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)

What Safeguards are Provided in this Solution?

Safeguards Provided in this SolutionThe wisdom of initiatives solution provides safeguards against tampering, corruption, tyranny, etc. It uses expert advice and includes automatic repeal in 10th and 20th year.

The wisdom of initiatives solution provides safeguards against tampering, corruption, etc. Citizens often speak of their Constitution as an experiment – a description probably first used by George Washington. Nevertheless, since it has proven itself for over 200 years, this Plan should not expose the People to unnecessary risk. As the future is unpredictable, it is always wise to avoid any undue risks by providing safeguards. The famous dictum “Above all, do no harm” is entirely appropriate. Consequently, this Plan incorporates many safeguards whose purpose is to anticipate and avoid problems, and, if they occur, to have an easy solution. They will have a significant effect on the Plan’s success.

Safeguards against Corruption, Tampering, Media Interference, Improper Influence

The IQA (Initiatives Qualifying Assembly) method has four areas of protection that make it virtually impossible (though no doubt they will try) for special interests groups to affect the evaluation of Initiatives, their language, and whether the IQA places them on the ballot. The objective is to prevent wrongdoing before it becomes a problem.

  1. Corruption or Tampering

An elected body is always subject to improper influence because members actively seek the job and need financing and support. Special interests groups know who they are and have rights to access them. On the other hand, for someone attempting to corrupt or tamper with the IQA, their problems are daunting. An IQA of randomly selected private citizens serving for only one year and protected like a grand jury is virtually immune to corruption or tampering. Yet the IQA has more powerful protections than a grand jury—in the belief that prevention is better than a cure. The offences are federal felonies; those guilty are criminals who will serve jail time. Consequently, the chance of significant or persistent corruption is insignificant:

      1. The IQA does not publish sitting Members’ identities and the justice system protects this information.
      2. The IQA consists of 500 temporary targets of unknown morality and susceptibility. The risks of corruption decline with increasing size or the IQA. For example, if there were only one member in an IQA, that person could be identified and corrupted. If there are 12 members, as in a jury, the risks are similar to those of a jury. If there are 500 members, anyone attempting to influence enough members to sway their deliberations would assume a colossal risk of discovery, a risk no sane person would undertake.
      3. IQA Members receive significant major rewards for turning in a suspect leading to successful prosecution.
      4. Law enforcement detects violations and gathers evidence including setting periodic “sting traps”, so criminals have no way of knowing if they are being set up.
      5. The penalties are significant. They involve mandatory time in a federal penitentiary. This is a major deterrent for white-collar or wealthy criminals. The minimum penalty for each offence is ten days and the maximum is ten years in federal penitentiary plus a maximum fine of ten percent of net individual and/or organization assets.
      6. Officers and directors are personally and corporately liable for failure to prevent violations by their subordinates by reasonable due diligence.
      7. IQA votes are secret, so criminals have no way to know if they managed to buy a vote.
    1. Media Interference

IQA Members are private persons who serve a citizen’s duty—they are not public figures. This is crucial, because the Media will perceive the IQA as a goldmine of valuable stories.

    1. A federal court-issued gag order protects the IQA and its Members.
    2. A Member’s protection of privacy extends to their families.
    3. The gag order’s duration is sufficient to cover the period while an ex-Member’s work is still in progress, so that the ex-Member cannot influence the outcome.
    4. The gag order makes is difficult for criminals to get Member information
    5. The gag order makes is difficult for special interest groups to use the Media to influence the IQA.
  1. Outside Influence Day-to-day casual contact between the IQA and the outside world would become an easy route for influence. Therefore, contact must be short-term, formal and documented.
    1. There can be no direct communication between those who propose an Initiative and the IQA Members. Instead, communications are by newspaper publication or by web publication.
    2. The IQA has no permanent bureaucracy that could gain inappropriate influence, even if this sacrifices some short-term efficiency.
    3. The IQA places limitations on service providers’ (e.g., advisors and consultants) contract durations.
  2. Internal Influence
    Members must vote their independent un-coerced opinions. The IQA cannot permit Members to form their own pressure groups, or to interact with influential employees, or to work closely with Citizens who propose Initiatives, otherwise they could improperly influence the IQA.
    1. The IQA does not have any employees. It lets contacts for all services and the rules forbid long-term contractual relationships.
    2. The Members may not form into group associations such as political parties at the IQA.
    3. The IQA cannot change a Citizen-proposed initiative, though it may suggest corrections and/or improvements to the Authors who may then re-propose it.

