Signed in as:
Signed in as:
These two sentences from the Declaration of Independence are a clear and concise statement of the ideals upon which our nation was founded. As he wrote these words, Thomas Jefferson was clearly inspired by John Locke - who was the first political philosopher to advocate strongly for democracy.
In his Second Treatise of Government (1689), Locke, a deeply spiritual man, placed both individual liberty and political power within a moral framework informed by his theories regarding life in the state of Nature. He stated, as “self-evident” truths, that “all men by nature are equal”, endowed by God with natural rights to “life, health, liberty, (and) possessions”; that “the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom”, and that “the consent of the people” is the only “lawful basis” for government.
These ideas were revolutionary. Demonstrably so. They provided the justification for the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and numerous other revolutions. They have inspired, and continue to inspire, people around the world.
Unfortunately, these ideals have yet to be fully realized – in America or anywhere else. More than three centuries after Locke wrote his Second Treatise and two and a half centuries after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the world has yet to see any nation fully live up to Locke’s ideals. There is a simple explanation for that – democracy has a great many false friends and true enemies who have waged a relentless, never-ending, covert war against democracy. And they have been winning that war.
There is a great deal of discussion about how democracy is under assault in America today. That is true. It is also true that democracy is always under assault – any time and any place that democracy takes root and manages to blossom. There is a great deal of talk about defending democracy. The old adage, common to sports and warfare, that “the best defense is a good offense” applies to democracy, as well. We need to proactively promote democracy and work actively to make America more democratic. Our goal should be to make America a Perfect Democracy.
The first step in the process of making America a Perfect Democracy is to agree upon a clear definition of democracy and come to a shared understanding of the elements that make a state or nation a true democracy. That might appear to be a simple matter but defining and understanding democracy is complicated by the fact that democracy the false friends and true enemies of democracy actively and intentionally seek to keep us from developing a shared understanding of democracy.
George Orwell addressed this problem in his essay “Politics and the English Language”. He made the point that "the great enemy of clear language is insincerity”, resulting from “a gap between one's real and one's declared aims”. In that context, he identified some political words that have been “abused” to the point that they have “several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another”. With regard to democracy, he said:
"In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic, we are praising it: consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning."
George Orwell (1903-1950)
It is true that the term democracy has come to mean different things to different people but attempts to define democracy are not “resisted from all sides” – only by the defenders of other kinds of regimes – the false friends and true enemies of democracy.
For anyone who is sincere and feels no need to hide their real aims, defining “democracy” is a simple matter. The word is derived from the Greek word demokratia, which was formed from two other Greek words: demos (meaning “the people”) and kratia (which means “have power”). A democratic government, therefore, is one in which the people have power. In a democracy, the people rule. Democracy is Government by the People.
The word “democracy” does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence and appears only once in Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, in a sentence describing the elements that make the form of a government a “perfect democracy”:
Locke used the term “perfect democracy” in the same way the term “pure democracy” is sometimes used to describe the form of government commonly known as direct democracy. In a pure democracy, everyone who is governed by the laws that are put in place has an equal vote and votes directly to determine the form their government, the “just powers” of the government, what laws are enacted, and what public policies are put into place.
Locke identified majority rule as the essential element that makes the form of a government a “perfect democracy”. He asserted that a majority of the members of a society had “the whole power of the community naturally in them” and “may employ all that power in making laws for the community” because “every man, by consenting with others to make one body politic under one government, puts himself under an obligation, to everyone of that society, to submit to the determination of the majority, and to be concluded by it".
Locke also discussed, at some length, the other elements of a perfect democracy that flow from majority rule: an equal vote for every citizen of a community, state, or nation; and the supremacy of the legislative power.
It is impossible to determine the will of a majority of the citizens unless every citizen has an equal vote and/or equal representation. Locke stressed the importance of maintaining “a state…of equality wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another…for it is the interest as well as the intention of the people to have fair and equal representation.”
With regard to the supremacy of the legislative power, Locke stated that “there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate”.
The supremacy of the legislative power is established and maintained by having the laws that are made by the people executed by “officers of their own appointing”.
Majority rule, an equal vote or equal representation for all, and the supremacy of the legislative power make the form of a government a perfect democracy. The additional element needed to make a government a perfect democracy is a well-educated and well-informed electorate with a profound respect for the rights of others.
