In history’s long train of national governments, when tyrants, kings, queens, emperors, empresses, and the like, held transformative power, life-and-death power, over the people of their nations, the appearance of Athenian democracy was a signal event—an event not average or ordinary, but remarkable, and notable. It still stands out as a rarity, not only for the great differences between it and all other forms of government, but also for the fact that we moderns have dismissed it as a myth, as not real, as something to be hated, even feared, while we simultaneously and proudly claim that we, too, are a democracy, but a different democracy, one that is better than that of ancient Athens. We disparage Athenian democracy as a system that condoned slavery, and treated women as second-class citizens. But as we besmirch the magnificence of the Athenian system, we create another myth. We ignore the fact that we treat seven hated groups as second-class citizens: the not-male, the not-Christian, the not-heterosexual, the not-white, the not-well-to-do, the not-native-born, the disabled—and we are headed toward debt-slavery (some might argue that we are already there).
Our hubris is so great that we believe we can ignore the laws that are laid out in the Book of Nature—the one true word of God. Many of us believe that we can ignore God’s laws—the laws of physics and chemistry—while others believe that God loves us so much that He will forgive our arrogance and miraculously cleanse the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, and return the oceans to the powerful, life-giving, and life-protecting forces they once were.
The Framers of our Constitution, particularly James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, may well be the fathers of our misunderstanding of Athenian democracy. In several of the Federalist essays they heaped untruths on the ancient system, as justification for rejecting democracy and embracing republicanism. Their criticisms were wrong, but they were not to blame. At the time our Constitution was written the histories of ancient Athens were wrong. It was not until 1846, long after all the Framers had passed away, that George Grote, a British banker, began to publish a series of volumes that set the record straight. Ever since, modern historians have added to his revelations and now there is a great store of data which shows that Athenian democracy was a great success, and that many of its features can easily be adapted to improve our republic, turn it into a real democracy, and solve many of the political problems that plague us today, which, if we choose to be rational and adapt the Athenian improvements, may come just in time to free us to battle the onrushing catastrophe of global warming.
In short, the path to save the world goes through ancient Athens.
It is ironic, and could be bitterly so, that even though the Framers hated and rejected democracy, they understood that the republic they chose as our form of government contains a fundamental flaw and they understood that they had no way to overcome it. The irony is compounded by the fact that the Athenians understood the flaw millennia ago and they had a solution. James Madison and George Washington understood the danger and they warned us about it—Madison in his Federalist 10, and Washington in his Farewell Address. The flaw is this:
It is a fact of human nature that some men naturally, unselfishly, work for the common good and other men naturally, selfishly, work against it. Any government that does not contain a way to prevent such selfish men from getting control will fail.
Our system lacks that essential safeguard. Our republican system was not new, its faults were well known, and we have suffered many instances in which our government has mistreated us, the people, particularly the seven hated groups. Our flawed system has allowed men who have financial interests in maintaining our dependence on fossil fuels to win government power and block all efforts to save us from ourselves.
These groups of men who work against the common good, were noticed and defined by James Madison:
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.[i]
Factions, by Madison’s definition, are always bad things. Factions are made up of human beings, and they always work against the common good. Because any social organization reflects the nature of the humans who control it, the men who form factions are therefore naturally inclined to work against the common good. There is a more benign definition of faction that is in common use today. Many people seem to think of faction as simply a quarrelsome subset of a political party, sometimes irritating, other times worrisome, but rarely dangerous. That form of faction is like a wart on the back of one’s hand. But Madison’s form of faction is a cancerous tumor growing in one’s body which, if left unchecked, will kill its host.
