In order to understand America, we must first decode it.

Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of the transitive verb, “decode:”

  • To convert something into intelligible form.
  • To recognize and interpret something.
  • To decipher something.
  • To discover the underlying meaning of something.

Webster’s Third International New Dictionary has this additional definition:

To identify the constituent, significant elements of something.

The Free Dictionary gives us these synonyms:

To understand, explain, interpret, make sense of, construe, decipher, elucidate, throw light on, or explicate.

Based on these definitions I can fairly describe myself as a professional “decoder.” I was one of a generation of computer systems professionals who, from the mid-1950’s until the mid-1990’s, computerized America and the world.  We studied existing computer software and hardware systems in various kinds of enterprises, and replaced some of them entirely or updated them extensively to take advantage of new hardware and software systems. We were constantly serving our customers or our employers by enabling them to add new products or services to their enterprise’s offerings. Some of the systems we built are still in use. For example, I was a member of a small team that developed one of the first, perhaps the very first, Medicare claims payments systems. It quickly became the most widely used such system. Updated versions of some of the systems I helped develop are still in use and directly affect the daily lives of millions of Americans.

The tools that my generation of systems professionals used to evaluate existing systems are still valid and can work with any system, especially those that serve large populations, such as our national and state governments. I have used those tools for the past several decades to study our existing systems of government and economics and this essay reports the results of my analysis. In more modern parlance, I have spent quite a lot of time “decoding” America, and here is what I found.

Decoding America is not the same as decoding all the other systems I encountered in my working life. The managers of the enterprises whose systems our team was decoding invited us in. They had clear ideas of what was wrong and needed to be changed, and they had very specific ideas of how those changes should function and what they should accomplish. Then, after our decoding was accomplished and our proposals for change had been accepted, the managers of the enterprise had the power to make the members of the enterprise cooperate with the change process.

Decoding America is completely different. No one has invited me to decode our systems, and no one has the authority to accept, or reject, my findings—and no one has the authority to command cooperation should my findings lead to acceptance by some Americans who then seek implementation. Taken together, these severe, systemic disadvantages constitute a fundamental weakness of our current systems of government and economics. In America, no one is in charge, cooperation almost seems to be un-American, and our current system offers no solution to this ultimately fatal problem. Our inability to deal with the onrushing catastrophe of global warming is due to the inability of the American people to willingly, fairly, work for the common good. We, the American people, are our own worst enemy.

It is true that when America undergoes attack we will rally behind our military leaders and cooperate with them. But beyond such dramatic events, we do not cooperate with one another. So, with this obvious systemic weakness in mind, I will proceed. I will take you through a step-by-step process that shows how decoding works. One of the most important elements of successful decoding is to put aside your preconceptions, and, in some cases, your prejudices. We must be objective, otherwise we will only be reinforcing our own biases. By putting aside your preconceptions and prejudices, you should then be willing to take people at their word—not forever, but long enough to give their words a fair, honest, hearing—try to imagine that they may be right—and you may be wrong. We Americans are not willing to do this. We, each of us, are certain that we know more than anybody else, and in our discussions of major issues we get sidetracked by heated arguments over petty, unprovable hypotheses. In fact, in what passes for our national conversations about matters of life and death, we reveal a chilling childishness, a total disregard for solving the great problems we have created for ourselves.

Decoding Benjamin Franklin’s Famous Remark

Here is an example of how decoding works. We will decode the meaning of a famous statement made by Benjamin Franklin. His statement has been interpreted to mean two different things. Only one is correct. Remember to set aside your preconceptions. You probably think you already know what he meant, but maybe you really don’t. Be careful. Be objective. Here, within context, is Franklin’s statement:

At the end of the constitutional convention, the delegates were leaving the hall and saying their goodbyes. Some citizens of Philadelphia, eager to learn what had been decided, stopped by. One woman greeted Benjamin Franklin and asked something like this: “Well, Dr. Franklin, what kind of government do we have: a monarchy, or a republic?” The great man famously replied, “You have a republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

What did Franklin mean by his statement? Did he mean it literally? Did he really mean that America’s new government was a republic? Shouldn’t he have said that our system of government was a “democracy?”

Some of us refuse to take Franklin at his word. They go to great lengths to find a way to change “republic,” into “democracy.”  They do this, I suppose, because they have a strongly-held preconception that America is a “democracy,” and they believe so strongly in this idea that they are unwilling to believe that Franklin might have been telling us the truth. This is very bad practice and I have tried to avoid it. By accepting the Founders at their word we are forced to try to understand why they said what they said, and further, to understand what consequences may have resulted over the past two centuries and counting. This approach, for me, led to some interesting and useful results.

For example, can we find evidence that contradicts Franklin’s purported words? Is there any evidence that Benjamin Franklin, one of the wisest men who ever lived, and, along with George Washington, one of the two smartest men in America, and perhaps the world, did not mean exactly what he said? I have not been able to find any such contradictory evidence.

Is there evidence that supports Benjamin Franklin’s purported words? Did Franklin’s contemporaries agree with him? There is plenty of evidence that agrees with Franklin, and none that contradicts him.

Franklin was regarded as the greatest scientist of his day. That is quite a distinction, and should be taken seriously. It is possible that he may have been misquoted, but I can find no evidence that he was, and further, his statement, as quoted, actually agrees with the written words of James Madison in Federalist 10 which was published not long after Franklin spoke. So, we have Franklin and Madison both saying that our government is a republic. Furthermore, the Constitution itself gives us evidence that our system of government is a republic. In Article 4, Section 4, the Constitution says this:

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.

It makes no sense to say that the Framers made the national government a democracy while forcing the states to accept a republic for their government.

Madison also provides in other ways clear evidence that our government is a republic. For example, in Federalist 10, he defines the differences between a democracy and a republic. Here is what he said;

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

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.

In these two paragraphs Madison is specifying the essential differences between a democracy and a republic. A republic, he says, relies on the “scheme of representation.” Our current system does use the “scheme of representation.” He does not say that a democracy also uses the “scheme of representation.” Thus there is a fundamental difference between a democracy and a republic. A republic uses elections, a democracy does not.

Madison says that the other very important difference between a democracy and a republic is that a republic delegates the government to a small number of citizens elected by the rest. Republics use elections to choose their representatives, but democracies don’t. Our system uses elections to delegate the power of the people to a small group of citizens, mostly men, who then rule over the people until the next election. Therefore, our system of government, according to James Madison and others, is a republic and is not a democracy. In a democracy, the people rule directly.

So, we have strong evidence that Benjamin Franklin truly meant to say: “Madam, you have a republic, if you can keep it.” Madison agrees with Franklin, and there is no evidence that Franklin did not intend to say exactly what he said. At that point in our history, America, in the eyes of the people who designed it, was a republic not a democracy.

Is there anything else that can be decoded from Franklin’s remark? Yes, there is. We have learned that many Americans hold the belief that our system of government is a democracy. They are wrong. Dead wrong. Does this error matter? Possibly. If the people who believe America is a democracy find that America does not act like a democracy, they will be disappointed in their form of government. Is there any evidence today of such disappointment? Yes, there is. If you will ask the Internet this question: “Are millennials unhappy with our government?” you will find many polls that show the answer is “Yes!”

There is more information we can decode from Franklin’s statement. The second part of his remark, “if you can keep it,” indicates that there is some difficulty in keeping a republic. Could it be that a republic contains a flaw or has a tendency to collapse or otherwise fail? Yes, there is evidence of this problem.

At the end of the constitutional convention, as the proposed new constitution was being sent to the states for their consideration, George Washington, President of the convention, wrote a letter to his nephew Bushrod Washington. Here is the pertinent part of what he said (emphasis added):

The warmest friends to, and the best supporters of, the Constitution, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but these were not to be avoided, and they are convinced if evils are likely to flow from them, that the remedy must come thereafter; because, in the present moment it is not to be obtained. And as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the aid of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which shall be found necessary, as ourselves; for I do not conceive that we are more inspired—have more wisdom—or possess more virtue than those who will come after us. The power under the Constitution will always be with the People. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their Interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their Servants can, and undoubtedly will be, recalled.

George Washington, who had more to do with creating America than any other human being, is saying that the untried system of government is fatally flawed—and he does not know how to fix it. He says that the survival of our nation depends on the wisdom and virtue of future generations to devise ways to fix this problem. What, precisely, is the imperfection? It is Madison’s “scheme of representation.” To be precise, the flaw is the use of elections to choose our representatives.

He and other Framers realized that elections lead to the formation of political parties and parties too often become factions, who, should they win political power, will use it to work against the common good. In Federalist 10, Madison defined factions thusly:

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.

From the beginning our political system at all levels has been plagued by factions. Right now the Republican Party can be fairly regarded as a faction. The Democratic Party of my youth was clearly a faction. Since the beginning, at least one of the dominant political parties in our system has been a faction.

This means that in our system there has always been a group of men with enough political power to at least block policies they do not like. This means that we cannot get important things done. We cannot take the measures that we need to deal with global warming because one political party, a faction, can block it. In fact, right now, the Republican Party has the power to worsen global warming, to hasten the destruction of our civilization and ultimately our species. This constant battle between good and evil is part of human nature and our system of government is not able to make good triumph over evil. The Framers tried to devise a system that would prevent, or at least control, factions, but they failed. They produced a flawed system of government—and that flaw is our “scheme of representation.”

Next up:  “Decoding America: the Declaration of Independence.”

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How the book, Faction-Free Democracy, and the ideas it contains, came to be.

The Founding Fathers started three things: two were intentional and the third was unintentional. They wanted to separate from Great Britain, so they started the Revolutionary War. They were successful and the United States of America became an independent nation. They wanted to create a new system of government for our nation, and they succeeded by designing and implementing our constitutional system.

The third thing they started was the idea that America is a democracy. It started when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the seven self-evident truths:

  1. All men are created equal;
  2. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;
  3. Some, but not all, of these rights are: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
  4. Governments are instituted among men to secure these rights;
  5. The powers of the government can come only from the consent of the governed;
  6. If any government fails in its duty to secure these rights the people can alter or abolish it, and create a new government;
  7. The people can structure the new government any way that they please.

