Originally posted June 11, 2011
[mp3j track=”Liberty_Tree.mp3″ title=”Liberty Tree – by Stan Satlin – © 2011″ Loop=”false” autoplay=”n” flip=”y”] Audio: click arrow to play/pause
In the previous blog post we asked the question, “What are we here for?” “We” in this case being the United States of America. (Of course, asking this question of oneself, “What am I personally here for?”, is one of the highest uses of the mind, and we recommend it as a meditation — but that is a subject for another posting.)
We didn’t propose any answer to that question and instead invited readers to ponder it for themselves and come up with their idea of what the Mission of the USA is — or should be.
In the post before that, we offered a starting list of 14 things that all people should be able to expect of their government, implicit in the evolved social contract between and among individuals and the nation to which they pay taxes. Making the tacit explicit is always a good idea in any kind of contract or simple oral agreement — being explicit about what otherwise would be hidden assumptions prevents bad feelings (or worse) from happening later on.
On that list of 14 items, one of them is “Democracy (sharing control)”. In that posting I suggested that some of the items on the list could be combined with other items, so the eventual list would probably be shorter. Now let’s consider for a moment that Democracy could be the linchpin, or cause, around which all the other items on the list exist as effects.
Why postulate that Democracy could achieve so much — clean air, fair prices, and all of the other 14 things on the list? Because if people are effectively sharing control, in the end they will do what is best for the people, to the extent that they can figure out what works and what doesn’t — even if only by trial and error.
Not everyone believes this. To those who believe in Aristocracy or even Meritocracy, Democracy is tantamount to mob rule, and can go in any direction right or wrong; like putting one’s life in the hands of fools.
Plato in his Republic described pure Democracy being able to work in a polis (city) of 1000 well-informed and well-educated citizens. Most philosophers since have interpreted Plato to mean that Democracy would break down in larger numbers of people, and perhaps Plato did mean that. However, Plato did not have the Internet. Perhaps with TV, radio, print, outdoor, the Internet, Mobile, Social Media used in the right way together, the citizenry could be educated, kept well-informed, and their brain power tapped and aggregated quickly — resulting in working Democracy across hundreds of millions of people.
Or perhaps the polis idea still holds, and people should self-rule within small pieces of geography, and then those geographies vote. In principle, this is not so far from the USA plan — if citizens had stayed involved in politics in their communities, which very few of us have done. Possibly the messes we now see would not have gone so far out of control had we not abdicated the right to stay involved politically within our local areas.
Can there be a realistic process to bring ourselves back to the ideals on which our country was founded?
To be realistic, such a Renaissance Project would need to involve the private and voluntary sectors as well as the public sector — and would probably need to be driven by the private sector, as it appears to be the least poorly functioning of the three sectors, especially when the profit motive is tempered by the will to do good for all.
If we think novelistically about a plausible scenario, the first vision that pops to mind is an Internet company launching a fun, social, massively multiplayer realtime gamelike site, that quickly and virally attracts a huge loyal audience, in which the main game is to “Sim” (in the sense of the successful videogame series) running the world as it exists today.
If designed with social awareness, it throws off huge profits from advertising while tithing 10% of gross revenues to philanthropy, the money allocated according to the Democratic process — the vote of the site’s audience.
If the site also attracts audiences outside the U.S., even in countries that are not anything like Democracies, so much the better.
Do we citizens of the United States still believe in Democracy as intensely as Jefferson and all of the Founding Fathers did? The Founders enshrined the “consent of the governed” in the Declaration of Independence. Hobbes, Rousseau and John Locke had “invented” the ideas of social contract (consent of the governed) in the 1600s–1700s, and Rousseau’s 1762 treatise came only 14 years before the American Revolution. Locke’s term “natural rights” was invoked in the framework for our country, as no country before it or since.
If the mission of the USA is to demonstrate Democracy, then let’s make it the inspiring core of a new energy in this country. Some specifics on how we might do that — ideas worth testing perhaps — in upcoming blog postings here.
Best to all,