The Framers went to the trouble to describe the characteristics of these men who work against the common good. In Federalist 1, Hamilton said (emphasis added):
Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.[i]
In Federalist 10, Madison said (emphasis added):
Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.[ii]
Later, near the end of his second term as President, George Washington published his Farewell Address, and said this about men who form and control factions (emphasis added):
They [factions] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.[iii]
I made a list of the definitions of the words I emphasized in the preceding quotations and found that the Framers had identified the characteristics of very dangerous men: [iv]
- factious—“addicted to form parties or factions and raise dissensions”
- prejudice—“an unreasonable predilection, inclination, or objection”
- sinister—“evil or productive of evil”
- intrigue—“to cheat or trick”
- corruption—“impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle”
- betray—“to prove faithless or treacherous to”
- obsequious—“exhibiting a servile and sycophantic complaisance”
- demagogue—“a politician who seeks to gain personal or partisan advantage by specious or extravagant claims, promises or charges,”
- tyrant—“an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution”
- cunning—“marked by wiles, craftiness, artfulness, or trickery in attaining ends, ability to mislead or trap,”
- ambitious—“eager for rank, fame or power—pretentious, showy,”
- unprincipled—“a lack of moral principles—conscienceless,”
- subvert—“to bring to nothing, destroy, or greatly impair the existence, sovereignty, influence, wholeness of, especially by insidious undermining”
The Framers were describing men who were troublemakers, who were inclined to do evil, who were not trustworthy. They would lie to get what they wanted, and they were without personal integrity. They were cunning, they would lay traps for the unwary, and they had no conscience.
At the time our Constitution was written, factions were already forming and they were often called “political parties.” In fact, “faction” and “party” were synonymous. James Madison’s definition of faction would apply to the Democratic and Republican parties of today. They are filled with men (and some women) who naturally work against the common good.
James Madison compared democracies and republics. He said:
The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
Of these two points, the second is not a problem. Modern technology will enable us to have a worldwide democracy if we wish it. The first point of difference is key. It is the point that has enabled factions to get control of our government and use their power to mistreat the seven hated groups, and allowed the fossil fuel industries to control our legislatures and government regulators, and has allowed our economic system to work for the benefit of a few while forcing the majority of our population to “lead lives of quiet desperation.”
In his Farewell Address, George Washington deliberately addressed the deadly dangers of factions:
They [factions] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.[i]
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.[ii]
Washington perfectly describes the political parties of our era. Just watch CNN or MSNBC or FOX for an evening and you will see “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled” politicians galore, and Donald Trump has been elevated to the highest office in the land from which he is trying to ruin our system of government.
Republics rely on elections. Elections lead to political parties which screen and groom candidates to support the policies of the parties. The candidates become beholden to wealthy donors and the people are forgotten. Because the Athenians did not rely on elections, political parties of the kind we suffer from today did not exist.
Over the years people have explained to me that our republic is really a “representative democracy.” Recently one of them called me a “half-wit” when I disagreed. But none of these “experts” have ever mentioned that our republic is actually governed by parties and not by the people. Such a government is not a democracy. These “experts” entirely overlook the role of parties in our government. In Chapter 5 you will see more discussion of the Framer’s dislike of political parties.
We cannot eliminate factions; we shouldn’t even try. There will always be men who naturally, aggressively, selfishly work against the common good, and they will always lie, cheat, and steal if we give them the power to do it. But there will be many more men who naturally, timidly, unselfishly work for the common good. So, we will eliminate elections. We will use random selection instead. No one will run for office because no matter how famous or popular they may be, they have no more chance than a college freshman at Swarthmore may have, or a bus-driver in Seattle, or the fast food worker at Whataburger in Corpus Christi, or you, or me, or someone you love, or someone you hate. By using random selection we will have government officials will reflect the makeup of our entire population. Young and old, rich and poor, and all the rest will have a voice in our government that is consistent with their proportions in our overall population. They will truly represent America, as it is. Under such a system, our government will be no better than we are as a people, but it will in any case, be better than our government is today. Our government today is always worse than the people.
In Faction-Free Democracy, I explain how we will use natural selection to choose our representatives. I talk about the way we will delegate power. Our rule of thumb will be: “small, narrow, and brief.” I talk about other ways we will use natural selection to choose people for tasks that will make America better.
