In this passage from his Second Treatise of Government (1689), John 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.
Majority rule is the essential element that makes a government a pure democracy. Locke asserted that a majority of the members of a community 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 identified and discussed two other elements that flow from majority rule: an equal vote (or equal representation) for every citizen of a state or nation and the supremacy of the legislative power.
It is impossible to accurately determine the will of the majority 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.”
Regarding 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”.
An election in which the people of a state or nation vote directly to determine whether a proposed law or constitutional amendment is enacted or rejected is called a referendum.
In a pure democracy, referendums should be conducted any time it appears likely that a legislature has failed to enact legislation that would be supported by the majority if referred to the citizens, or that a law or amendment that has been passed by a legislature would be rejected if voted on by the citizens.
Referendums can be called by various methods: by a legislative body, according to mandates in a constitution, or by the people through the “initiative", which gives citizens the power to initiate and enact legislation, including constitutional amendments, without the involvement or approval of a legislature.
The adoption of referendums and/or the initiative in twenty-three states in the twenty-year period between 1898 and 1918 was one of the most significant and enduring victories of the Progressive and Populist movements that took place in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are currently twenty-six states in America that have provisions for referendums and/or the initiative in their state constitutions. There is no provision for referendums or the initiative in the Constitution of the United States.
Efforts are underway in some states to make it more difficult to use the initiative. If these antidemocratic amendments are enacted, it will be a significant setback for democracy.
When it comes to defending democracy, an adage commonly associated with sports and warfare applies – “the best defense is a good offense”. We need to do more than defend democracy. We need to proactively promote democracy.
Common sense tells us, and research confirms that “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
As incredible as it may seem, one elegantly simple, yet incredibly powerful, reform will instantly transform our broken and dysfunctional political system into a pure democracy.
Pure Democracy Amendments will make it easier for citizens (and legislators) to call referendums and use the initiative and will extend the use of referendums and the initiative to the federal government and to the states that do not yet provide for them is the key to making a government a pure democracy.
Pure Democracy Amendments will allow citizens to sign initiative petitions electronically through Online Accounts for Politically Active Citizens and empower a super-minority of one-third or more of the members of either house of Congress or a state legislature to call for referendums or propose legislation through "legislative initiatives".
Pure Democracy Amendments will make it much easier for us to enact the additional reforms that are needed to make America a perfect democracy.
A petition for a Pure Democracy Amendment has already been approved for circulation in Missouri. We are beginning the process of gathering signatures on the petition. If we gather the required number of signatures by May 5, 2024, the Pure Democracy Amendment will be on the ballot in Missouri on November 5, 2024. If approved by voters, it will take effect 30 days later.
There are fourteen other states that already provide for both referendums and the initiative for both statutes and constitutional amendments in their constitutions: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota.
It only takes one Champion of Democracy in each of those states to draft and submit a petition for a Pure Democracy Amendment in each state. If you live in one of those states and would like assistance in drafting and submitting a Pure Democracy Amendment for your state, please contact us.
Majority rule, an equal vote or equal representation for all, and the supremacy of the legislative power make a government a pure democracy and put the form of a perfect democracy in place. Three additional elements must be in place to make a government a perfect democracy.
The argument could be made that for a government to be a perfect democracy, in the strictest sense of the term, all politically active citizens should meet those criteria. However, just as 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 most of the citizens who choose to be politically active are well-educated, well-informed, and respect the rights of others.
It may not seem that way at times these days, but this final element is in place in America. Most Americans are reasonably well educated, well informed, and do respect the rights of others. But all of the other elements of a pure or perfect democracy are either missing entirely or only partially in place in America.
We can put most of these additional elements in place by making it easier for citizens to call referendums and use the initiative in the states that have provisions for those powerful forms of direct democracy in their constitutions and by extending the use of referendums and the initiative to the federal government and the states that do not yet provide for them. That will empower the people of America to put the additional elements in place.
The process of making America a perfect democracy is a simple matter of enacting the legislation that constitutes the Democracy Agenda but that does not mean it will be easy. Making America a perfect democracy will give power to the people and significantly reduce the political power of corporate interests and plutocrats. "There's nothing that scares the rulers of America more than the prospect of democracy breaking out." [David Graeber]
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 governments our own, at both the state and federal levels.
Making every state in the United States and the federal government perfect democracies will involve getting constitutional amendments and other legislation enacted that will remove antidemocratic provisions from our Constitution (and state constitutions) and reform our political system. The amendments and legislation needed make up the Democracy Agenda.
Making America a perfect democracy will not be easy, but it is the task at hand. And when we succeed, we will make history.
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.
This website was created by, is maintained by, and is paid for by Winston Apple, a private citizen. Copyright © 2023 Gary Winston Apple - All Rights Reserved.
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