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Democracy (a Political Issue)


Introduction

In a pure democracy, everyone should have an equal say in government. Each and every one of us should have our opinions heard and our votes counted. This sounds like a good and admirable goal, but what we mostly seem to have today, is a government where only the rich and the powerful have any real say. Although there are also troubling trends towards extremists and authoritarians gaining control of our governments.

One of the main reasons that the rich and the powerful, and the extremists are taking control of our governments is our current two party political system. The members of each of the two dominant political parties, like those of most political parties, are people who have more extreme views than most people, and generally what to impose their views on everyone. With the help of the money they get from the richer members of our society, the two dominant political parties have gained too much power over a majority of the people who do not share their views.

Therefore, it would seem that we need to find a way to ensure that everyone can be heard and can have their votes counted. In order to do that, we must address the problems with our two party political system. I will talk more about this in the section on Political Parties. In the mean time, there are a number of other things that are also threatening our democracy. I will talk about some of them in this section.

Informed and Involved

In ancient times, people lived in small independent groups. The group’s government might have consisted of a tribal leader, a group of elders or the entire tribe. There were probably some laws passed down from generation to generation, which helped to protect the tribal members from each other and to define some of their duties and responsibilities. In addition, the people would have needed to be informed and involved in order to survive.

Most members of the tribe probably knew what they had to do and did it, so there would have been few decisions that the government would have really needed to make on a daily basis. When decisions were needed, they usually concerned simple local matters or disputes. Most people would have known or could easily have learned about the issues that were involved, and probably could have easily come up with an informed opinion on the matter.

Today, thousands of bills are introduced at the national, state and local level every year. In addition, various government agencies are constantly issuing new regulations. Just to be able to read all these bills and regulations, someone might need to devote all their time and energy on a full time basis. This makes it very hard for most people to be well informed.

Given the often complex and technical nature of these bills and regulations, someone would also need to have advanced degrees in law, politics, economics, medicine, engineering, science, and many other subjects to truly understand them all. Obviously, this would be too much for the average citizen. In fact, it is very unlikely that many, if any, of our representatives are able to read and to understand everything in every bill that they vote on.

In many elections, propositions are placed on the ballot where we can all vote directly for or against them. In many cases these propositions are poorly worded or deal with complex financial issues dealing with things such as bonds or levies. Although there are many people who will read and try to understand these propositions, most people will only hear about them via the sound bites that come from special interest groups. These sound bites are generally designed to prey upon public fears or hopes by playing up just the best or worst aspect of a proposition, or in some cases by misrepresenting what the proposition will do. Often, it is the people on the side that spends the most money that gets their message out and sways the outcome of the vote.

As we can see, our world has become far too complex for most of us to get more involved in our government than in just a cursory way. Our only hope is that our representatives will be able to understand and to deal with these complexities and will make sure that our laws and regulations work to the benefit of all of us. Unfortunately, it is impossible for any one representative to know enough about all the things that he or she must deal with. In addition, a lot of our representatives’ time is taken up with things like learning about and dealing with getting elected and reelected, which would include such things as campaigning, fundraising and schmoozing. This can leave them with little time to do the actual work that they were elected to do.

The first thing that needs to be done is to take back control of the campaign process. Candidates will often spend a lot of time fundraising, since money can buy more ad time, which usually leads to more votes, but also can give big donors undue influence. The way around this is to have an electoral process that pays for everything and that ensures all qualified candidates have an equal opportunity to speak to and with the voters. This will help to refocus candidates' time away from fundraising and towards speaking about the issues.

Another thing that needs to be done is to expand the role of professionals who can assist with the creation of the bills and regulations for which they have the appropriate knowledge and skills. It is true that many of our representatives come from legal, medical, engineering and other professions, so they may have the needed understanding in their area of expertise, but they cannot be experts in all areas. The best thing for our representatives to do is to solicit and to evaluate advice from the appropriate professionals, who should be independent and not part of some special interest group.

These professionals might work for the government on a full time or contract basis, but would need to be free from partisan politics and conflicts of interest, and would need to be able to look at all sides of a problem or issue objectively. They should also be able to submit problems or proposed legislative solutions through our representatives for consideration.

If needed, a group of the appropriately skilled professionals would be formed to work on the issues. It would be the responsibility of this group to analyze the issues, come up with some solutions, provide a clear description of the issues, and the possible solutions and consequences, and write or help write the needed bill or regulation. I have a number of ideas about how this could work, which I will address later.

Another thing that needs to be done is to reduce the number and complexity of our bills and regulations. To accomplish this, we need to create laws and regulations that keep things simple and flexible enough that they do not need to be repeatedly changed. For instance, streamlining our tax codes would go a long way towards this goal. Again, I have a number of ideas about what we can do, which I will address later, mainly in the section on Economics.

Misinformation and Lies

One of the biggest threats to our democracy today is all the misinformation and lies that are being spread. In the past, it took a long time for misinformation and lies to be spread, which gave people some time to counter them before they spread too far. Today, social media can spread them around the world in seconds.

