Democracy is Something You Do


imageDemocracy is something a nation does rather than something it has.

Consider that Thomas Jefferson said, “lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty” and “…the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless…They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights;” that Plato said, “the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men;” that Charles de Montesquieu said, “the tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy;” that Ronald Reagan added, “freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again;” that in response to the question of what kind of government we might have, Ben Franklin said, “A Republic, if you can keep it!”

It was clear to these men that active, not passive, participation is required by all that expect to see it manifested well. And it was not just by casting a vote that defined active participation. One had to be engaged more deeply than that.

It was mostly Thomas Jefferson who in his retirement, worked to correct what he sensed was the greatest defect of the newly established representative democracy in America: a lack of public involvement. In a series of letters he wrote about a great educational system to educate the electorate. He also wrote about the division of the country into “wards” based on the model established in New England, where groups of families determined solutions to problems on a very local level. Specifically, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, he wrote, “These wards [of approximately 100 families], called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation.”

This Jeffersonian concept was not original and had at least two historical examples of success. As pointed out by W. Clean Skousen in his book the 5000 Year Leap, it was first established by the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of early England and the early Israelites who had a strong sense of personal responsibility and desire for freedom from centralized power. They had codified these ideas in a system called “Common Law” or the “People’s Law,” respectively.

But how to get there from here?

It is repeatedly expressed within the Liberty movement that the only way things will change is through violent revolution or a complete collapse of the present system. Things have deteriorated so much, it is proposed, that no reasonable return to our founders’ concept of a functioning Republic can be navigated. A total collapse is necessary for a “reset” of the system.

But a study of recent history, does not agree with this premise at all.

Look at Greece, where a total economic collapse has led to increased political corruption and a total loss of autonomy to a global banking system. Look at Ireland, where propping up unsustainable debt has led to the taxpayer bearing the financial burden for the ever more distant “infinite horizon”, continuing loss of sovereignty and economic morass. The path to this same result is already unfolding in the slowly developing economic crises in Spain and Portugal. It remains to be seen if a pattern will emerge in France and Italy as well, resulting in more indebtedness, more ceding of sovereignty, and more economic misery.*

It appears that waiting for a collapse may be a very bad idea.

In her book, On Revolution, Hannah Arendt describes the anatomy of modern revolutions, such as the Arab Spring. She points out that “Revolutionaries” do not start the revolution, they lay in wait for a collapse of the present system to occur. They then disrupt the organic formation of “local councils” that emerge in the vacuum of leadership: a true, vulnerable democracy. Violence is a hallmark attribute of these “revolutionaries” which typically install tyrannies often worse than their predecessors before any true democracy can take root.

But what if this formation of “local councils” was established well before any crisis occurred? Could a well entrenched, healthy, active and vibrant organic representative democracy survive any shocks sent its way? We think so and so did your founders.

We believe that revitalizing the precinct system is the most energy efficient way to quickly develop a local stabilizing network of like minded individuals. No new infrastructure need be established and we can affect the current political system in the meantime.  Start with yourself, your family, and your neighbors.

If you are in the Mt Pleasant 19 or 39, James island 10, 13 or 17, St. Andrews 10, or Charleston 8 or 13 or the McClellanville or St Paul 2A precincts for Charleston County, please contact us right away!

*(Iceland represents the only outlier in this progression. By repudiating the cowardly strategy of acquiring more debt and allowing for the liquidation of bad investments, their economy has bounced back from total collapse and is now thriving.)

If you’d like to continue independent exploration of the ideas presented in this letter you can start here:

For Liberty,

The Liberty Tree Precinct Project


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