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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is direct democracy?

2. What is what Aristotle refers to as the best form of democracy?

3. How is the general will, as described by Rousseau, determined?

4. What would be the branches of government in this system?

5. What are the voting categories?

6. Who defines the voting categories?

7. Who votes in the various voting categories?

8. How is the issue of voter competence addressed in relation to the Certified Voters?

9. Concerning the certified voters, how do they become certified?

10. How are the bills to be voted on written?

11. Is the U.S.A. now the best of all possible political worlds?

12. What quotation are you most motivated by in this endeavor?

13. Aren't the people democratically represented by their elected legislators?

14. Why do people seek political office?

15. Can't just we let the elected officials solve society's problems?

16. Are we all conditioned to think that legislators are experts in all legislative areas?

17. Should the public be able to recall incompetent elected public officials?

18. What about the issue of voter competence?

19. What does the topic of direct democracy involve?

20. Why is the topic of direct democracy of interest to you?

21. What experiences and knowledge do you currently have about the topic of direct democracy?

22. Why specifically are you interested in exploring the concept of direct democracy?

23. How will exploring the topic of direct democracy benefit you, your profession, or your workplace?

24. My concern would be that we do need an informed citizenry to do this. Too many people have not bothered to find out about the issues and might think it's cool to vote without informed decisons. It would be a shame to see the system made a mockery of so how would the voters be informed concerning the issues to be voted on?

25. What would be the procedures for voting by the Certified and Registered Voters?

26. I understand what you are saying, however now I have another concern. You mentioned certification might be like a masters program in a school.Will we end up with a very class based voting? Those who can afford the time and money to get certified?

27. You wrote, ".Specialized issues (medicine, etc.) would be voted on by professionals within a particular field." So would only teachers vote on education; police officers votes on issues of law enforcement?

28. I whole-heartedly agree that our system of government is flawed. Direct Democracy would solve some of these problems, but will certainly generate others. As responsible people, we are obligated to consider the consequences of such a change (intended or otherwise), and make adjustments to our plan to minimize these consequences.

Consider these legitimate concerns:

A. Most of the advances in the area of civil liberties have been initially unpopular, at least with the areas of the country being asked to change. If we move to a system of popular vote, how will we insure that the majority doesn't abuse the minority?

B. If we make education a requirement for voting, how will we ensure that the poor have equal access?

C. If we don't make education a requirement for voting, how will we ensure that voters are not being manipulated by those who can afford the most advertising?

29. What is your method of research for this project?

30. Who are your influences concerning this concept?

31. Concerning voter competence and public and legislative acceptance: have often voiced concern about the preparedness of people to participate knowledgeably in such a system and Would they would it or resist because of their vested interest in the present system.

32. I believe I have a firm grasp of the theory and practice behind direct democracy. Concerning the project, what is your ultimate goal? Effect a change in our political system? Publish and have others consider this possibility? Or perhaps something else?

33. I have not heard much about direct democracy before. It sounds like it can create quite a bureaucracy.

34. What are the grassroots efforts that need to be accomplished to get Direct Democracy off the ground? Can it be started locally through school boards, city councils, county supervisors and move to larger centers? How long before it is taught across the nation? Would this too have to begin locally and move to a national level?

35. Have you thought about testing it on a smaller scale? I don't mean starting small and working ot larger. I just mean testing it on a smaller scale so you can work out the bugs and such.

36. In your research have you found examples of top-down social or political movements?

37. What are your objectives for this particular project?

38. It looks like the curriculum for implementation and sustainment of direct democracy is the capstone of your project. Very ambitious.

39. Is the capitalistic system a democratic system?

40. What are some ideas for generating federal government revenue that could be voted on?

41. What about Internet misuse concerning direct democracy?

42. What about the CalTech report that says 4 to 6 million votes were lost during the 2000 presidential election?

43. Will you be addressing the issue of having a percentage of the electoral votes going to each candidate determined by total votes instead of having all go to one candidate?

44. For many years Americans have asked why we are limited to a twelve hour period to cast votes when other countries allow several days or more for voters to cast their votes. Will your project address this issue?

45. Is your focus of Switzerland to show how succesful Direct Democracy can be for a nation? Are there other examples? Will you be exploring the opponents' views of Direct Democracy?

46. Is the U.S. Constitution still relevant?

47. How will technology affect local, state, national, and world government?

48. Is the United States a democracy?

49. What is your rationale for direct democracy?

50. Wouldn't legislators lose their jobs if we had a direct democracy?

51. What will happen to the USA Congress if your plan is implemented?

52. What about a military draft?

53. At what level will a plan of the educational curriculum for the implementation and maintenance of direct democracy be presented? Who will present it?

54. How many Social Studies and Political Science Teachers would you predict taking part in your Likert scale Item survey?

55. In your arguments for and against section, do you plan to address the issue of state's rights? Why did the founders feel the need to protect small states from the popular vote by creating the Senate and the electoral college? Are these reasons still valid?

56. I am guessing Direct Democracy will control special-interest influence and money in the governmental system. How important is it to take politics back to where it began? Have politics and the government ever been pure and just? What about lobbyists? How would they figure in a direct democracy?