There is an old saying that Knowledge is power. However, it is knowing the truth that gives us power, When we believe lies, we give away our power to those who lie to us. Today, it seems there are more and more people spreading misinformation and lies. Their ultimate goals may be different, but they are using misinformation and lies to try to take away our power so that they can manipulate us into doing something that we would not otherwise do, since it would cause us harm. In order to save ourselves from harming ourselves, we must see through these lies, and learn the truth, which will allow us to take back our power.

Given the vast amount of information that bombards us every day, it is hard for the average person to analyze it all and to determine what is true and what is false. The best way to handle this is to find sources that are reliable. By reliable, I mean that they verify that what they report is the truth, and not that they tell you what you want to hear. However, even the most reliable source may still inadvertently repeat false information. Therefore, if we want to retain our power, we must stay vigilant and question anything that seems a bit out there or that just does not sound right.

Information can come from news outlets, social media, and friends and family. Although news outlets should be the most reliable sources of information, some news outlets today are little more than propaganda machines for some extremists, so you need to be careful about which news outlets to listen to. Social Media is too much of a free for all with little control over who says what to be very reliable. Friends and family may want to be helpful by passing on important information, but unless you know they are getting their information from reliable sources, you need to verify everything.

With social media, there are a number of things that social media companies can do to filter out the misinformation, lies and other hateful or threatening content. Of course, each one of us should be able to decide what we want to allow through or to filter out. Therefore, the social media companies should rate content and set up various filters based on those ratings, but then give each of us the ability to decide which filters we want to use, and in general, what content we want to see. Even if we do want to see everything, the content we receive should show how the media companies rated that content, which would allow us to decide whether we agreed or not, and to provide them feedback

To help standardize how content is rated and filtered, and to ensure all media companies provide the filtering options, the federal government should set some rules. I will talk more about this later.

Manipulation

It is also import for us to understand how others use misinformation, lies and other means to try to manipulate us. There are a number of tricks that con artists, spammers, and others use to get us to believe what they are saying, or to do what they want. The following are just a few of them.

We tend to believe the first thing we hear about something, and it can be hard for us to believe the truth when we finally hear it. For instance, we rarely hear that someone is not guilty of something, before we hear someone say the person is guilty of something. Therefore, it is easy for someone to smear someone by accusing the person of a crime that they did not do. We need to remember that someone is innocent until proven guilty, and not guilty until proven innocent.

We also tend to believe things that we hear over and over and over again. In life, we learn that if we get a certain result over and over and over again, then that result is a fact. Therefore, people trying to manipulate us will repeat a lie over and over and over again, even if has been proven false or debunked. In order to counter the lie each time we hear the lie, we should respond over and over and over again that it is a lie.

Con artists, spammers and others will also use a sense of urgency in order to get us to act without thinking. Every day, we could be faced with a situation where we need to react without really thinking about it. For instance, if we took the time to think about what to do when a car is careening towards us, we might die. Unless you are in a real life or death situation, you have time to think, and you should not let someone force you into a premature decision.

Threats and intimidation are also used to manipulate people into acting in the way that someone wants. If someone threatens you with jail time unless you do what they say, then they are most likely trying to scam you. For instance, one common scam is a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, who threatens you with jail time unless you pay up. Legitimate organizations, like the IRS, would never do that, so you need to ignore those threats.

Nowadays, threats and intimidation are becoming more common in politics. People are now yelling and screaming at our representatives, telling them that they know where they live, and even threatening them with death in text or phone messages. These people may claim their free speech rights, but those rights end when they resort to treats and intimidation. When this happens, they should be reported to the police or FBI, and held accountable.

In addition to trying to create a sense of urgency, or to create fear through threats and intimidation, the people trying to manipulate us may also try to stir up other emotions like outrage and anger. When we let our emotions take over, reason goes out the window and we can more easily be manipulated. To combat this, we need to get our emotions under control, so that we can think logically about the situation and make good decisions.

In some cases, people trying to manipulate us may not be able to come up with a believable lie. In this case, they may spread many different lies. Even if we do not believe any of these lies, there may be so many different narratives that we may not know what to believe and therefore not even believe the truth. In order to counter this, we need to take the time to filter out the lies so that we can get to the truth.

One final thing that works in a manipulator's favor is the fact that we are reluctant to admit when we are wrong for fear of looking bad. Therefore, once we have been manipulated into believing in a lie, we are not likely to admit we are wrong, even when presented with evidence of the truth. However, sticking to a lie is what really makes us look bad. I have learned that it is always better to believe in the truth, even if I need to admit I had been wrong before. I even did that up in the Introduction.

Trust Me

Our representatives and others will often tell us to trust them, because they say they know what is what or what is best for us. However, that is not always the case, so we need to question things and to do our own due diligence to learn the truth. I learned early on to do this and it has helped me many times. To illustrate, I would like to relate a couple of the many instances from my programming carrier. This will demonstrate the benefit of questioning things, and show a little of my problem solving abilities.

I was looking into an issue where some data was not being processed correctly. When I looked at the program that processed that data, there was a really complex bit of code, that included a comment that said that that code had been thoroughly tested, been shown to be correct, and should not be changed. My fellow programmer also said the code was correct, but I could not find any other reason for the data to be processed incorrectly, so I dug into that code. I ended up finding a critical flaw in the logic, and after fixing it, the data was then processed correctly.

