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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

 

LIST OF QUESTIONS

  1. Can this solution be useful to States that have the initiative process?
  2. How can we expect the average Citizen to have the skills to be a Boule (Citizens' Initiatives Assembly) Member?
  3. How much direct democracy is planned?
  4. How can the Boule improve Member selection?
  5. Isn’t mandatory duty in the Boule an onerous imposition?
  6. What are some principal Pro's and Con's of this plan?
  7. What is special about a Deliberative Boule?
  8. What is the procedure for calling an Article V Convention by the Second Method?
  9. What type of organization is the Boule?
  10. When will THEY ever let this Solution happen?
  11. Who controls the Boule?
  12. Why aren't U.S. referendums included in this Solution?
  13. Why isn't federal representative recall included in this Solution?
  14. Why didn't the Founding Fathers include any Direct Democracy in the Constitution?
  15. Why don’t Direct Initiatives require Presidential approval?
  16. Why isn't a Boule of 480 Citizens unmanageable?
  17. Why doesn't the Constitution's Guarantee Clause forbid Direct Democracy?
  18. Why not let the Boule make the laws directly?
  19. Why should State governments support this planned Amendment?

ANSWERS


Can this solution be useful to States that have the initiative process?

Though State problems are different from the U.S. government problems, State Citizens' Initiative Assemblies (SCIA) will solve many problems with the signature-petition initiative process currently experienced by the States. The initiative problems being experienced by the States are generally:

  1. The State initiative process is often usurped by wealthy special interests groups.

  2. There is no quality control of State initiatives and/or there is no way for Citizens to change the wording.

  3. The State incurs large costs to verify signatures.

  4. The number of initiatives can be excessive.

A SCIA resolves all of these problems and more. Moreover, a SCIA can be most easily implemented by legislature-initiated Referendum containing a State constitutional amendment in any of the 24 States that already have an initiative process. The people can also implement a SCIA in the 16 States that permit constitutional initiatives. The planned Boule solution in this web site should prove helpful to States as a reference in developing a SCIA legislature-initiated Referendum.

The SCIA approach does not scale down proportionally from the U.S. population to a State population. However, the shorter distances in a State should permit SCIA members the convenience to meet on weekends rather than weekdays. Larger States should find the cost of a SCIA to be entirely acceptable.

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How can we expect the average Citizen to have the skills to be a Boule Member?

The competence of the average U.S. voter receives it greatest test when twelve of them are randomly selected as jurypersons to decide the truth in matters ranging up to death sentences and billion dollar legal awards. This is our guarantee of justice under the constitution. It works surprisingly well, and when it occasionally goes wrong it is more the result of being given incorrect information than jury error—it is seldom that a judge overrules a jury verdict. There is no reason why we should not extend the democratic principle behind jury service to a much larger Boule.

Of course, a jury gets expert advice from the lawyers, judge, police, and expert witnesses. Similarly, the Boule will call in all the expert advice and testimony that it requires. The Boule's primary responsibility is to decide which proposed Initiatives to advance and which to put aside. The requirements needed to make these decisions is discussed at length in the Boule Wisdom. The Boule's broad range of views and abilities will permit it to arrive at good common-sense decisions about the Proposed Initiatives, but they will call upon outside lawyers to advise and assist in qualifying the Initiative legislation. Nevertheless, Initiatives' legal issues should usually be relatively modest because the Boule is expected (but not obliged) to stay away from complex legislation, which is much more the business of Congress.

The original Athenian democracy model, wherein a Council of Five-Hundred citizens selected by lottery had considerable authority to run the affairs of the state, had more jurisdiction and authority than is planned for the Boule in this Amendment. The model worked well for nearly 200 years.

In 2004, the Canadian Province of British Columbia (population 4.2 million) made deliberative direct-democracy history by convening a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. The Assembly consisted of 161 randomly selected voters serving part-time with pay over a period of 11 months. Their deliberations led to a proposed new electoral system (a Direct Initiative) that went directly to vote by the people of British Columbia at the provincial general elections on May 17, 2005. A 60 percent vote was needed for passage, but it received only 57 percent of the vote and therefore failed. The reports, videos and voice recordings of the B.C. Citizen's Assembly's activities are available for viewing and download. The issues were complex but a stratified random sample of voters was up to the job. Moreover, because of the high level of support, it is understood that the issue will be taken up again at the May 2009 elections.