57. What about security problems related to voting using the Internet?

58. What about potential problems associated with the implementation of a direct democracy?

59. I admire your courage in trying to change the world. Your top-down approach makes logical sense when you describe it, but will it work in the "real-world"? Most of the time, there's at least a model on the micro-level which the macro-level leaders can follow. For example, small jurisdictions enfranchised women, giving proof to the argument that women could successfully participate in the body politic, before women's suffrage was granted nationally.

60. If the forefathers of the USA were to gather and write the US Constitution today, how would they write it differently?

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1. What is direct democracy?

Direct democracy is the people voting directly on legislative issues rather than through elected officials who can, after they are elected, vote any way they wish. Direct democracy is a concept which began in ancient Athens , Greece where all citizens voted directly on legislative issues. In the modern world, direct democracy was considered impractical to implement on a large scale but it is now possible with the advent of computer and Internet technologies. I think some version of what I am proposing will happen in the future since people should determine their own future and methods of government which is, after all, the meaning of democracy even though there is always resistance and skepticism to new ideas — though beginning 2500 years ago, democracy can hardly be considered a new idea.

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2. What is what Aristotle refers to as the best form of democracy?

Aristotle thought the best form involved an agrarian population. “Aristotle argues that democracy works best when the population of country-dwellers, not town-dwellers, because the former are disinclined to exercise too frequently the democratic right of attendance at the meetings of the assembly in the city; and he dwells at some length on the sterling merits of an agricultural population.” (Aristotle. (1962) The Politics. London : Penguin Books.) By the way, this objective can now be accomplished using the Internet. This website explores some other possibilities.

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3. How is the general will, as described by Rousseau, determined?

There is really no other way to determine the general will except through some sort of vote or survey. The general public is smart enough to consult experts on matters requiring expertise but the general will as expressed through government can only be derived from the general will of the people.

Elitists fear that such a process could have an averaging effect on the culture, in effect, a dumbing down of mass culture. I think it would cause a general elevation of mass culture and elitist interests and characteristics such as talent, genius, and specialities would remain protected and nurtured through continuing support by an understanding and accepting public.

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4. What would be the branches of government in this system?

Executive, Judicial, and Legislative (Senate, House) with Certified Voters (Public Assembly) and Registered Voters.

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5. What are the voting categories?

Below are the possible voting categories:

Category

Function and Issues

Judicial

Executive

Senate

House

Certified Voters

Registered Voters

J

Use, Application, and Interpretation Disputes

Y

 

 

 

 

 

1

Classified Information for Executive Branch and Corollaries

 

Y

 

 

 

 

2

National Defense

 

Y

Y

Y

 

 

3

Military Development

 

Y

Y

Y

 

 

4

Immigration, Emigration

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

5

Foreign Policy and Trade, Wage war

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

6

Economics, Taxation, Citizenship, Research and Development

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

7

Social Issues: Population Control, Abortion, Euthanasia, etc.

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

8

Education, Crime and Punishment, Food Production

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

9

Natural Resource Retrieval and Maintenance

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

10

Health, Welfare, Health Care Insurance

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

11

Creation of Public Institutions, Public Transit, Space Exploration

 

 

Y

Y

Y

 

12

Bonds, Infrastructure Development and Spending

 

 

 

 

Y

Y

13

General Elections, Recalls, Initiatives, Referendums

 

 

 

 

 

Y

14

Election tie

 

 

 

Y

 

 


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6. Who defines the voting categories?

University committees appointed by Congress.

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7. Who votes in the various voting categories?

Issues that could be discussed and decided by either by public votes or by votes by legislative voters including the elected legislature as well as legislative certified voters. The voting category is determined by the expert committees as described above. The expert university committees are appointed by Congress.

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8. How is the issue of voter competence addressed in relation to the Certified Voters?

In a general election, all registered voters can vote including illiterate or uneducated voters and indeed all citizens should be represented in a democracy, however, complicated legislative issues to be voted on should be understood by the voters. My suggestion is to require legislative voters in the public voting section to have a voting certification so that complex and specialized issues can be understood. One issue in obtaining the certificates would be: what should be the difficultly level of the certification requirements. Should they be as easy to obtain as a drivers license or as difficult to obtain as a master's degree (or even a Ph.D.)? I think they should involve training along the lines of obtaining a master's degree and the subject could be offered as a major or minor in colleges and universities.

There would be no limit as to the number of certified voters so potentially all registered voters could become members of the certified voting public. At the beginning of the process the number of certified voters would not be large but conceivably the concept could evolve to the point that millions of voters could be members of the voting Public Assembly thus moving even closer to the objectives of democracy.

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9. Concerning the certified voters, how do they become certified?

They become certified after studying and passing examinations at the university (or equivalent) level and licensing by appropriate governmental agencies. The training would involve either self-study or a degree or courses offered at a university level in the subject area. Most political science and law school graduates would be exposed, during the course of their degree training and education, to the knowledge and training required for the certification required to be a Certified Voter and member of the Public Assembly.

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10. How are the bills to be voted on written?

Bills could be written and submitted by the public to expert committees to have them drafted into the correct form to be voted on.