At another time, an overnight batch processing job had failed. Our manager assigned the other 4 members of our team to look into the failure, and asked me to continue with another critical data processing task. Near the end of the day, I had finished my task, but my teammates still had not been able to find a solution to the data processing failure. Therefore, I jumped in to help. After about 10 minutes, I had seen a possible cause in the code. If the data had contained a "5" in a specific place in the data record, then that would cause the failure. Everyone said that it was impossible for a data record to have a "5" in that position in the data. However, I persisted until the business manager took a look at the data, and found that I was correct. The data was corrected, and the batch processing job was successfully rerun.

Whenever someone says to thrust them or that there is no need to question something, then your first thought should be to question it. They may not want us to look to closely at what they are saying, because they know it will not stand up to scrutiny, or that we will uncover something bad that they have done. Someone may also try to distract us from questioning what they have said or done by trying to get us to look at something else. When someone tries to distract us from one issue by bringing up something else, then we should look even closer at the original issue.

Majority Rule

In our democratic society, most citizens of the appropriate age get to vote for their representatives and for or against various proposals. Whoever or whatever gets the most votes will win. This is called majority rule. In addition, our representatives propose and vote on bills. In this case, the outcome is determined by a majority of our representatives voting for or against the bill.

When our laws are passed by the majority, it is more likely that the majority of the population will be happier with the results than if we were ruled by some totalitarian government that might pass laws that only a minority of the population agreed with. Even so, there are a number of problems with majority rule.

First off, our representatives may not always vote the way the majority of us would have wanted. Instead, they may base their vote on what they want, on what their political party wants, or on what some special interest group or big campaign donor wants. There does not seem to be an easy fix for this problem. There have been many attempts at campaign reform, special interest group regulation, and ethics improvement, but the underlying issues have not been addressed. To ensure that our representatives truly represent us, we will need to make some major changes in the electoral process and the way we pass our laws. I have a number of ideas about what we can do, which I will address later.

Next, even when we do have majority rule, we can still leave the minority out of the political process and unhappy about the way things are going. We can see this most clearly when we are in the minority. The best place for the majority of Americans to see this is in how they would be treated as citizens of some other countries. For instance, in many countries where they are in the minority, Christians suffer persecution and lack many rights given to the country’s other citizens.

We can also see many good examples in our own country. Take any issue where the population is fairly evenly divided between strongly opposing ideas about what should be done. For instance, take gun control. Any time there is any legislation passed that toughens or weakens gun control laws, those people on one side of the issue or the other will be unhappy.

It would be nice if every piece of legislation that we passed could make everyone happy, but it would seem unlikely that we could make everyone happy every time. On the other hand, there is a way to make the vast majority of people happy, or at least okay, with how things work. The way to do this is to allow people to have the most freedom possible when it comes to deciding how they live their own lives.

The limit on how much freedom we have should be set just before the point where our actions would do undue harm to other people, to other living things, or to our environment. Things that would not do undue harm to others should be legal. Things that would always do undue harm to others should be illegal. Those things that could go either way, depending on the circumstances, should be regulated so that the undue harmful aspects are controlled or eliminated. We need to make it clear that someone doing something that others may not like or approve of is not in and of itself causing anyone undue harm, and if no undue harm would be done, then it should be legal.

Let’s start with a fairly simple example dealing with free speech. For instance, many people, including me, do not like it when people use vulgar or obscene language. Although we may cringe or get angry when we hear it, by itself, it does not cause us any undue harm unless we let it, so we should not make it illegal. Of course, no one should be forced to listen to it, so we should always have the right to avoid it by blocking it when we can, keeping those who use it out of our homes, and by patronizing businesses that keep it out.

What if someone verbally threatens to harm someone, his or her family, friends or belongings, or any other person or thing? In this case, it would be reasonable to expect that a threat would cause someone to be worried or stressed out by it, which is causing them psychological harm, so this form of speech should be illegal. That is, anyone making a threat could be arrested and held accountable in a similar fashion as if they had tried to carry out the threat.

As a further example, let’s take a look at gambling. Many people find it fun to place an occasional wager. Even if some people think it is bad or sinful to gamble, that should not be enough to make it illegal. On the other hand, there are a number of bad things that can come from gambling, but they can be controlled. For instance, we would not want someone to gamble away the rent money, This could get their family thrown out on the street, would deprive the landlord of his or her income, and place a burden on society when we try to help out the family. Therefore, controls would need to be put in place to limit a person’s gambling to the discretionary funds that their family has approved of for the purpose of gambling.

In order to protect everyone’s rights, including anyone who is in the minority on some issue, we need to make changes that prevent the majority from unduly imposing or forcing their beliefs on everyone. The best way to handle this is to change our constitution so that this principle is clearly spelled out, and so that our courts could then ensure that it is upheld. I have a number of ideas about what we can do, which I will address when I talk about each appropriate issue.

Next Section

Government - How to make our Government work better.

Last Updated:
Thursday, May 19, 2022
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