11 January 2009

The National Initiative for Democracy?

The National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D) is a proposal, which if passed, will give American citizens the power to enact legislation directly via ballot initiatives rather than only indirectly via elected representatives. Such a process of direct democracy, where citizens can vote directly on issues, is already the norm in states across The Union. An example of this was the recent the campaign on proposition 8 in California, in which the people of The Golden State voted to amend the constitution and ban same-sex marriage. This state constitutional-right effectively creates a forth branch of government in which the people, as legislators, are able to enact laws. Under this system the other three branches of government still function: The judicial still protects rights, the elected legislature still carries out lawmaking and the executive still runs the day-to-day affairs of the country.

The question of whether we want such a fourth branch of government is a question of political philosophy and how we want to be governed. Traditionally, we rely on a representative democracy for reasons of simplicity: you and I generally do not have the time (nor perhaps the interest) to concern ourselves with nitty gritty lawmaking on a daily basis. To avoid such a time consuming task we elect politicians who are closely aligned with out beliefs to represent us in government. The problem with this mode of representation is that our ability to effect change directly ends once our vote is cast for a candidate. Of course we can lobby, protest, threaten to vote differently in the future, or do otherwise to advance an interest, though such actions will only indirectly bring about change. If we are to strengthen democracy, that being rule of the people, the NI4D is a way for us to directly write the laws which we must live by. Of course a balance must be struck between direct and indirect democracy, though as it stands now, you and I have no direct legislative power. Further, if we are expected (or would like to be) an informed populace, by giving us legislative powers we will become more engaged and more informed. Perhaps it is time to stand up and have a direct say on issues such as government bailouts, the war in Iraq, and stem cell research.

I encourage you to visit NI4D and vote on this important issue.


Anonymous said...

the passing of proposition 8, a law which blatantly discriminates against a certain group in california is proof that people are too stupid to have the right enact their own legislation.

the three strikes law in california is further proof that people simply don't understand the unintended consequences of legislation. after three strikes we increased our prison population in the state by 500%, and built 23 new prisons, which cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

we elect legislators for a reason - to make laws, because they have a better understanding than the average person.

think about all the people that you know, and see on a daily basis. only about a quarter of americans even have a college degree. do you really want the populous deciding the laws for you?

nice try at being democratic, pseduo-intellect.

Anda said...

The question of whether (1) government by the people or (2) government by an elite cadre of technocrats, has been discussed by people as diverse as Greek philosophers, medieval theologians, American founding fathers, and you and I today. The answer to this discussion certainly isn't an obvious one and the side which one falls on is more likely the result of political philosophy (what form should liberal democracy take?) rather than due to an analysis of empirical fact. That being said, if we look at the empirical results of ballot initiatives, yes there have been "failures" such as prop 8 which you cite. Then again, under representative democracy we've had both the Dred Scott and Plessy V. Ferguson supreme court cases.