People rise to the occasion. There is good reason to trust their combined judgment to act wisely in the best interests of the United States and its People—certainly a more objective reason than the elected representatives who have long been subjected to excessive influence from wealthy special interests groups and their lobbyists.

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How much direct democracy is planned?

There is a limit on the number and complexity of Direct Initiatives that can be assimilated by the nationwide electorate during a federal election. The maximum of 12 Direct Initiatives permitted every two years is almost certainly not sustainable without overloading the electorate and the Boule. The estimated average is half the maximum, i.e., 6 Direct Initiatives and 6 Indirect Initiatives per two-years.

By comparison, the average number of bills passed by the 106th Congress (1999-2000) was 1,500 per two-years. The average of all Initiatives in all States proposed between 1991 and 2000 was 78 per two-years. In the 2000 election there were 76 State Initiatives, the most were in Oregon with 18 and California with 12. Thus, the maximum quantity of direct democracy being planned by this Amendment is significantly:

  1. Less than one percent of the legislation produced in Congress.

  2. Less than a fifth of the initiatives generated in all the States.

  3. Less than the number of Initiatives in single States that use them most.

Certainly this seems to qualify as an achievable number of nationwide direct initiatives. However, the impact of this planned Amendment should be greater than the above number of Direct Initiatives might suggest, because the nationwide Initiatives will be focused on important matters of long-term policy. Over a period of years their effect will be cumulative and considerable.

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How can the Boule improve Member selection?

The initial Boule will be chosen as a simple random sample from all U.S. Citizens who are entitled to vote. This method does not involve any subjective decisions by sampling experts and is the most inclusive. It is the truest cross-section of the People and therefore the appropriate place to start. However, it will be an imposition on some of those selected; if this creates persistent serious problems, the Boule may be obliged to find ways to ameliorate the situation.

It is recognized that other Citizens’ Assemblies have generally been selected by teams of experts using sophisticated and convenient methods. For example, they select Citizens from voter registration lists. They ask if those selected wish to serve on the Boule. From those who are willing to serve, a stratified random sample is created that becomes the Boule. This is an efficient and effective way to create a Boule. However, it has some constitutional issues:

  1. Many Citizens who are entitled to vote are not registered. Failure to register does not infer an inferior class of Citizens—for example, since jury selection is often made from voter registration lists, many who feel unable to take time off work for jury duty do not register to vote—but they do pay their taxes.

  2. If Citizens have a general option to serve or not, Citizens who are passionate about a particular issue can agree amongst themselves to accept all invitations to serve on the Boule. This biases the Boule to a greater likelihood of a Candidate Initiative getting on the ballot that is favorable towards that particular issue. This type of bias has potential to become a troublesome factor.

    For example in 2004, during selection of the B.C. Citizens' Assembly, staff mailed 23,034 letters to randomly-selected voters. However, only 1,715 voters replied—i.e., 7.4 percent of those invited. Suppose that some vocal special interest group has sent our a mailing to their members. Suppose their membership constituted twenty percent of all voters and half of them accepted their invitation. This special interests group might then control the Assembly decisions on this matter.

    Though there is no indication that an attempt was made to bias the B.C. Citizens' Assembly, this may be because special interests were not interested or because they were caught unprepared. In the future, the problem may become significant.

  3. The creation of a stratified random sample by experts can lead to subjective decision-making, which can effect Boule composition.

These may be completely acceptable in a single-issue Boule. Time will tell to what degree these accommodations for expediency may be justifiable for the planned Boule with its enduring constitutional responsibility. The Planned Amendment therefore permits future adaptation if it is necessary, but requires that the changes concerning criteria for selection of Boule members cannot be made without considerable debate and support:

Selection of Boule Members

  1

INITIAL Boule COMPRISES

2

POSSIBLE FUTURE Boule MIGHT COMPRISE

AUTHORITY TO MAKE CHANGES

A

Who May Be a Boule Member?

Citizens Entitled to Vote

Citizens Registered to Vote

By Direct Initiative Double Majority Vote

B

Who Must Serve on the Boule?

All Citizens Selected

Citizens Willing to Serve

By Direct Initiative Double Majority Vote

C

How are Boule Members Selected?