By declaring these truths, the Founding Fathers firmly planted the idea of American Democracy in the brain of every free American. So, by the time the new Constitution was written, the people were convinced that “republic” and “democracy” were synonymous. But, not long after America’s new constitutional system was implemented, the French Revolution took place and the victorious rebels formed the French Republic, which soon became a field of bloody horrors and no doubt made the idea of an “American Republic” a thing to be avoided wherever possible, and never to be mentioned in polite company. We do hear it from time to time today, but on television we hear “American Democracy,” as well as “our Democracy,” constantly. The idea of “American Democracy” is firmly fixed in the brain of every living American, well, except for one or two. Abraham Lincoln reinforced that belief when he said, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” If that is not the clearest declaration of American Democracy I do not know what its better might be. I do not know if Lincoln even thought about the difference between a republic and a democracy.

The people of America believe so strongly that America is a democracy that when I say it is not I am made to pay for my indiscretion. Just the other day I was called a “half-wit” for saying that America is a republic. I have been called much worse by some very angry people. For reasons I will explain below, this mistaken belief blinds us to ways to solve many of the problems that plague us. The problems that hurt America today spring from the inherent flaws of republics—flaws that are not present in democracies. To begin at the beginning:

As a boy, I was able to listen regularly to veterans returning from World War II. These men were not yet teenagers when the Great Depression began. They lived through it and then fought in World War II. They all felt they had lost valuable time that they could have used to get an education and otherwise begin to build good lives for themselves and their loved ones. They felt that the government should help them make up for lost time and they had specific programs in mind. I watched as the government failed to provide the rights, resources, opportunities, and protections that these heroes needed to catch up. Over time, I saw these men fall far short of what they felt they should have accomplished and as a result they led what they thought were economically stunted lives. I often heard these men discuss various government programs that fell short of what they needed, and other government programs that rewarded some groups that did not actually fight in the war. I also often heard them discuss their ideas for new government programs that would work for the common good.

From these experiences, I developed a deep interest in how our systems of government and economics worked and how they failed to provide what was needed to give most Americans a fair and honest chance to build long lives worth living for themselves and their loved ones. In high school I vowed to study our systems until I reached age 65 in 2004, and if at that time I felt I had learned something worthwhile, I would write a book about it.

For the first nine years of my study I followed no formal process, but rather just continued to analyze the actions of our governments in the same way that the World War II veterans, my heroes, had done. But in 1965 I began work as a rookie designer and developer of large-scale computer hardware and software systems for large enterprises. I began to understand how to analyze systems and it was easy to do. We, the people, do it all the time.

The first thing one must do when evaluating an existing system is to determine how well it meets its design goals. In the case of governments one must determine how well the systems of the government treat the citizens. It was not difficult to see that our system of government not only mistreated the returning veterans, but all citizens. It was easy to see that our method of delegating and exercising government power was designed to ignore the people. Governments have a need for two kinds of power: transformative and administrative. Transformative power, in the hands of government officials, can transform or take the lives of the people without their input or consent. Administrative power cannot. It was immediately clear that transformative power should never be delegated to a single person, or even a small group of officials, it should be kept in the hands of the people. So, my first design goal for our new system was self-evident. We must change the way we manage government power—how we delegate it, how we apply it, how we scrutinize it, how we keep it under the control of the people.

I was beginning to change my opinion of our system of government, but at that time I still proudly believed that our government was a democracy. In college, just a few years before these events, I had taken an elective course on the Constitution. In that course the professor gave us a list of recommended outside readings. One of them was Federalist 10 by James Madison. In it, Madison clearly said that our form of government is a republic, not a democracy, and I was confused. I truly believed that I had misunderstood what Madison was saying. I read the short essay several times and could not make sense of what I knew to be true: America is a democracy, and what Madison said: America is a republic. I was not alone. Several of us asked the professor how we could reconcile the conflict. He wisely said, and I believe he was sincere, that in the late 18th century it would have been impossible to implement a true democracy in America so Madison chose the next best thing. He chose a republic with its “scheme of representation,” and thereby created a “representative democracy.” Problem solved; conflict resolved, the Universe returned to normal—for a while.

I continued to study our systems and I became interested in our Supreme Court. The members of the court are given transformative power, the power of life and death, they hold it for life, their decisions cannot be appealed, they are appointed, not elected, and they answer to no one, especially not the people. I began to see how badly this system was designed. I began to think that the power of life and death should be delegated to many people and their decisions should be subject to review by the people at large. This gross misuse of the power of the people made me suspicious of the way we choose our representatives. I had noticed over time that our Congress constantly did things that did not meet with the approval of the people. Scientific opinion polls often showed that the people had a very low regard for the actions of Congress. Finally, in 2004, I decided that I would devote full time to my study of our systems and attempt to design new systems, which I would then describe in a book.

My first topic of study for the new systems was how our systems manage power. I realized that our system of economics, our capitalist system, wielded transformative power. It had the ability, through the way it distributed money throughout our population, to transform the lives of people without their input or consent. It seemed obvious to me that our system allowed the men of Congress to conspire with the men of commerce and finance to enact policies that transformed the lives of American citizens without their input or consent, and it seemed that those transformations were almost always against the common good. Our systems took actions that worked against the interests of ordinary citizens and those actions were impossible to reverse. It became clear that the people had a voice in government only on Election Day. On that day they transferred their power to the people they elected and thereafter they had no ability at all to affect government policies. The management of power, the power of the people, was in the hands of officials who could do what they pleased with that power. This struck me as plainly wrong and would have to be corrected in our new systems. Not just government power, but economic power as well.

These realizations caused me to think again about Madison’s “scheme of representation.” I had naively thought that our representatives would make an effort to stay in contact with our wishes and would try to follow them. But I began to truly suspect that I was wrong. I began to truly believe that most of our representatives, if not all, did not care one whit about the wishes of their constituents. I wanted to learn more about the theory of representation and I found a book by Jack N. Rakove called, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. The book had won the Pulitzer Prize which seemed to be a good indication of its quality. I was especially interested in “Chapter VIII The Mirror of Representation.” That chapter alone was worth the price of the book. It seems that at the time of the creation and ratification of the Constitution, there was a vigorous debate on whether the members of Congress should so closely mirror their constituents that they would have the same desires and diseases as the people back home. Others said, that once elected, the representative was free to substitute his own judgment for the judgment of his constituents. It was then I realized that America is truly a republic, not a democracy. My view of a democracy is that its public policies would reflect the wishes of the citizens—at least the majority of all the citizens. Our history, a quick review showed, is filled with situations in which Congress enacted measures that were contrary to the wishes of the people. Madison’s “scheme of representation” is decidedly anti-democracy. There is no way around that fact, and it is a fact. Our system is true to Madison’s definition of a republic as spelled out in Federalist 10. Madison said this (emphasis added):

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.

The meaning of Madison’s words that I emphasized above, was so clear that I could not believe I had failed to understand their significance when I first read them years before in college. Furthermore I realized that my professor’s explanation of Madison’s words meant that he had failed to understand them as well. The words that reveal the true importance of Madison’s “scheme of representation” are “the delegation of the government.” He could have meant only one thing by those words. He meant that the people, by voting every two years, handed the entire government to those whom they elected, and they had no power to prevent or change any legislation their representatives might wish to pass.

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Faction-Free Democracy

 For me, the writing of this book has been a long struggle of escape from habitual modes of thought and expression—and so it must be for the reader. The new ideas expressed here are extremely simple and should be obvious. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which are now intertwined in every corner of our minds, and do not wish to be disturbed.



Why I Wrote This Book

At the end of World War II my father and other young men came home, and our quiet world of waiting, worrying women and children became one of joy, excitement, vigor, and optimism. For a time many of these veterans would gather at our house to talk about what they had seen and done. But mostly they talked about the future. They were all children of the Great Depression, so they talked about how America would fare economically. They talked about what it would take to keep us safe. They talked about political phi­losophy, jobs, sports, religion, education, world affairs—they were, for me at least, a wonderful window on the world. I was permitted to sit with them and I could even ask questions which they would patiently answer. But eventually most of these men moved away from our small town to jobs or colleges in Fort Worth or Waco, both cities about seventy miles away. My father, three uncles, the husband of my mother’s cousin (whom I called, “Uncle John”), and a few family friends remained. For more than a decade they would meet often and spend an hour or two conducting a seminar that my mother called, “Solving the World’s Prob­lems.” It was fascinating for me.

I admired all those veterans very much then, and I still do. They were confident in themselves and sat­isfied with the many mighty things that they and millions more had accomplished in World War II. They thought that they and America would build a better world. Who is to say they were wrong? But they could not live forever and, ultimately, they had to pass America to their children.

From these experiences I developed a deep interest in how our institutions worked. In high school I determined to study them to see if I could devise ways to make them better. I realized that I would have to study them throughout my life be­cause my point of view would change as my age and circum­stances changed. I further vowed that upon reaching retirement age if I had learned anything useful I would write about it.

Let me be explicit. “Better” meant “better for ordinary people, first, last and always.” Those veterans—those young, wise, and caring men—taught me that the purpose of government was to serve all of the people. They were very clear that government, above all else, must help those who need help, protect those who need protection, and recognize and cherish those who have served and sacrificed. The systems I propose in this book are intended to serve those goals.

I am now thirteen years beyond retirement age and I was right to wait. In 1965 I saw the movie The Cin­cinnati Kid. I identified with Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a brash, young gambler. I wanted McQueen’s character to win the big game against the old gambler played by Edward G. Robin­son. Thirty years later I saw the movie again. Then I thought McQueen’s character was a fool, and I wanted Robinson to win all his money. Many things changed over time.

I became a teacher of math and German in a large Texas high school and later entered the world of computers just when they were starting to be widely used by American businesses. From 1965 to 1995 I worked as a designer and developer of large-scale computer systems. Updated versions of some of the systems I helped develop are still in use, and they directly affect the daily lives of millions of Americans.

The years of my working life were exciting in that our nation was undergoing tremendous change, and I, in a small way, helped structure that change. In my segment of that world, com­puters were being applied for the first time to all aspects of a business: accounting, marketing, personnel, analysis, customer service, billing, product support, and much more. We called this process “developing application systems.” We followed a simple procedure in each new situation. First we had a data-collection step, followed by analysis and de­sign, implementation, and operation. My work permitted me to continue with my hobby of imagining ideas for improving our institutions. In some cases my ideas were actually implemented, and I got to see how they worked.

