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Government 2.0: A Change is Gonna Come

There are major problems with our current form of government. Though a shining example of representative democracy at the time of its founding, it has evolved in recent decades into a moribund, inefficient form of non-representative government, wasteful on a massive scale. Today, this government – meant to be "By and For the People" – instead represents big business, special interests, and the elite.

A discussion has begun recently about the process by which government might be returned to the people it was created to represent. This is the first in a series examining where we are, how we got here, and where we might go.

Government 1.0: Representative Government

The current form of "representative" government sees a firmly entrenched party system aligned with big business and backed by the elites. They are currently the "body politik," with a left arm (blue) and a right arm (red). Their sole aim is to acquire and control the distribution of power. Citizens get only the slightest acknowledgement because they can vote (corporations can’t cast ballots – yet). Nonetheless, the entrenched interests maintain the status quo by using the courts and manipulating votes, and doing whatever else they deem necessary to retain power – including the incorporation of carefully calculated bits of “change” designed to appease the party faithful – and keep them faithful.

On nearly every issue, citizens –- let alone the greater good – are an afterthought, with the government constantly dreaming up new excuses for its lack of effectiveness. You see it on issues as diverse as health insurance reform, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, “too big to fail” financial institutions, and energy exploration.

If the evolution of our democracy in recent decades has proved nothing else, it is that the public interest and corporate interests are largely incompatible.

Many time-honored tactics for effecting change won’t work in the 21st century because money and influence prevent meaningful change. Movements no longer gather steam and sustain it as they did in the 1930s or 1960s partly because people are unwilling to sacrifice as previous generations did, but largely because big business learned well the first time around and has since put measures in place to prevent meaningful change. The legislature isn’t an option; most senators and representatives are awash in corporate cash. The judiciary is loaded with pro-business ideologues, from local courts to the highest court in the land. The mainstream media is an extension of big business’ agenda to an extent that would make Joseph Goebbels proud.

So effectively, citizens have no recourse to change their government. They elect someone based on a promise of "change", only to see that promise discarded after election day in favor of business as usual. If the Masters of the Universe choose to wreck the world, no one can stop them.

This is not what the Founders envisioned. On the contrary, it is what they ran from and warned against.

So what is the alternative?

Government 2.0: Direct Democracy

There’ve been times that I’ve thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come…

– Sam Cooke

It is time to take matters into our own hands and be responsible for how we govern ourselves. If representative democracy has shown us anything, it is that it cannot be trusted in the hands of those who work against us and American values. And it surely cannot be trusted in the hands of those who are easily and legally bribed in the form of campaign contributions from big business and the elites. Their values are not ours.

What exactly are Progressive values? They are forward thinking ideas centered around the common good for everyone. Instead of a "winner take all" mentality, we view the world holistically, recognizing that when the system is equitable, everyone wins and the standard of living rises for all. For example, these are some of the values that Progressives embrace.

* Living wage of ten dollars an hour
* Decent labor laws (Passage of EFCA, repeal of Taft-Hartley)
* Single payer healthcare with Medicare for all (recognizing that healthcare is a right, not a privilege)
* Increased funding and commitment to public education
* Paid maternity leave
* Crash investment in alternative energy research and technology
* Massive public works programs to generate non-exportable jobs and expand crumbling infrastructure
* Construction of national high-speed rail and regional/local mass transit to end auto gridlock and reduce carbon emissions
* Cutting military spending to fund urgent social needs
* Complete public funding of public elections
* Complete, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel and private contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan
* Closure of a majority of the military bases around the world

These are Progressive values in the spirit of the nation’s Founders – not of the Fortune 500. These are issues in which citizens must have a say.

Every generation is faced with the choice of continuing on with the model they inherit, or sweeping it out and starting anew. The Declaration of Independence is clear about the people’s rights when their government is no longer responsive.

We believe, given the advances in technology and the immediacy of the age in which we live, that there are forms of government that might work better than representative democracy. A primary aim of a new Progressive party would be to recognize and integrate these new realities into a decentralized, direct democracy, wherein cooperativism maintains primacy, and the values of strong community with direct citizen involvement to make voting meaningful again. Cooperativism is the true model of an ownership society, the kind the Founders envisioned.

Tomorrow, people would be the decision-makers as to how their government works, what gets funded, and more importantly, what the priorities are. Intermediaries in the form of "representatives" would become artifacts of an outmoded system.

Call to Action

Mason has developed a detailed Progressive party platform. It is a work in progress, and will continue to be a living document where changes are made as needed.

This will take time. 2010 will be a year of building a foundation for our values. Once that is accomplished, we will move toward a 50-state strategy to make our party a true alternative to the corporate-owned system.

If you want to make a difference, we welcome your participation. For further information or to volunteer your time – even one hour a week will make a difference – please e-mail mad.hemingway at

** Many thanks to themalcontent, Kman484, and Mason for helping put this together.

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