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Regarding the Ralph Nader for President campaign, i thought it would be useful to haul out of the ratical archives the transcript of The Concord Principles, An Agenda For A New Initiatory Democracy from 1992.
Article: 781 of sgi.talk.ratical
From: (dave "who can do? ratmandu!" ratcliffe)
Subject: THE CONCORD PRINCIPLES--AN AGENDA FOR A NEW INITIATORY DEMOCRACY
Summary: we are now living in pre-revolutionary times
Keywords: responsibility for the earth we all share must replace "colonization"
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc.
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 1992 20:10:04 GMT
The following -- starting 124 lines below -- is something Ralph Nader wrote back on 2/1/92 and was passed around in New England in the early primary days. He has been expanding on these ideas in speeches he's been giving this year. I heard part of one from May 9th in S.F. He was discussing the world as it is, the changes that MUST be made for the good of all, and the connectedness of all things in a very expansive and holistic way as I've never quite heard him articulate before. He was tieing in the social, psychological, and spiritual issues as well as the economic, environmental-ecological-biological, military and political aspects of how things now stand, and what we as a race of sentient beings need to do to, acting in concert with each other, to help shape a world promoting the sanctity of all life and all the natural world as a whole, instead of drawing the best minds into the kind of deathwish-2000 mentality as we are still, for the time being, in thrall to.
In my read of the following, what Ralph Nader is really invoking is a vision opening up the possibilities of establishing genuine participatory democracy instead of the 200 year-old brand of representative democracy which has been subverted and replaced with a checkbook democracy appealling to the very worst qualities of human nature which is only able to operate in the netherworld blackness of the "bottom-line." It is time for us to focus on what we as a species need to do to work together to solve the problems we have created, rather than "buying" the commoditized reality dished up to us ever more by those who only think of "development" in terms of how more markets can be created to foster more financial profits.
People must be challenged to exercise their own analytical and intuitive powers of reason and "heart-based action," and urge a focus of attention on what the hell is happening to our world that we all share AND THAT WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR. Which opinion do you value more -- your own or Ted Koppel's??? The kind of numbing paralysis the seduction of consumerism engenders in this culture is truly earth-shattering and new to our human experience. It seems to more and more be replacing our penchant for honestly acknowledging the true state of consensus reality and seeking to improve and regenerate it when such is called for. Mass-market culture has almost completely replaced past generations' experiences of "roots" and local stories and myths. We cannot just sit back and try to "buy off" on the bill of goods being sold to us as some sort of permanent Miller Time. If we do, then there is NO future for our children's children's children and all life on earth.
I hope many more of you than I can imagine will at least every once in a short while tune in to the expanding alternative visions being prompted and promoted by dynamic and innovative groups like:
the Women's Environmental Development Organization (WEDO) (focusing and articulating women's voices and uniquely qualified points of view regarding what it is going to take to save the world and our species' collective future) in NYC;
the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (promotes locally controlled, democratically managed small-scale economic development) in Wash, DC;
The Land Institute (leading org attempting to retain biodiversity within agriculture, to save the Midwest prairies, and to promote the family farm) in Salinas KS;
The Cultural Environment Movement (reclaiming our cultural diversity through a re-connection with hand-crafted, home-made, community-inspired cultural stories, myths and dynamism) in Philadelphia, PA,
the Council for Responsible Genetics (conferences, research, and activism on the full range of biotechnology issues) in Boston, MA;
The Media Foundation (critiques commodity society and makes the connection with environmental destruction ("Adbusters" magazine)) in Vancouver, BC;
the New Alchemy Institute (highly innovative research group focusing on small-scale agriculture) in East Falmouth, MA;
the Planet Drum Foundation (research, publishing, and programs promoting indigenous nationhood mvmts, bioregionalism, and green cities),
Public Media Center (the nation's only nonprofit ad agency, serving environmental, Indian, civil rights, women's, & peace orgs), and
Rainforest Action Network (direct action, lobbying, education, and organizing to protect the world's rainforests and the rights of their indigenous forest dwellers. Major emphasis against World Bank, IMF, GATT) all three located in SF, CA;