Upon reaching my 65th birthday, I decided that I had learned some worthwhile things, and I offer them here. I am not a scholar. I am simply a former schoolteacher who became a com­puter programmer—I am an ordinary man, or as my father would say: “a common man.” I was raised a Southern Baptist, gradu­ated from Baylor University, then the largest Baptist school in the world, and have lived all but four years of my life in Texas where (as the old joke goes) there are more Baptists than people. At Baylor, some of my minister-in-training friends informed me that because of a technicality I was not a Christian—I had failed to be baptized. So, I became a golden-rule concretist, one who believes in making the Golden Rule of Reciprocity a concrete thing—a working system of government that implements the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal.” I lived one year in each of the following places: New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Mechan­icsburg (Pennsylvania), and Greenwich (Connecticut). They were all nice places with nice people.

I admired my father and mother very much. They were smart, logical, and deeply analytical. My father went only to the eighth grade, but he knew so much about so much. I am still amazed by it. My mother finished high school; in fact, she and I graduated from the same high school 21 years apart. She told me how she had read all the books in the small school library when she was a student, and she chal­lenged me to do the same. In my senior year I was looking through the shelves to find a book I had not read and came upon a small volume of poetry. I took it to the checkout desk and there discov­ered that the last person to take out that book was my mother twenty-one years before. She and I shared a big laugh about that. She had an intuitive grasp of mathematics. When I was in college I would talk to her about the math courses I was taking. She would understand things immediately, and she often helped me to understand them as well. One of the most interesting mathematical dis­cussions I ever had with her was when she started talking about mapping the rich inner lives we all have onto the poor actions we are allowed by na­ture and society. I talked with my father about everything else—but mostly I listened to them both.

So what I have to say is drawn from ordinary experiences in ordinary jobs while I was living an ordinary life, but with extraordinary parents.[4] In the writing of this book, I have used the same approach that I used to design computer applications. I frankly hope that my ideas make it to the light of day, and I expect that they will provoke anger and re­sistance. Throughout my career of introducing change, I saw that such reactions were the leading indica­tors that we were on to something good.

I have presented my ideas informally to many persons and a good many of the reactions I have received would cause a practical man to abandon them. But I have had some encouragement from friends and family. One friend has been steadfast in her belief that things can, and must, be improved. Her insights into our society in general and into the baseless hypotheses put forward by industrial agriculture, corporate medicine, and the criminal justice system in particular, have kept me on the right path. Two lifelong friends and classmates read an early version, and while they did not agree with some of the things I wrote, they nevertheless gave me valuable suggestions and encouraged me to continue. For example, one of them taught me that there are many good lobbyists—the problem is that our system rewards the bad ones. Last, but not least, another friend has taught me two things. First, love is the answer to most human problems, and second, life is simple, but people make it complicated.

My brother read the book as it was being developed and he corrected my many mistakes, sharpened my poorly expressed ideas, offered his own ideas, and reinforced my love and admiration for our parents. In fact, he pointedly reminded me that the heart of this book is based on the ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and actions of our parents. He is right. No matter what differences nature and nurture may have produced between us two brothers, we are definitely our parents’ children. We two apples fell in the comforting shade of the tree, and we are glad of it.

So I, a weary old man, wrote this book to make good on the vows made by that earnest young boy in the spring of 1956—and I aimed this book at the earnest young people of today. But I also wrote it to honor my ancestors, and all the other Americans like them, who, through the way they lived their lives—their hard work, their independence, their self-reliance, their clear-eyed view of the world, their high intelligence, their strong voices and their fearlessness in using them, their sense of right and charity, their drive to leave the world a better place than they found it, their fairness, their love of family and country, their belief in education, their conscious practice of the Golden Rule of Reciprocity, their willingness to sacrifice, to do their part, to expect no more, and no less, than what they deserved, and all the rest they did—defined for me the “American Way.”

Many persons and organizations lay claim to the term “American Way.” I include in it all the things that my parents’ generation fought for in World War II, and the things that those of us who stood and waited for our loved ones’ safe return dreamed about while the battle raged. All the ideals from those long ago days, whether fully realized or not, are the ideals that I hold, and against which I measure our systems and institutions. Those ideals, for me, are the true American Way, chiefly because they include all Americans. We are all in this thing together, and I wouldn’t have it any other Way. I devote this book to an effort to reestablish the American Way, because I fear it is racing away. I think it is essential that we Americans agree on what the American Way means to each and all. It is essential that we agree on what each of us must do in order to do his duty. For too long we have gone our separate ways as we tried to find our way. The new way will focus on common destinations and common ways to travel to them. It is essential that we assume responsibility for our national government and all of our other major institutions, and once we agree on what they should do to build a better world, we must bend them to our will.

The essential ingredient of the original American Way, the ingredient that built, defended, and when necessary, rebuilt America is the people. In this book I offer a system that will enable us to sharpen the definition of the American Way, and will enable us to make it a reality. I call this new system, “Faction-Free Democracy.” In the new system, the people will express their will in clear language and then they will use their absolute power to carry it out—there will be no middlemen. Faction-Free Democracy is truly government of the people, by the people, and for the people—and through Faction-Free Democracy we can establish an America where all persons can live long lives, and their lives will be worth living.

My father, who had the outlook of a philosopher, used to say that there are three eternal questions which engage humankind: “Where did I come from? Where am I going? What should I do while I am here?” My mother, who had the outlook of an engineer, would counter with her four eternal questions: “Where do we stand? How did we get here? Where do we want to go? How do we get there from here?”

I would often talk with my father about the myriad answers to his questions, and it was lots of fun. But he would usually close the discussion with a reminder that I should answer his third eternal question, “What should I do while I am here?” by trying to answer Mother’s four eternal questions. That is exactly what I have done for the past six decades, and this book is a summary of my answers to her questions.

Finally, when I was approaching adolescence I became a little too smart for my own good. I was cracking wise one day and my mother patiently said something like this, “Jerry, I had a dream about you last night. I saw you standing in a dark place with a bright light shining on you. Behind the light I could see many pairs of eyes watch­ing you. I could not decide if you were addressing a large group of people who had come to hear what you had to say, or if you were leading a prison break and the guards had caught you in their searchlight. Things can turn out either way, and it is all up to you.” And my father often said, “All of us are born ignorant, but not all of us overcome it.”

To my father I say, “Poppa, I have tried my very best to overcome my ignorance.” And to my mother I say, “So far so good, Momma, so far so good.”


We Earthlings, We Astronauts

In May of 1956, when I first started thinking about this book, I had no inkling of the dangers that fossil fuels posed for our planet and our species. In October of 1957, I was in college when Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was launched by the Russians. I watched it fly overhead from the balcony of my dormitory. I was excited as were billions of other earthlings. We all wondered what it meant, we wondered what would happen next, and we wondered what changes it would bring to the world. Then, in May of 1961, the worldwide excitement was increased when newly-inaugurated President John F. Kennedy declared that America would send men safely to the moon and back—and it would be done before the end of the decade.

When the moon missions were laid out the risks to the astronauts were easy to see—they were many and continuous. I thought that the greatest dangers they would face would come at lift off. If they could survive the initial rocket ride, and if their on-board life support, propulsion, and guidance systems and their lunar landing module functioned properly, and if their heat shield protected them from the high temperatures generated by their re-entry into our atmosphere, and if their capsule did not sink, they would be safe. They, like all earthlings, would then be protected by the natural life support systems of our planet. I never thought for a second that our nation and the entire world would be facing the same kinds of dangers as our astronauts. At that time, I thought that our planet would always be a safe haven for astronauts. If they could make it back to the home planet all would be well. But I was wrong.

We are all earthlings, we are all astronauts, and we are all in danger.

Apollo 1 was meant to be the first in a series of manned spaceflights that would ultimately lead to a moon landing. It was designed to test the Command/Service Module and it was scheduled to launch on February 21, 1967. But it never made the launch because of a deadly cabin fire during a rehearsal conducted by the flight controllers and the three-man crew of Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee. The fire was sudden and moved rapidly—all three men were lost in less than thirty seconds. Even though outside technicians raced to open the hatch, they were too late—they had run out of time. A subsequent investigation was unable to determine the cause of the original spark or the material that was the first to ignite. Engineers designed and installed a new hatch door that was easier to open and they added nitrogen to the atmosphere, which made it much less likely that combustible material would ignite.

The missions continued and on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made the first successful lunar landing. The crew members all returned safely. They were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970—the crew members were James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. About two days into the mission an oxygen tank ruptured on the Command Module and caused substantial damage. The lives of the crew were in jeopardy. Heroic efforts by ground support teams succeeded in bringing all three men safely home. But it was a very close call.

Gene Kranz worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1960 to 1994. He served as Deputy Flight Director on Apollo 1 and Lead Flight Director on Apollo 13. In his autobiography, Failure is not an Option, Kranz discussed an important difference between these two events. In the case of Apollo 1, he stressed that rescuers did not have enough time to react to the danger. However, in the case of Apollo 13, there was a window of time that offered some slight chance that the astronauts could be saved. There was no guarantee, but there was a chance.

He then described the process followed by NASA personnel and contractors as they identified the critical-path problems and devised procedures and “workarounds” to solve them. These ground-based engineers and technicians drew on a wide range of skills to formulate ideas and turn them into action plans which were then “voiced” to the astronauts to be carried out at the proper time and in the proper sequence. The more one digs into the work performed by these men and women, the more one can see the hallmarks of evolution by cogitation. The astronauts of Apollo 13 were saved by the sustained, cooperative, and rational acts of people who had developed over many years the skills and knowledge that they could translate into a human-made miracle.

As I started to write this Introduction, a movie called The Martian was playing across the nation. It is a fictional account of the adventures of a lone American astronaut who is marooned on Mars. His fellow astronauts, believing that he had been killed in a fierce sand storm, left Mars in their rocket-powered transport to return to Earth. I have seen the movie, and I have read the book, and they are exciting. The story is just one long example of evolution by cogitation. The marooned astronaut, his fellow astronauts on their way back to the home planet, and the people of NASA, engaged in sustained, cooperative, and rational acts which produced another human-made miracle.

