A Reasoned Argument

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.

—George Washington 1787

More than half citizens of the United States have been making laws by initiative at the state and local levels of government for the last hundred years. A close examination of the people’s legislative record in the 24 states and in several hundred local communities shows they have legislated responsibly - and often times more responsibly than their elected legislators, particularly on fiscal matters. Citizens have legislated responsibly despite having no access to deliberative procedures prior to voting - a format that exists in all legislative bodies of government. Civil service, old-age assistance (a precursor to Social Security), campaign finance reform, term limits and women’s right to vote are a few examples of progressive legislation initiated by the people.

These state and local initiative laws were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by populists and progressives. Unfortunately, those reformers failed to enact deliberative legislative procedures or create an administrative agency to keep the people’s legislative activities independent from the officialdom of representative government. As a result, state and local officials, jealous of their power, are able to thwart the people’s legislative process and deny them the full and unfettered use of initiative laws.

The existing structures of representative government maintains citizens in civic adolescence. The people give their political power away on Election Day. They then hold their representatives responsible for public policy decisions even though they - the voters - are responsible for electing those representatives. Ultimately, responsibility always rests with the people; but there is nothing the people can do for two, four or six years – until the next cycle to elect government representatives.

Proof of American civic adolescence exists in the passive acceptance by the people of the irresponsible actions of their elected legislators and their administrative officials. These government leaders decide to go to war and then refuse to raise taxes to pay for the war. Worse still, at the same time they cut taxes, passing the financial burden on to our grandchildren. I could cite further proof with respect to Social Security, healthcare, taxation, the so-called War on Drugs; and with respect to government policies on education, trade, energy, environmental, and our economy.

Because decisions are now made by our representatives, the present structure of representative government denies citizens the opportunity to take responsibility for public policy decisions and their consequences. Lacking the ability to change things in a timely fashion limits the people’s ability to mature civically. Consider the family structure: as parents we raise our children to adulthood by giving them more and more responsibility, teaching them to face life and become responsible for their actions. This process to bring about civic maturity in voters is exactly what the structure of representative government lacks in the U. S. and in all the democracies of the world except Switzerland.

In the United States the watershed period for enacting initiative laws at the turn of the 20th century was a reaction to the extreme corruption of our elected officials by business and corporate interests – corruption from the excesses of capitalism. This era of citizen empowerment ended with the First World War, when war restrictions under the Wilson Administration enabled corporate elites to regain control of the polity and stem the tide of citizen empowerment.

Our elected representatives are human beings. It is in their nature to wield the people’s political power not only to protect and expand their own self-interest, but also to protect the interests of their financial and political backers who helped them to secure and maintain their offices, and the interests of the political party to which they belong and in which they share power. Human nature and the natural corrupting influence of power are hardly correctable by those who profit from that power. The people, empowered as lawmakers, are the only possible corrective force. The Rule of Law and the threat of enforcement of those laws are the ultimate powers of civilization.

For democracy to work, the people not only must be informed, but must also have the power to act upon that information. Raising people’s expectations that they can influence government and their representatives to deal with the public interest induces apathy when those expectations prove to be illusory. Those who opt out of any role in politics can seem to be the more intelligent in refusing to try over and over something they perceive as not working. This is compounded by the natural tendency of politicians to sell hope without substance, oftentimes resulting in the promotion of citizen cynicism.

Pundits and students of American government generally agree that our federal government is dysfunctional, with the Congress in gridlock, an imperial presidency steeped in its own hubris, and a judiciary anointed with papal powers for life. Conventional wisdom informs us that our government under the Bush Administration is the worst we have ever seen. Not so. We are captivated by the myth of “the good old days.“ The good old days never existed. We have selective memory about our triumphal past and amnesia about the wrongs perpetrated in each decade since our nation’s founding.

We are a great people because we are stewards of a land blessed by geographic location, abundant natural resources, and the amalgam of racially and culturally diverse immigrant populations. We need to reject the arrogance of national triumphalism and appreciate our blessings - not as recognition of our worth, but as a gift from all who came before us. We need an ethic that marries the strength of our individualism with our common responsibilities in the constituent assembly of the people, nationally and globally.

If we are to grow and improve ourselves individually and collectively, we need to complete the structural design of human governance so ably advanced by our founders. They were informed by the experiences of earlier societies, particularly Solon’s concept of law in Greece and the Swiss concept of federalism.