Best Available Help and Expert Advice

The IQA has the authority to seek the best advice it can find from any sources it wishes to augment its inherent wisdom. The decision who to invite will be made entirely by the IQA to retain its independence. Experts may not become permanent, or even too frequent, participants—the IQA Rules forbid institutionalization. When outside witnesses refuse to testify, or are evasive, the IQA has the right to subpoena information to assure that it is fully informed. For example:

  • The IQA can ask for advice from the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court.
  • The IQA has freedom to bring in the best minds and most knowledgeable people in the world to advise them on proposed Initiatives.
  • The IQA can hold hearings. These can be at its facilities or a group of Members could go to some other location.
  • The IQA has the right to subpoena information and testimony from persons or sources who might otherwise withhold it.
  • Once the newspaper publishes a proposed Initiative and the IQA arranges its entry into the IQA’s database, the public can comment and provide feedback on it. Once the IQA publishes a draft Candidate Initiative, the IQA will receive nationwide feedback that it can use with the authors to improve an Initiative until the IQA publishes the final Candidate Initiative. Once the IQA publishes a Candidate Initiative, feedback can continue for all to see, but the IQA can only allow the Candidate Initiative to proceed to vote or withdraw it, as there will be no time to process changes.

Competent Proposed Initiatives Involving of All the People

Generation of Proposed Initiatives involves the entire country. For example, competent citizens’ groups, public interest organizations and the various levels of Government will be important sources of worthy Proposed Initiatives.
Citizens or organizations who abuse their right to propose initiatives, especially where their abuse attempts to clog or confuse the system with publication of an excess of proposed initiatives or comments on proposed initiatives initiated by themselves or through their surrogates. The maximum penalty is one year in federal penitentiary plus a maximum fine of five percent of net individual and/or organization assets.

Safeguards of Constitutional Protection and the Federal Courts

U.S. Federal Courts are the guardians of our constitutional rights. They are integral to the safeguards in several ways.

  • Laws passed by legislative Initiatives are always subject to the same judicial review as laws passed by Congress. The Federal Courts can overturn Laws that contravene the Constitution. Contestants can appeal decisions up to the Supreme Court. This will be and has always been the U.S. Citizens’ basic protection of rights, and is unaffected by this Citizens’ Initiatives Amendment.
  • Amendments submitted by constitutional Initiatives and ratified by the States are subject to constitutional interpretations by the Federal Courts.
  • The IQA can ask the opinion of the Federal Courts on Draft Candidate Initiatives. Though the Courts are not obliged to provide advice, there is an expectation that they will provide guidance to avoid serious error.
  • Each step of this Solution is constitutionally sound. The People and the States together can achieve it. This is important because many approaches to direct democracy fall outside the definitions of the Constitution and are therefore far more revolutionary.

Control of IQA Workload

The IQA will control the workload on the Members. The IQA controls under its starting Charter several factors without additional approval by the People:

  • Number of IQA Members
    The IQA can increase the number of Members to 600 or reduce them to 300 by supermajority vote, provide the budget is adequate.
  • Hours that Members Serve
    The normal budget is set for up to 60 workdays per year. However, there is flexibility in this. The IQA has the discretion to increase the workload in the first year to 120 workdays per year to meet any large demands.
  • Numbers of Candidate Initiatives
    The number selected and qualified are a maximum of twelve Direct Initiatives and twelve Indirect Initiatives. These numbers will normally be less, as dictated by the IQA’s workload (and the need not to overburden the voters).
  • Size of Citizen Groups
    The IQA can increase the number of Citizens required to sign a Proposed Initiative from 25 to 100, (or reduce it from 25 to 5) in order to control the rate at which Citizens propose Initiatives.
  • Filing Fee for Proposing Initiatives
    Ideally there should be no significant fee—the cost of publishing the Proposed Initiative should prove an adequate brake on excessive numbers of proposed Initiatives. However, when the people first have the right to propose Initiatives, their novelty will produce a risk of an excess of submittals. Moreover, novelty may lead to lower-than-desired standards, the IQA may need to refine its procedures, and excessive influx may lead to a logjam. Therefore, the IQA can also control the number of proposed by adding a filing or submittal charge between zero and $20,000 per proposed initiative. An initial filing fee of $10,000 should keep the numbers down to manageable numbers—it is best to prevent the flood than try to control it once it has started. The IQA should probably use a fee only as a temporary measure. The IQA can adjust the fee very quickly by a supermajority vote.
  • Backlog of Partially Evaluated Proposed Initiatives
    The IQA can give proposed Initiatives a cursory evaluation and place them in a backlog if the number submitted is greater than the Members can accommodate.
  • Reduced IQA Operations
    If the number of Proposed Initiatives is less than the capacity of the IQA to process them, the IQA can cut back on its operations to reduce its costs.

Safeguards by Double Approval of an Initiative

Both Houses of Congress must approve a Congressional bill and the President may veto it as a double check. Similarly, the IQA qualifies a Candidate Initiative by a double vote (in two readings separated by three months to ensure a changed membership) as a double check. Then the Electorate votes to ratify or reject it. The differences are:

  • Congress can override a Presidential veto, but the IQA has no corresponding power.
  • A Candidate Initiative is subject to months of public scrutiny, debate, and attack before each of the two votes, whereas the President’s approval has no requirement for scrutiny, or debate.

Duty and Oath by Members

When the lottery system randomly selects a citizen for membership in the IQA, it is their duty to accept or to persuade a Federal Court that their acceptance could cause excessive hardship. The penalty for failing to accept is a maximum of three months in federal penitentiary plus a maximum fine of five percent of net assets. Upon accepting, they must take an Oath confirming their acceptance of their responsibilities. Each Member represents a theoretical 406,000 voters whose opinions are similar to their own. This creates substantial gravitas for fulfillment of their obligations.
The IQA develops guidelines that the Federal Courts use to define excessive hardship. If the IQA finds that the initial system creates too many serious problems, the Amendment permits a fallback to selection from Citizens who agree in advance that they are willing to serve. However, this will permit important minorities—e.g., highly skilled Citizens—to be under represented. Moreover, it will permit an advantage to special interests that can persuade their members always to accept invitations to serve. Consequently, the accuracy with which the IQA mirrors the People will decline.

Evolutionary not Revolutionary Process

The Solution is an evolutionary process that is constitutionally sound. It uses the Constitution’s Second Method of amending the Constitution. The existing powers of the States are sufficient to achieve it.
The Amendment grants the IQA a Charter with broad authority so that it can evolve, improve, and meet changing circumstances without repeated Amendments. It gives the IQA the ability to get the People’s permission for important changes by Direct Initiative. A supermajority vote of the IQA can make less important changes. A majority vote of the IQA can make regular changes.

Feedback on Proposed Initiatives from Electorate

Immediately after the newspaper publishes each proposed Initiative, the IQA enters them into its database. Thereafter, the People can comment and provide feedback on proposed Initiatives adding all their wisdom to the process. The IQA will indicate which Initiatives are in the short list. When an Initiative reached draft Candidate status, the IQA will receive increasing feedback. This will continue until the IQA publishes it in the newspaper and on the database as a Candidate Initiative. The feedback will generally continue for nearly a year. Once the IQA publishes a Candidate Initiative, feedback can continue for all to see, but the IQA can only allow the Candidate Initiative to proceed to vote or withdraw it, as there will be no time to process changes.

Nationwide Electorate Makes the Final Decisions

The People propose the Initiatives. The IQA only manages the qualification of Proposed Initiatives and selects which Direct Initiatives go on the ballot; the nationwide Electorate votes to pass or reject the Initiatives. This is part of the checks and balances of the Solution that assure any misjudgments by the IQA do not become law. In other words, the People always have the final say—the IQA cannot impose its will on the People.
Because the IQA is a random sample of the Electorate, it thinks like the Electorate. Consequently, the Electorate will generally be positive about the Candidate Initiatives appearing on the Ballot. The IQA’s opinions will influence the People because the IQA will acquire considerable respect over time. Of course, once the IQA publishes a draft Candidate Initiative, everyone (including special interests) will comment on and discuss it in public forum. Consequently, when the People make the final vote, they will be able to make a well-informed decision.

Informed Opinions Attached

Having received the best advice and wisdom possible, the IQA will append their majority and minority opinions to each Draft Candidate Initiative. It is likely that voters will give this close attention because it will represent an unbiased view of the issues. The IQA will also submit the Draft Candidate Initiative for opinions from the original authors, the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. Thus, the voters will get valuable well-informed opinions that they can use in addition to interpretations and evaluations presented in the press and media in the often-frenzied run up to the election.

Safeguards for Independence of the IQA and its Members

The Constitutional Amendment creates the as a separate entity from Government. Its creation includes all the organizational features necessary for it to operate independently from Government. For example:

  • There is a complete difference between “representatives of the people” and the IQA “i.e., Citizens’ Initiatives Assembly”.
    • In the first case, there is no guarantee that elected representatives of the people will represent the people and they will inevitably be subject to influence by special interests.
    • ii. In the second case, because members of the IQA are a random sample of the people, the IQA mirrors the People to an assured degree of accuracy. The IQA members’ best interests are virtually the same as the People’s best interests.
  • The IQA is financially independent. Though it derives its funds in full and in advance from the Government, the People set its budget. The Government might exercise some control—e.g., by failure to pass their budget in a timely manner—over the IQA if Government were the IQA’s only source of funds. Therefore, the IQA may borrow on the credit of the United States, and if all else fails, it may accept unconditional philanthropic gifts.
  • The People vote the IQA’s budget, the remuneration of the Members, and the Members’ financial incentives. If the IQA wishes to change Part A of its Charter, it must ask permission of the People.
  • If the people do not like its performance, the People can vote it out of existence.

Priority of Initiatives

The Solution sets an order of priority for advancing proposed Initiatives:

  • Check and balance, provide oversight and remedy representative democracy, but not supersede it.
  • Set policies, principles, objectives, and limits so that government shall best benefit the general well-being.
  •  Resolve issues of importance to the People that the government has not addressed adequately.

It also restrains the IQA from advancing Initiatives on problems that may be emotionally appealing but are not feasible or for which funds are unavailable.

Safeguards for Protection of Minority and Majority Rights and against Tyranny

The IQA can protect Minority constitutional rights better than Congress. In the IQA, the membership correctly represents minorities, whereas in Congress men outnumber women by 7 times, majorities outnumber minorities by 2.7 times.
The IQA can also protect majority constitutional right better than Congress because the IQA Members fully represent the People’s majorities. However, in Congress the preponderance of wealthy white male lawyers make Congress a unique subset of the population at large.
IQA Members must vote their own independent un-coerced opinion after open-minded deliberation. Moreover, they cannot participate in voting by any group affiliation, vote trading, sale, or favor. Hence, it is very unlikely that the IQA might select and qualify a tyrannous Initiative.
Finally, of course, a double majority vote of the nationwide Electorate must approve Initiatives. It is in the run-up to the election that the fight to protect against tyranny will occur totally in the open and everyone can weigh in on the debate without constraint.