All three of these dangerous situations, two real, one fictional, have much to teach us about our present predicament. For example, we humans are earthlings. We have evolved to live on Earth in an environment that supports our lives. We are exquisitely adapted to our planet’s atmosphere, temperature, water supply, food supply, shelter, and the like. None of these resources evolved to conform to our needs, but we evolved to fit into Earth’s geophysical and biological environment. Earth came first, and we evolved to fit in. Our environment, within a narrow range of variations, is essential for our survival—to change it is perilous.

Whenever we leave our planet, we must take air, water, food, temperature control, sanitation, power, and all the rest, with us. The Apollo Command Modules were little Earths that could sustain a few human beings for a very limited time. Any significant variation in the internal environment of those little Earths could be fatal. For example, we human beings exhale carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Each Apollo capsule had to have a system for removing this gas from the breathable atmosphere. Too much carbon dioxide would have been fatal. Everyone at NASA understood the dangers of too much carbon dioxide in the capsule’s atmosphere.

Fortunately for the Apollo 13 astronauts, they had a safe haven to return to. They knew that if they could manage to reach their home planet all would be well. We earthlings do not have a safe haven to return to.

It is obvious, but, in light of the crazy way we conduct our national affairs, I feel the need to say it—if we destroy the natural systems that support human life, there will be no human life. The best we can ever do is restore and protect the essential systems that Nature has given us.

 If we humans could simply change our biological needs to fit any environment, then our survival would be no problem. If we could eat dirt or stones or lava, if we could breathe any atmosphere, or no atmosphere, if we could tolerate any temperature, if we did not need water, then we would be free to burn every molecule of fossil fuel that we could get our hands on. But, unfortunately, we humans, we earthlings, cannot easily evolve to meet extreme climatic conditions. If our planet falls into an extreme ice age, or if extremely high temperatures destroy our food and water supplies, we will have to make extreme adjustments in order to survive—that is, if we can. Right now we are on a rapid course toward a world of extremely high temperatures—higher than our species has ever known. If we do not do something within the next few years our course will be irreversible.

We earthlings are also astronauts. Like a spaceship, our planet carries us through the universe, and at one time it automatically maintained the resources we need to live—but, thanks to our stupidity, it protects and serves us no more. We have overridden our natural life support systems—they no longer can keep us safe. As our life support systems continue to degrade, our chances of survival are diminished. If we continue to burn fossil fuels we will begin to suffer from carbon dioxide poisoning. As we breathe in an excess of carbon dioxide the following symptoms can be seen: deeper breathing, twitching muscles, increased blood pressure and pulse rate, headache, loss of judgment, labored breathing, unconsciousness, and death. Unconsciousness occurs when concentrations reach about 10%, and death occurs at concentrations of 20-30%. NASA was concerned that some of these negative effects would be felt by the Apollo 13 astronauts as the concentrations of carbon dioxide built up in their breathable atmosphere.

But other, much smaller, concentrations of carbon dioxide can produce worldwide catastrophe—and these concentrations of CO2 are the ones that threaten us earthlings, us astronauts. Right now, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is more than 400 parts per million. It doesn’t sound like much, but we are already seeing rising temperatures, extreme weather such as droughts and unusually heavy rainfalls, rising sea levels, melting of the polar ice deposits, acidification of the oceans, and more. As we disperse more and more CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, conditions will only get worse. Climate scientists from around the world have warned us for years that we are causing ever greater and long-lasting damage to our world. If you want to know more about these dangers, search the Internet for “global warming dangers.”

One difference between our present situation and the situations described above is that we do not seem to be concerned with the threat of global warming. The Apollo astronauts and their ground support teams were acutely aware of the dangers posed by fire, or by high concentrations of carbon dioxide—those men and women were quick to respond to the dangers, while we do nothing except make matters worse. If we dig up and burn all of the fossil fuels that we now believe are in the ground, we will destroy our way of life—in other words if we do not eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels by 2050 we will destroy our civilization. And between now and 2050 there are many intermediate deadlines, and we must meet, or beat, all of them.

We do have a chance, but the window of opportunity is closing. We still have NASA scientists, technicians, and engineers who have the skills and knowledge that can help save us from ourselves. There are thousands of other men and women all over the world who have similar skills and knowledge and can help us survive. There are millions of others who can be trained to do the work needed to restore our planet to the friendly place it once was. But none of these people have the power to take action. They cannot command the money and other natural resources that are needed. The power to save Earth rests in our hands—I mean in your hands and in mine. We must rely on evolution by cogitation to organize, plan, fund, train, and deploy the human and natural resources needed to carry out the largest human project ever—and the most important. We must go to work today—and even then we may be too late. We earthlings, we astronauts, may have already run out of time.

Things did not have to be this way. We were given at least two very clear signals that we should change our ways and start to protect our natural systems. First was the theory of “peak oil” published by M. King Hubbert in 1956, and second was the book, Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson and published in 1962. Each of these analyses of our important natural systems provided ample warning that we were being careless in our exploitation of our natural systems and resources. We were placing our future in jeopardy.

Peak Oil

M. King Hubbert was born in San Saba, TX, and received his PhD. from the University of Chicago. He worked for Shell Oil Company for more than twenty years before retiring in 1964. He studied the size of oil fields and their rates of production. He said that the production of a field would generally take the form of a bell curve. Production would increase in a new field as new wells were brought on line and while the pools of oil were still full. As time passed, the number of new wells would decrease, and the pools of oil would naturally contain less and less oil. He said that the production of oil in a given field would reach a “peak” at some point, after which production would decline sharply, thereby producing the bell curve.

In 1956, he famously predicted that U.S. oil production would “peak” sometime between 1965 and 1970, assuming that production methods were not improved and new fields were not discovered. I learned of this prediction from my father who brought it up at one of the frequent meetings with his friends. To them, Hubbert’s theory seemed rather straightforward, and I agreed. One thought that came to me at that time was that even if Hubbert was wrong as to when “peak” production would occur, he nevertheless was correct that there was a finite amount of oil in any given well or any given field—and there was a finite amount of oil in our planet. At the time it seemed obvious to me, a high school junior, an adolescent male, a kid, that our government should take measures to conserve our oil and work to develop new sources of energy. It seemed to me that running out of oil would jeopardize our national security.

Since that time I have watched as our national government has essentially done nothing to develop new sources and it failed to do so because it has been controlled by the fossil fuel industries. Our government has allowed the oil industry to open new fields of dirtier and dirtier oil while these industries deliberately lied about their reserves and about the pollution their products spew into the atmosphere.[6] One of their most blatant, and most cynical, lies is the proclamation that they have developed “clean” coal. So, our nation and the world were put on notice about the finite nature of fossil fuels in 1956, and our nation has done nothing since except enrich the tyranni who control our systems.

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson opened her 1962 book with these quotations:

Albert Schweitzer: Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.

John Keats: The sedge is wither’d from the lake, and no birds sing.

E. B. White: I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.

When I first heard of Carson’s book I was jolted by its title. I was and still am an avid birder. I could not imagine a world in which there were no bird songs. I try to make an annual trip to High Island, a great place on the Texas coast to watch the birds coming back from Central America on their way to their North American nesting grounds. Every time I go there I frequently think of Carson’s book. The beauty of life as it bursts out in the Texas spring is something that should always be. But, we human beings are hell-bent on destroying all life on earth—and the most vulnerable species will die first.

In any case, Rachel Carson was a true pioneer. Not only was she a woman who wanted to be, and against all odds, became, a scientist, but she also invented, or at least legitimated and introduced to the world, a new field of science now known as ecology. The chemical industry assaulted her in several ways because her ideas threatened their profits. She saw the great dangers of widespread spraying of DDT and her work led to its control. Tyranno-capitalists do not like anyone who threatens their profits, especially the women who do.

I still remember very clearly the “fog” machines that sprayed DDT in the roadside ditches of my hometown. We were warned to stay indoors while the fog was still visible. It was an attempt to ward off polio. The spray was literally a fog of poison. So, Rachel Carson warned us of our insane practices, and they have been improved a little, but not nearly enough.

It is grotesque, but true: the decisions by our national government to either reduce or increase the human factors that cause global warming, such as the burning of fossil fuels, will be determined by three of the most incompetent, science-illiterate, selfish officials in modern history: President Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy. All three of these men are on record, repeatedly, as believing that global warming is not a looming, catastrophic danger to the planet—and they are on record, repeatedly, that government regulation of the fossil fuel industry must be reduced—if not eliminated. There is a wealth of material available on the Internet that will inform any interested party of the dangers posed by the avowed policies of these three men.

By my count, our space program has had fifty astronaut-training classes from 1958 to 2017. More than 500 people have been trained. Their qualifications have changed slightly over those years, but they always focus on scientific knowledge, technical skills, and experience related to flying high-speed vehicles at high altitudes. Here are the current minimum requirements that someone must meet before submitting an application:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
  • Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
  • Ability to pass the NASA Astronaut physical.

Just imagine how different our nation would be if any of these 500 astronauts had been asked to manage our energy systems. They would have followed a scientific, technological, engineering, mathematical approach. They would have hired specialists in many of the STEM disciplines and we would have seen substantial changes that would ultimately have worked for the common good. Today, we have science questions to answer, new and improved technologies to be developed and deployed, and engineering projects on a vast scale to be implemented. There is no way that Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, or any of the other tyranni who how hold power in our failed government systems will solve our problems—even if they try. They simply are not up to the task. Decent, rational men would admit their shortcomings and step aside, but Trump, Pruitt, and Perry are not decent, rational men—they are extreme tyranni.

Our Madisonian Republic’s greatest flaw is revealed for all to see: we have placed too much power, in the hands of too few people, for far too long a time. We delegate our power by means of corrupt, partisan elections, and, once power is delegated, it is virtually impossible to recall it. We must correct this deadly situation as soon as possible. Trump, Pruitt, Perry, and their lackeys in Congress are literally destroying our natural life support systems. Our fate is in the hands of some of the most deluded people in the world. We must replace them with people who follow the rational paths of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our fate depends on it. As they currently stand, the STEM institutions can save us—all we need to do is give them the freedom and the resources they need to apply their skills and knowledge. But, unless they are restructured and refocused, the GREEB institutions—government, religion, education, economics, and business—will destroy us.