Making a government a perfect democracy, in the purest sense of the term, is impossible. There are bound to be some politically active citizens who are not well-educated or well-informed and who do not respect the rights of others. However, just as John Locke pointed out that democracies act upon “the consent of the majority” because “it is impossible” to obtain the “the consent of every individual”, we may bestow the honorific of “Perfect Democracy” on a government where a majority of the citizens who choose to be politically active are well-educated, well-informed, and have a deep respect for the rights of others.
Although it may not seem that way at times these days, that is the case in America. And with that being the case, all we need to do to make America a Perfect Democracy is to put the form of a perfect democracy (a pure democracy) in place.
Two elegantly simple, yet incredibly powerful, reforms (Pure Democracy Amendments and Proxies for Citizens) will shift power from monied interests and corrupt politicians to the people of America and accomplish that goal.
Pure Democracy Amendments will extend the use of referendums and the initiative to the federal government and to the states that do not yet provide for them in their constitutions and make it easier for citizens and legislators to utilize these powerful forms of direct (“pure”) democracy.
Referendums should be far more common than they are in America at present. Pure Democracy Amendments will make it far easier for citizens and legislators to call for referendums whenever it appears that Congress or a state legislature is failing to reflect the will of the people - whether that is to reject legislation enacted by Congress or a state legislature that may not have the support of a majority of the people or to allow the people to vote on legislation that has not be enacted by Congress or a state legislature that may be supported by a majority of the people.
A proxy is the authority to represent someone else, especially in voting. When you assign your proxy to someone, you authorize them to vote on your behalf. The best way to ensure that votes taken in Congress and state legislatures reflect the will of the people is to give every citizen who is governed by the laws passed by a legislative body, a proxy that can be assigned to any one member of each such legislative body, and then allow each legislator to cast a number of votes equal to the number of proxies they hold (plus one for themselves) on every matter that comes before that legislative body (including votes taken in committees and on procedural matters).
Proxies for Citizens will ensure that every citizen is represented by a legislator who votes as they would vote and instantly transform Congress and state legislatures into truly democratic institutions, making referendums and the initiative less necessary. Perfect Democracy Amendments will make it easier to call referendums or use the initiative, if and when it remains necessary to do so.
Being politically active should be as simple and easy as possible. Any practices or measures that make it unnecessarily difficult for citizens to be politically actively make our government less democratic. Enacting Proxies for Citizens and/or Perfect Democracy Amendments will make America or any state more democratic.
We have grown accustomed to thinking of political issues in terms of “Democrats versus Republicans”. But democracy is not a partisan issue. There are some Republicans who believe in and support democracy and some who don’t. There are some Democrats who believe in and support democracy and some who don’t. There are some citizens who do not support either of the two major parties. Some of them believe in and support democracy. Some of them don’t.
The campaign to enact Perfect Democracy Amendments and implement systems of Proxies for Citizens will not be a partisan campaign – with Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. It will be led by Champions of Democracy and opposed by the false friends and true enemies of democracy. Which side are you on?
Those of us who are politically active have worked long and hard, without much success, to get legislation favored by a majority of the people passed into law. We must understand that our government has been corrupted. It is under the control of corporate interests and tax averse billionaires. Our political system is broken and dysfunctional. Unless and until we reform our political system and make America a true (pure) democracy we are not likely to experience much success politically.
The false friends and true enemies of democracy are well organized, well-funded, and ruthless. They have the money to outspend us, but we have them outnumbered. They are united. We have been divided. And we have been conquered.
However, in politics nothing is ever won and done. When we unite in support of democracy and in support of our ideals, as part of a broad-based and inclusive grassroots movement, we will find that we have the power to enact the reforms needed to make America a perfect democracy. And when we succeed in making America a Perfect Democracy, we will make history.
In a pure democracy, all of the power is divided equally among all of the people. We have it in our power to make America a pure democracy, perhaps even a perfect democracy. We have it in our power to make history.
This website is intended to serve as an informational and educational resource and an organizing hub for a broad and inclusive grassroots movement united in support of doing the work necessary to make our government our own. Effective communication and coordination will be vital to the success of our efforts to Make America a Perfect Democracy.
If you want to join our grassroots efforts to make America a more perfect democracy, please provide your email address. You will receive occasional emails with calls to action and updates regarding our progress. You will never be asked for a financial contribution. Your contact information will not be shared.