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Forum Post: Eliminate Congress, we can represent ourselves over the net

Posted 2 years ago on July 19, 2012, 5:02 p.m. EST by rgagnon (8)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I wonder if, as a country, enough people have access to the internet that Congress can be done away with and have a direct representation of the people into the government. It's hard to feel that the politicians we elect actually represent the people. The greater sense is that they represent the wealthy people that can afford to get them elected. To stay elected, politicians use federal money to fund state projects that states should pay for. That game of staying elected costs taxpayers in higher federal taxes. The historical reason for Congress to exist comes from the inability of an 18th century populace to directly make their feelings known remotely. The internet now makes that possible.

The Senate, Supreme Court, and Presidential offices would still exist. Congress is supposed to represent the quantity of people in the United States with the number of state representatives being based on the populations of those states. Instead of being represented by elected representatives, the technology exists for the vast majority of the country to directly represent themselves. The Senate represents the unity of the country with each state having the same say in how the federal government spends money. In theory, the Senate ensures that only laws that are good for the entire country are passed. In practice, human nature takes over and one hand washes the other as backdoor deals are made to pass each other's bills. It's a balance that's still needed however imperfect it is.

One way to constrain federal spending is to require that, whoever votes for a bill, pays for the bill through higher taxes. One of the biggest problems with the government is that there is no sense of personal responsibility for spending money. In fact, the more federal money a politician brings into their state, the more likely they stay elected. There isn't the remotest incentive to reduce federal spending. Since few people want higher taxes, spending would sharply decrease. When spending federal money comes out of the pockets of the people who want to spend, it's an easy bet that it's for something that they really want.

The main question I have is whether I trust the general populace, which can name more reality TV stars than presidents, to do a better job than our duly elected officials. I'm not sure. It's hard to imagine that it could get any worse. It would have been a lot harder for the Legislative Branch to bail out Wall Street and banks if the people being screwed by them had any say in the matter. The rich would have a lot less influence over the government. It's a lot easier bribing a few hundred elected officials than 300 million people. I would be pretty sure that the huge list of tax loopholes that allow the rich to avoid paying a fair share in taxes would quickly disappear.

Maybe it's time to put "We the people" back into the Constitution.

21 Comments

21 Comments


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[-] 2 points by jaktober (286) from Sonoma, CA 2 years ago

All we have to do is allow for district sourcing of representatives ( http://margolinforcongress.com/bring-congress-home-to-work/ <- that guy runs for Congress to promote the concept of telecommuniting for Congress), as well as reducing a Representative's constituency (to 100,000 per Rep), then I think we'd have a far more accessible and representative government.

The transition of power must be done with real world thinking (not just theory). Your system may be better, but may need some steps in between as to not be totally destroyed due to the reaction it will cause from those in power (and those "subscribed" to the current power structure).

[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

If we have to take baby steps, I suppose something new is better than nothing. Dropping a Representative's constituency from a million (or whatever it is) to 100,000 doesn't make me feel much better. It's akin to thinking buying 10 lottery tickets instead of 1 is going to increase a person's chance of winning (it does, but one hundred million-to-one odds isn't much better than one billion-to-one odds).

Think of the current process this way. If you saw a commercial with somebody promising you a better life if you have him $10,000, would you be rushing to give the guy the money? Then, after a few years, when your life has actually gotten a little worse, the same guy comes on TV and says he going to keep making your life better for another $10,000. Are you in? You can always give a new guy that's making the same promise $10,000 for paradise. I don't think anybody of moderate intelligence is going to give that much money to a complete stranger for a vague promise of a better life. That's what we're essentially forced to do when we pay our federal taxes. Fifty years ago, the average couple could afford a house with only one person working. How many couples can do that today?--With both working?

That's essentially why a little change to the process doesn't excite me. It still doesn't fix the problems.

[-] 3 points by jaktober (286) from Sonoma, CA 2 years ago

I get what you're saying. However, I think even getting the Reps to have less constituents would be difficult.

I think you need to think about transition because I don't think people are really prepared to participate in a direct democracy (nor do I think a direct House would work very well).

A good sign of when people are ready to actually get involved with every bill (or enough people on enough bills) is when enough people actually participate in the current system to get most of the incumbents out of office.

I don't think we need radical reform of the system other than how we get access (ballot) and how we approach voting and participation in general.

I work on campaigns. It is hard to get people to come out and help. If you think the current electorate is ready to participate in direct democracy when they rarely have time to even vote or canvas and raise-funds...

You are right, way easier to spend other people's money. There are a lot of government reforms we can do, a direct democracy is a grand reform and I think when people are ready for that then we will have it, not the other way around.

