmaking process without acknowledging the responsibility of representative government officials for the procedural flaws in their state initiative laws at the root of the very criticisms they make.

The Solution: The People

The arguments proposed here acknowledge that the Great American Experiment has advanced human governance, bringing liberty and freedom to untold masses. America

has also fostered the expansion of capitalism and the growth of global market economies. At issue, however, is not what has

been accomplished in the past, which we applaud, but what might possibly have been done at less cost in human misery had the Framers

adhered to the principles of the Declaration of Independence rather than to their personal self-interest. Our message is for the future: building on what has been accomplished; we can do better by more equitably sharing the fruits of progress, improving our social consciousness of civil liberties and maturing our concern for the health of the planet. Given our position in the world, this generation of Americans can make a greater contribution to human governance than that of the Founding generation.

We are no lesser citizens than the Populists and Progressives of an earlier era; facing dysfunctional representative government they had the wit to copy the Swiss, making some Americans lawmakers. Because of constitutional limitations, all Americans might have become lawmakers a century earlier.

Current polls overwhelmingly affirm that people want to be empowered to set public policies and address directly the public agenda, knowing intuitively that representative

Americans are not aware that they hold the power to enact the very law that will make them as lawmakers.

government is incapable of doing so fairly. Americans are disgusted with the corruption of governments by money and special interests; they are frustrated by their apparent inability to make changes. Unfortunately, they are not aware that they hold the power, their constituent sovereignty, to enact the laws that will empower them to become lawmakers and exercise the central power of government. A legislative proposal National Initiative for Democracy sponsored by The Democracy Foundation, ( builds on the legislative experiences of state and local initiative laws and corrects their procedural shortcomings. This legislation will empower all citizens as deliberative legislators in every government jurisdiction of the United States creating a de facto “Legislature of the People” operating independently of, but in partnership with representative government.

An Actionable Solution

The National Initiative for Democracy

The National Initiative for Democracy is designed to empower American citizens by bringing them into the operations of government as lawmakers, in a legislative partnership with their elected representatives. In doing so, it provides a necessary “balance” to the present monopoly of government power, and in the event representatives misuse their power the people have ability to chasten them through constitutional amendment.

The National Initiative is a legislative package that includes: the Democracy Amendment and the Democracy Act described at the web site The Democracy Amendment 1) amends the Constitution and asserts the constituent sovereignty of the People, 2) outlaws the use of monies not from natural persons in initiative elections, 3) defines the role of the Electoral Trust’s board of trustees, and 4) legitimizes the election being conducted by the nonprofit corporation Philadelphia II, which gives Americans the opportunity to vote on the National Initiative.

The Democracy Act is a proposed federal statute that 1) establishes deliberative legislative procedures to be used by citizen lawmakers in their legislative role, 2) defines the limited powers of the Electoral Trust that administers the people’s legislative procedures on their behalf, and 3) defines the electoral standard that must be reached to enact the National Initiative as the law of the land, based on the precedent of Article VII of the Constitution and the majoritarian decision making practice of elections since our founding.

The Electoral Trust will be governed by a board of 53 trustees who will be elected for staggered four-year terms and limited to one term. They oversee the policies of the Trust and the work of the Trust’s Executive Director. The Trust is charged with registering all qualified voters for life, and conducting all initiative elections for all government jurisdictions from a central database, employing the best available technologies. Trustees and the staff of the Trust are prohibited by law from influencing the content of initiatives or the course of their elections.

The Trust will have the power to set up voting procedures such that citizens will be able to vote 24 hours a day, seven days a week on any given initiative for each level of government from anywhere in the world by phone, or by computer via

the Internet. Initiatives will be processed chronologically, as opposed to the practice of representative legislatures where the party in control determines what, when and if legislation is taken up. Under emergency circumstances, a majority of the Trustees could establish accelerated procedures for special initiatives. The intent of the Democracy Act is that the procedures will be administered by the Trust to assure that every initiative is given fair treatment, unbiased consideration and presentation to the appropriate voters for their decision. The guidelines to be followed by the Trust are detailed at the web site http//

The National Initiative’s legislative procedures include public hearings, deliberative committee mark-ups and reports similar to those of the Congress and funded publicly. The Congress and every other elected legislative body, for the relevant government jurisdiction where the initiative is being enacted, are required by law to conduct an advisory vote within a given time on each initiative before the initiative is presented to the voters for their decision.

