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Re-posted from Here (http://www.aoshop.com/ddf/aki_orr_manifesto.htm)

Politics for the 21st Century

Direct Democracy Manifesto


History is an ongoing struggle for freedom and for domination. Freedom means living by one's own decisions. Domination means making others live by one's decisions. Freedom and domination in society are determined by politics. Politics means deciding for an entire society, and implementation of such decisions.

Who decides for an entire society ? by what authority ?

Decisions for an entire society are made by very few people whose authority rests, ultimately, on the political ignorance of most people in society. They vary from a single decision-maker to a few, elected, decision-makers. In all decision-making systems a few decide for many. Today, as in the past, most people are excluded from deciding what their society should do, and how they should live. Those excluded from deciding how their society should live are not free. They live according to decisions made by others. They are dominated by those who decide for them.

The history of decision-making systems is a sequence of struggles by the dominated against their dominators for more say in decision-making. These struggles are motivated by the desire of most people to be free, to live by their own decisions rather than by decisions made by others. Such struggles have increased freedom in the Family, at Work, in Education, and in the State.

Today most people are freer than in the past but not as free as they could be. Most people want to be free, not to dominate others. Complete freedom is possible only when living - voluntarily - on one's own. One cannot be completely free when living in a group. Any group, from Family to Humanity, must have a system for making decisions binding all those in the group. Without such decisions a group does not function as a group. Rarely do all members of a group agree to all group-decisions. Some have to obey decisions made by others which they oppose. This is so in the Family, in Education, at Work, and in the State. Most people resent being dominated but dominators coerce - subtly or crudely - dissenters. When dissenters defeat coercion, they must establish new ways for making group-decisions else the group ceases to exist. Complete freedom is impossible in a group, yet most people prefer life in a group to living on their own. Though complete freedom in a group is impossible, it is often possible to increase freedom in a group. In Parliamentary Democracy people have more freedom than in a Dictatorship. In Direct Democracy, people have more freedom than in a Parliamentary Democracy. Most people today believe Parliamentary rule by elected Representatives provides the highest level of freedom possible in society. This was true before electronic communications were implemented. Since then a State far freer than Rule by Representatrives is possible.

Direct Democracy

Democracy ("Demos" - ordinary people, "Cratia" - ruling system) was invented in Athens some 2500 years ago. Every citizen (apart from women and slaves) could propose and vote on every political decision. For some tasks decision-makers were chosen by lottery. Such a system was technically possible in a society of a few thousand people. It is technically impossible in a society of millions of people. Adding up millions of votes within seconds was impossible until recently. Not any longer. Today millions of people make millions of decisions in their Banks by Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). These decisions are about their finances. Most people do not think about the ATMs handling their decisions. Each ATM contains a computer which checks the magnetic card, obeys the decision, updates accounts, and sends copies of the decisions to a central computer which adds them all up. The total result of all these decisions can be seen any time by Bank managers. These programs can accept not just financial decisions but also political ones, thus enabling every citizen to use existing ATMs for voting directly on every political decision. This makes elections, parliaments, and governments obsolete. Today all citizens can use ATMs to vote on every political decision directly, without representatives. By making all political decisions directly people can decide how they should live. This makes them far freer than in a Parliamentary Democracy where representatives make all political decisions for them. A State based on the principle: EVERY CITIZEN - ONE VOTE - ON EVERY POLITICAL DECISION, is a Direct Democracy (DD). This does not mean every citizen must vote on every political issue, it only mean all citizens have the right to do so. Electronic means of communication make Direct Democracy possible. Direct Rule by all citizens can be implemented TODAY. All citizens can decide all political issues and be the government. This is government by the governed. Rule by the ruled. The ATMs make no political decisions, they just receive, record, and add decisions made by owners of magnetic cards. Today millions of financial decisions are added up in seconds by networks of ATMs. Bank managers can watch totals any time in their offices. This technology proved itself reliable for handling our finances. No Bank or Supermarket can function without it. The same technology can also handle our political decisions. It can add up and display totals of millions of votes immediately. This was impossible in the past. Representatives were needed while it was impossible to vote, and count millions of votes, in seconds. Today, when this is possible, representatives are no longer needed. We need not put voting papers in ballot boxes and spend days in counting them. We can insert a magnetic card into an ATM, key in our vote, and see totals immediately on TV. When millions of votes are added up, and displayed on TV in seconds, representatives for making political decisions are not needed. Instead of voting for political representatives every citizen can vote directly on every political decision. Why be represented rather than be present ? The will of the majority on any issue can be known immediately.