Just as our current system of government is flawed, so is our system of economics. Changing our government so that factions cannot control economic policies will be a huge step toward improving the economic lives of our citizens. But our current system operates on the false premise that our supply of money is limited. But that is a false premise. Our supply of money is unlimited. We will use it to improve the economic lives of all our citizens, and we will use it to enable each citizen, from birth, to build a long life worth living for themselves and their loved ones. We will use our unlimited supply of money to give each citizen equal access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections so that they can go as far as their talents and efforts can take them and will help them build a safe, comfortable retirement.
We will change the way we choose our representatives, and we will use a new model of representation.
We will greatly reduce income inequality and thereby reduce its negative effects.
We will change the way we tax. We will need a few sin taxes, and we will need a special form of taxation that will drain excess money from our system to guard against inflation. Beyond those taxes, we, the people, will essentially lead tax-free lives.
We will provide a free college education to any citizen who wants it.
We will eliminate credit card interest, mortgage interest, and interest on all other loans. Interest on loans is a sin, and we will sin no more.
We will provide all the funding needed for infrastructure maintenance and improvement.
We will provide all the funding needed to deal with the onrushing catastrophe of global warming.
We will fund a national health care system for all citizens. It will be like Medicare for all, except there will be no deductibles, copays, etc.
The minimum wage will be raised to a livable wage in all locations.
Every citizen will receive a Social Security Lifetime Stipend (SSLS) of $36,000 per year from birth to death, payable in monthly deposits in each citizen’s accounts at the Universal Bank of the United States (Uni).
Each month $1,000 will be deposited in each citizen’s UniCheck account which can be used for any legal purpose. The other $2,000 will be deposited in each citizen’s UniLife account. Funds in this account will be accumulated until the citizen graduates from high school and reaches the age of 18.
Each citizen will also have a UniSave account through which citizens can buy certificates of deposit which will pay a guaranteed interest rate.
The UniLife funds can be spent for any legal purpose that is good for the citizen and also good for the nation. This includes, but is not limited to, building or buying a home, starting a business, starting a family, getting married, going to college, and the like.
Starting in the seventh grade, and officially updated at least annually, each citizen will make a financial plan to show how she plans to spend her UniLife funds, and the actual expenditure of those funds must be consistent with the citizen’s financial plan, and must also contribute to building a comfortable, secure retirement.
When Faction-Free Democracy is first implemented, all loans will be transferred to interest-free loans at the Uni. College loan debts will either be forgiven or paid off. Past due house payments and housing rent payments will be moved to the end of the loan with no interest or penalty.
In general, the financial system of the Uni will be designed to keep people out of debt and current on all payments such as credit card, utility, and car payments. If a citizen is trying to stay current, the Uni will keep him from going under.
The Uni will make generous loans to businesses, new and old, that can show how the money will be used to provide a product or service that is good for the nation and will provide well-paid, long-lasting jobs. A portion of employee salaries can be credited as payments against the loans.
We the people intend to inhabit the United States for thousands, hopefully millions, of generations, and our new system of democrato-capitalism is the economic system that will make it possible for us to survive and thrive. Our current system of tyranno-capitalism is a wasteful, selfish system that ravages our people and our national resources for the short-term benefit of a few. Democrato-capitalism will conserve our resources so that over the long-term they will be available as needed. Money is a natural, national resource and we will distribute it to the people just as we will distribute water. This means that we will give each individual a job and a basic amount of money to serve her basic needs. When problems arise, either human-made or natural, our economic system will be adjusted to protect the people and, to the extent possible, enable them to live useful, productive, normal lives. No more depressions, no more grand larceny perpetrated by tyranni in positions of economic power. Our economy will work for the common good and it will transform our lives.
All American citizens are, and of right ought to be, entitled to equal access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections, so that they can go as far as their talents and efforts can take them, and they can build long lives worth living for themselves and their loved ones. Our unlimited supply of money will make these things possible.
[i] George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
[ii] George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
[i] Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 1
[ii] James Madison, Federalist 10
[iii] George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
[iv] The following definitions are taken from Webster’s Third International Dictionary
[i] James Madison, Federalist 10