Food for thought: ‘small d’ democracy

Found an article (“Democracy from the ground up“, which is actually an extract from a book by historian/political economist/activist Gar Alperovitz) that includes some very thought provoking points/reminders, a few snippets of which I wanted to share:

“Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam suggested that a decline in associational activity, in turn, had produced a decline in trust and ‘social capital’ foundational requirements of democracy in general. His response was straightforward: the nation should develop as many ways as possible to encourage local involvement the only way, he held, Americans could hope to renew the basis of democracy throughout the larger system.” […]

“In his study, Democracy’s Discontent, [Michael] Sandel holds that it is important to recover the meaning of the ‘republican tradition’ in American political life — a tradition that ‘taught that to be free is to share in governing a political community that controls its own fate. Self-government . . . requires political communities that control their destinies, and citizens who identify sufficiently with those communities to think and act with a view to the common good’.” […]

“City Limits, an aptly titled study by Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, demonstrates that as a result of the underlying relationships, policy choices are often ‘limited to those few which can plausibly be shown to be conducive to the community’s economic prosperity’. Partly this is because business owners have more money, hence usually more political influence. But quite apart from such considerations, local political leaders feel they must promote economic development, and they accordingly feel they need the help of the business community.” […]

“Commonly, too, the thrust of decisions favorable to business groups radically constrains all other choices. The use of scarce resources to develop downtown areas, and especially to attract or retain major corporations, inevitably absorbs funds that might alternatively be used to help low- and moderate-income neighborhood housing, schools, and community services.”

5 thoughts on “Food for thought: ‘small d’ democracy

  1. As the former President of a party dedicated to individual rights, I find your Society interesting but curiously illogical.

    I agree individual rights are the foundation of all rights, but I think you make a mistake by not referencing this back to God. It is because these rights are not man-made that they are inalienable. Secondly, you reference the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms–which uniquely limited Canadian rights in the same way a ‘guarantee’ of some product limits the company’s liability–as if this was a basis of anything, instead of a reviled anti-democratic document. The whole Charter needs to be thrown out and the Supreme Court with it.

    Thirdly, you are curiously silent on the necessity for individual rights to include the right of self-defence and defence of property. Without these two rights, nothing else follows.

    And finally, your interest and concern about ‘low and moderate income’ neighbourhood housing, seems to be stressing group rights, not individual rights.

    Having said that, your interest in forming a ground-up society with culturally generated social rules is certainly in keeping with a post-apocalyptic world we will likely face in the near or mid-term future. Everyone who is keeping track realizes the United States is about to collapse in the greatest credit bubble in world history, a crisis which will almost certainly lead to civil way.

    After which something like your society will certainly be needed.

    • Thank You for your points Frank.

      With regard to your first point, there are millions of People who believe in “God”, and yet who have different interpretations and descriptions of what rights that They feel “God” has created as our “inalienable” rights, so in the end, We are left with an attempt to agree on what rights We All commonly accept for each Other, and We have to be satisfied that We wish them on each Other, whether they are “inalienable” or not. By not referencing individual rights back to “God”, We are not making those rights any more or less deserved, and We are also not making it any less incumbent upon our members to show responsibility to their agreement to contribute to those rights being provided to All People.

      With regard to your second point, if an institution makes Me a guarantee, they may be exempting themselves from other responsibilities that I would argue were implicit in my relationship with them, but I am nonetheless going to at last hold them to those guarantees. By claiming that the Crown has made certain guarantees in its Charter, I do not believe the society is waiving the right to claim that the Crown has other responsibilities, especially considering that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states in section 26 that “the guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada”.

      With regard to your third point, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is referenced in the ISS Charter as being “consistent with” the ISS’s relationship with Humanity, with the exception of the one section in that Declaration that gives the UN license to be the final authority on its interpretation. The UN declaration states in Article 17 that “everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others”, and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”. The ISS Charter states that “the members of the Interactive Sovereign Society are lawfully required to do their utmost to see that all of the rights and freedoms depicted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the possible exception of article 29(3), are provided to their fellow human Beings”. While I do not personally condone the use of fire arms, the lawful conclusion of the above cited sections of these documents is that, if You feel the use of fire arms will help protect any One (including your Self) from being arbitrarily deprived of their property, then hypothetically, as a member of the ISS, You would not lawfully prevented from doing so. This is, of course, subject to the discretion of the ISS membership in interpreting the sections I have cited above, but I would be interested in hearing how a different interpretation may be drawn.