The antiquated, complicated, slow, and expensive, system of elections, parliaments, and governments, is obsolete today. Why keep a dominating, alienating, inefficient, expensive, and corruptive system when a much freer, faster, cheaper, and incorruptible system is possible? Today, for the first time in history, it is possible for millions of people to make every political decision themselves, directly - without representatives. A new political system where every citizen can propose - and vote on - every political decision is possible right now. In such a system, the majority will be much freer than in Parliamentary Democracy where citizens are free only on Election Day to decide who will decide for them. The minority will have to obey majority decisions and will therefore not be free. However, minority status is not permanent. A new vote on an old decision can make a former minority into a majority. This is preferable to Parliamentary Democracy where neither the minority nor the majority are free as representatives make all political decisions for them. DD means not only mass-voting but also mass-discussing of options. Discussions on TV by panels of experts drawn by lottery, with the public phoning in tocomment, criticize, or propose, option, will inform all citizens about the available options.

In the 17th and 18th century the struggles against authority of Kings to make all political decisions were guided by the principle: "No taxation without representation". The inhabitants of the cities, leading this struggle, demanded that their representatives take part in deciding how their taxes will be used. They won the battle. This increased Freedom of most people in society.

In the 21st Century struggles against authority of representatives to make all political decisions will be guided by the principle: " No decision obeyed without the right to vote on it directly". "Directly" means "without intermediaries". In politics this means "without representatives". This battle will be won too. It will increase Freedom of all far beyond its present level. Husbands will not decide for wives, Teachers and Staff will not decide for students, Union officials will not decide for employees, State and City Representatives will not decide for citizens. All citizens will have the right to vote directly on every political decision. Today, wives, students, employees, citizens, have the right - and the means - to decide themselves every issue of their Family, Education, Work, and State. This principle will not be accepted easily. There will be a long, fierce, bitter, and persistent opposition to implementing this principle but this struggle, however long and fierce it may be, will eventually be won.

A Direct Democracy must not become a dictatorship of the majority. It must have a Constitution protecting any minority, be it political, racial, ethnic, religious, or other, from oppression by majorities. DD citizens will decide on the Constitution.

Protection of the minority can be achieved by four principles:

  1. The minority must have the right to veto some decisions. All citizens will decide to what decisions this applies.
  2. A minority may be exempted from carrying out some decisions it opposes. All citizens will decide when this applies.
  3. Some decision will require a special majority of 60%, 70%, or 80% to become valid. All citizens will decide to which decisions this applies.
  4. The right of any minority to express its views publicly is unconditional and permanent. This is the spirit of Direct Democracy. Any subverting of this principle subverts DD.

Implementing these principles will strengthen DD and make it viable and durable. Without them there will be strife and hostility between minority and majority. Such strife will eventually break up the DD. Only if a minority feels secure in DD will it support it.

This will make DD viable, durable, inspiring, and even enjoyable.

Replies to critics

Some critics say that ordinary people cannot make responsible political decisions because making such decisions is a special skill. If political decision-making is a special skill why isn't this skill taught at any university? Making decisions is not a skill. It is a choice. To decide is to choose one out of some options. Choices cannot be taught. To choose is to prefer. People prefer what they consider best. What is "Best" is determined by values, not by skill. No amount of skill - or information - will convince a religious person to vote for abolition of religious education.

Some people believe that ordinary people should not make all political decisions as they lack information about the issues. Panels of experts can discuss the issues on TV and answer phone-in questions from the public thus providing citizens with all necessary information. Panel members should be drawn by lottery from lists of all experts specializing in the particular issue. This will minimize the bias caused by the experts' own values.

Some people fear that when all citizens have a right to propose political decisions there will be too many decisions to vote on. This is disproved every day in every Parliament. The number of decisions on every subject in every Parliament is very much smaller than the number of their MPs. The substance of the issue, not the number MPs entitled to vote, determines the number of proposals. Moreover, Parliaments require three rounds of voting on every decision. Decisions failing to get a minimum of votes do not appear in the next vote. This serves to further reduce the number of decisions.

