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Sen. Gravel Tries to Make Government Work

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Former Sen. Mike Gravel, a contender for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, is a supporter of the National Initiative for Democracy. This legislation would give the people the power to make laws, bypassing congress. While advocated, no doubt, with the best of intentions this is precisely the prescription for dictatorship that the Founders warned us against.

In The Federalist No. 10, The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued), James Madison warned against such democracy:

A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

The other dark side to the National Initiative for Democracy is that it gives the illusion of power to the people. This is a dangerous illusion that will be exploited by power hungry politicians using their usual arsenal of scare tactics to whip the people into a frenzy. In such a state they will approve of just about anything. Look no further than the invasion of Iraq for evidence of this.

Sen. Gravel’s web page about the National Initiative for Democracy states, "It is important to understand that the National Initiative does not alter the existing structure or powers of representative governments. Rather, it adds an additional Check –– the People –– to our system of Checks and Balances, while setting up a working partnership between the people and their elected representatives." Just as all the other constitutional checks and balances have been overcome and many even twisted into instruments of repression, so will the National initiative. The "working partnership" will become another means of manipulating the people, not a means for the people to restrain the government.

Things are bad enough as they are. If the people become accustomed to voting directly for all manor of things what’s to stop them from voting for even worse measures? Nothing, and Sen. Gravel gives us proof of this on his own website, "More than 70% of the voters already make laws by initiative in twenty-four states and in numerous local communities, and when voting on bond issues referred to them for decision by their representatives ––serious lawmaking." People tend to approve bond issues without thinking about the higher taxes they will require when they come due. They tend to trust the politicians judgment about what the money needs to be spent on, deficits be damned. What they almost invariably approve is more pork for the politicians to pass around.

Who decides what gets voted on in these initiatives? From the National Initiative for Democracy website:

# Qualification of Initiatives

Initiatives can qualify for election in any of three ways:

* Referral by the legislature;
* Citizen petition; or
* Public opinion poll.

As to the first method, it’s obviously the politicians in control. The second and third methods, petition and opinion poll, the problem also seems obvious, it will be special interests and, you guessed it, politicians that organize them. Meaning that the people will be dancing to their tune, not the other way around.

Control of the process is in the wrong hands, again, from the National Initiative for Democracy website, "The initiative process will be administered by the Electoral Trust, an independent agency of government." The government administers the process, enough said.

The National Initiative for Democracy is a dangerous, populist idea that must be rejected along with Sen. Gravel’s candidacy.

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Darren Wolfe is the former Eastern Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. He presently blogs as the International Libertarian http://www.theinternationallibertarian.blogspot.com/ His articles have also appeared in Ammoland.com, (more...)

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