26 October 2011

When in, of course, the human events...

, being "necessarily" dissolved by some people (if, indeed, corporations are people), we assume it among the powers of the earth.  That is to say, natural - "that's life" - sort of stuff.

I was reading Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" this morning and it occurred to me that it occurred to him how arbitrary our form of government is (or forms of government are).  In his tracing of the formation of governments out of the state of nature*, Paine sets out a natural progression from absolute, direct democracy to a representative form of government once the number of people makes everyone attending the meetings untenable.

This got me thinking, though, how a truer form of democratic republicanism might be found in the form of a selected government, rather than an elected form.  If all representatives were randomly selected during each (s)election cycle I wonder if we would do no worse (and possibly a great deal better) than where we find ourselves right now.  Rather than a nation of the people (if corporations are people), by the people (if corporations are people), and for the people (if corporations are people) we would guide ourselves with a random sampling of our peers making decisions for a predetermined length of time (six, four or two year terms).  We would be guided by polling data in a much more real and meaningful way - that is, the "deciders" would themselves be that polling data, a random, statistically significant set of data, each with their own individual motivations (but without the motivation of fundraising, pandering or party loyalty.)
7/31/11 - Jefferson Memorial

If memory serves, this idea has been posited before (I'm thinking perhaps of Plato's Republic or Sir Thomas More's Utopia - anyone remember?) and I'm quite sure of it myself, but in the spirit of Jeffersonian renewal of government, I put it out for discussion.  I was reminded this summer of just how selective our collective memory has become when I saw again for the first time the Jefferson Memorial in DC.  I was there with JP and George Etwire who we met on the bus into the city.  George is from Ghana and was travelling to Utah on business.  Like us, he had several hours to kill in DC before his next flight so we saw some sites.

Jefferson (and I would argue the rest of them, too) never intended for this to be The Constitution, in perpetuity.  It must be a living document, both in how we read it and amend it, but also in the sense that it might (must?) grow, give birth to new ideas and eventually even die.  The real Tea Party (the one before it was co-opted by corporate interests) might have known this, but the idea was lost in the ideological fervor of originalism.  The Occupy Movement may also know it, but not admit to knowing it because of its efforts to appeal to the "middle of the roaders."  (Calling the Occupy Movement extremist makes about as much sense as calling Barack Obama a Left Winger - while, as with anything, there is some fringe there, the majority line is fairly tame.)

What surprises me, though, is that it's been right in front of us since at least 1943 - 8th Graders have been carted past it for years - this is not a historical "argument", it's history.

* Very interesting is Paine's formulation of the state of nature as a "group of emigrants" come together (presumably as a displacing force of whatever happened to live there before) in a new, untouched land.  This of course presumes a certain modern (or at least enlightened) sensibility in the people of the hypothetical age, whereas Rousseau's "state of nature" hearkens back to an earlier, more innocent humanity.  Paine's Founders are always already colonizers (and therefore need governments to reign in their baser nature).

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