The issues themselves would be divided into categories as determined by the expert committees which are university committees appointed by Congress. For example, if there were to be a vote on whether to make English the official language in the United States , then a bill would be written and the expert committees might decide to include that as a category 7 issue so that all registered voters would vote on that issue. The above voting category table shows the allocation of voting categories and the chart indicates what segment of the voters would vote on each of the issues.

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11. Is the U.S.A. now the best of all possible political worlds?

Few would share the opinion of Dr. Pangloss and Candide (Voltaire) who embraced an extreme version of the philosophy of optimism, which states that this is the best of all possible worlds, concerning how we are governed. But how could we improve it? This project offers some suggestions to consider.

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12. What quotation are you motivated by in this endeavor?

“Every nation has a right to govern itself internally under what forms it pleases, and to change these forms at its own will.” —Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Pinckney, 1792.

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13. Aren't the people democratically represented by their elected legislators?

“In Part IV (of Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy) we have Schumpeter's argument that the classical doctrine of democracy (referring to representative democracy), namely, that the common good and the popular will prevail, is empirically wrong; that democracy is essentially a competition for political leadership.” (Samuels, 1985, p. 83). “Schumpeter rejected the classical theory of democracy (which he recognized as bourgeois in origin), with its emphasis on the common good and the popular will, and proposed his theory [describing actual contemporary practices of democracy] of competition for political leadership.” (Samuels, 1985, p. 105).

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14. Why do people seek political office?

“Government is thus the object and vehicle of control by the propertied, and they are the propertied in part because of their control of government.” (Samuels, 1985, p. 70).

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15. Can't we just let the elected officials solve society's problems?

“Hitler, it will be recalled, was democratically elected.” (Coe, 1985, p. 15)

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16. Are we all conditioned to think that legislators are experts in all legislative areas?

Charisma is all well and good, but does a politician's charisma or entertainment or speaking ability in itself solve all social ills? Of course not, but often the electorate votes for the most likable candidate making an election a popularity contest. Most often, people vote for the most recognizable or famous name (thus the desirability of a marketable family name, the large advertizing budgets of the candidates, or the desire to have the candidate's name often mentioned in the news -- most desirably in a favorable light) or a name most associated with the position to be voted on. It is also important to remember that, like the general public, legislators are not experts in all areas but are instead elected to represent and speak for the public, supposedly to give a voice to the general will.

Concerning democratization, some, such as many people in the Asian countries, find some aspects of democracy (such as political campaigns) distasteful and undignified. Also, I think some their thinking goes along the lines of: "You wouldn't want an untrained person to pilot your airplane or perform surgery on you, would you?" So I think they think of people running the government as pilots of the "airplane" or "ship" of a nation and would not want untrained, unqualified people elected by the public running a government just as no sane person would consider a public vote to democratically elect untrained or unqualified people to pilot aircraft.

I think some areas of governmental policy need to be determined by experts (but how are those experts to be selected?) buy elected legislators are not expert in all areas to be considered in litigation. I think some issues would need to be screened, examined, and written about by expert committees -- these are usually people university educated in specialized subjects -- and their policies voted on by a consortium of peers educated within that particular field but other issues can be decided on by the voting public and some issues by certified voters.

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17. Should the public be able to recall incompetent elected public officials?

After collecting a petition the public should be able to recall incompetent public officials from office. Since the public places elected officials then the public should also be able to remove those officials.

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18. What about the issue of voter competence?

Concerning direct democracy the issue of voter competence is really what it all boils down to; that is, voter competence is what every one is concerned about in relationship to the feasibility of direct democracy. Or, in other words, do the voters really understand what they are voting on and on the consequences of that vote?

To address that issue, the idea presented in this paper involves creating a section of the voting public consisting of certified voters. These certified voters would undergo a training program in order to obtain legislative voting licenses. Concerning certified voters one question that needs to be addressed is: should the voting certificate be as easy to obtain as a driver's license or as difficult to obtain as a master's degree (or even a Ph.D.) --- I tend to think it should involve a training program similar in depth to a master's degree, in fact, it could be offered as a master's program through schools, universities, and colleges. So the certified voter is one who would go through a training program similar to a master's level graduate degree to obtain a legislative voting license – a license which can be revoked in proven cases of felony or abuse of the voting system.

So, with this participatory system, citizens would have more input concerning the development of their communities and in how they are governed, which, after all, is the meaning of democracy or a government of, by, and for the people.

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19. What does the topic of direct democracy involve?

My topic involves developing and implementing a plan to establish a direct democracy, which is the electorate voting directly on legislative issues in along with their elected representatives. For the purposes of this study this process would occur in the United States of America (it already exists in some countries such as Switzerland ), on a local, state, and federal level.

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20. Why is this topic of interest to you?

With the recent presidential election (and future elections), I think this topic is of interest to everyone. But this idea extends beyond the big elections and into day to day legislation.

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21. What experiences and knowledge do you currently have about this topic?

I have been reading and researching into this topic for several years.

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22. Why specifically are you interested in exploring the concept of direct democracy?

I am interested in delving into all areas of this topic including historical research, education, and practical and technical procedures, as well as the political and sociological aspects, involved in bringing such a concept into reality. Specifically, in this and the other university courses, I am interested in studying how a curriculum, to be used in educational and other public institutions, might be developed – and I plan to help develop one -- in order to realize such a plan. The implementation of such a plan would utilize skills and knowledge learned during academic coursework including aspects involving societal change, developing action plans, research methodology, futuring tools, historical research, philosophy, learning theory (cognition and behaviorism), program evaluation, and using computer technology, through interface design, graphics software, and instructional media tools, to facilitate the implementation of the concept.

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23. How will exploring the topic of direct democracy benefit you, your profession, or your workplace?

I think this concept will be of benefit to everyone, everywhere, because, it will help the concept of democracy become realized, after 2500 years of misuse, by using new technology.

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24. My concern would be that we do need an informed citizenry to do this. Too many people have not bothered to find out about the issues and might think it's cool to vote without informed decisons. It would be a shame to see the system made a mockery of so how would the voters be informed concerning the issues to be voted on?

All registered voters would be able to vote in initiatives, referendums, and general elections. The public would be informed of the issues through printed and electronic media.

Direct democracy is about the citizens helping to decide the methods by which they are governed rather than electing representatives who can, after they are elected, vote any way they choose.

Concerning my idea, it should be kept in mind that all voting in a direct democracy would be done by qualified, certified voters.

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25. What would be the procedures for voting by the Certified and Registered Voters?

Voting would be primarily conducted using Internet technology. Legislative voting on a continuous basis would require certified voters drawn from the pool of registered voters. Certified voters would be unelected members of the public assembly who would vote along with the elected officials but in a separate legislative section or house. Certification would be attained through a training and educational program similar to a master's program in graduate school, in fact, the training could become a master's program within colleges and universities. These legislative voting licenses could be revoked or suspended in proven cases of felony, fraud, or abuse.

Specialized issues (medicine, etc.) would be voted on by professionals within a particular field.

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26. I understand what you are saying, however now I have another concern. You mentioned certification might be like a masters program in a school.Will we end up with a very class based voting? Those who can afford the time and money to get certified?

The reason for certification is to supply the training and skills involved in creating legislation in the same way a teacher is licensed to teach, a pilot to fly, or a doctor to practice medicine. But remember, the major public issues contained within the initiatives, referendums, recalls, and general elections could be voted on by all of the registered voters. And speaking of being class based, I think the Congress now is very class based and exclusive. Also, scholarships, grants, and loans could be made available for certification training and education in much the same way that these forms of financing are available for higher education.

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27. You wrote, ".Specialized issues (medicine, etc.) would be voted on by professionals within a particular field." So would only teachers vote on education; police officers votes on issues of law enforcement?

I probably should not have clouded the waters by mentioning specialized issues because they would really be external to the system I am describing. For example, organizations like the AMA (American Medical Association) would have their own democratic system where they would vote on issues affecting their profession and their profession's relationship to society such as whether or not to use a particular procedure or drug, etc. but the public would vote on the use of certain techniques that would have societal and economic consequences.

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28.Consider these legitimate concerns:

A. Most of the advances in the area of civil liberties have been initially unpopular, at least with the areas of the country being asked to change. If we move to a system of popular vote, how will we insure that the majority doesn't abuse the minority?

B. If we make education a requirement for voting, how will we ensure that the poor have equal access?

C. If we don't make education a requirement for voting, how will we ensure that voters are not being manipulated by those who can afford the most advertising?

Here is a reply for each of the 3 points mentioned above:

A. Democracy has always been about majority rule. That is partly what unions (such as trade unions) are about. And as we know that there is strength in numbers, minorities can band together. A coalition of minorities can make a majority.

“In unity there is strength” from Aesop's Fables, The Bundle of Sticks .

B. All registered voters would vote in general elections, initiatives, recalls, and referendums. The legislative training can be given to poor people who qualify (who will spend the time and effort to study) through grants and scholarships.

C. Lobbyists might end up advertising the way Coca-Cola does on national television but they would be for more topical and time-based issues. Also, both sides could present their stories. We would just have to wait and see how that aspect would play out. That would also just be for the major issues.

Here is an additional thought concerning democracy and financial issues: my topic involves the concept of democracy and a free market system can be considered a type of democracy where people vote on particular products or services with their dollars and cents -- or whatever currency their country uses, however, not everyone has the same amount of monetary currency with which to vote, whereas in a democracy each person has one vote.

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29. What is your method of research for this project?

The methods to research and develop this concept can include interviews with politicians, some of them in the Georgia State Capitol and in the Athens City Hall and others via email. I don't know if I could arrange a trip to Washington, D.C. during this course but some time I would like to interview some politicians and government workers in Washington, D.C. in person though some perhaps could be contacted via the Internet through emailed surveys and questionnaires. Also, I hope to interview political science teachers at the junior high and high school levels as well as at the University of Georgia , Georgia State University , and Emory University . Some could be contacted in person or by telephone and some with email through the Internet to ask their thoughts on direct democracy and Internet voting. Also, some email questionnaires could be sent out to the general public or people that I know who are in my Internet address book including fellow participants in previous Capella courses.

Also, research would involve reading and commenting on books, magazine articles, trade journal articles, and online documents. Libraries can be used at various universities. I also have a substantial library myself on books on the topics of direct democracy and Internet voting which I have accumulated while studying for my Master's degree. The research involves analyses of the concepts and possible scenarios for the implementation of a direct democracy. Also, research will be done on organizations and countries that already use a similar system such as the one in Switzerland as described in Direct Democracy in Switzerland (2002) by Gregory Fossedal.

Part of this procedure is to develop a possible action plan for the implementation of the concept and to begin to develop a curriculum to prepare students and citizens for the implementation of direct democracy and, once it is initiated, to sustain its continuous operation. Part of this plan is to develop a concept to describe the governmental system and the infrastructure which will provide the framework of that governmental system.

In addition to the above mentioned methods of research and conceptual development, I am constructing and maintaining a website for the concept to help create a forum of discussion principles of democracy and a method by which to dispense information pertaining to the topic. I am thinking of calling it “Democracy 2020” for a few reasons. One, it has a nice sound to it; two, it is easy to remember; three, the term 2020 signifies clear vision; and fourth, and primarily, the year 2020 is a goal for a year by which to have the concept implemented in its initial form. The phrase could be continued to be used even after the year 2020 unless another term is decided on to be used after that time.

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30. Who are your influences concerning this concept?

My influences for this plan are many and varied. Ranging from the ancient Greek philosophers of democracy from around 500 B.C. to Adam Smith to Karl Marx to John Dewey to Sigmund Freud to Friedrich Nietzsche and to Jean-Paul Sartre, to name a few. Also, some democratic philosophers such as Montesquieu, Rousseau, Jefferson, and Dewey should be mentioned. Perhaps one of my influences is David Schwartz who wrote “The Magic of Thinking Big” and who I had as a professor in a marketing class who taught to start with a big idea. This concept will have macro and micro elements to it. The advantage of starting the concept at the macro, or national, level is that at the national level everything would filter down and the procedures would become standardized and universally understandable whereas if they all originated at micro, or local, level and then later all the subsystems would, perhaps with difficulty, try to later form the national system. In other words, if the system progressed from micro to macro then there would probably be a diversity of procedures that might be later difficult to consolidate. The idea is for the use of computer and Internet technology for voting on levels ranging from national/federal, to state, to local/city/town, down to organizations and individual schools and clubs, all the way down to the individual voter. All of this would be guided by the collective consciousness and the “unseen hand” as described by Adam Smith.

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31. Concerning voter competence and public and legislative acceptance: have often voiced concern about the preparedness of people to participate knowledgeably in such a system and Would they would it or resist because of their vested interest in the present system.

No Jobs lost! (or no job left behind): In response to your first point, I would hope that the educational system and media would supply the knowledge base to the participants in this system.

As far as the job security of those politicians and government workers already in office, my idea will have the public voting with the legislators, in a separate house, (in the first phase of the plan as an opinion poll collection method) so that the elected legislators will remain in their positions. If anything, it would create more jobs rather than fewer; however, as a result of this system, we might find substantially more frustrated lobbyists drowning their sorrows on an ideological skid row.

Concerning my idea as related to voter competence, it should be kept in mind that all voting on legislative issues in a direct democracy would be done by qualified and certified voters.

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32. I believe I have a firm grasp of the theory and practice behind direct democracy. Concerning the project, what is your ultimate goal? Effect a change in our political system? Publish and have others consider this possibility? Or perhaps something else?

My ultimate goal is to help achieve the ultimate goals of the philosophers of ancient Greece of around 500 BC (and Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Jefferson ) which is a government of, for, and by the people.

I will see what I can do about presenting this to the public (in publications, the Internet, etc.) in the future but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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33. I have not heard much about direct democracy before. It sounds like it can create quite a bureaucracy.

It could be thought of in a similar vein with the voluntary Army in that no one will have to join unless they want to. The system could be streamlined in the beginning design stages to prevent a complicated organizational structure and much of the infrastructure would exist within nonmaterial cyberspace.

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34. What are the grassroots efforts that need to be accomplished to get Direct Democracy off the ground? Can it be started locally through school boards, city councils, county supervisors and move to larger centers? How long before it is taught across the nation? Would this too have to begin locally and move to a national level?

The grassroots efforts would involve getting the public enthusiastic about the idea. -- to get the word out, maybe someone should tell Oprah about the idea. The goal is for this idea to permeate every aspect and level of society to make a working democracy. The concept could start being discussed right away (as we are doing now) and it can be taught in schools when it becomes part of the accepted educational curriculum. Every social movement really begins with an individual or collections of individuals, but now that we have the technology of a mass media and the Internet, the collection of all individuals of a nation (or of the world, for that matter) can be communicated with instantaneously, so that is another reason for starting this on a national level.

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35. Have you thought about testing it on a smaller scale? I don't mean starting small and working ot larger. I just mean testing it on a smaller scale so you can work out the bugs and such.

Every social movement really begins with an individual or collections of individuals, but now that we have the technology of a mass media and the Internet, the collection of all individuals of a nation (or of the world, for that matter) can be communicated with instantaneously, so that is another reason for starting this on a national level. But you are right, some pilot tests should be done on a smaller scale to work of the functionality of the procedures. These could be done in schools, universities, clubs, small towns, neighborhoods, etc.

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36. In your research have you found examples of top-down social or political movements?

We could be dealing in semantics but I think there are many examples of top-down changes. Some involve violent changes or revolutions such as assassinations of political leaders (such as the execution in 1642 of King Charles I in England and the beheading in 1793 of Marie Antoinette in France) , political coups, or forceful removal of leaders as was done recently by the U.S.A. in Iraq, ostensibly to affect a top down change -- the U.S. officials are looking for Osama bin Laden for the same reasons. Also, I think there are top-down changes when new ideas are involved such as was the case with the Internet where the design and concept was created at the top and is now used by everyone at the bottom. I think of the idea I am suggesting in this vein, though an idea first introduced on a relatively large scale by Solon in Athens, Greece in 594 BC can hardly be considered new -- the new aspect is using new technology (specifically the Internet) to achieve an ancient ideal. Also, I think of the implementation of my suggestion as being gradual and evolutionary -- somewhat like the introduction of the euro currency which was first discussed in the 1950s -- rather than sudden and revolutionary.

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37. What are your objectives for this particular project?

To conduct a thorough review of literature on the subject
To research historical precedents of the subject.
To interview politicians, social studies and political science teachers, and the public.
To conduct questionnaires and surveys to relevant focus groups.
To develop a website on the subject.
To begin to develop a curriculum for the implementation and sustaining of a direct democracy.

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38. It looks like the curriculum for implementation and sustainment of direct democracy is the capstone of your project. Very ambitious.

The idea might sound ambitious but it is not nearly as ambitious as the Internet itself: it is another practical use of the for the Internet.

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39. Is the capitalistic system a democratic system?

The free market system can also be considered a type of democracy where people vote for particular products or services with their dollars and cents -- or whatever currency their country uses; however, not everyone has the same amount of currency with which to "vote" whereas in a democracy each person is supplied one vote.

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40. What are some ideas for generating federal government revenue that could be voted on?

Here is something that could be considered for a referendum to be voted on by the public: a federal sales tax.

We would need to get our calculators out for this but I think if every retail sale in each of the 50 states had a 1 or 2 % federal sales tax then over a period of time the federal coffers could be filled and people would not even realizing or feeling that they are being taxed -- sort of a pay-as-you-go plan with the funds flowing like water running through pipes. These would all be done with electronic transfers at cash registers so that it becomes automatic, similar to automatic bank drafts, without actual paper money cash payments required. Perhaps this process could substantially decrease, and eventually eliminate, the jolting lump sums and fines of income taxes that are now used to generate federal government revenue.

I think politicians are becoming more aware of the political uses of the Internet (they all have websites) and will adapt to the use of the Internet as a voting instrument as the concept becomes more developed.

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41. What about Internet misuse concerning direct democracy?

The same people who are concerned about Internet fraud for voting are probably unconcerned about online banking transactions, which is how practically all funds are transferred nowadays, and the same type of technology (using encryption, etc.) can be used in Internet voting.

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42. What about the CalTech report that says 4 to 6 million votes were lost during the 2000 presidential election?

4 to 6 million lost votes:

This is from a Caltech and MIT report entitled: Voting: What Is, What Could Be -- Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project.

It is an intriguing evaluative study that I would suggest for everyone to read, especially for those interested in future of democracy and political institutions. The evaluation was done by teams of researchers from Caltech and MIT and can be read in its entirety by activating the link in the reference below.

In Part One of the Report the authors say that:

"We estimate that between four and six million presidential votes were lost in the 2000 election. These are qualified voters who wanted to vote but could not or were not counted. (Losses occur for two reasons: first, some voters do not, or cannot, participate due to problems with voter registration or polling place practices; second, some votes that are cast are not counted due to problems with ballots.)

Two million ballots, two percent of the 100 million ballots cast for president in 2000, were not counted because they were unmarked, damaged, or ambiguous.

Of this two percent it is estimated that 0.5 percent did not intend to vote for president, so 1.5 percent (or 1.5 million people) thought they voted for president but their votes were not counted". (Caltech/MIT, 2001, 8).

In this well planned and conducted 92 page evaluative report there are numerous statistics as well as suggestions as to how to remedy the problems associated with public voting and how to incorporate new available technology to implement their suggestions.

References:

Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, California Institute of Technology and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corporation. (2001). Voting: What is, What could be. Retrieved October 16, 2004 from http://www.vote.caltech.edu/Reports/july01/July01_VTP_%20Voting_Report_Entire.pdf

Bushell, Sue. (2003). Where to Now for E-Voting? Retrieved October 25, 2004 from: http://www.cio.com.au/index.php?id=405941257&eid=-601

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43. Will you be addressing the issue of having a percentage of the electoral votes going to each candidate determined by total votes instead of having all go to one candidate?

I have always wondered about that: why the total number of electoral votes of a state goes to a candidate rather than a percentage based on the number of votes received by the candidates. I have read the Constitution several times looking for that point and I have not seen where it says that all of the electoral votes goes to one candidate. By the way, my idea of Internet voting is a separate issue from the Electoral College so my idea could conceivably coexist with it but the archaic Electoral College at some point in the future will be replaced.

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44. For many years Americans have asked why we are limited to a twelve hour period to cast votes when other countries allow several days or more for voters to cast their votes. Will your project address this issue?

When over seas, I have gotten absentee ballots and have also used them while I have been in the USA for the same reason that you mentioned – so that the issues can be studied and considered prior to the voting procedures. One reason for having the ballots online is that they issues can be studied prior to going into the voting booth. Concerning Internet voting, the voters will have a window of time, perhaps 72 hours, in which their submission can be modified by them.

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45. Is your focus of Switzerland to show how succesful Direct Democracy can be for a nation? Are there other examples? Will you be exploring the opponents' views of Direct Democracy?

Yes, I plan to show how it is working in Switzerland and other places and that it can be utilized it the USA also. The books and sources include both sides of the issues -- the federalist and the populist -- of the issue with some of the sources in favor of representative and some in favor of direct democracy. My idea combines both concepts as a sort of compromise between the two positions. The federalist position believes that ordinary people are not capable of governing themselves whereas the populists are suspicious of the authorities and would like to be able to have a government based on the will of the people. The main problem, of course, is: how is the will of the people to be determined? In a representative system someone is elected to represent and think like the majority of the people who elected him which is, in actuality, an impossible task. Someone might think of having a representative as like an actor having an agent -- no one would expect the actor to be looking in the want ads for all of his acting roles so someone needs to take care of some of his needs so that he can concentrate on his art but also that agent is representing one person, not a population of thousands or millions of people. Perhaps a more descriptive analogy is that a the relationship between the government and the governed is comparable to the relationship of a parent and a child – at what point is the child considered capable of making his own decisions rather than having them made by a parent or authority?

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46. Is the U.S. Constitution still relevant?

Of course, the Constitution is still relevant. When the United States Constitution was written, the forefathers wrote an all-encompassing and a sweeping document that is still relevant, has stood the test of time, and has withstood the difficulties, controversies, and amendments that have occurred during its existence. But this document was written around 1776 and the society at the time was very different from the society of today. The forefathers, even with all of their foresight and all-inclusiveness were not able to factor in dramatic future changes in technology and, resultingly, in society. They could not have foreseen a future with telephones, radios, televisions, cars, airplanes, jet engines, rockets, computers, the Internet, etc. Now that the new technologies are here and will continue to grow, advance, and be perfected, we need to examine how this affects society, the government, and the Constitution.

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47. How will technology affect local, state, national, and world government?

Technology will enrich and enhance existing governmental structures and will serve as a uniting force for all of humanity. It will change (and indeed IS changing everything now) the way people live, work, and communicate and it will ultimately change the method by which they are governed.

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48. Is the United States a democracy?

The answer to this may depend upon your definition but it is not a direct democracy. Perhaps the most precise phrase to use is that the United States is an elected and appointed oligarchy.

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49. What is your rationale for direct democracy?

In its military campaigns the government of the United States says it wants to promote and protect democracy. But is the United States a democracy? It is a republic or a representative democracy or, more precisely, an elected and appointed oligarchy. An example of a democracy within the United States federal government is the U.S. Congress where the members debate and vote usually for a simple majority to win a case or a referendum or to pass a bill. When a presidential election is held today well over 100 million people can vote. The United States Constitution created the Electoral College for, I have heard, several reasons and one of them is to prevent mob rule or for a government run by the uneducated (though now, most people are receiving high levels of education in comparison with the past of the forefathers). Another possible reason that the electoral college was institutionalized was because, at the time the Constitution was written, if a national election were to be held, tallying the votes would be an almost impossible task. Then, a sack of votes, or the results of local voting, would have to be sent by a messenger riding horseback. Just carrying the votes from California (or Georgia , during the time of the 13 colonies) to Washington , D.C. could take weeks, that is, if they ever got to their destination. Today, we live in a very different world where messages are transmitted instantaneously worldwide via telephones, computers, or the Internet.

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50. Wouldn't legislators lose their jobs if we had a direct democracy?

Perhaps some legislators feel that their jobs and roles are threatened but my idea involves adding direct democracy to the representative legislatures and not replacing them. If anything, this concept will create new jobs.

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51. What will happen to the USA Congress if your plan is implemented?

My idea is not to eliminate the U.S. Congress as it exists now but to add a new section: the Public Assembly. The passage of a bill would require a majority vote in each of the 3 sections: the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Public Assembly. The difference in the three sections is that the Public Assembly would have many more voters and would exist in the virtual world of cyberspace. (A similar concept could be utilized on the state and local levels also). Some might think of the idea as revolutionary but I prefer to call it evolutionary. I think the technology of computers and the Internet is much more revolutionary and what could be more revolutionary and radical than the American Revolutionary War and the accompanying documents of independence? Rather than a radical idea, this is an idea to utilize existing technology to realize an ancient ideal.

