cj#254/ANALYSIS> Yves & Vigdor on democracy

1995-07-31

Richard Moore

Dear CJ,

Here's more from the governance thread on cyber-rights (who knows what it's
doing _there_), together with some moderator comments at the bottom...

-rkm


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Date: Sun, 30 Jul 1995 23:13:47 -0700
To: "Multiple recipients of list •••@••.•••"
Sender: Vigdor Schreibman - FINS <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cr-807> -- "Third sector"

> Sender: LECLERC YVES <•••@••.•••>
>
> Vigdor Schreibman wrote:
>
> << The last best idea on this, first suggested by Thomas Jefferson in the
> Declaration of Independence, was called democracy, in which the
> participation of the people in the decision making process would be
> encouraged to the maximum extent possible. >>
>
> Correct in principle, wrong in detail and practice.
>
> One, Jefferson was far from the first to suggest this. Even in the U.S.

  The Declaration was unique, as a political thesis.  What other prior such
instrument do you refer to.

>
> Two, the system we have *discourages*, rather than encourages the
> participation of the people in decision making. We dump the responsibility
> on elected officials, then we quarrel about their performance rather than
> the issues. Not the best way of getting people involved.

  The conclusion is correct, but an oversimplification.  The system
grants far too broad a mandate to elected officials, in order to lock the
people out of the decision making process so that strategically placed
individual are allowed to rule by power alone.  This was Madison's
explicit formula in Federalist 10, for the empowerment of "the minority"
or property owners who would be able to rule the mass of humanity.

  Once this scheme is put in place, of course, the performance of public
officials works its way as a dictatorship of unilateral power, with the
appalling consequences we see all around.

>
> Three, the motivation in politics (at least since Machiavelli said so) is
> personal power. That in business since at least Adam Smith is personal
> profit, and both are at loggerheads -- when they are not conspiring
> together, which to me is even more worrisome. Rather than trying to convert
> them to altruism (which you seem to propose and I think is (;-/) slightly
> unrealistic), I am groping for another way of detouring around the current
> gridlock and getting something accomplished for the good of everyone.

  This is mistaken.  You do not appear to understand the motivational
forces, which state-of-the-art management science has grasped quite well.
The most fundamental motivations of human beings are two fold: a) to
exercise one's own powers to control the environment in which one exits;
and b) to participate in some profound way in shaping society
significantly.

  You might call the result something like "egoistic altruism" which is
how the cellular system of all living creatures works.  Adam Smith called
it "enlightened self-interest" relying on his thesis on "moral
sentiments" as a basis for the promotion of human happiness, which he
thought was the basic responsibility of all governments.  The
contemporary propaganda system has badly distorted Smith's philosophy.

  The simple truth understood by primitive man and contemporary
management science, is simply this: the democratic distribution of power
works best.  The catch is, of course, that democracy is more than a
free-for-all, it requires discipline.  When the third sector begins to
understand how to facilitate meaningful participation, their power and
everyone within their domain will rapidly rise and overtake the
unilateral power system that we now live under.

>
> Finally, having read Jefferson, I don't think he'd be happy to see you
> setting him up as a kind of god-given Gospel one must always refer to and
> never try to challenge, adapt or evolve. One of his basic ideas was that
> each of us should be able and free to think for himself -- and to contest
> accepted ideas, certainly not excluding those of Tom Jefferson!

  Yes and no.  Jefferson never figured out how to make democracy work.  His
basic insight was superb, however, and it is left to this generation of
Americans to give life to that insight, through the knowledge we have
gained about such matters

 >
> IMHO, knowing your ideas from a while back, what you wrote was not what you
> intended to say... ?

  Well, Yves, it was not the whole story.  But one must wait for the
people to express their desire to progress to a higher level of existence.
The existing scheme is in complete disequilibrium, and there is no going
back to simpler times.  New insight for a future that tranforms the
existing systems, by enlarging upon the best of our democratic heritage is
absolutely essential.  Without this nothing is possible.

  You are right about one thing, the answer lies in the third sector, but
a different kind of third sector that we have ever seen, one that
encourages and facilitates meaningful public participation.  This also
requires a different form of leadership, one that gives up individual
power to marshall the greater power of the community for the general good.

  This is not simplistic altruism but stark realism.  Playing the game of
the lone ranger is foolish in a world of trillion dollar industry
conglamorates.  But all this power fades in proportion to the overwheling
power posesed by the people who comprise the environment upon which
industries depend for their existence.

  Marshall the latter democratically--not just technologically--through the
genius of cyberspace.

Vigdor Schreibman - FINS <•••@••.•••>

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Moderator Note:

                [this was addressed originally to Vigdor & Yves]

Vigdor's said:
>  The Declaration was unique, as a political thesis.  What other prior such
>instrument do you refer to.

Yves can (and most likely will) answer this in greater detail, but the
thinkers I've looked at that were far more seminal than Jefferson are Ben
Franklin (more in the realm of diplomacy and politiking, rather than
writing), and even more to the point, Tom Paine.  If you haven't yet seen
John Keane's new book "Tom Paine, A Political Life", I _heartily_ recommend
it.

Seldom has a publication had a more electrying fallout than that of Paine's
"Common Sense".  Keane credits it with:
        1)  defining for the first time (in modern Western thinking) the
            distinction between "civil society" and "government", seeing the
            first as a universal good, and the latter as a compromise,
necessary
            to protect the rights and interests of citizens against
internal and
            external dangers

        2)  single-handedly turning the tide of opinion (though it was obviously
            primed already) from "reform of monarchy" to "independence"

Common Sense was also mindful of the dangers lying _beyond_ throwing off
the British yoke -- warning that popular revolutions tend to be breeding
grounds for power-hungry groups and self-appointed elites.  Paine went into
some detail about why representative democracy would be necessary in a
geographically large and populous nation, and even had his own schemes for
governmental structures, although in those details he seems to have
exceeded his expertise, and the Constitutional Convention, IMHO, did a
better job.


Regards,
Richard

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 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                 Moderator: CYBERJOURNAL (@CPSR.ORG)

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