Simple Random Sample

Stratified Random Sample

By Boule Supermajority Vote

Today, possible changes from column 1 towards column 2 are interrelated. For example, finding Citizens willing to serve will generally be by geographic sampling areas. These can be found from the voter district registration lists, which consequently encourages a move towards Citizens registered to vote. Data generated this way can be used for a stratified random sample. However, at some future time, more comprehensive demographic databases may permit de-coupling of columns 1 and 2 so the change options may become more flexible and the sample quality better.

Any decision to reduce the scope (rows A and B) of those serving on the Boule will be easier to make than to reverse due to the natural human tendency to perpetuate the easier solution. Therefore, the initial Boule must be the most rigorous and any reduction in scope of Membership has to be approved by the nationwide Electorate in a Direct Initiative. On the other hand, changes in the random sample procedure (row C) can be made by the Boule because any change can be reversed relatively easily.

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Isn’t mandatory duty in the Boule an onerous imposition?

Yes, to a degree it is. But the general benefit far outweighs the individual inconvenience.

It is important that the Boule is a good cross-section of the People so that everyone's views are included. When a Citizen is randomly selected to serve as a Member of the Boule, that Member represents about 406,000 Citizens who have similar views. If that Member refuses to serve, a replacement will represent a different 406,000 views; the views of the original 406,000 Citizens will not be represented.

This can be mitigated to some degree by finding a replacement who is “like” the original in sex, age, income etc. But the replacement will never be as good a representation of the 406,000 Citizens as the original. For example, if doctors or engineers were excused from serving, who would represent their views and the contributions they will make in the deliberative process?

When the U.S. has to enter a war, Citizens are often conscripted and serve under far more onerous circumstance, risking and sometimes loosing their lives, serving for much longer, and for less pay. The People generally expect and accept this.

It is inevitable that some potential Members must be excused by a Federal Court for excessive hardship. The Boule itself will provide the guidelines for the Courts. Consequently, over time, a balanced and reasonable set of criteria for excuse will evolve. These criteria will be generally acceptable to the People because the Boule which establishes them is, in effect, the People.

The vast majority of Members will find that the opportunity to make such an important contribution far outweighs any inconvenience. They will regard their selection as their good fortune and a privilege they would not want to miss.

And the actual inconvenience is not really so great. A Member has to serve about one week per month for thirteen months and returns home for three-quarters of the time. Most will also find that their remuneration exceeds their normal income.

Moreover, a U.S. Citizen who is entitled to vote has an annual chance of being selected to serve on the Boule of only about one in 406,000. By comparison, the annual chance of being killed in an automobile accident is about one in 6,300. So, you are about 64 times more likely to be killed in an automobile accident than to be selected to serve on the Boule. Logically, anyone who fears being selected for the Boule should perhaps consider not driving.

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What are some principal Pro's and Con's of this plan?

PRO

CON

It is an excellent return on investment and could save the taxpayers many billions of dollars every year.

Amending the constitution is long, arduous and could cost its supporters hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some moral and ethical issues are best resolved non-politically by the People because the issues are too politically controversial for Government to confront.

It is easier to let the Congress muddle through and the Supreme Court to add reinterpretations to the Constitution.

If after 10 or 20 years this Amendment does not meet expectations, the Electorate can repeal it (without a constitutional amendment).

It is a new amendment and it may not work as its proponents expect.

Because it can propose constitutional amendments as well as enact federal legislation, it will be an effective continuing check and balance on legislative loopholes, end-runs, and Government excesses.

 Wealthy special interests groups and Congress are very clever and often find ways around the rules to achieve their objectives.

It will involve issues of nationwide concern that will increase the level of Citizen participation and increase their obligation to make their decisions work.

There will be more election material to read and the responsibility for decisions cannot be blamed on representatives.

If the People take action, they control their destiny—in the American tradition of the great experiment in democracy. The simple right to propose initiatives can ease frustration.

The People believe Government excesses are really bad, but consider themselves helpless to affect change.

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What is special about a "deliberative" Assembly?

All national assemblies deliberate to some degree and are therefore deliberative. What is special here is that randomly selected voters are generally not familiar with the process and need well-defined procedures to come up-to-speed quickly. These procedures will evolve with experience. In a nutshell, the starting procedure used in this plan is:

  1. The entire Boule meets to determine the information and presentations it wants to receive about a subject such as a proposed Initiative.
  2. The entire Boule meets and is briefed on the facts.
  3. The Boule divides into randomly selected groups of about 15 Members, who debate the subject for several hours and generate a limited number of questions.
  4. The entire Boule meets and each group raises questions (if they have not been raised by a previous group). Where appropriate they are debated and/or sources of additional information are identified.
  5. The Boule later receives answers or additional information relating to unanswered questions.
  6. Steps 3 to 5 are repeated until the Boule is satisfied that it has all the information it needs. This may be followed by a vote on the subject.