the Rocky Mountain Institute (the country's outstanding think tank and educational org fostering new thinking about energy use and global security) in Old Snowmass, CO;
the Seventh Generation Fund (Native-run foundation providing technical assistance and grants to native communities working toward self-sufficiency and sovereignty -- also involved in many native rights campaigns) in Hoopa, CA;
the Unrepresented Nations and People's Organization (a kind of alternative UN for thousands of nations and peoples presently under colonial control; attempting to create a unified international lobbying force) in SF, CA; and
the International Institute of Concern for Public Health (research, publications, information on the effects of low-level radiation from nuclear power/weapons/waste and support of the struggles of the victims world-wide of the contamination of and damage to the earth's biosphere and the human gene pool) in Toronto, Ontario;
the WorldWatch Institute (research and publications that report on the state of the world's resource supplies and distribution and the ecological consequences of government and corporate policies and practices) in Wash, DC,
(to name but a few) to feel the breeze of a different point of view, frame of reference and perspective, than the one we are all constantly ever more being bombarded by like a commercial scud attack, for more and more and more of anything we could possibly imagine wanting to possess and have, but which we don't really need.
Know that the people who are the richest
are not those who have the most,
but those who need the least.
THE CONCORD PRINCIPLES
AN AGENDA FOR A NEW INITIATORY DEMOCRACY
Whereas, a selfish oligarchy has produced economic decline, the debasement of politics, and the exclusion of citizens from the strengthening of their democracy and political economy;
Whereas, this rule of the self-serving few over the Nations business and politics has concentrated power, money, greed, and corruption far beyond the control or accountability of citizens;
Whereas, the political system, regardless of Party, has degenerated into a government of the power brokers, by the power brokers, and for the power brokers that is an arrogant and distant caricature of Jeffersonian democracy;
Whereas, Presidential campaigns have become narrow, shallow, redundant, and frantic parades and horseraces which candidates, their monetary backers, and their handlers control unilaterally, with the citizenry expected to be the bystanders and compliant voters;
Whereas, a pervading sense of powerlessness, denial, and revulsion is sweeping the Nations citizens as they endure or suffer from growing inequities, injustice, and loss of control over their future and the future of their children; and
Whereas, we, the citizens of the United States, who are dedicated to the reassertion of fundamental democratic principles and their application to the practical, daily events in our Nation, are committed to begin the work of shaping the substance of Presidential campaigns and of engaging the candidates attention to our citizens agendas during this 1992 election year;
Now, therefore, we hereby present the ensuing "Concord Principles" to the Presidential candidates for the 1992 election and invite their written, consistent, and continual adherence to these principles during their entire campaign and in whatever public offices and responsibilities they hold or may hold upon cessation of their campaigns;
First, democracy is more than a bundle of rights on paper; democracy must also embrace usable facilities that empower all citizens
to obtain timely, accurate information from their government;
to communicate such information and their judgements to one another through modern technology; and
to band together in civic associations as voters, taxpayers, consumers, workers, shareholders, students, and as whole human beings in pursuit of a prosperous, just and free society.
Second, the separation of ownership of major societal assets from their control permits the concentration of power over such assets in the hands of the few who control rather than in the hands of the many who own. The owners of the public lands, pension funds, savings accounts, and the public airwaves are the American people, who have essentially little or no control over their pooled assets or their commonwealth.
The American people should assume reasonable control over the assets they have legally owned for many years so that their use reflects citizen priorities for a prosperous America, mindful of the needs and rights of present and future generations of Americans to pursue happiness within benign environments.
Third, a growing and grave imbalance between the often converging power of Big Business, Big Government and the citizens of this country has seriously damaged our democracy and weakened our ability to correct this imbalance. We lack the mechanisms of civic power. We need a modern tool box for redeeming our democracy by strengthening our capacity for self-government and self-reliance both as individuals and as a community of citizens. Our 18th century democratic rights need retooling for the proper exercise of our responsibilities as citizens of the 21st century.
