November 16, 2010

Positive Democracy in the American Historical Context


This is a version of a comment I wrote during this discussion. I thought I’d repost it here.
Where shall we discover the basis of America’s original ideals, now that’s they’ve been so trampled and traduced by the corporate media culture? Bernard Bailyn’s Ideological Origins of the American Revolution gives an extended discussion of the heritage and connotations of concepts/terms like rights, consent, representation, constitution, and sovereignty.
The book itself is something of a whitewash of the many of the founders, but however much they actually did cherish those ideals, here we learn what those ideals really meant.
So if people are thinking and speaking in terms of resuming the long-neglected and/or hijacked American Revolution, that’s one source which can help us to understand what we’re really talking about.
We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people’s sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.
Direct democracy is government by local councils, or in American history, in some places at least, town halls. This is the truly living constitution and vibrance of sovereignty. These councils could be organized along any number of lines – at the workplace, by profession, or by economic region, or by community, and in combinations of these. There are many other possibilities as well.
True federalism means power is exercised at the level from whence it arises in the first place, among the people in their workplaces and/or communities. Authority is delegated upward, e.g. to regional councils, only on a provisional, mostly consultative basis, and all representatives are subject to instant recall. All significant decision-making, of course, remains in the hands of the local councils.
This is also the proper manifestation of sovereignty, which always and only reposes in the people, and can only be conditionally delegated to any smaller and/or “higher” group.
A cooperative economy is one where sovereignty would be properly organized economically. Since no one can legitimately “own” land, natural resources, or the socially constructed infrastructure, i.e. the means of production, such resources and infrastructure would be either cooperatively worked and self-managed by the worker council, and/or distributed on the basis of useful possession or productive stewardship, or any similar term one preferred.
This is the only way to reatin economic sovereignty and to ensure the most effective production. Since all rents would be purged, this would be by far the most equitably productive economy. This is its unique practicality. (The Spanish collectives of the Civil War accomplished prodigies of production under the most free circumstances any communities and workers have known, until they were destroyed by the combined treachery and violence of liberals, communists, and fascists.)
What to do to accomplish this? Any constructive economic relocalization action is worthwhile, but especially increasing local food production and rationalizing its local distribution. Getting involved in local politics on behalf of this relocalization goal is also needful, but I think the political action probably needs to follow the established economic (or other practical) action.
That’s just a few thoughts for now.

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