The deliberative process of randomly selected citizens has been extensively studied and tried in many countries over the last 20 years. After the deliberative process, participants have more thoughtful, wiser, and often modified views (BCCA, PBS, Fishkin, Rough, McCombs & Reynolds, Citizens Jury, Cohen and Sabel, Ackerman and Fishkin, et al). This process is adapted for use in the Boule.

Basic rules, guidelines and techniques are established for the Members' deliberation. These are taught to all Members in the month before they start to participate in the Boule's meetings. Outside teachers and facilitators will participate in the training, but when the Boule meets, its members will fulfill all functions without outside help. Members may eventually participate as trainers. After a while, the Boule will develop its own culture. It is expected that the culture will include, for example:

  1. Each Member is equal and worthy of equal consideration from other Members.
  2. At each small-group meeting, a Member is selected as its Moderator to control the process but not the content. Moderators make possible the participation of all Members and do not vigorously promote their own views.
  3. Debate and logical persuasion are permitted; power politics, negotiation, intimidation and vote trading are not.
  4. Since every Member knows they are part of one minority or another, they can empathize with minority issues and assure minority views are given fair consideration.
  5. Techniques of group dynamics are applied, such as how to make participation easy and to support anyone offended by a debate.
  6. Time limits are set for the groups to meet (usually about three hours) and for each Member to speak while others want the floor.
  7. The number of questions that each group can forward to the Boule is usually limited to one.

At the end of the process, the Boule Members will have become well informed on the subject and able to make good decisions—perhaps better than most national legislatures whose members sometimes vote on legislation whose debate they have not attended and whose text they have never read.

The purpose of the Boule is to deliberate in order to find the best solutions to problems. A related process called a Deliberative Poll®* is a survey of a random sample of citizens before and after the group has had a chance to deliberate seriously on the issue (Ackerman and Fishkin p4, PBS). In essence, the Boule's function is prescriptive while a Poll's function is predictive. The two processes have much in common and can benefit from shared experiences. Moreover, reliable Deliberative Polls will often be an important source of information (and possibly of performance feedback) for the Boule.

When the Boule places a Candidate Initiative on the ballot, their views will be attached. The Electorate will find their views to be well considered, and will generally pay them close attention, substantially offsetting much of the hysteria raised in the Media.

*Deliberative Polling® is a trademark of James S. Fishkin.

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What is the procedure for calling an Article V Convention by the Second Method?

Many precedents have been set by the 400 or so State applications to Congress for Article V Conventions. The right of a two-thirds majority of the States (i.e., 34 States) to call an Article V Convention is clearly defined in the Constitution. However, though Congress has defined procedures by which the States can call an Article V Convention, it has avoided passing legislation incorporating the procedures into law. In fact, on the four occasions that it appeared that the States would successfully call an Article V Convention to propose an Amendment, Congress pre-empted the States by proposing the Amendment itself—i.e., Amendments 17 (direct election of Senators), 18 (Repeal of Prohibition), 22 (Limitations on Presidential Terms), and 25 (Presidential Succession).

The fundamentals for the States to call successfully for an Article V Convention are to make sure that all steps are completed correctly, to follow the procedures that Congress has defined even if they are not formally laws, and to avoid or overcompensate in areas where any uncertainties exist. This is not difficult to do provided the States coordinate their efforts.

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What type of organization is the Boule?

The Boule is similar in various ways to several existing forms of organization that can serve as a reference point, but non describe it precisely:

  1. It fulfills a similar function to initiatives signature petitions used in many states. This is granted as a right of the People in the State, and is not normally given a formal organizational status. However, the Boule goes beyond signature petitions by accepting Citizens' feedback on proposed initiatives, ranking them, ensuring their quality, avoiding special interests' control, and ensuring that the Voters are not overwhelmed.

  2. It is also similar to other Citizens Assemblies on other issues, except that their powers are generally defined by government and they generally serve to advise government on specific issues.