So, as you read this book please put aside your politics, please reject the dogma of “my party, right or wrong,” please open your mind to the idea that our government is not the best one possible, please open your mind to the possibility that our government is not a democracy, please put on your thinking cap—your scientist, technician, engineer, mathematician—cap, please accept the responsibility of saving the world for “ourselves and our posterity” and please be rational. I ask you to please work for the common good. Let us cogitate together.

Throughout our history we humans have successfully, painfully, and violently obeyed the fundamental law of evolution by natural selection. Nothing has changed. We must adapt or die.

Where do we stand?

We stand in a world shaped by evolution by natural selection. It has two sides—on one it creates new life forms; on the other, it destroys them all. It has ruled our species since the beginning. It is mindless, purposeless, relentless, merciless and amoral—it is a force of nature. It has produced two living varieties of our species—tyranni who are aggressive and selfish, and democrati who are timid and unselfish. Tyranni, such as Donald Trump, naturally, irrationally, work against the common good. Democrati, such as Jimmy Carter, naturally, rationally, work for it. These varieties are locked in a relentless, Darwinian struggle for survival. This struggle is cyclical.

The Cycle of Human History

  • Tyranni naturally, aggressively, selfishly push forward to take power.
  • Democrati naturally, timidly, unselfishly step back to let them pass.
  • Tyranni naturally use their power to indulge their selfish urges.
  • Innocents (tyranni and democrati alike) suffer and die unnecessarily.
  • A great commotion occurs—from elections to wars.
  • Tyranni-outs seize power from tyranni-
  • Innocents continue to suffer, but under new rulers.
  • And the cycle renews.

But because Nature has been so bountiful, because democrati greatly outnumber tyranni, and because humans are so resilient and so creative, this brutal process could not stop progress—very costly progress, often needlessly tragic and unevenly distributed, but progress nevertheless—of that there is no doubt. However, we are now dangerously near the end. Nature’s bounty is nearly exhausted. She can no longer heal our self-inflicted wounds, she cannot replenish what we take from her—she cannot forgive our greed.

Without the assistance of Nature, we humans are finally on our own. Our millennia of adolescence are over. It is time to grow up. We can no longer afford to indulge our selfish urges—we cannot afford to just do what comes naturally: act reflexively, act without thinking, play political games instead of doing the hard work of facing and solving the immense problems we have created for ourselves. If we continue to follow the instinctive natures given to us by evolution by natural selection we will go the way of countless other species—we will decline, even become extinct—and it will be sooner rather than later.

Tyranni have done much harm to our societies over the millennia. They naturally seek power and wealth. Large institutions have power and power leads to wealth. It is usually beyond the ability of a single tyrannus to gain control of a large institution. He must have allies. Recognizing this fact, tyranni are prone to form groups in pursuit of power and wealth. They work together to dominate those who do not belong to their alliance, while they intrigue against each other as each seeks to become the ultimate ruler, the supreme tyrannus. Such groups of power-seeking tyranni are factions, and they have been commonplace throughout world history. Once they gain power, once they control a large institution—from state legislatures to Wall Street banks to national governments—they irrationally push their power as far as it can take them—even if it leads to the destruction of themselves and the institutions they control.

The most powerful institutions are national governments, and they take on many forms. They are called monarchical, fascist, communist, socialist, democratic, republican, etc. I suppose that such classifications are important, but the most important category is omitted from the discussion. Governments are either tyranno or democrato. They should be measured by how they treat their people. Those that serve the common good are democrato and those that do not are tyranno. For example, several tyranno-governments have plagued us in our history. The monarchies were Great Britain under King George III, and the Empire of Japan. Nazi Germany was socialist. The Italian government of Benito Mussolini was fascist. The U.S.S.R. under Josef Stalin was a collection of socialist republics, and it was called communist as well. The Chinese government under Mao Zedong was called a republic and communist. The Confederate States of America was called a republic, as were the states of the unrepentant, postbellum South. The government of North Korea, I suppose, has its own specific identifying term, but I don’t know what it is, and I really don’t care. I only care that all of these governments treated their people badly. They were controlled by factions and they worked constantly to widen and increase their power over others. This tendency is natural for tyranni. But as they pushed and pushed their power, these nations finally met resistance and they had to obey a natural law, the law of evolution by natural selection—they had to adapt or die.

Great Britain lost its American empire because it could not adapt to the demands of its colonies. The Confederate States of America was formed because its founders believed that they could force the world to adapt to them. They thought that they could force the rest of America to accept their false hypotheses of white supremacy and chattel slavery. Such fantasies ultimately are fatal. The world is a natural place, obeying natural laws, not an ideological playground for the indulgence of false hypotheses. The Confederacy’s only hope was to adapt to the rest of America and to adapt to the world. But it was not to be. The Confederacy’s lack of adaptability caused it to belligerently self-destruct in four years of fratricide, which killed more Americans than all other wars combined. But for more than a century after this great tragedy, the faction of white supremacy controlled the southern states, and violence against black citizens continued. At long last, after another great shame had marred our history forever, America moved closer to its ideal, and not-white Americans finally were able to begin to claim, little by little, some of their long-overdue rights—but the struggle is far from over.

Nazi Germany tried to force the world to adapt to its false hypothesis of Aryan supremacy and was blasted off the face of the earth—and a benign government rose in its place. The Empire of Japan tried to force its own racism on the rest of the world and it, too, was destroyed and then replaced by a more peaceable system of government. The U.S.S.R., because of its belief in the false hypothesis of totalitarianism, and because it could not adapt to the outside pressures first applied by Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, eventually crumbled. Even now many nations struggle along, unable to adapt to the intertribal problems that have plagued them for centuries—for them, catastrophe is always near.

If we look carefully at our nation it is clear that we share too many characteristics with these tyranno-governments. We do not work for the common good. Our government is ruled by a small group of wealthy elite men who hold all of our nation’s power. These men hold power for decades, and it is very difficult to remove incumbents. The people have a small voice that is almost never decisive. Through their tight control of the election system and the two-party system, those in power decide who is to be granted access to power. Our rulers listen only to their own ideas, or to the ideas of sycophants, or to the ideas of those who give them money. Our rulers substitute their own wishes for the wishes of the people, and our rulers use our power primarily to benefit themselves. And, unfortunately, with regard to the economy, energy, inequality, and extreme weather, our rulers are pushing us beyond safe limits. It is safe to say that they are not following a policy of “safety first” in these four dangerous areas. The governments I named above were controlled by factions. Our government, like the other governments just described, works against the common good. Our government is a tyranno-government; it is not a Faction-Free Democracy.

Seven Favored Groups vs. Seven Hated Groups

Throughout this book I talk about the “seven favored groups” and the “seven hated groups.” The “favored” groups are treated, or thought of, with great kindness or partiality, and are believed to be endowed with special gifts, talents, or advantages—they are regarded as being worthy citizens. Our systems of government and economics work for the seven favored groups: white, male, Christian, heterosexual, well-to-do, native-born, and the abled.

The “hated” groups are treated with contempt or scorn—and are believed to be devoid of talent, have no special gifts, and no advantages—they are regarded as being unworthy, even dangerous, citizens. Our systems of government and economics work against the seven hated groups: not-white, not-male, not-Christian, not-heterosexual, not-well-to-do, not-native-born, and the disabled.

I make no claim that these groupings are complete, so feel free to adjust them as you wish. In general I mean that the favored groups have access to the best that our society has to offer, while the hated groups have access to much less, if they have any access at all. I also mean that the treatment of the members of each group is often unjustified. Worthy, and unworthy, citizens can be found in any group. The greatest divide between these groups is their access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. The favored groups have access to all of these necessities of a successful life, while the hated groups are often denied access based on irrational prejudices and biases such as racism, misogyny, religion, wealth, and the like. So, hereafter, when I use the terms “favored groups” and “hated groups,” you will know what I mean.

We stand in a world where the survival of our civilization, even the survival of our species, is in doubt. The systems that mistreat the seven hated groups are the same systems that have failed to protect our planet from the deadly consequences of burning fossil fuels. Scientists who are experts in the various aspects of extreme weather due to global warming, are virtually unanimous: we must do something now to stop the burning of fossil fuels. We are committing suicide. We, the people, through government, religion, education, economics, business, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, must urgently respond to the onrushing catastrophe of global warming. In short, we must adapt or die.

How did we get here?

We got here because tyranni naturally seek power and wealth. They are very aggressive and very successful. They gain both power and wealth in proportions far greater than their presence in our society. They have exercised great power in our governments, in the slaveholding South, in our religions, in our political parties, and in our system of economics.

Madisonian Republic

We got here because the Framers chose the wrong system of government. Hold on, I must amend my statement. I should have said that we got here because the Framers chose a system of government that was right for them and others of their class, but wrong for the rest of us. No, that is not quite right. I should have said that the Framers designed a system of government that was right for them and for others of their class, but wrong for the rest of us. They designed a Madisonian Republic instead of a democracy, and, in so doing, they excluded the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. They designed a system of government that excluded the majority of Americans. The Framers designed the wrong system of government. 

The Tyranno-South

We got here because the extreme tyranni who ruled the slaveholding South lost control of themselves when Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. They foolishly declared war against the North. The South was at a great disadvantage with respect to men and materiel. In order to win against the more powerful North virtually every tactic, every cannonade, every cavalry and infantry charge, every bayonet thrust would have to favor the South. Clear-thinking men would have realized that the South faced long, probably insurmountable, odds. The tyranno-leaders of the South recklessly disregarded the safety of themselves and of the citizens of the South. These tyranni knew or should have known the strength of the North. After all, the South had many high elected officials serving in Washington, D.C. Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union army, so he should have known its strength. Either the southern leaders did not compare the strength of the North to their own, or they relied on their tyranno sense of superiority to make them confident of victory. But flying minié balls and exploding artillery shells do not recognize the invinci­bility imagined by their human targets. Delusion, no matter its inspiration, does not make the fanatic immune to the laws of physics or to corporeal insults.