The century of Swiss governance beginning in 1848, at the close of a three-year religious civil war, raised the possibilities of effective government to instructive heights. That poor, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual hardscrabble country, steeped in religious conflict, without natural resources, decided to adopt a constitution modeled on our own, except that the people were brought into the operation of government as lawmakers in partnership with their elected officials. Even the acclaimed Alexis de Tocqueville had serious doubts that this Swiss experiment in the union of direct and representative democracy would work.

However, the result is without precedent in human history. Switzerland, living in peace, has evolved into the most successfully governed and on a per capita basis one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Its only distinguishing feature from all other democracies in the world is the involvement of its people as lawmakers within the operations of government.

The United States of America is not, in fact, a democracy, nor are the other so-called democracies of the world. They are all representative governments. In a true democracy, the people are the government. In our “democracies,“ we elect representatives to run the government for us. Those we elect do not, for the most part, run the country first and foremost in the interest of the people; as human nature dictates, they run it for their own interests first.

We are led to believe by those who control the polity that we have no choice but to give our sovereign power to politicians on election day. That need not be the case!

The central power of government is lawmaking - not voting. Those who make the laws determine how, when, and if citizens can vote. Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 are recent American examples. Citizens can gain control of their government by becoming lawmakers, empowered to make laws for their own benefit. The people are more conservative than their elected officials, regardless of political party, particularly when it comes to limiting the continuous growth of government.

This generation of Americans must complete the work of the founders by bringing American citizens into the operations of government as lawmakers in a governing partnership with our elected officials.

Are the people qualified to make laws governing their lives? They’re qualified enough at the state and local levels of government. They’re qualified enough on election day to give their power away to political candidates who manipulate the electoral process with money from special interests to get elected. In fact, it’s easier for citizens to decide on policy issues themselves rather than try to guess what representatives will do after they get into office. It’s even more difficult when you realize that politicians say whatever it takes to get themselves elected.

Do Americans want to become lawmakers? Polls show that people overwhelmingly want to be empowered. The only possible empowerment tool is lawmaking. For the last 225 years, citizens have been sold on the legislative monopoly of representative government - where power is wielded by elites.

How can Americans become lawmakers? The Congress is not likely to dilute its powers by empowering the people. Therefore, the people themselves must enact the federal ballot initiative called the National Initiative for Democracy, a proposed law that my colleagues and I have developed and refined over the past decade to empower citizens as lawmakers in every government jurisdiction of the United State - in a partnership with their elected officials. The enacting process goes entirely around the U.S. government and is legal under our Constitution, and it is legal in any society and under any government structure that recognizes the sovereign human worth of the individual.

The ideological foundation of the National Initiative rests on the belief that the constituent power of the people is sovereign, and the American people - like all peoples - can govern themselves as they see fit in pursuit of their happiness and their general welfare. George Washington in 1787 said it best:

People can decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments [to the Constitution] which shall be found necessary, as ourselves, for I do not conceive that we are more inspired, have more wisdom or possess more virtue than those who will come after us.

The National Initiative is a legislative package sponsored by The Democracy Foundation (www.nationalinitiative.us), a non-profit IRS 501c(3) corporation, that includes an amendment to the Constitution and a federal statute.

The Democracy Amendment

  1. amends the Constitution asserting the legislative powers of the people;
  2. sanctions the national election conducted by the non-profit corporation, Philadelphia II, giving Americans the opportunity to vote on the National Initiative;
  3. creates an Electoral Trust (vital to maintain citizen lawmaking independent from elected representatives and to administer legislative procedures on behalf of the people) and defines the role of its trustees; and
  4. outlaws the use of monies not from natural persons in initiative elections; and (5) defines the electoral threshold that must be reached for the National Initiative to become the law of the land. [See full text of the Democracy Amendment enclosed].

The Democracy Act is a proposed federal statute that

  1. sets out deliberative legislative procedures (adapted from Congress and other legislative bodies) to be used for initiative lawmaking by citizens in every government jurisdiction of the United States; and
  2. defines the limited powers of the Electoral Trust that administers the legislative procedures on behalf of the people. [See the full text of the Democracy Act enclosed].

It is important to understand that the National Initiative does not alter the existing structure or powers of the United States government. Rather, it adds an additional check - We, the People - to our system of checks and balances, while setting up a working partnership between the people and their elected representatives.