Fourth, the new democracy tool box contains measures for the purpose of protecting voters from having their voting powers diluted, over-run or nullified. These measures are:
a binding none-of-the-above option on the ballot;
term limitations, 12 years and out;
public financing of campaigns through well-promoted voluntary taxpayers checkoffs on tax returns;
easier voter registration and ballot access rules;
state-level binding initiative, referendum, and recall authority, a non-binding national referendum procedure; and
a repeal of the runaway White House/Congressional Pay Raises back to 1988 levels -- a necessary dose of humility to the politicians.
Fifth, the new democracy tool box strengthens taxpayers who wish to have a say in how their tax dollars are being used and how their taxpayer assets are being protected. These objectives will be advanced by according taxpayers full legal standing to challenge in the courts the waste, fraud, and abuse of tax monies and taxpayer assets. Presently, the federal judiciary places nearly insurmountable obstacles in front of taxpayers, thereby leaving the task to the unlikely prospect of government officials taking their own government to court.
Further, a facility for taxpayers banding together can be established by a simple taxpayer checkoff on the 1040 tax return, inviting taxpayers to join their national taxpayers association which would be accountable to members on a one member-one vote standard.
Finally, obscure, overly complex, mystifying jargon pervading federal tax, pension, election and other laws and procedures is a barrier to taxpayer-citizen participation. The language of these laws and procedures must be simplified and clarified as a matter of national priority; otherwise, only special interests hiring decoders will be able to participate while the general public is shut out.
Sixth, the new democracy tool box strengthens consumers of both business and government services by according them:
computerized access in libraries and their own homes to the full range of government information for which they have already paid but are now unable to obtain, either inexpensively or at all;
facilities in the form of periodic inserts, included in the billing or other envelopes sent to them by companies that are either legal monopolies (for example, electric, gas, telephone utilities) or are subsidized or subsidizable by the taxpayers (for example, banks and savings and loans). These inserts invite consumers to join their own statewide consumer action group to act as a watchdog, to negotiate and to advocate for their interests.
A model of this facility is the Illinois Citizen Utility Board which has saved ratepayers over $3 billion since 1983, and filled the consumer chair before utility commissions, legislative hearings, and courtroom proceedings on many occasions.
This type of facility costs taxpayers nothing, costs the carrying companies or government mailings nothing (the consumer group pays for the insert and there is no extra postage) and is voluntary for consumers to join. Had there been such bank consumer associations with full-time staff in the 1970s, there would not have been a trillion dollar bailout on the taxpayers back for the S&L and commercial bank crimes, speculations, and mismanagement debacles. These would have been nipped in the bud at the community level by informed, organized consumer judgement. So too would have costly and hazardous energy projects been replaced by energy efficient and renewable power systems; and
Citizen consumers are the viewers and listeners of television and radio. Federal law says that the public owns the public airwaves which are now leased for free by the Federal Communications Commission to television and radio companies. The public, whose only option is to switch dials or turn off, deserves its own Audience Network.
The Audience Network would enhance the communication and mobilization process between people locally and nationally. The owners of the airwaves deserve a return of their property for one hour prime time and drive time on all licensed stations so that their professional studios, producers, and reporters can program what the audience believes is important to them and their children. The proposal for Audience Network, funded by dues from the audience-members and other non-tax revenues, was the subject of a Congressional hearing in 1991, chaired by Congressmen Edward Markey.
Similarly, in return for cable company monopoly and other powers, cable subscribers should be able to join their own cable viewers group through a periodic insert in their monthly cable billing envelopes. Modern electronic communications can play a critical role in anticipating and resolving costly national problems when their owners gain regular usage, as a community intelligence, to inform, alert, and mobilize democratic citizen initiatives. Presently, these electronic broadcasting systems are overwhelmingly used for entertainment, advertising and redundant news, certainly not a fair reflection of what a serious society needs to communicate in a complex age, locally, nationally, and globally.
Access to justice -- to the courts, to government agencies, and to legislatures -- is available to organized, special interests, and they widely use these remedies. In contrast, when consumers are defrauded, injured, rendered sick by wrongdoers or other perpetrators of their harm, they find costly dollar and legal hurdles blocking their right of access. They also find indentured politicians and their lobbying allies bent on closing the doors further. Systems of justice are to be used conveniently and efficiently by all the people in this country, not just corporations and the wealthy. Otherwise, the citizen shutout worsens.
Seventh, the new democracy tool box for working people contains rights of bringing ones conscience to work without having to risk being unfairly fired or demoted. Ethical whistle-blowers have alerted Americans to numerous abuses in the workplace that damage workers health and safety, contaminate the environment, and defraud consumers, taxpayers, and shareholders. However, they often pay the penalty with the loss of their jobs. The exercise of conscience needs simple, effective legal protections which will build inside the corporation, government, or other large bureaucracies the incentives for care, prudence, and accountability that foresee or forestall larger harms.
Eighth, working people, who own over $3 trillion in pension monies, need a reasonable measure of control over where these monies are invested. Presently, a handful of banks and insurance companies control and make these decisions. During the 1980s the use of pension monies for corporate mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts and other empire-building maneuvers showed what does happen when ownership is so separated from control. Control by the few often left economic wreckage behind in many communities, and such capital draining takeovers did not produce employment or new wealth.
Pension monies are gigantic capital pools that can be used productively to meet community needs, but not when their owners are excluded from any organized participation or even the right to know and review what has been decided.
Ninth, the new democracy tool box applies to recognizing shareholder democracy as well. Whether large, small or institutional shareholders (such as pension or other trust funds), the separation of ownership (of the company) from control has been documented impressively, starting with the celebrated study by Berle and Means fifty years ago. The business press is filled with reports of executives of large corporations repeatedly abusing shareholder assets and worker morale with huge salaries, bonuses, greenmail, and golden parachutes, (untied to company performance), self-perpetuating boards of directors, the stifling of the proxy voting system and blocking other shareholder voting reforms such as cumulative voting powers and access to relevant shareholder lists and information. The owners of corporations should be able to prevent their hired executives from engaging in what "Business Week" called casino capitalism that often ends with mass layoffs, loyal shareholders losses and communities undermined.
Tenth, the new democracy tool box needs to be taught in its historic context and present relevance as part of an engrossing civic curriculum for our countrys schoolchildren. Involving all students during their later elementary and secondary school education in practical civics experience so as to develop both their citizen skills and the desire to use them, under the rule of law, can enrich schools, students, and communities alike. Where teachers have made such efforts, the children have responded responsibly and excitedly to the frequent surprise and respect of their elders. Schooling for informed and experienced participation in democratic processes is a major reservoir of future democracy and a profound human resource to be nurtured.
In conclusion, these tools for democracy have fairly common characteristics. They are universally accessible, can reduce government and other deficits, and are voluntary to use or band together around. It matters not whether people are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. It matters only that Americans desire to secure and use these facilities or tools.
Without this reconstruction of our democracy through such facilities for informed civic participation, as noted above, even the most well-intentioned politicians campaigning for your vote cannot deliver, if elected. Nor can your worries about poverty, discrimination, joblessness, the troubled conditions of education, environment, street and suite crime, budget deficits, costly and inadequate health care, and energy boondoggles, to list a few, be addressed constructively and enduringly. Developing these democratic tools to strengthen citizens in their distinct roles as voters, taxpayers, consumers, workers, shareholders, and students should be very high on the list of any candidates commitments to you. Unless, that is, they just want your vote, but would rather not have you looking over their shoulder from a position of knowledge, strength and wisdom.
February 1, 1992
yer friendly neighborhood ratman
ko.yan.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi Language) n. 1. crazy life. 2. life