      Your final point is that You believe that collective rights trump individual rights in the society. Do You not believe that being provided housing is a fundamental right of human Beings? Do You not wish that on your fellow human Beings? Is laziness such a crime that being deprived even of a place to live a commensurate punishment for such a crime?

    • Race and ethnicity are not nrtaaul’ categories, even though both concepts are often representedas if they were. Their boundaries are not fixed, nor is their membership uncontested. Race andethnic groups, like nations, are imagined communities….They are ideological entities, made andchanged in struggle. They are discursive formations, signalling a language through whichdifferences may be named and explained.

  2. A few comments to make:

    It is an interesting concept to derive human rights from divine origin. But I don’t think this if founded in any current theology. The ten commenments for example is more of a rudimentary criminal code and statement of obligation rather than guarantee of rights.
    We generally express human rights as enforceable between individuals and limiting the state’s authority on the individual. I think history demonstrates this to entirely a human invention. I would point back to the US constitution and its founding members decision to separate church and state. Church has been intertwined in politics since both their origins but it doesn’t mean it ought to.

    The ISS constitution binds its members to respect each other. I just don’t see how God enters the equation because God isn’t the party enforcing the rights and obligations

    Defence of self and property is an interesting question, but you may note that there is no modern constitution which turns these into absolute rights constitutionally. Instead we have criminal legislation which defines these rights

    In the ISS constitution there is a dispute resolution mechanism which is flexible enough to address matters within the criminal law

    I’m not certain the ISS needs to spell out these rights in absolute form and I also think it wiser to discourage self-help rather than endorse it. Defense of self is understandable but I question the need for defense of property

    Certainly the Canadian Criminal Code authorizes some degree of use of force in defense of a dwelling or a chattel. It has a histrorical basis and amounts to not criminalizing certain behaviors in response to crime. But this is a shield, not a sword. I don’t see this would serve any constitutional purpose to enshrine this as a “right” because the prospect of abuse of that right, killing in the face of petty crime, is high. I compare Florida’s law authorizing lethal force in response to merely threatening behavior. It goes too far. All use of serious force in response to criminal behavior should be analyzed for its objective reasonableness in light of all the circumstances.

    The ISS dispute resolution system is designed along the lines of the principals of natural justice similar to an administrative tribunal. To my knowledge, it has yet to deal with a true criminal matter. However if it does it would be reviewing such an issue from what is acceptable behavior within the scope of society and is capable of accepting a self defense or defense of property defense, although it is equally valid in my opinion for the ISS community as a whole to limit or eliminate these defenses.

  3. With regard to the “supremacy of God” and the involvement of “God” in granting us inalienable rights; “God” is (at least) referred to as that force responsible for our (seemingly arbitrary) constitution. We are constituted in such a way that we NEED air, water, food, and shelter. We also find that we are confronted with reality, and the constant choice as to HOW we are going to confront reality; in short, using Rousseau’s phrase, we are “condemned to freedom”. Each of us has free will, whether any self-ordained “leader(s)” likes it or not. Insofar that anyone drawing breath demonstrates a desire to continue doing so, we also recognize a universal “self-preservation instinct”. This instinct manifests as a fundamental “fight-or-flight” response to any threat, perceived or real. Since governments would seek to wield power over individuals, any time an individual perceives a threat to its ability to maintain its own existence (including any attempt to subjugate an individual and deprive him/her of the freedom he/she feels is necessary to continue living), the government can reasonably expect a response from the individual; either the individual will flee the government’s control, or will actively fight (read “resist”) it.

    Thus the social contract; people choose to enter into a contract with one another, recognizing the surrendering of certain “rights of nature” (ie. the ability to choose to take whatever one may want from another, including the other’s life) in order to entrench certain other rights (ie. the right to security and [relative] liberty). If that social contract did not recognize the “inalienable rights” of the people involved in accepting it, the contract would be null and void, as people would feel the need to violate the contract in order to take whatever actions were necessary to protect their inalienable rights (ie. the right to CHOOSE in how to procure air, water, food, shelter, and any other perceived “necessities of life”).

    So, I take “inalienable rights” to mean a human’s freedom of choice, a recognition of their self-awareness and sentience. In conjunction with the self-preservation instinct that seems to be universal amongst living beings, this means the right to pursue the basic necessities of life however one must. If a proposed society cannot help one meet those basic minimum requirements (including the preservation, as best as possible, of one’s freedom), then why choose to be part of such a society?

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