How can American voters amend the Constitution and enact the National Initiative if Congress will not act upon it or - more than likely - would oppose it? The people, using a federal ballot initiative, can go around all three branches of government to amend the Constitution. There are only two venues within the structure of our polity where constitutions, constitutional amendments, and laws can be enacted: the people or their elected representatives in government (where the dysfunctionality of governance lies).

The Framers in Article VII of the Constitution wrote the “Creation Article” providing procedures for the conventions of at least nine states to ratify the Constitution, which is how our government was created. This article failed to include the procedures for the people to amend the constitution and to make laws. However, the Framers did provide for representative to make laws in Article I and procedures for federal and state government representatives to amend the Constitution in Article V. This literally set up in perpetuity the control of government by a small minority of elites. This legislative hypocrisy to protect slavery flew in the face of the Constitution’s explicit language “We, the people…[do] ordain” which gives the people the power to alter the Constitution or to make laws.

All power is originally in the People and should be exercised by them in person, if it can be done with convenience, or even with little difficulty.

That was a statement made in 1789 by James Wilson, a Scottish scholar, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the prime mover in securing the rapid ratification of the Constitution in Pennsylvania. George Washington appointed him an initial Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The conventional wisdom among many scholars 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 would do it. If the people had to use Article V to amend the Constitution, they would need permission from two-thirds of the Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures. This would mean that we, the people (the creators of our government) would have to get permission from the representatives we elected to amend the Constitution. This logic is ludicrous. The constituent power of the people - the source of all political power - cannot be subservient to the powers it creates.

James Madison had it right when, in response to an inquiry during the Constitutional Convention, he said that the people had the power to “just do it.”

The people were in fact the fountain of all power and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over.

They could alter the constitutions as they pleased.

The people can “just do it”: directly amend the Constitution via a federal ballot initiative that goes around the government to establish a legal legislative process - the National Initiative for Democracy - that empowers the people to thenceforward act as lawmakers on the policy issues affecting their lives (independent of their elected legislators).

The precedent and the basis for the people to use a federal ballot initiative to enact the National Initiative and thereby provide the people with legislative procedures to amend the Constitution and make laws is Article VII of the Constitution, which permitted our forebears in 1787 and 1788 to ratify the creation of our constitutional government. Today’s communications technology permits us to use the precedent of Article VII to ask all American citizens if they wish to be empowered as lawmakers by choosing to enact the National Initiative in an electoral process that is fair, transparent and reasonable. Philadelphia II, a non-profit IRS 501c(4) corporation, is conducting just such an election on behalf of the American people to bring about for the first time in our history a national government “by the people.”

Many stakeholders in the status quo perpetuate the myth that the people are not wise enough to enact laws on policies that affect their lives. Nevertheless, the people are expected to select the individuals who then make those decisions. The selection of representatives to make those decisions is considerably more difficult and made more so by the manipulations of campaigns than the people making those policy decisions directly. This myth that the people are not up to the legislative task of their own self-governance is totally discredited by the 100-year history of the people competently legislating by initiative at the state and local levels of government, and by the Swiss national experience.

Can “we, the people” amend the Constitution and make laws? Of course we can. We are the sovereigns. We need a process that is fair, transparent and reasonable. The national ballot initiative to enact the National Initiative is more transparent than that of any election in any representative government in history. The national election being conducted by Philadelphia II to enact the National Initiative under the precedent of Article VII is fair and transparent.

If Americans wish to be empowered as lawmakers and truly have a government “by the people,” they must vote at the web site www.nationalinitiative.us. Support of the effort by tax-deductible contributions is welcome. The enactment of the National Initiative overcomes the legislative monopoly of representative government. If a majority of those who voted in the last presidential election vote for the National Initiative for Democracy - regardless of the views of those in government - it then becomes the law of the land. The legality of this process has been affirmed by constitutional scholars from a number of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

The National Initiative’s electoral process began on September 17, 2002, allowing people to use the Internet to vote. The successful use of this ubiquitous technology now depends on supporters networking with their friends, relatives, colleagues and organizations and informing them that citizens can be empowered to vote on all the policy issues that affect their lives by voting to enact the National Initiative.

With the enactment of the National Initiative, the American people will experience the responsibility of legislating and governing themselves directly, bringing them the benefits of greater civic maturity. Imagine what you, empowered as a lawmaker, might institute or change for the betterment of your community or country.


The National Initiative for Democracy: