Initiatives v Oligarchy

Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Are Citizens Competent to be IQA Members?

The competence of the average U.S. voter receives it greatest test when twelve of them are randomly selected as jury persons to decide the truth in matters ranging up to death sentences and billion dollar legal awards. This is our guarantee of justice under the constitution. It works surprisingly well, and when it occasionally goes wrong it is more the result of being given incorrect information than that the jury is not competent — it is seldom that a judge overrules a jury verdict. There is no good reason why we should not extend the democratic principle behind jury service to a much larger IQA that statistically is far more likely to make valid decisions.

Of course, a jury gets expert advice from the lawyers, judge, police, and expert witnesses. Similarly, the IQA will call in all the expert advice and testimony that it requires. The IQA’s primary responsibility is to decide which proposed Initiatives to advance and which to put aside. The requirements needed to make these decisions is discussed at length in the IQA Wisdom. The IQA’s broad range of views and abilities will permit it to arrive at good common-sense decisions about the Proposed Initiatives, but they will call upon outside lawyers to advise and assist in qualifying the Initiative legislation. Nevertheless, Initiatives’ legal issues should usually be relatively modest because the IQA is expected (but not obliged) to stay away from complex legislation, which is much more the business of Congress.

The original Athenian democracy model, wherein a Council of Five-Hundred citizens selected by lottery had considerable authority to run the affairs of the state with more jurisdiction and authority than is planned for the IQA in this Amendment. The Athenian model worked well for nearly 200 years, produced a Golden Age, was the cradle of Western Civilization, and fell only due to invasion by the Macedonian family of Alexander the Great.

In 2004, the Canadian Province of British Columbia (population 4.2 million) made deliberative direct-democracy history by convening a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. The Assembly consisted of 161 randomly selected voters serving part-time with pay over a period of 11 months. Their deliberations led to a proposed new electoral system (a Direct Initiative) that went directly to vote by the people of British Columbia at the provincial general elections on May 17, 2005. A 60 percent vote was needed for passage, but it received only 57 percent of the vote and therefore failed. The reports, videos and voice recordings of the B.C. Citizen’s Assembly’s activities are available for viewing and download. The issues were complex but a stratified random sample of voters was up to the job. Moreover, because of the high level of support, it is understood that the issue will be taken up again at the May 2009 elections.

People rise to the occasion. There is good reason to trust their combined judgment to act wisely in the best interests of the United States and its People—certainly a more objective reason than the elected representatives who have long been subjected to excessive influence from wealthy special interests groups and their lobbyists.