Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is it time for direct democracy yet?

In 1776, when the nation was declared independent, it was done by Representatives of each state in the Continental Congress. At that time in our World History, the Representative Republic was frankly, the only effective means to govern an area larger than a city.

Direct Democracy, as was practiced in the ancient Greek City States was obviously too unwieldy to work over a large area. Transportation took days to get anywhere. Thirty miles a day in travel time was a very fast trip, this after all, was decades before locomotives were invented.

By sea, if the wind was favorable, you might cover 200 miles as the crow flies, with a heck of a lot of work by the crew in a single day.

So the idea that someone would travel to an area, and ask the people what they thought about an issue, and then travel back with that area's choice was obviously impractical, and essentially impossible. So Representative Republic, with elections held to choose the representatives was the only effective way to govern any large area, be it a state or a nation.

Today, communication is much faster. Trains, planes, and automobiles have made travel much faster and more efficient. Electronic communications have changed to allow people to speak to anyone instantly around the globe. You can read, watch, or listen to things as they happen.

In 1775, Paul Revere went from a silversmith of some note, to a famous historical figure with his midnight ride. Slightly faster communications were initiated in France shortly after the Revolution. Napoleon started a semaphore telegraph. This used flags to send messages along a line of posts. One station would send, another would receive, and then turn and transmit to the next station. This was faster than the alternative of racing down the road on horseback, but still not instant as we have today.

Today, when an issue faces our nation, the public has opinions. We're polled, some of us, and our national will is determined by these potentially fatally flawed polls. It isn't until the next election that we get to express our dissatisfaction to the elected, by voting them out of office, and choosing a new representative.

Yet, with the advent of instant communication, why haven't we gone to a more direct form of democracy? We could all vote on an issue, from the comfort of our homes. We could all vote on an issue with accuracy beyond the dreams of the founding fathers of this nation.

Imagine, we have a serious issue before this nation. Perhaps it's a treaty, the Law of the sea treaty for example. We can read, watch, and listen to the arguments, and then on the day indicated, we all phone, or use our computers, to register our vote. The nation, as a whole declares that we aren't going to join this treaty.

Perhaps it's a tax question. We can all vote that no, we aren't going to levy new taxes.

Would the Congress be able to make special deals to pass legislation then? Would the Senator from Louisiana be able to hold out for a special bribe to be included to get her vote? Would the Senator from Nebraska be able to demand special compensation for his support?

What do you think the other peoples in the remaining 49 states would say should such special favors be included. They would respond with a resounding NO. Would it end corruption in Washington? I doubt it, but it would limit it and reduce it to new lows not seen in modern history.

Direct Democracy wasn't practical at the time of our nations founding. It is practical now, and I think it's time to adopt it in some form of fashion.

There was a time when elections every two years was considered too short to really accomplish anything. Now, with the speed of communications, and the changes facing the world, it's too long to allow inadequate representation to continue.


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