  3. In the U.K., it might be referred to as quasi non-governmental organization. The rough equivalent in the U.S. might be an Independent Agency of the United States government—e.g., the FCC, EPA, Federal Reserve and NASA. However, the Federal Government would then have some effective control over the Boule thereby defeating the watchdog function of the Initiative process.

The Boule is created by the Constitutional Amendment as a permanent autonomous organization responsible only to the People. Since the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation, the Boule is legally constituted and does not need any additional authority or categorization. If, however, it is found that a legally defined entity becomes desirable for practical and administrative reasons, the Amendment permits the Boule to incorporate under state law, which it would probably do as a nonprofit corporation. The Amendment also grants the Boule and its Members the same protection as Congress and congresspersons for legal action against them, and it grants the Boule non-taxable status. In this way the Boule can be convened and the Initiative process started. Direct Initiatives can then be used to create legislation that can correct any structural deficiencies that may appear later.

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When will THEY ever let this Solution happen?

Many comments received so far about this Solution say: 

  1. Yes, it is a good idea.

  2. Yes, we need it.

  3. There is very little chance that "THEY" or the "powers that be" will ever let this Amendment pass.

THEY, of course, are the same  wealthy special interests groups, Washington lobbyists, Congress and Media who all help create and benefit from these Problems laid upon the People. Mostly THEY are not organized to cause these Problems deliberately, but are only following their self-interest. Nevertheless, THEIR resistance to change will be enduring.

The approach taken in this plan is not to persuade by confrontation but to bypass THEM. Some will decide to support the Amendment as a matter of conscience. But adoption and ratification of the planned Amendment can be accomplished by the States without THEIR general support. Any reluctant States can even be persuaded by State initiatives in the 24 States that permit initiatives. As convincingly demonstrated in the 2004 general elections, the People can communicate by the Internet and persuade independently of the media to achieve power bases, generate funds, identify candidates and create voting majorities.

Faith in the States' leadership has been earned in the past. For example, women's suffrage was first approved by Washington State in 1910. State after state followed—the people of Oregon and Arizona even used the new power of State direct initiative to approve women's vote. Finally, in 1919 Congress had little choice but to adopt the 19th Amendment, which was ratified by the States in 1920.

So women, starting without even the power to vote, eventually achieved suffrage. In the case of this planned Amendment, Citizens aged eighteen and over have the vote and can more easily attain this planned Amendment. At some point the People's patience will have been tried beyond endurance and the momentum to take action will become unstoppable. The timing is not predictable—this plan may be an idea whose time has now come or it may evolve to meet unforeseeable future circumstances. In either case, since amendment of the constitution will be long and hard, it is worth starting now.

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Who controls the Boule?

The People control the Boule as shown in the flow of control below:

 

The United States Constitution

The U.S. Constitution established by the People is the source of the Boule's authority.

This constitutional Amendment specifies that the Boule shall be responsible to the People. It grants the Boule broad powers so that additional Amendments will not be needed each time new circumstances are encountered. However, an initial set of rules is adopted by the constitutional Amendment creating limits on these broad powers. This permits the Boule to have functioning Rules when it is first convened, but without access to more authority than it initially needs.

 

 

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Part A
Rules

Boule Rules that can only be changed by Direct Initiative passed by the Electorate

The Direct Initiative Rules can only be changed by Direct Initiative passed by the Electorate.

It is here that the People exercise their continuing high-level control over the Boule. For example, the People must approve any changes to: the Boule budget, its size, Members' maximum term of service, method of selecting Members, Members' remuneration, the maximum period of time that Congress may not overrule legislation passed by Direct Initiative, and the maximum number of Initiatives on the ballot.

 

 

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Part B
Rules

Boule Rules that can only be changed by a two-thirds supermajority of the Boule

The Supermajority Rules help the Boule fine-tune its operations for maximum efficiency and effectiveness and define rules that should not be changed easily. For example, a supermajority must approve any changes to: content and format of Candidate Initiatives, discipline, the conditions for excusing those selected from serving as Members.

Sometimes a Supermajority Rule places further constraint on a Direct Initiative Rule, for example, Boule Membership size.

 

 

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Part C
Rules

Boule Rules that can be changed by a simple majority of the Boule

These Majority Rules take care of the day-to-day operations of the Boule. Sometimes a Majority Rule places further constraint on a Supermajority Rule.

 

In addition, suggestions that do not qualify for the status of a Boule rule but may be important for the Boule's guidance are documented separately.

