“Government by the people”.
This is the second part of Lincoln’s famous words at Gettysburg: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Well, representative democracy is not “government by the people”. Those elected by the people govern, the people do not govern.
Some say that because those who represent the people come from among the people, then the people govern, makes no sense to me.
It is like saying that the shareholders of a company run the company. It is obvious the top executives and their teams run companies.
In my last blog I wrote about how, even if the elected representatives formally are ordinary citizens, in reality they are not. You can look at that post to see why I say so.
The people do not govern; the professional politicians and career public employees ARE the government, not the people.
Even in Switzerland, who are closer to “government by the people”, they are not doing that.
You could say the Swiss people govern because the people have authority over the elected representatives. Indirectly, they also have authority over the civil service.
The Swiss people directly decide. They decide what laws can become laws, building a public swimming pool, universal income, treaties, etc.
The Swiss do this at the local, regional and national level. This is critical to create a culture of decision making by the people. What the Swiss do is far ahead of the rest, still, it is not government by the people. It is more “government controlled by the people”. Not bad at all.
Only the ancient Greeks had government by the people.
In ancient Greece the people served in government. Yes, ordinary citizens run the government. I know, we are so used to being the other way around. We are used to government running the lives of citizens. We are so used to it that most people need to think hard to see it is logical to go back the Greeks.
The people should be the boss, not the politicians or the civil servants.
The ancient Greeks did it in a way similar to how people serve on juries.
Citizens were selected by lot to serve. After that they had to pass a screening. Ordinary citizens did the screening. The panel or assembly to do the screening can also be selected by lot. The assembly must be large enough to be representative of citizens..
Overall, government by the people, means citizens of all walks of life would be randomly called to serve in government. Very different to what we have now, isn’t it?
We would have to prevent absurd situations, like in any system. Selection by lot would not mean any citizen can serve in any job, screening is necessary.
The selection panels, or assemblies, would be large enough to be representative of the citizens. Among them there would be men, women, young, old, most professions, etc. People would be called to serve in the selection assembly by lot.
Because the assembly is large enough, it will be representative of the people.
The people selected to run the government and selected to the selection assemblies would do their jobs for a limited period of time. It may not even be a full time assignment. This will help them stay in touch with reality outside government.
After they serve in government, the people would return to their professions. They would not go back to government, or would do so after 15 or 20 years. This would prevent creating undesirable networks.
There would be career civil servants, but with very limited and specific functions.
If we do the above we would could say we have government by the people.
Of course, many other details have to be worked out.
We could start with pilot projects at the local, regional and national levels. We could start with one department or ministry, etc.
The key lies in the majority of citizens agreeing that ordinary citizens should run government.
Getting the people involved in running government has huge benefits. The people would be directly responsible for what government does, no more blaming “the politicians”. Citizens will no longer be in the passive role representative democracy places them in. The people will understand government, they will know what can and cannot be done, they will prevent government distancing from citizens, etc.
For example, if ordinary citizens run police departments we would not have crazy incidents like the murder triggering the current protests and riots in the US and elsewhere.
We wouldn’t have the riots either because ordinary citizen would bring to the police the awareness to personnel selection, training, and policing procedures that will prevent the tragic systemic failures we regularly see.
In the next post I will write about the last part of Lincoln’s words.
As always, your comments are valuable.