Repeal Safeguards Clause

It is apparent from the two-hundred-year success of the U.S. Constitution that it can function well, and that Initiatives are just an improvement, albeit a valuable one. Therefore, if the Initiatives do not prove themselves of sufficient benefit to the citizens, it is prudent to have a graceful exit plan in the form of a repeal safeguard clause. It is always possible to repeal a constitutional Amendment, as was the case when Amendment 21 repealed Amendment 18 (prohibition). However, repeal by another constitutional Amendment is a substantial and time-consuming effort—hardly a graceful exit.
Consequently, if this Initiatives Amendment Solution does not meet the People’s expectations, this constitutional Amendment provides that the IQA must submit a Direct Initiative to the Electorate after ten and again after twenty years posing the question “should the Constitutional Amendment authorizing nationwide Initiatives and the IQA be continued or repealed?” The Electorate will decide by double majority vote. This will avoid the possibility that a minority of the Electorate despite majority wishes can retain the Solution. Should the Electorate choose to repeal, the Amendment will be repealed immediately the vote has been certified, meaning that the IQA and Initiatives will cease to exist, though Initiatives previously or concurrently passed will remain as if enacted by Congress. Congress will then have the power to modify all legislative Initiatives, but not to modify constitutional Initiatives. It makes the Solution much more acceptable to those who consider it may risk unforeseeable consequences, and avoids the major effort of a second constitutional amendment as happened with the repeal of prohibition.

Safeguards Against Runaway IQA

It is possible in any Assembly (including Congress) that a charismatic orator will gain the ability to lead the assembly to unwise choices. This could theoretically result in inappropriate Initiatives getting onto the ballot. The probability is low, because it will generally take a year or two for a proposed Initiative to reach Candidate Initiative status, whereas the makeup of the IQA changes each month and entirely over the course of a year, so the charismatic orator would hold sway for only a few months. Nevertheless, if it happens, the double check system is the assurance against passage of bad initiatives.
The chance of the People passing a bad Initiative is probably less than Congress and the President passing a bad bill. The underlying reasons are that a congressional bill essentially involves two independent organizations and emotion can be a major factor, whereas a nationwide Initiative essentially involves three independent organizations and is less emotionally charged:

  • Congress writes the bills and approves them, thereby becoming committed to their own creation. Though the houses must negotiate a compromise, they are often controlled by the same party and are not really independent. Both Houses of Congress and the President are all subject to powerful influence by the same special interests and often by the same political pressures. Moreover, Congress can override the President’s veto. Congress quite often has short emotional finales for passage of sensitive bills.
  • By comparison, a group of Citizens writes a proposed Initiative, an independent IQA selects and qualifies it, and the nationwide Electorate approves it. Overall, this involves several years of consideration and debate. Time and space separation of the organizations reduces the emotional content of the process.

Safeguards Protecting State Rights

Previous attempts to give U.S. voters the right to propose and vote on U.S. Initiatives have received little support from the States, which often perceived this as a further centralization of government. However, in this Amendment, the States through their Legislatures or Governors are granted the States rights equivalent to Congress for expedited Initiative with pro-rata bipartisan (or multi-partisan if appropriate) approval by at least twenty percent of their membership. Moreover, the States will be able to propose Initiatives that, if approved by the People, can limit the Federal Government’s delegation of its responsibilities to the States and subsequent mandated spending by States.
To protect State rights, passage of a Direct Legislative Initiative requires a double majority vote of the Electorate. If a supermajority vote of the IQA places a constitutional Initiative on the Ballot, it must then pass with a double supermajority vote of the Electorate, and finally ratification requires approval of three-fourths of the State Legislatures.

Safeguards Protecting Wisdom of the IQA

IQA operations make maximum use of the IQA Members’ collective wisdom. Six areas are important in assuring that a group can make wise decisions:

  • The randomness of Member’s selection from all the People assures the Member’s diversity.
  • The Amendment requires Members to vote their own independent un-coerced opinion, assuring the Member’s independence.
  • Use of deliberative task forces to develop information and encouragement of Member self-education achieves decentralization.
  • The simultaneity of voting and use of secret votes assures good aggregation of Member’s opinions for good decision-making.
  • After a period of four years for evaluation of the IQA’s decisions, the People vote to assign the Member’s performance grade and magnitude of their incentive award.
  • The relatively straightforward management structure of the IQA and the sufficient supply of competent Members assure effective IQA management.