So it is clear—the southern tyranni did not act wisely and they did not think clearly; instead they acted like men who were uncontrollably angry—just having a gargantuan, gro­tesque, group temper fit—an overpowering outburst of aggregated, aggravated, aggression. They were being denied their due—their almost divine right to rule. They “knew” they were right in all things and they believed that they had a right to spread their power, and their “peculiar” institution of slavery, across the continent. What right did some self-righteous, democrato-northerners have to interfere in the tyranno-version of manifest destiny? One of the most important characteristics of tyranni is that they are willing to use force and deception to make others live their lives the way they, the tyranni, want. Another defining characteristic is that tyranni, in the ex­treme form, are willing to take the lives of others. The tyranno-leaders of the southern slave­holding states definitely exhibited both these characteristics. They wanted blood, and they got it. 


Christianity is a source of great power and is irresistible to tyranni.  When Christianity, like any other institution, is controlled by tyranni it becomes an organization that works against the common good. This should not be surprising to anyone, especially to Christians, because they know that Jesus was pursued by men who worked against the common good—he and others suffered at their hands. The men who killed Jesus were tyranni. It should not be surprising to anyone that tyranni are alive and well today.

Tyranno-Christianity is more powerful today than is the tyranno-South. In addition to the faction of white supremacy, tyranno-Christianity has other factions within its kingdom. One is the faction of theocracy—and another is separatism, such as in the public schools. Federal funding for religious programs, dabbling in electoral politics, creationism, sexual abstinence, anti-progress, anti-knowledge, overt discrimination against certain hated groups, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, inerrancy, and anti-science are some of the most active factions at the moment.


Political parties come in the two varieties you might expect: tyranno-parties (factions) and democrato-parties. Like the generations of tyranno-parties who supported slavery and later supported Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” schools and societies, modern tyranno-parties still fight to rule over others and to deny equal rights to certain hated groups. There is no way to explain their habit other than to say that such hatred is natural to them. They like to do it. But in order to do it they must have some sort of cover story, some rationale, so they can keep getting enough votes to keep power. So they de­velop ideologies. They base their policies on false or unsubstantiated or unprovable hypotheses that appeal to prejudice and emotion.

As you will see in Chapter 3, the slavers of 1790 used racist hypotheses that were untrue when they responded to Benjamin Franklin’s petition to abolish slavery. Some, perhaps most, religions are based on unsubstantiated, unprovable hypotheses. They are au­thoritarian, and they like to tell others how to live their lives, so they are natural allies of tyranno-parties. But in addition to exploitable hy­potheses, tyranno-parties need something else to keep power—they need money for election campaigns, so they sell their votes to the highest bidder. But in spite of these obvious failings, some people think political par­ties are good—just ask the man who owns one, or who profits from one. On the other hand, my grandmother once told me that political parties “are not worth the powder it would take to blow them to bits.”


Slavery was monstrously cruel in many ways: masters whipping and murdering their slaves, raping them, breeding them and selling their children, breaking up families by selling a parent or a child down the river—the horrors were many, and they are eternally sickening. Slavery was a business model, the original form of tyranno-capitalism. The slave owner was no rocket engineer—he was a tyranno-capitalist. By becoming a slave owner, he had satisfied one of the two primary desires of tyranno-capitalists—he had power over others.

To satisfy the other desire, to become wealthy, he understood what he had to do. He had to put his slaves, his capital, to work on some task that would produce something that could be sold for a price that would exceed the costs of running his plantation, including the minimum expenditures necessary to keep his slaves alive and strong enough to work as long as there was light to see.

For a while plantations did not pay very well because there was no crop that would produce the profits the master wanted. But Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which reduced the labor needed to produce a bale of cotton. Tyranno-capitalism flourished. The cotton planter was wealthy and he had power over others.

Unfortunately, tyranno-capitalism is still the major business model in America. Since the beginning, most of America’s growth has been financed by unpaid slaves and the underpaid laborers who succeeded them. This resulted in an unfair transfer, a theft, of wealth from the slave and the laborer to the benefit of the tyranno-capitalist. After a long, long time American workers were able, for a short while, to demand and get better wages and benefits. But the tyranno-capitalists, in their fevered pursuit of profits, busted unions and sent jobs overseas to countries that paid very low wages. Even though the mass of American workers, underpaid as they are, cry out for resources and opportunities that will give them a better standard of living, the tyranno-capitalists manage to keep wages very low, and they manage to let the infrastructure erode as they pollute and plunder the planet—birds do not foul their nests, but we do. Thanks to tyranno-capitalists, we are fatally fouling the only nest we have.

Where do we want to go?

We want to move to a world where all groups: white and not-white, Christian and not-Christian, male and not-male, heterosexual and not-heterosexual, well-to-do and not well-to-do, native-born and not native-born, abled and disabled are treated the same. Such a world will provide equal access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections that will give any member of any group a fair and equal chance to go as far as her talents and efforts can take her, and give her a fair and equal chance to build a long life worth living for herself and her loved ones.

We want to move to a world that does not burn fossil fuels. We want to do all the things necessary to stop the warming of our planet, and we want to establish international systems that will preserve and protect us. Earth is the only planet we have—it is the only planet we will ever have.

How do we get there from here?

We must adapt the seven superior ideas of Athenian Democracy.

We must strengthen the wall between church and state, we must remove ideology from education, and we must change our business structure to one that is driven by consumer demand.

We must replace our Madisonian Republic with Faction-Free Democracy and replace tyranno-capitalism with democrato-capitalism.

We must face the facts, and we must keep groups of tyranni, factions, from gaining disproportionate institutional power over our systems of government and economics. We must recognize and control the adverse effects of factions.

Factions Currently at Work

There are many factions at work today in America. The faction of states’ rights has done immense damage to our society, and it is still at work. The faction of white supremacy, which was the basis of the government, religion, and economy of the tyranno-South, is alive and well. It can be found throughout the nation and is concentrated in several large sections of our country. Misogyny is actively at work everywhere. It can be seen in the practice of paying women less than men even though they are doing equal, and often better, work. It can be seen in the medieval practice of denying women the right to control their own bodies—many state legislatures, overwhelmingly in the control of tyranni, have made it clear that they think women are second-class citizens, and must be kept in their place—subordinate to men in other words. The Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention treat women as second-class citizens. These two large religions clearly, and irrationally, believe that women are inferior to men, and should be subordinate to them.

Our political parties use factions to stir the passions of ordinary citizens. For example, some of our current leading political figures use hateful language to vilify non-Christians, non-whites, foreigners, and the poor, thereby garnering votes and campaign contributions. Their disparagement of non-heterosexuals has just now been muted by a recent Supreme Court decision declaring that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as everyone else. But, knowing human nature as I do, I am sure that this period of quiet will not last long and the bitter attacks will resume.

Anti-science and pro-ignorance are really two sides of the same faction. Americans who favor these two manifestations of irrationality seek to gain control of the public schools so that they can become theological seminaries from the first grade upwards. When they are unable to achieve this goal they move to the faction of separatism, and create their own schools so that anti-science and pro-ignorance can be taught to their children. And we must not forget capitalism. The form that we practice today is one of the strongest and one of the most dangerous factions. If left unchecked, it will destroy our civilization.

The Seven Superior Ideas of Athenian Democracy

The only way for democrati to win is to take control of the ideology-based institutions—government, religion, education, economics and business (GREEB)—and restructure them so that they work for the common good—which, thank goodness, has a rational basis. We will use good ideas wherever we find them, and the system that is rich with good ideas is Athenian democracy. This ancient, first, democracy was a great success, and there are seven reasons for that success:

  1. Power Management—the Athenians understood that there are two kinds of government power: administrative and transformative. They understood that administrative power can be delegated but transformative power cannot, except in very limited, tightly-controlled cases. Unfortunately, we foolishly mismanage our power. We delegate too much—to too few people—for far too long a time. And we delegate our power through the corrupt system of parties and partisan elections.
  2. Government of, by, and for the people—the Athenian government was of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our government is of the people, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats.
  3. Liturgies and Public Works—the Athenians had ways to persuade the wealthy to willingly spend their wealth for the common good. We don’t even ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
  4. The Oath of the Ephebes—the Athenians taught their youth that they had a duty to act on behalf of the common good—we should do the same. And we should give them a way to do it.
  5. Evolution by Cogitation—the Athenians formalized this process for managing the evolution of civilization. It relies on the sustained, cooperative, rational acts of humankind. It depends especially on the most important of our intellectual gifts: the power to make something out of nothing but an idea. We will think our way forward. We will use our intellects together. We will ponder important matters with purpose and objectivity. Unfortunately, many powerful factions within our GREEB institutions have largely ignored this form of evolution. They reject knowledge, science, rationality, inclusion, and progress in favor of ideology, prejudice, willful ignorance, exclusion, and irrationality as the tools of governance. And, unfortunately, they have enough power to do great harm to our civilization—they could even destroy it.
  6. The Silver Mines of Laurium—the Athenians knew how to manage their money supply.  We don’t know how to manage ours—but, if we apply our intellects in rational ways, we will quickly learn.
  7. Investing in the People—the Athenians thought it was so important for the people to participate in their democracy that they compensated the poor for the income lost when they attended the Assembly. Without this payment they would have been unable to participate.

Here are some of the ways we should adapt these seven ideas:

  • Change the way we choose our representatives.
  • Change the way we manage government power. To the extent possible, all groups that wield transformative power must be large enough to be made up of tyranni and democrati in the proportions they occur in nature. In general, power should be delegated by random selection, for short periods, for specific, limited purposes, to thousands or even millions of citizens, and its use should be subject to review by the people. However, if the authority wielding transformative power is so small that it cannot be made up of tyranni and democrati in the proportions they occur in nature—such as one or two police officers on patrol—then special oversight procedures are required.
  • Change the relationship between the national government and state and local governments—replace states’ rights with American rights. Only the national government can enact laws that limit or deny the rights of the individual. State governments will primarily carry out administrative functions. State legislatures can pass laws, but they will be limited to regulations and rules. Laws that criminalize the behavior of citizens can be enacted only by the national government.
  • Change the way we treat the seven hated groups, and call on all citizens to serve in our Faction-Free Democracy.
  • We should as a society devise and implement ways to favor rationality over irrationality, facts over ideology, knowledge over ignorance, inclusion over exclusion, progress over regression, and love over hate. As a matter of course our society should favor evolution by cogitation.
  • We should gladly accept the fact that we have an unlimited supply of money and apply it to serve all of us. We should replace tyranno-capitalism (a system of economics that works only for a few) with democrato-capitalism (a system of economics that works for all of us). We should build a new system of economics as well as a new system of government.
  • We should invest in the people to the tune of $36,000 per person per year from birth to death so they can do the things that will build a better America. These include taking care of their children, staying in school, staying out of jail, serving in the government when they are called upon, taking care of their health, their homes, and their local communities. In addition we should pay certain professions for providing invaluable services to the people: military personnel, teachers, health care givers, lawyers, police officers, firemen and other emergency responders, infrastructure and sanitation workers, and the like. They should be paid a premium by our Faction-Free Democracy.
  • We should use our unlimited supply of money to change our economy from one that redistributes money to one that distributes No longer will we take money from one citizen and give it to another. We have enough money to provide resources and opportunities to everyone without reducing them for anyone. This means that taxation for the purposes of redistribution will be eliminated. We will need a few sin taxes, and we will need to use a special form of taxation to drain excess money from our system in order to control inflation, but essentially, we will lead tax-free lives.
  • We must use our unlimited supply of money to fund the many projects that will be needed to deal with the effects of global warming.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that we should replace our entire system with the ancient Athenian system. We could do that, I suppose, but that would be foolish. It is much easier to adapt the seven superior ideas of Athenian democracy into our Madisonian Republic thereby transforming it into our Faction-Free Democracy. In so doing, we will finally make the fact of America match the myth—we will finally be a real democracy.