The Democracy Act mandates sufficient educational and informational communications about the initiative so that voters can discern their self-interest to a degree that makes private monies spent outside the formal initiative campaign ineffectual on the voters’ decision. A pamphlet for each initiative will be sent by mail to each voter, in which the relevant parties present the pros and cons, and an independent assessment is made of the initiative’s economic, environmental, fiscal, and social impacts. The substance of the pamphlet will be communicated to voters by the best available technologies in the various mediums: newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet. These communications provided at public expense are designed to overcome the brainwashing and manipulation of special interests. The National Initiative legislative process guarantees thoughtful deliberation vital to sound lawmaking.

Naturally, Americans will make mistakes as lawmakers, but they will have the responsibility and ability and most importantly the incentive to correct their mistakes. This aspect of the process is considerably different from that of representative government, where elected officials are reluctant to correct or even admit errors. One reason: elected officials do not have to live with or directly feel the personal pain of a mistake. Secondly, any admission by an elected official would be exploited by an opponent in the next election.

The most important result of enacting the National Initiative is the opportunity for people to take responsibility for the public policies they enact. Taking responsibility for ones actions is how we humans mature to adulthood. As lawmakers, we will have the opportunity to take responsible for the public policies we enact and thereby enjoy the opportunity to civically mature. Presently, the structure of representative government, where the power of our constituent sovereignty is given away on Election Day, denies us the catharsis of taking responsibility for our legislative actions like adults, which has the

The National Initiative for Democracy will empower American citizens as lawmakers

unfortunate effect of keeping us in civic adolescence. The human maturation that will grow with citizen experience of making laws will expand into all corners of society.

It is important to understand that the National Initiative does not alter the existing structure of representative governments; but it adds an additional check –– the people –– to our system of Checks and Balances, while setting up a working partnership between the People and their elected representatives. Once the people are lawmakers they will be able to enact improvements to many of the practices of representative government.

Enacting the National Initiative There are only two venues within which to enact governmental change: the people or elected representatives. For those who refuse to trust in the people, they have no alternative but to trust government officialdom and silently accept the dysfunction of representative government. However, those who opt for the people, must recognize that the Congress will never dilute its power by enacting the National Initiative. Thus the constituent sovereignty of the people must be called on to enact the National Initiative. To give voters the opportunity to vote on the National Initiative, Philadelphia II, a nonprofit corporation, is conducting a national election on behalf of the American people.

The Constitution clearly affirms the people as creators of the Constitution and thereby the government: in its Preamble, where “We, the People…do ordain;” in Article VII, where conventions ratify; and in amendments IX and X, where rights and powers are reserved. This role of creator exists even though the

Constitution was drafted by appointed delegates in a Convention shrouded in secrecy and the ratification by the actions of state conventions. By logical extension, the role of creator presupposes the power to alter the Constitution regardless of the fact that the Framers omitted

procedures to make such alterations possible. Unfortunately conventional wisdom holds that Article V is the only way to amend the Constitution. Article V is how the government amends the Constitution, not how the people amend the Constitution. If that were not the case, it would mean that the creator of government, the people, would have to get permission from government officials, the people’s creation to amend the Constitution. The creator would need permission of the createe; this logic is ludicrous. Or as Professor Richard Parker of Harvard has more trenchantly stated: “there is no external authority to the people.”

Today’s technology permits us to ask all American citizens if they wish to be empowered to make laws by enacting the National Initiative and thereby amending the Constitution. If we are ever to control our public agenda We, the People must support, fund and vote for the National Initiative sponsored by The Democracy Foundation in the national election presently conducted by Philadelphia II. Huge sums of money are spent by special interests to control the legislative agendas of our elected officials. We, the People can do no less if we are ever to have a government "by the people."

The full text and additional information about National Initiative can be found at Citizens can register with Philadelphia II and vote to enact the National

There is no likelihood that the Congress will enact the National Initiative. It will have to be enacted by the people.

Supporters can financially help at

Initiative as the law of the land at (Grant put a link here)

As we begin the 21 st century human governance remains the monopoly of nation-state representative governments. Human governance must catch up to our technical and scientific advances if we are to deal fairly with the complex demands of modern life or for that matter even survive. Though late in coming, the Age of Enlightenment’s promise of constituent sovereignty –– collective self-governance without intermediaries –– is now a real possibility.