[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

We're stuck with a chicken or the egg syndrome. You'd like to see more people getting politically involved in the current political system. The average American sees that system as corrupt, out-of-touch, and not representing their interests. Here's a Gallup poll that rates the honesty/ethics of various professions and places politicians at the bottom a fraction of a percentage above car dealers and a fraction of a percentage rather surprisingly below lobbyists. With politicians that low on the trustworthiness scale, it shouldn't come to much of a shock that few Americans want to help a politician's campaign. http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx

Americans are not going to get more involved in the political process until they have a better say in that process. I cannot picture anything that will make the former circumstance happen without the latter happening. They tend to go hand-in-hand.

[-] 1 points by jaktober (286) from Sonoma, CA 2 years ago

I think they go both ways to. However, how do you propose opening the system with the same people being involved? You need more energy. You need more participants.

It's like the Three Kings quote, "You must do the thing that scares the sh!t out of you before you get courage to do it."

We need to engage in government in order to open it. I agree that a large percentage won't engage until they seem some change or openness, however, until more people engage the system will stay the same.

[-] 2 points by NLake72 (510) 2 years ago

Sadly, most voters just aren't that interested. Sure, they THINK they are interested, hell, they even think that they understand most issues. What they don't do is read, let alone seriously research a topic (or a candidate, or a political party) before casting a lasting vote.

Direct Democracy depends on a well-informed public. We can blame most of the media for abdicating their responsibility to perform actual journalism, or, we can blame ourselves for just not giving a shit. Or, we can admit that we're just too darn busy with our lives, or too greedy and self-serving to be bothered with the responsible governance of our country.

Revolutions begin in the library, but nobody reads. If we have direct democracy, we'll be ruled by Rush and other such pundits, because a good portion of this country's people make their decisions based on advertizing sound bites and 10 minutes of talk radio in the morning.

There's a lot of reforms we can make, but I have zero faith in people undertaking such a complex task (taking the time to read and otherwise fully educate themselves in the name of civic responsibility.)

[-] 2 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

There are two ways to amend the Constitution. We're familiar with the process by the Legislative Branch. The other requires 3/4ths of the states to ratify the amendment. It's never been done, but it could be a way for states to take back much of the power that they've ceded to the federal government by empowering the voters. This process exists to check the power of the federal government.

Empowering the people was the purpose of the Constitution, but the technology of the 18th century could not envision direct representation of all voters.

I'm not saying that all federal spending is bad, but a $16 trillion debt does not indicate that the federal government is spending responsibly. There are enough websites that document government waste. There is nothing about our Legislative Branch to indicate that any form of responsible spending will ever happen or that such spending will benefit the majority of the people. Recurring costs (social security, federal employee salaries, etc) can be handled outside of the new voting process because they are known costs. The voters of the country need a way to check the vast amounts of federal dollars that are spent to benefit the few.

The hacking problem for a site like this is not as big a problem as it is for Amazon and other major sites. This kind of change isn't going to happen tomorrow, so technology should improve over time.

Keep in mind that I'm just tossing out ideas. I'm not going to claim every one of them is a gem. Maybe the idea of making voters pay more taxes for the bills they vote for doesn't work. All I know is that it's a lot easier to spend somebody else's money than my own. That's the attitude of the Legislative Branch. We fought a revolution because we were taxed without representation. How many of us feel that our politicians still represent the 99%? We're still being taxed, but without adequate representation. Unless the government changes, our lives are not going to improve.

[-] 1 points by Porkie (-255) 2 years ago

The precise term proposed by the British, in self defense of our grievance, was "virtual representation" and it very aptly applies here.

To state this another way, our charge of taxation without representation was met with a rebuttal to the effect of, "but you have virtual representation." To this day, virtual still carries this created-at-the-time-of-the-Rev connotation of "imaginary" essence.

[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

The most interesting generic comment against having direct representation by the people in Congressional matters is a general feeling about not trusting the average American in such matters or that they aren't prepared for that type of responsibility. It's all the more surprising that those positions are coming from a forum that is comprised of individuals that are fighting against the 1% that have an unfair influence over the country. It's more than a little ironic that this forum appears to be largely against giving the 99% more political clout. It feels like the issue is less taking power away from the current 1% than it is giving it to a different 1%. That's what essentially happens each election when a different political party is in charge. A different group of wealthy individuals have more power when their party is running the country.

As much as my first post expressed reservations about replacing the votes of Congress with a direct vote from the populace, I still find it preferable to leaving that vote to career politicians that were elected largely through the dollars of the wealthiest 1%. Those politicians know how they got elected and know that they can be readily replaced by whoever the 1% want to see filling their job. I don't see the 99% dismantling the government that is currently in place. I do see it limiting further expansions by the government and minimizing spending that doesn't benefit them. The federal government in place now is not the same government that was empowered by the Constitution. It has usurped the power of the States such that individual states can no longer function without federal aid. Consequently, the bulk of the average American's taxes go to the federal government. That has led to a federal tax code of ridiculous complexity that allows the 1% to pay less than their fair share of taxes. I don't know about other states, but my state's tax code has significantly less deductions for the wealthy. I don't want to tax the rich more. I want them to pay the same kind of taxes I pay.

If we want to believe that this country is great, we need to believe that the people are great. We need to give the people a means to show that they are great. Anything else keeps the 1% in charge. No amount of reform is going to fix the process. The process needs to be fixed.

[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

I certainly have reservations about direct representation. Does anybody seriously believe that our representatives know all the details about the laws they pass? They don't. They're probably better informed than the general public. They're also highly influenced by lobbyists and big money interests. We have a government now that bails out Wall Street while doing little to help homeowners with underwater mortgages owing more money than their homes are worth. I don't see any reforms that are going to fix the current process.

The average voter will probably mostly vote on issues of emotional concern or to vote down high cost new laws. That will leave most of the votes to voters that are a bit more informed. It will result in fewer laws being passed and that will result in lower taxes. The laws that do pass will be the ones that benefit the majority of the people in the country. Frankly, that is supposed to be what the federal government should be doing.

Democracy is the will of the people. It isn't perfect. No form of government is because human beings are not perfect. The democracy that was established more than two centuries ago did not have a well-informed public. As ignorant as a good proportion of our society is today, those people still know more than the average person at the time of the Revolution.

When people have a direct voice in the government, they will pay more attention to what that government does. I don't think that direct voice will be any worse than the one we have now where we elect representatives that spend millions of dollars on ads that paint their opponents with accusations that are just barely outside the region of being lies. Will we ever be better off having representatives that are beholden to the sources of the millions of dollars they used to get elected?

Keep in mind that the Senate continues to exist as a legislative check against the voice of the populace. The Senate was created to specifically balance the needs of the population of the states with the needs of the country with two members for each state to provide a small check against a lone voice acting inappropriately. We would still be electing Congressmen to conduct the day to day operations of making and defending the laws of the nation. That job can't be done by people sitting at home at their computer (or at least with some more thought about how to do it right). The big difference is that those representatives will no longer cast any greater vote than any other voter in the country. The public will have a greater memory of the representatives that don't match the votes they cast and that will affect who they elect the next time. That will help ensure that the representatives that do get elected will do a better job of representing the needs of their constituents.

[-] 1 points by grapes (3075) 2 years ago

Luke 13:30 has "... last which shall be first, and ... first which shall be last ..." describing those to enter the kingdom of God. Our thinking hard about potential problems of the "last" and coming up with solutions to them "first" should precede unleashing the "first" motivations and emotions to achieve the "last".

[-] 1 points by geo (2638) from Concord, NC 2 years ago

One way to constrain federal spending is to require that, whoever votes for a bill, pays for the bill through higher taxes. One of the biggest problems with the government is that there is no sense of personal responsibility for spending money.

You are assuming that Federal spending is an overall bad thing. MMT shows us that with our monetary system of the past 40 years, this is not so.

[-] 1 points by geo (2638) from Concord, NC 2 years ago

Whats to keep a right wing hacker group from disrupting all internet activity, or influencing the vote?

We see what they do on this forum....

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 2 years ago

You would need to convince congress to dissolve itself.

Highly unlikely.

[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

If every voter had a direct say in how the government spends money, a lot more people will vote. Voter apathy comes from the frustration in not believing that our representatives are representing us. With a direct say in the government, a lot more people will be paying attention to what the government is doing. It's hard to stay interested in the government when our lives keep getting worse regardless of which party is voted in. I don't want to force people to vote. I'd like to see them want to vote.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 2 years ago

"enough people"? I like the idea of direct decisions. I'd be most comfortable if we mandated that all people vote. Otherwise we'd have a similar situation as we do now where minorities are kept from voting in ever creative ways.

[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 2 years ago

Stop insulting minorities like they dont have IDs you sicko.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 2 years ago

make sense.

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by atki4564 (1259) from Lake Placid, FL 2 years ago
[-] 1 points by rgagnon (8) 2 years ago

SPAM

[-] 0 points by atki4564 (1259) from Lake Placid, FL 2 years ago

Please be more critical in your thinking, because if you want direct democracy, then have to define it as an object-oriented constitution (or software specification), right? You also need a place to vote-upon amendments, right? You neighborhood web sites too, right? All of these are free on the net. Now, are you serious about getting the job done or just blowing useless steam?