I wrote this book to offer ideas which, if implemented, will finish what the Founding Fathers started. They won the Revolutionary War (with the indispensable help of the people), and they established our Madisonian Republic, both of which they meant to do. But by writing the Declaration of Independence they unintentionally started us on the long road to democracy which still lies beyond the horizon. There have been many missteps along the way, particularly James Madison’s “scheme of representation,” but we can see clearly now, we know where we want to go. It is time to make, and carry out, our own plan to get there from here. The following lines from a famous song raise an important question about the nature of that plan:

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains

And we never even know we have the key.

We, the people, have lived our lives in chains—some of us literally. Things are better now than they were in the early parts of our history. But they are not good enough—and they are getting worse. It seems that we, the people, are constantly trying to improve America. We have tried to do it through the political process. Some of us have run for office. Sometimes we have marched in the streets, or registered new voters, or conducted sit-ins. We have written letters, books, plays, and songs. The civil rights battles of the 1950’s and 1960’s show that deadly and hard-fought victories can be won, but those victories were not complete and the battle still rages in many places and in many ways. We have tried many things in order to throw off our chains, and we still are not free. What will work? Are these words from that song correct? Do we have the key? Yes, we have always had it but we did not believe it. We, the people, are the key. We can join our hands, hearts, and brains and do a mighty thing. We can ordain and establish a Faction-Free Democracy.

It is irrational to ignore or worsen the dangers of global warming.

We must be rational.

We must replace our systems of government and economics.

We must adapt or die.


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Our system of government is a republic, and it is fatally flawed.

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


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Cover Draft

This the most recent draft version of my book: Faction-Free Democracy.

36353772_Cover Proof.3514847


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Seven Superior Ideas of Athenian Democracy

For more than 150 years, historians have understood that Athenian democracy was a success. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica wrote a brief summary about the Athenian people and their government. It began with a recitation of the criticisms that some scholars have leveled at the Athenians—demagogues sometimes misled them, they were often intolerant, they put Socrates to death because of his teachings, women did not have political rights, and they kept slaves. There were definitely things to criticize in ancient Athens. But the Britannica article closed with these remarks:

But to say all this [to list the criticisms] is only to say that the city could not entirely shake off the traditions of its past. Its achievement was the more remarkable for that. Seldom since has civilized humanity equaled democratic Athens, and until the last the city was satisfactorily governed by law and by popular [democratic] decision. It owed its fall less to any flaw than to the overwhelming force that was mounted against it.[i]

When I have informally praised Athenian democracy to others over the years, the most common, often angry, reactions are that the Athenians kept slaves and they treated women as second-class citizens. Both charges are true, but they were also true about us in 1776, and for decades after. In fact, we still treat the seven hated groups as second class citizens, and we are headed toward debt-slavery. So, I say to those who are so quick to angrily denounce the ancient Athenians—please aim your anger at the unfairness that is constantly at work in modern America and help to transform our nation into a real democracy.

Melissa Lane is a professor of politics at Princeton. In her recently published book: The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter, she had this to say about Athenian democracy:

Greek democracy was something new under the sun—but not in the sense that a role for the common people in government, even in the form of an assembly, was not unknown in Greece or in the wider world up to the 5th century BCE; forms of assembly and consultation are widely attested in Greek history and in surrounding societies with which they interacted. What was new in 5th century Athens was that ordinary people, including the poorest of citizens, came to control (and not merely be consulted by) the powers of government. They did so by deciding policy in the assembly; by judging disputes among citizens in the courts; and scrutinizing (in the assembly, council and courts) the doings of officials, many of whom themselves were selected by lottery or election among a wide swathe of the public. Putting these functions together, the ‘people’—the demos—exercised a plenipotentiary ‘power’ (kratos), which explains the new coinage of the word demokratia, appearing first in relation to Athens, and then being claimed as a name for dozens of polities dotted across the Mediterranean and the Greek mainland that adopted similar regimes.[ii]

Democracy originated in ancient Athens, and it worked.

Donald Kagan, a professor of history at Yale University, published an excellent book about the golden age of Athenian democracy: Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy. In it he discusses the history of Athens and how some historians and politicians have viewed Athenian democracy over the millennia. He even mentions the disparagement of Athenian democracy as expressed by Hamilton and Madison in their Federalist essays. He noted that Madison “echoed” Plato’s dislike of democracy. Kagan then asserted that Plato, Madison, and Hamilton were wrong in their belief that the poor would take advantage of the rich. He said:

The facts about Periclean Athens, as we have seen, were very different. Plato’s assault on its character is a travesty. The Athenian people did not permit their leaders to usurp power. They were not slow to remove and punish even the most powerful men in their democracy, as Pericles learned to his sorrow, and they withstood external as well as internal threats to their democracy. Through the horrors of almost three decades of the Peloponnesian War, military defeat, foreign occupation, and an oligarchic coup d’état, the people of Athens showed that combination of commitment and restraint that is necessary for the survival of popular [democratic] government and life in a decent society.

This restraint is all the more remarkable when we consider how simple it would have been for the Athenian majority to plunder the rich and take revenge upon their enemies. Plainly they had embraced the democratic vision, and their experience had proven its validity.[iii]

Kagan had this to say about those who disparage democracy:

Ancient and modern critics of democracy have shared a basic attitude. Both have distrusted the ordinary person and overridden his autonomy in search of a higher goal: a utopian idea of justice. For Plato, that meant government by a small group of philosophers who would rule in the light of a divine, unchanging knowledge.[iv]

Kagan named Plato, Mao, Lenin, Marx, and Castro as examples of those who thought that nations should be ruled by a small, elite group. I think it is fair to include Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and some of the other Framers. After all, Madison’s “scheme of representation” is the basis upon which the myth of American democracy is built, and it, according to him, consists of a government that is ruled by a small group of representatives elected by those eligible to vote. At the time Madison designed our system those eligible to vote made up a minority of our population. Therefore, from the beginning, our government was designed to be controlled by a small group who would rule without regard to the wishes of the majority. In ancient Athens, democracy was government by the many. In America we have government by a wealthy few. We have a plutocracy.

Paul Woodruff, a professor at the University of Texas, wrote First Democracy, The Challenge of An Ancient Idea. He reviewed the key aspects of Athenian democracy, and in the afterword he asked, “Are Americans Ready for Democracy?” He defined the word “ready” as “having a culture that can respond to the demands that democracy makes.” He said:

To be ready for democracy, a nation must be willing to invite everyone to join in the government, it must respect the rule of law strongly enough to keep a majority from tyrannizing over a minority, it must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people, and it must be willing to pay the price of paideia—of education for thoughtful citizenship.[v]

His full answer to this important question was lengthy, thoughtful, and enlightening. He provided a sharp focus on how we can move forward—if we want to. In another place he talked about the Framers, especially James Madison, and how they misunderstood Athenian democracy. He said:

They feared a system that gave power to poor people, and they hoped that the representative system they proposed would put power into the hands of those best equipped to use it.[vi]

He closed his book by answering the question, “Do the ancient Greeks have anything to teach us?” Part of his answer was this:

Yes. They had the right ideas, and we must take those ideas seriously if we are to stop the slide away from democracy. Also, some of the ways they put their ideas into practice are superior to our own. In particular, we need to appreciate the way they used representative bodies, chosen like juries, to bring citizen wisdom to bear on hard decisions.[vii]

Obviously, I could not agree more. We will take their ideas seriously. In the rest of this book I will show how we can apply the superior ideas of the ancient Greeks to our new system of government.

Paul Cartledge,[viii] a noted scholar on democracy, has just published a new book: Democracy, A Life. In it, he reviews the history of democracy and he focuses some attention on our system. He made this general observation:

There is no direct institutional legacy of Athenian or any other ancient direct democracy to any modern form of democracy.[ix]

He said that Thomas Jefferson was a “learned classicist,” who was the “chief author of the Declaration of Independence.” But, he added that Jefferson, “like almost all the Founding Fathers, had little time for ancient Greek-style direct democracy.”[x]

In the early part of his book, he told us that he would refer to the democracies of the ancient Greeks, particularly that of Athens, as “direct democracy.” This was necessary because we moderns deeply believe that our democracy, our representative democracy, is just plain “democracy.” We moderns have long described Athenian democracy as “direct democracy” in order to separate it from our American democracy, which we believe is the only democracy that can work in modern times. But Cartledge clearly says that our government is not a democracy. And he said this about some of the Framers:[xi]

Among the leading ideologues of the American Revolution were the three authors of the Federalist Papers: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Madison’s Federalist 10, following on Hamilton’s no. 9, delivered a broadside against what he was pleased to deride as “faction.” Adopting an almost early Byzantine notion of ancient Greek direct democracy as “riot” and mob rule by the ignorant and fickle over their betters, and employing a classically Roman rhetorical trope, Madison opined that even “had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” The practical inference for him, so far as the future of American governance was considered, was that “the people in their collective capacity,” must be rigorously excluded from any active or direct share in it. Popular sovereignty might have lip service paid to it, as a theoretical abstraction, but it should go no further than that toward practical realization.