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Why aren't U.S. referendums included in this Solution?

A referendum is generally prepared by Government and submitted to the People for their approval. In some U.S. states and cities, a "referendum petition" can be used by the People to overturn legislation. Referendums are widely used around the world to legitimize actions that Governments want to take. Often the right to initiate referendums is presumed to be a proper power of Government without explicit authority granting the government that right. For example, the U.S. Constitution is silent on the matter. The U.S. government has never tested whether or not the Supreme Court would determine that it has the right to hold referendums. Following The Netherlands' 2005 referendum rejecting the EU Charter, there remain only four major established democracies that have never held a national referendum: India, Israel, Japan, and the United States.

However, referendums can have sinister purposes, so their checks and balances should be very carefully considered. "Hitler used national referendums to withdraw Germany from the League of Nations in 1933 and to consolidate his powers in 1934. The ability of the Nazi propaganda machine to insure the desired result is well known." (Polhill)

The procedures for indirect initiatives vary from state to state. For example, some state legislatures can submit an alternative ballot referendum on the same subject as the indirect initiative for the People to choose between. However, such complexities would detract from the core issues of the Amendment, and a simple form of indirect initiative process has been incorporated into the Amendment to facilitate Boule and Congressional cooperation.

Since nationwide referendums are not essential to Solution of the Problems addressed in this plan, it is better to limit the Amendment to nationwide Initiatives than risk its failure from non-essential referendum issues that are either within congressional purview or can be addressed by initiative.

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Why isn't federal representative recall included in this Solution?

Congresspersons could be recalled only by their electorate. This would occur as a local action and is beyond the scope of a nationwide Initiative and this Planned Amendment.

The President and/or Vice President could theoretically be subject to recall by nationwide vote of the Electorate. However, this would involve complex issues of succession and national security. Moreover, under Article I Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment and the Senate has the sole Power to try all impeachments. Thus, there is a functioning existing process that permits separate branches of government to resolve the issue.

Since recall is not essential to Solution of the Problems addressed in this plan, it is better to limit the Planned Amendment to nationwide Initiatives than risk its failure from non-essential features or additions.

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Why didn't the Founding Fathers include any Direct Democracy in the Constitution?

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution in 1787, a hundred years before the discovery of Aristotle's key texts describing the ancient Athenian experiences with democracy. Texts that they had quoted Greeks who were critical of democracy—especially Socrates who advocated a republic led by philosophers. Despite 140 years of direct democracy in New England town meetings starting as early as the 1640's, there was no evidence that these small democracies could be scaled up for nationwide benefit. To the Founding Fathers, it seemed necessary that in a democracy all voters should assemble at a single location. The methodology of a statistical random sample of the People for polling or to select candidate initiatives developed over the period 1850-1930. Consequently, based on the available information, the Founding Fathers omitted any reference to democracy from the Constitution, but they did not explicitly forbid it.

The Founding Fathers apparently were not aware that the ancient Athenians considered their city, with thirty to sixty thousand citizens, too large to assemble in one place. Their key democratic Boule—The Council of Five Hundred—and juries were chosen by random selection of citizens. The Council of Five Hundred managed everyday affairs and set the agenda for much larger meetings of the citizens. (It seems extraordinary that the Athenians intuitively chose exactly the right statistical minimum number for a good random sample!) This solution to the problem of size is explained in Aristotle’s "Constitution of Athens", but this text had been lost in the 7th Century and not rediscovered until 1880-1891.

Starting with South Dakota in 1898 (less than 10 years after Aristotle's text became available), all State constitutions include some degree of direct democracy—though Delaware is an exception in permitting constitutional changes by legislature rather than by referendum. Initiatives began as grassroots efforts to fight government corruption and big-business influence. 24 of the States now authorize initiatives. Many States were brought into effect through approval of their State constitutions by direct democracy votes of their people. Moreover, many nations today include some degree of direct democracy.

It is reasonable to suppose that, if Aristotle's text and other information about Athenian democracy's success had been known to the Founding Fathers prior to 1787, the Constitution might have included some reference to direct democracy. Though, by omitting the word democracy from the Constitution, they did not deny it. However, a nationwide referendum on the U.S. Constitution along the lines adopted now by the States would have been impractical under the circumstances of 1787. The Founding Fathers were pragmatic and did what they had to do.

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Why don’t Direct Initiatives require Presidential approval?

The Constitution’s system of checks and balances requires that legislation enacted by both Houses of Congress be approved or vetoed by the President. The equivalent check and balance for Direct Initiative legislation is that two Assemblies (with many different Members) propose the Initiative and then the People approve or reject it. In both cases these are multi-step independent approvals that minimize error.

The President is deliberately omitted from any veto power over Direct Initiatives because the President is potentially subject to even greater wealthy special interests influence than Congress. Any requirement for presidential approval of Direct Initiatives would defeat the purpose of this planned Amendment.

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Why is a Boule of 480 Citizens manageable?

The key problem in setting the size of the planned Boule is to make it large enough to represent accurately the views of all the People, yet be small enough to be manageable. It is a problem confronting all national assemblies. Their practical experience is of paramount importance as they have evolved over centuries to these sizes after much trial and error.

National assemblies in 13 typical developed Countries (Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States) range in size from 300 to 660 members, with an average of 480. These national assemblies conduct their business with reasonable representation of the people and are considered manageable.

The planned Boule will consist of Citizens who are not making a career, not seeking publicity and not competing to be reelected—i.e., the absence of many factors that drive discord and competition. Consequently, it is expected that the Boule will be more manageable than an equivalent size national assembly.

To set the agenda for the electorate, the ancient Athenians used a Council that consisted of 500 randomly selected voters who served for one year. This system survived successfully for about 180 years.

In order that the planned Boule has flexibility to fine-tune its size based on experience over the years, it will be permitted a membership range of 300 to 600, but will start with 480 members.

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Why doesn't the Constitution's Guarantee Clause forbid Direct Democracy?

The Constitution does not explicitly forbid or allow direct democracy; the issue is unresolved. Specifically, Article IV, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution (the Guaranty Clause) states that: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence."

Note that this Solution shall check and remedy representative democracy, not supersede it.

There has been continuous argument about what the Founding Fathers intended by the wording of the Guarantee clause:

  1. On one side it is argued that the words "republican form of government" should be narrowly construed to exclude any form of direct democracy, in effect saying that the U.S. is a republic and is not a democracy. Support for and against this position can be found in various writings by the Founding Fathers.

  2. On the other side it is argued that the Founding Fathers were simply giving the States a broad assurance that there would be no new monarchy or dictatorship in whatever form. The actual wording of the guarantee tends to support this interpretation because the same paragraph also refers to protection against invasion and domestic violence. At that time monarchy still had wide support and was a serious and feared possibility. It was George Washington himself who squelched the movement to crown him by refusing to participate.

The Supreme Court in 1912 held that a challenge to the constitutionality of a State initiative was not subject to judicial review. In other words, final confirmation of their constitutionality could not be resolved by the Constitution and the issue was left in limbo. Nevertheless, this decision has allowed State initiatives to be used without further serious challenge. "Generally, it is recognized that a state government is republican if Congress seats its members" (Vile, p109). Consequently, direct democracy legislation has, by its adoption in State constitutions become virtually approved de facto as part of the Constitution.

Today, republics around the world allow various degrees of direct legislation. They all consider themselves to be republics in which supreme power is held by the citizens entitled to vote. There seems to be agreement that a degree of direct legislation is entirely compatible with, and healthy for, a republican form of government.

Nevertheless, the planned nationwide Initiatives Amendment would undoubtedly cause opponents to raise the guarantee clause arguments again, possibly delaying it for a long time since the argument has no conclusion within the Constitution as currently worded. Therefore, in the Planned Amendment, an article is included to clarify that State initiatives and referendums and U.S. initiatives are consistent with a republican form of government. The States are the beneficiaries of the Guarantee, and will, by ratifying this Amendment, accept this constitutional interpretation and thereby they will make themselves indisputably constitutional.

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Why not let the Boule make the laws directly?

It can be argued (Leib, Callenbach) that a Candidate Initiative adopted by a deliberative Assembly could become law directly, without going to vote by nationwide Electorate. Some advantages are:

  1. Such laws would be made by well informed Assembly Members rather than a less informed Electorate.

  2. Similar methods could be used for State and local government.

  3. The problem of overburdening the Electorate is avoided, so the Assembly could pass more laws than in the planned Solution.

There are several reservations to taking such a large step:

  1. It is less consistent with the constitutional framework, where the ultimate authority and source of power to make legitimate decisions is the People, not a random sample of the People—which is not mentioned in the Constitution.

  2. A random sample is small enough that it is possible a few charismatic activists might be able to control the Boule for long enough to approve an unwise Initiative. The People can correct such error by voting against the Initiative. (Of course, the People may occasionally be similarly influenced. But, if the People make the mistake, it is their right.)

  3. The Constitution's Guaranty Clause states that: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a republican form of government". While adoption of an Initiative by the People is arguably within their purview as the ultimate authority under the Constitution, such a claim is harder to argue for a random sample of the People.

  4. The adoption of an Initiative by the Boule followed by a vote by the nationwide Electorate provides an effective check and balance that is entirely consistent with the Constitution.

  5. When an Initiative is passed by the nationwide Electorate, it psychologically and morally binds the entire Electorate to make their decision work, whereas passage by the Boule has less psychological and moral force and cannot expect the same public commitment.

  6. The Boule members are not as qualified as professional congresspersons to formulate the mass of complex legislation needed to run the country. However, they are far better qualified to ensure that the People's interests are properly protected by means of the relatively small amount of initiative legislation that nationwide voters can assimilate.

  7. The initiatives are generated by both U.S. citizen groups and U.S. organizations. They will vary greatly in scope and quality. Many will be quickly eliminated from further consideration while others will be of professional quality and importance equal to any produced by government. The Boule will obtain whatever information and advice it deems necessary and will advance those in the best interests of the People.

  8. It is an even larger step than the Planned Solution, and would be even harder to achieve.

Consequently, this planned Solution limits the Boule to managing selection of the Initiatives, requiring that the People make the decision to approve them or not.

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Why should State governments support this planned Amendment?

Government has an obligation to protect its citizens’ rights. The U.S. Congress denies these rights by promoting the welfare of wealthy special interest groups that fund expensive congressional re-election campaigns rather than promoting the general welfare of the People. Congress will not solve this problem; but it is within the States’ power to do so.

The people’s faith in State leadership to protect their rights has been well earned. For example, women first gained their suffrage in the States, eventually compelling Congress to adopt universal suffrage. For another example, all State constitutions reserve to their people some degree of direct democracy within the State, whereas Congress steers clear of any direct democracy at a Federal level by which the people might preserve their rights. Moreover, state legislators are much more accessible and willing to listen to the People—they tend to live and work close to their constituents and there are about 15 times more state legislators per capita than congresspersons.

The States have introduced important reforms that protect citizens’ rights and improve government efficiency—for example, term limits and executive-branch line item veto. Both are commonplace now in the States but the federal government has resisted them. In all States, this continuous reelection of congresspersons locks out numerous excellent state legislators from becoming congressional candidates throughout their best years.

Congress introduces hidden taxes on the people by mandating unfunded State expenditure (about $30 billion per year) without an equivalent reduction in Federal taxes that would compensate the people for the necessary increases in State and local taxes. It also distorts the allocation of taxes and resources, thereby contributing to the decline of the American middle class—a long-term cause of political instability endangering this nation.

The States compete with each other on a long-term basis and thereby improve their efficiency and effectiveness to the benefit of the people; whereas the Federal government is a monopoly without U.S. competition and therefore inevitably less efficient on a long-term basis. Congress repeatedly makes preemptive nationwide changes at great expense without first verifying that they work, ignoring appeals from the States that diverse concepts should be tried at a State level.

Under the planned Amendment, State rights are protected by the requirement that any a nationwide Direct Initiative must be passed by the electorate in a majority of the States. The Amendment resolves finally that the States are not in contravention of the Guarantee Clause. The States will also have rights to propose expedited Initiatives to the Boule that can submit them for vote by the nationwide Electorate.

Some aspects of these problems might be solved by State legislation or occasional single-issue Amendments; but each step is slow and exhausting, whereas Congress is swift to find and create loopholes and end-runs. Any meaningful solution must therefore be a long-term process that can correct future problems and loopholes as they arise. An effective way (probably the only way) to accomplish this is to invoke the only earthly power higher than Congress—the Constitution—as described in this planned Amendment.

The States have the power to create such a solution using the second method to adopt and later ratify this planned Amendment. A constructive first step could be for some individual States to support the planned Amendment in principle (e.g., perhaps without any actual commitment) as a starting point and focus for their deliberations. The States would thereby assume authority over the Amendment's final content.

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 November 07, 2013