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52. What about a military draft?

When I was in Korea I learned that every South Korean male is required to serve in the military for two years (unless there is a rare exemption for them, usually for health reasons). I think serving one's country in some capacity might bea good idea. It would not necessarily have to be in the military if that means every citizen in the USA : it could be Peace Corps or government offices of some sort.

I don't believe a military draft is a good idea because voluntary service affords a higher level of quality than forcing people to join. If people are forced into an organization that they do not want to be in they can cause more trouble than help to a cause. I just met someone, Joe, who was in the Navy as a career and for a while he was on a submarine. He said that at one point there was a saboteur on board who was writing anonymous and threatening notes and scaring everyone on board. Joe said he thought it was on of the young officers who did not want that assignment.

A military draft is the sort of issue that can be determined by public debates and votes.

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53. At what level will a plan of the educational curriculum for the implementation and maintenance of direct democracy be presented? Who will present it?

If you click on the curriculum link in my outline you will see that this plan starts with pre-kindergarten and will go up through post-secondary and adult education. This will be presented primarily by school teachers in public and private schools but it could also be taught by tutors and parents in home schooling environments or possibly in business, company, community, or government organizations.

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54. How many Social Studies and Political Science Teachers would you predict taking part in your Likert scale Item survey?

I will try to get lists of as many of the Social Science teachers and politicians as I can send out as many as I can. I think for a completely blind or surprise mailing the response can be 3% but with specialized focus groups such as these maybe 10 to 30% so it depends on how many I send out. We'll just have to wait and see.

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55. In your arguments for and against section, do you plan to address the issue of state's rights? Why did the founders feel the need to protect small states from the popular vote by creating the Senate and the electoral college? Are these reasons still valid?

My idea is to add a public section to the legislatures but to leave everything else intact. The idea in the Congress is for the House of Representatives to reflect the populations of the states and for the Senate to have equal representation so that in the Senate Rhode Island is equal to California though in terms of population, economy, and land area many Rhode Islands could be placed inside of California. The states will continue to have state sovereignty so that the big states can not bully the smaller states. It is interesting that the word state is usually used to describe a national government -- such as the state government of India -- so the United States can be seen to be like a collection of 50 countries which is one reason that the USA has become the superpower that it is, in addition to everyone being able to communicate with the same verbal language (in Europe, every country has its own language and that slows down international communication quite a bit). My idea is only to enhance or enrich the existing structure of government on the local, state, and federal level by adding the direct democracy element that I have been describing.

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56. I am guessing Direct Democracy will control special-interest influence and money in the governmental system. How important is it to take politics back to where it began? Have politics and the government ever been pure and just? What about lobbyists? How would they figure in a direct democracy?

I recently read in the New York Review of Books that over 500 million dollars a year is spent maintaining lobbyists in Washington . How many school lunches is that (or how many bribes)? Lobbyists could try to influence large numbers of people but they would not be able to bribe millions of people whereas sliding a few enticements under the table to swing-voting legislators would be relatively easier to do.

Clarification:The New York Review of Books in an article about the Saudi Arabia 's relationship to the U.S.A. mentions that Saudi Arabia , to improve its image in the United States , spent "$17.6 million on lobbyists in the U.S. since September 11, 2001, according to the Justice Department." If only Saudi Arabia spent that much then how much would the amount be including all world governments and large corporations? That is difficult to ascertain since much of what goes on in that arena is clandestine and indirect.

The article also mentions that “local American lobbyists booked some $890 million worth of trade in 2003 alone to influence state governments.” (Rodenbeck, 2004).

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57. What about security problems related to voting using the Internet?

Security solutions for Internet voting would include encryption techniques similar to those used in online banking transactions and would use secure forms of personal identification. Laws would be enacted so that any fraudulent misuse of the system would involve severe punishment.

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58. What about potential problems associated with the implementation of a direct democracy?

To say that direct democracy should not implemented because of potential problems is like saying someone should not ride in a car since there is a possibility of an accident occurring. If there is truly validity to the concept of democracy then the concept of direct democracy will become reality at some point even if it is not within our lifetimes. Perhaps we can all make it happen soon enough so that we can experience it too.

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59. I admire your courage in trying to change the world. Your top-down approach makes logical sense when you describe it, but will it work in the "real-world"? Most of the time, there's at least a model on the micro-level which the macro-level leaders can follow. For example, small jurisdictions enfranchised women, giving proof to the argument that women could successfully participate in the body politic, before women's suffrage was granted nationally.

Yes, I think the concept will work in the "real world". I think everything begins with an idea (such as the United States of America with its Constitution) which is then implemented. Dreams precede, and form the basis of, reality.

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60. If the forefathers of the USA were to gather and write the US Constitution today, how would they write it differently?

An interesting speculative exercise would be to imagine what document the same forefathers of 1776 would write if they wrote the Constitution today. I think that changes in technology would definitely affect the resulting document. Also, I do not think so much power would have been given to the president, in fact, I think that was not the original intention but that is the way the government has evolved up to this point. But the document they wrote did allow for change, or changing the rules as you phrased it, and that is why amendments are allowed.

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