Cartledge is right. The Framers were afraid of democracy and they took the opportunity to libel the democracy of ancient Athens in the Federalist essays. He opens his Epilogue with this observation:[xii]

I conclude this exploratory foray into the life of democracy with a brief consideration of the prospects for real-world democracy, in whatever sense. I do so from the viewpoint of the relevance of ancient democracy and democratic politics to modern, and on the disabused, get-real understanding that “politics is the business of how we decide as a society what our priorities are and then set about to achieve them.” There are many unanswered, possibly unanswerable questions here, but it is also such a vital topic for our age. We live under this system, democracy, even though paradoxically those who founded it in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were adamant that it was not a democracy in any ancient sense and were just as adamant that—happily—it kept the masses from exercising direct influence on it, and indeed that was precisely why it should be preferred. This paradox is or should be a serious problem for us moderns.

The idea, and the reality, of democracy was created by the people of ancient Athens. So, if our government is not a democracy, then what is it? Or, to put the question another way:

So how did a term like “democracy,” which originally meant “people power,” come to be equated with passive acquiescence in a corporate-funded campaign system that funnels wealth upwards and relegates the vast majority of citizens to the role of yes-men, or, as Aristotle would have said, a condition little better than slavery?

The preceding quote is from the beginning of Chapter 7, “How Did Things Get to Be this Way? The Roman Republican System and the Founding Fathers of America,” in Roslyn Fuller’s excellent new book, Beasts and Gods: How Democracy Changed Its Meaning and Lost Its Purpose.

In this chapter Fuller shows how the Framers had no intention of implementing a real democracy. They had no intention of ever giving power to the people. Instead they favored the model of ancient Rome. Under her chapter sub-heading “Roman Politics: déjà vu,” Fuller says:

Unlike Athenian Democracy, the Roman political system is easy to understand, precisely because it mirrors our own so closely.

In a real democracy the people decide among themselves what they want their government to do, and then they order their representatives to do it. The people exercise transformative and administrative power. But in a republic, in our republic, the people delegate their transformative and administrative power to their representatives and their representatives use it as they please, with little or no regard for the wishes of the people, and with little or no regard for the harm they do.

The Athenians had to deal with the same issues that we do. They needed to make laws, enforce them, and change them. They had to take care of public utilities, defend the nation, manage food supplies, oversee markets, mint money, try criminals, settle civil disputes, enforce contracts, manage foreign affairs, deal with religion, educate their children, impose and collect taxes, and all the rest.

Another modern-day historian, Moses Finley (1912-1986), observed that ancient historians evaluated the leaders of Athenian democracy in terms of whether they served the common good or their own selfish interests. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? He said that these ancient historians agreed that there were three “propositions” that existed in the ancient nation:

The first is that men are unequal, both in their moral worth and capability and in their social and economic status. The second is that any community tends to divide into factions, the most fundamental of which are the rich and well-born on one side, the poor on the other, each with its own qualities, potentialities, and interests. The third proposition is that the well-ordered and well-run state is one which overrides faction and serves as an instrument for the good life.[xiii]

Finley also said that, to the Athenians, “Faction is the greatest evil and the most common danger.” He said that the ancient writers used the Greek word “stasis” to describe such groups. He wrote (emphasis added):

I believe, that there must be deep significance in the fact that a word which has the original sense of “station” or “position,” and which, in abstract logic, could have an equally neutral sense when used in a political context, in practice does nothing of the kind, but immediately takes on the nastiest overtones. A political position, a partisan position-that is the inescapable implication-is a bad thing, leading to sedition, civil war, and the disruption of the social fabric. And this same tendency is repeated throughout the language.[xiv]

So, two different groups of human beings, the Framers and the Athenians, separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles, with different cultures, histories, and languages, with different natural resources and topographies, with different technologies, with different economies, and embedded in two vastly different ages of history, but with identical varieties of human nature, were trying to do the same thing—they were trying to establish a faction-free government. The leaders of these two groups, in their capacity as system analysts, defined the problem of faction in almost identical terms, and they both regarded it as the greatest danger their nations could face.

I agree with Finley—there is a “deep significance” in the ancients’ identification of faction as a key problem that must be solved. And there is another “deep significance” in the solutions that have been tried. The Athenians tried a genuine democracy and we have tried a Madisonian Republic. Their solution worked for the common good, and ours does not. Finley summarized the principles followed by the Athenians as they developed and managed their democracy. These principles are directly applicable to our present predicament. In order to more easily comment on his points I have isolated and slightly paraphrased them below:

  • A political position, a partisan position is a bad thing, leading to sedition, civil war, and the disruption of the social fabric—no argument here. Factions and partisanship lead to very bad things. During the administration of John Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, which was a mistake, but nevertheless was clear evidence of the bitter, partisan, factious rancor of the time. And our Civil War was directly due to the faction of white supremacy that controlled the tyranno-South.
  • Men are unequal, both in their moral worth and capability and in their social and economic status—no argument here. But many Americans seem to be unable to reconcile this idea with “all men are created equal.” Madison definitely thought that such inequality among men required that there be similar inequality in their political rights. I will deal with this confusion later.
  • Any community tends to divide into factions, the most fundamental of which are the rich and well-born on one side, the poor on the other, each with its own qualities, potentialities, and interests—the only thing I can add is that these unique “qualities, potentialities, and interests,” when fairly heard and considered, can make us stronger. Not every idea that may emerge from these groups will be factious. High intelligence, good ideas, moral conduct, fairness, and hard work are found in all parts of our society. However, Madison believed that such excellent attributes were rarely found in the lower classes, if found there at all.
  • The well-ordered and well-run state is one which overrides faction and serves as an instrument for the good life—overriding faction is exactly what the Framers said they wanted to do. We need to find a way for all Americans to define “the good life.” And then we need to build it.
  • The state must stand outside class or other factional interests—how can anyone honestly disagree with this? Even the Framers agreed with this point, but they designed their system to assume that factions come from the lower classes, or from a “mob” as in the case of ancient Athens. Our government still operates on this bias against the seven hated groups.
  • The aims and objectives of the state are moral, timeless, and universal, and they can be achieved-more correctly, approached or approximated-only by education, moral conduct (especially on the part of those in authority), morally correct legislation, and the choice of the right governors—there is no argument here, morality, especially the common good, is a stranger to those who hold authority in our Madisonian Republic. But for us today, the next step is to modify our current system so that all of these tools (education, morality, legislation, and governance) can be effectively used for the common good.
  • The existence of classes and interests as an empirical fact is, of course, not denied. But political goals cannot be linked to these classes and interests, and the good of the state can be advanced only by ignoring (if not suppressing) private interests—the Framers surely understood these ideas, but they just couldn’t help themselves. They just had to protect the wealthy class, and there is our problem. By trying to protect the wealthy from the poor, the Framers irrationally created an opening that tyranni have used to seize control of our government.

The Athenians organized their government to deal with all of the elements above: factions, equality, inequality, class interests, personal interests, education, legislation, leadership, justice, security, morality, human nature, and the common good. This process evolved over many years, and ultimately far surpassed ours at controlling the adverse effects of factions. There is a reason for the success of Athenian democracy. Actually, there are seven of them:

  1. Power Management—the Athenians understood that there are two kinds of government power: administrative and transformative. They understood that administrative power can be delegated but transformative power cannot, except in very limited, tightly-controlled cases. Unfortunately, we foolishly mismanage our power. We delegate too much—to too few people—for far too long a time. And we delegate our power through the corrupt system of parties and partisan elections.
  2. Government of, by, and for the people—the Athenian government was of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our government is of the people, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats.
  3. Liturgies and Public Works—the Athenians had ways to persuade the wealthy to willingly spend their wealth for the common good. We don’t even ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
  4. The Oath of the Ephebes—the Athenians taught their youth that they had a duty to act on behalf of the common good—we should do the same. And we should give them a way to do it.
  5. Evolution by Cogitation—the Athenians formalized this process for managing the evolution of civilization. It relies on the sustained, cooperative, rational acts of humankind. It depends especially on the most important of our intellectual gifts: the power to make something out of nothing but an idea. We will think our way forward. We will use our intellects together. We will ponder important matters with purpose and objectivity. Unfortunately, many powerful factions within our GREEB institutions have largely ignored this form of evolution. They reject knowledge, science, rationality, inclusion, and progress in favor of ideology, prejudice, willful ignorance, exclusion, and irrationality as the tools of governance. And, unfortunately, they have enough power to do great harm to our civilization—they could even destroy it.
  6. The Silver Mines of Laurium—the Athenians knew how to manage their money supply.  We don’t know how to manage ours—but, if we apply our intellects in rational ways, we will quickly learn.
  7. Investing in the People—the Athenians thought it was so important for the people to participate in their democracy that they compensated the poor for the income lost when they attended the Assembly. Without this payment they would have been unable to participate.


[i]Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia, Government, Forms of, Vol. 20, p. 190


[ii] Melissa Lane, The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter, p95, Location 1175, Kindle Edition.


[iii] Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy pp. 269-270


[iv] Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy p. 272


[v] Paul Woodruff, First Democracy, The Challenge Of An Ancient Idea, p. 211


[vi] Paul Woodruff, First Democracy, The Challenge Of An Ancient Idea, p. 234


[vii] Paul Woodruff, First Democracy, The Challenge Of An Ancient Idea, p. 230


[viii] Paul Cartledge is the inaugural A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Clare College. He is also Hellenic Parliament Global Distinguished Professor in the History and Theory of Democracy at New York University. He has written and edited over 20 books, many of which have been translated into foreign languages. He is an honorary citizen of modern Sparta and holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor awarded by the President of Greece.


[ix] Paul Cartledge. Democracy, A Life: Kindle location 5280


[x] Paul Cartledge. Democracy, A Life: Kindle location 5079


[xi] Paul Cartledge. Democracy, A Life: Kindle location 5090


[xii] Paul Cartledge. Democracy, A Life: Kindle location 5258


[xiii] M. I. Finley. Democracy Ancient and Modern: Revised Edition (p. 43). Kindle Edition.


[xiv] M. I. Finley. Democracy Ancient and Modern: Revised Edition (p. 44). Kindle Edition.


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