Political decisions are of two kinds: 1. Policy decisions, 2. decisions on executing policy.

Policy decisions answer the question: what to do?

Policy execution decisions answer the question: how to do?

Politics is about policy decisions. They express what society chooses to do. Every citizen has the right - and ability - to decide what society should do. Policy decisions depend on preferences. Preference depends on values, not on expertise. There are no experts for preference. Ordinary citizens can prefer just like their representatives. In Direct Democracy all citizens make all policy decisions. Decisions on policy execution often require technical expertise. Citizens can decide to appoint experts to carry out such decisions while retaining authority to revoke decisions or appointments any time. Experts should be drawn by lottery from lists of experts. Repeated lottery can replace those proved inefficient or corrupt. Drawing decision-makers by lottery minimizes corruption. Corruption is not part of politics - as many believe - it is part of any system where a few rule the many. Those seeking favors from the decision-makers resort to bribes, while the few authorized to make decisions use bribes to retain this authority. When all citizens decide policy, there is no ruler to bribe. Moreover, bribes cannot influence lottery outcome. In this manner DD can rid politics of corruption.

Some people believe Direct Democracy (DD) will be far more complicated than Rule by Representatives (RR). This is not necessarily the case. Most political complications have nothing to do with the substance of issues, but are created by rulers using them to stay in power. Politics will be much simpler in DD, but even if this were not the case it hardly matters as freedom outweighs complexity. In Dictatorship, political decision-making is far simpler than in Parliamentary Democracy. A single ruler, without opposition, makes all decisions. Yet most people prefer Parliamentary Democracy with its complexity to Dictatorship. People prefer a system with more Freedom even if it is more complex, to one with less complexity and less freedom. To most people freedom matters far more than complexity.

Some people will oppose Direct Democracy on principle even when convinced all its difficulties can be overcome. These people are Absolute Elitists. They abhor direct rule by all citizens. Elitists denounce DD as "Populist" and "mob rule". They believe majorities will make decisions causing disasters to themselves and to others. One such example is the majority voting the Nazis into power in Germany in 1933. This is not an argument against DD. It holds for ANY political system. A single ruler can make disastrous decisions just like a group of elected representatives. In fact, the smaller the number of decision-makers the greater the risk that psychological whims, ego-trips and anxieties, will determine decisions. A single ruler's decisions depend on one person's psychology which often causes grave harm to society. The greater the number of political decision-makers the more psychological whims cancel each other out and the better the chance that the wellbeing of society prevails. Moreover, the "crowd effect" swaying people to vote like those around them is neutralized by ATMs hence DD is anything but "mob rule". No political system can be immunized against disastrous decisions. A decision made by all citizens can be disastrous just like one made by a few decision makers. Yet in a DD disastrous decisions can be revoked immediately whereas in RR those who made disastrous decisions remain in power till next elections. Moreover, disastrous decisions in DD force those who made them to reconsider their motives, as they can blame only themselves. In Rule by Representatives this causes - at best - a change of representatives while leaving intact the motives for the decisions. This causes repetition of disastrous decisions.

Many people assume that the selfishness, greediness, and political apathy of many in society today will turn a Direct Democracy into a jungle ruled by unbridled selfish instincts. They see these negative qualities as part of an eternal "Human Nature". However, during the General Strike in France in May 1968, when "Autogestion" ("Self-Management") was a widespread demand, was a tremendous outburst of goodwill, solidarity, and concern for society by millions of French people, surprising even themselves. Selfishness, greediness, and political apathy are products of the current political system. Every political system generates indin its own image. It creates an atmosphere in which people can "succeed" only by accepting the norms of the system. Inferences drawn from present day patterns of individuality ignore the relation between the political system and the norms it generates. When this relation is taken into account this argument against DD collapses, and DD is seen in a new light, as a shaper of a new type of individuality: caring, creative, and deeply concerned about society. DD is much more than a political decision-making system. It is a means for shaping new norms, and new types of individuals.

Making a decision implies responsibility for its results. Some fear this responsibility and therefore fear freedom. This is an attitude of children afraid of losing parental love. Adults suffering from fear of responsibility need support and help to overcome it. Fear of freedom and responsibility stems from immaturity. It can be treated and overcome.

