A Revolutionary Plan for Democracy in America

Obama in Colorado Springs
Barack Obama – (KMGH)

Last week Barack Obama gave a speech laying out his plan for getting more citizens active in serving American society.x40 Some points of his plan are: to boost the numbers in the military, Peace Corps and Americorps, to make it easy to volunteer, and to give volunteers help with the cost of college. He said:

… I won’t just ask for your vote as a candidate – I will ask for your service and your active citizenship when I am President of the United States.

This will not be a call issued in one speech or one program – this will be a central cause of my presidency. We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.

I think Obama’s plan for active democratic citizenship is thoughtful and practical. But I would like to offer a half-baked and revolutionary plan: Make every citizen a councilman. Here are the plan’s rough-hewn planks:

  • Each adult citizen shall join a grassroots council. Like a jury, a council shall have twelve members and each decision must be unanimous.
  • Each council shall elect one of its number to a higher-level council, and each higher-level council shall do the same, and so on, up to the three National Councils. A person shall serve on only one council, vacating the lower when elected to a higher. An election shall occur within 28 days of a vacancy. A council should meet at least twice a year on the first day of Spring and Fall.
  • Other duties of a council are — only if needed — to make laws, levy taxes, and elect a president and a judge from its number.
  • When in conflict, laws of higher-level councils override those of lower levels. But higher-level councils shall not make laws on strictly lower-level matters. The highest law is a Constitution and Bill of Rights, which no council may override. The Bill of Rights shall include those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the “freedom of commerce against monopolies,” which Thomas Jefferson tried to get into the original U.S. Bill of Rights.x41x42
  • Each council shall join a group of three councils for making laws. The process is like that used in the Iroquois Confederacy: two of the councils serve as law-makers, while the third serves as judges.x43 One law-making council discusses a matter, while one or more persons from the judging council watch. A judge does not speak, except to warn a law-maker when one has made an error in procedure or proposed something illegal. The council passes a bill and sends it to the other law-making council, which follows the same procedure. The second council passes the bill and sends it to the judicial council, which confirms that the new law is proper. Every year the duties of councils rotate.
  • All offices are for life, except in case of impeachment or recall. Also, a person may resign an office or move to another grassroots council.
  • A councilman can be impeached for malfeasance by unanimous decision of the other eleven councilmen, or by one of the next lower-level groups of three councils. A councilman can be recalled by the next lower-level council that one came from. If impeached, a person may never again hold higher office, but would still belong to a grassroots council.
  • To cover the roughly 225 million adult citizens in the country, we would need eight levels of councils.x44 The population could support six seventh-level (Regional) councils. Since there are three National Councils, each Regional council would send six of its number to populate them.

This plan has several advantages. For one, it gives all citizens real, tangible power. And with so many involved, the government would be hard to corrupt. With only twelve votes in any election, it would eliminate campaigning by TV commercial — and each citizen would know the person one was voting for. Citizens would gain leadership experience, so that even the nation’s bowling leagues and art clubs would be better run. Further, the plan could be used by any country, and at the worldwide level, where three councils of twelve stand to work more effectively than the present U.N. in stopping war and climate change.

I think the plan would be best implemented from the ground up, so that the citizenry is quickly engaged. Within two or three years, old city councils would be replaced with new, and the process would be rolling along.

Levels of Councils

Level Number of Councils Level Name
8 3 National
7 6 Regional
6 72 State (Provincial)
5 864 Area
4 10,368 County
3 124,416 Township/City
2 1,492,992 Neighborhood
1 17,915,904 Grassroots

The 18 million grassroots councils would involve 214,990,848 persons, which would be about the adult population of the U.S.A. not holding higher office.


40 ‘Text of Obama’s speech’ – The Rocky, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

41 ‘Happy Human Rights Day!’ The Paragraph 2005-09-05

42 ‘Jefferson’s Dream: The Bill of Rights’ by Thom Hartmann

43 ‘Great Law of Peace Brought Iroquois a More Perfect Union’ The Paragraph 2008-01-24

44 U.S. Census Bureau


By Quinn Hungeski – Posted at G.N.N. & TheParagraph.com

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15 years ago

[…] – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by ohm on 2008-08-18 A Revolutionary Plan for Democracy in America http://theparagraph.com/2008/07/a-revolutionary-plan-for-democracy-in-america/ – bookmarked by 3 […]

14 years ago

Well, i hope the waitress can bring my coffee before she has to go to her meeting. Sounds like the old USSR and their incessant meetings to criticize each other. Not many folks realize that the average large city councillor must read, digest, confer and decide on a stack of reports a foot high EVERY MONTH or so. Thats just one level. Referenda are hard enough to be reasonably done and probably represents the maximum point of democracy in a large society. However i do know a real life situation that can work although it does not always work. The Philippines under Marcos established a “barangay” system where the country was divided up into “villages” of 2000 people, even in Manila. These villages elected a council of about 9 people as i recall who looked after garbage, dog control, local paving, lighting, etc. and received about 10 % i think of the taxes collected in the area for their efforts. They were able to decide on curfews for kids and patrolled the neighbourhood for strange people hanging around. Worked well for drugs, prostitution etc. Unfortunately the marcos regime took a turn for the worse and these units became enmeshed with crime/ thugs. I visited one that worked and was quite impressed. Google it if interested.