Some supporters of Direct Democracy have no clear definition of Direct Democracy. They promote various referendums and proposals for more public control over representatives, while accepting Rule by Representatives (RR). Lack of a clearly defined alternative to RR relegates their activities to mere reforms of RR. They propose reforms to ameliorate the excesses of RR while upholding it. They oppose the definition of Direct Democracy as POLICY MAKING WITHOUT REPRESENTATIVES because it exposes their activities for what they are - reformed Rule by Representatives.

Cooperation between supporters of POLICY MAKING WITHOUT REPRESENTATIVES and supporters of POLICY MAKING BY REPRESENTATIVES, is possible if both tendencies recognize the difference between them and each respects the role of the other. Although these tendencies will eventually have to part ways, each can benefit from cooperation with the other. As long as cooperation is possible it should be maintained. However, cooperation is never an end in itself, it is a means to an end. When means cease to serve their ends they should be discarded. The Christian Church was a means to spread Christianity, the Communist Party was a means to serve Communism, both turned into ends in themselves at the expense of the ends they served, and ruined. The tendency to turn means into ends must be resisted. Means must never be allowed to become ends.

Promoting Direct Democracy

If you wish to promote DD, here is what you can do :

  1. Find others interested in these ideas and discuss the ideas with them.
  2. Think globally, act locally. Set up your own local Committee for Direct Democracy (CDD). Locality can be home, neighborhood, School, Work, or electronic (via Internet), whichever.
  3. Your committee should meet regularly, finance itself, discuss any issue it likes, offer DD solutions to problems, and implement them.
  4. Promote DD in every way possible, in print, on radio and TV , on the Internet, in oral discussions with friends, at work, in school.
  5. Be self-reliant but contact other CDDs. Help create new CDDs.
  6. When a number of CDDs emerge, call for a local, regional, national, or international conference to coordinate activities, to learn from each other's experience, and to assist CDDs in need of help. All CDDs should help create a WORLD DD MOVEMENT to coordinate activities of all DD movements. This does not mean the entire world becomes a single DD. DDs will merge if their citizens wish it.
  7. A DD Movement must not be organized like traditional Parties. It must not have an Executive Committee making decisions on behalf of others. It must have a Coordinating Committee (CC) to facilitate coordination between CDDs, and to aid exchange of ideas between CDDs, but every CDD is free to accept or reject proposals of a CC. Proposals of a CC are welcome but not binding.
  8. A DD organization has no personal or communal leadership. It is an embryonic forerunner of the political system it strives to create. Political systems are like their creators. Means shape ends in their image. Relations between members of a DD movement should be like those they wish to see between members of a DD society. This must also be the way every CDD, and the entire DD movement, operate.
  9. If it is possible to implement DD locally, at work, in a school, a village, town, or borough, DO SO. Be prepared for vehement resistance. Don't wait till DD is implemented everywhere. In small domains DD can be implemented without magnetic cards. Experience gained from such cases will be of use to other CDDs.
  10. Use your sense of humor. Politics need not be grim or boring, they can be fun. Don't just criticize, suggest DD solutions to every social and political problem. Activate your creativity, but keep your feet on the ground. Do not be deterred by those saying your proposals will not work. Many believed people would never fly, land on the moon, utilize atomic energy, cure infertility, change hereditary traits, or that the USSR would last for ever. All were wrong. In politics "impossible" often masks "undesirable". Check if those saying DD is impossible desire it.

Remind Elitists that, contrary to Plato's critique of Athenian Democracy 2500 years ago, both Aristotle and Socrates supported it, and even today Humanity benefits from its achievements in art, philosophy, and politics. Direct Democracy will stimulate people's involvement in their community and society. It will awaken their responsibility for their community and society. It will inspire political creativity and goodwill stifled by all other political systems. It will raise humanity to a higher level and will change not only society but also individuality. It will transform the "person" from a selfish, bored, and indifferent, member in a static, corrupting and alienating political system into an active shaper of a consciously evolving society concerned with the well being of the community, society, and humanity.

Written by Aki Orr (c) 1999-2000.

Edited by Ian Green (necessary formatting (no paragraphs were combined in the making of this document!) and minor typographical edits only. The ideas contained herein are entirely those of the author (not necessarily the editor), but they are included here as an example of the ongoing development of the concept of Direct Democracy.