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Summary Congress is
dysfunctional, corrupt, and unresponsive to the popular will.
This Constitutional Amendment can permanently solve many of the
The People’s power of initiatives
is extended to the Federal level—giving the people direct
control over Congressional legislation, rules, perquisites,
modus operandi, etc. Though the people can handle only a small
portion of the volume of Congressional business, they can
permanently prevent or mitigate the most harmful Congressional
actions and force Congress to act for the Nation's and the
The cost barrier to proposing
initiatives is minimized. This takes initiatives beyond the
control of special interests, whose money currently corrupts
most state and city initiative systems. It permits the best
minds and creativity of the entire American people to find
solutions that are impossible for a dysfunctional and corrupt
The power to handle the volume of
proposed initiatives and select (i.e., qualify) which candidate
initiatives go on the ballot is granted to a super grand jury of
500 who are responsible only to the People and well protected
from outside influence. This takes government and “big money”
entirely out of the initiative process until after the
announcement of the ballot’s candidate initiatives. In effect,
Federal Initiatives become the people’s small but effective
parallel branch of Congress.
The debate on initiatives is
extended via the internet, making direct citizen participation
on proposed initiatives a reality starting when they are first
proposed. The super grand jury of 500 periodically splits into
randomly-selected double-checking 20-member task forces to rank
the proposed initiatives. As the initiatives are sequentially
culled, the full grand jury finally selects the best few
initiatives upon which the People will vote.
Today, 70 percent of US Citizens can vote on state and local
initiatives. The people in the 24 States and in many Cities with
initiatives can effectively force their states to use the second
method of amending the US Constitution. The second method does
not require Congressional support—the Framers of our
Constitution specifically included it to remedy excessive
Congressional corruption. The fight to get support from 14 of
the 26 none-initiative states will be a hard and long, but is
Will Federal initiatives work? They have worked for over a
century in Switzerland, whose standard of living has risen from
poverty to well above that of the US. They worked in Ancient
Greece well enough to produce western civilization, democracy,
and the leading world power of that time. The American people
value their initiatives—they have never permitted a state to
repeal their initiative power. Long before the Amendment is
eventually adopted, the people can enact state-level testing and
refinement of the new initiative process. For remaining
doubters, and because all change may have unforeseeable
consequences, the Amendment includes its own repeal option to
return to exactly what we have now.
can we start? The easiest way is by initiating and supporting
your State Initiative that requires your State to support the
Federal Initiative Amendment. The most appropriate states have
direct constitutional initiatives: AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, IL, MI,
MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, and SD, followed by states with
direct legislative initiatives: ID, UT, and WA.
2. Introduction This Direct Democracy Initiatives
Amendment plan is introduced by six key points:
Nation and each Citizen's life will
significantly when the People can continuously reduce corruption, limit
excesses, and repair wasteful legislation. Only
the People can have the power to stop the many forms of
congressional dysfunction—separation of powers excludes all other
Self-motivated Citizen groups, many with great expertise, creativity,
realism, experience, and first-class minds, will submit their Initiative
proposals via newspaper publication with simultaneous
publication on the Internet.
The Amendment establishes a Citizens' Initiatives Assembly. It will
be similar to a
large tamper-proof grand jury of 500 one-year part-time members with
staggered terms. They will
accurately represent the People's views and wishes. The Assembly
will be independent, responsible only to the People, and empowered
by the People.
This Citizens' Assembly will
manage, review, winnow, and rank the proposed Initiatives.
It can seek the People's Internet comments. Finally, it will qualify just the best few as ballot Initiatives that the People will
to vote on at federal elections. The entire voting public of the US
will always make the final National Initiative decisions.
The US Constitution permits an amendment to implement this
plan. The plan is feasible. The plan does not depend on cooperation
from Congress; rather, it assumes Congressional opposition. Of course,
ratification will take great effort, especially in at least 14 necessary
states beyond those 24 whose state initiatives make passage far
This Amendment is a continuation of our great experiment in democracy. The effort is worthwhile for permanent improvements
our federal government's efficiency and effectiveness. It is the
People's responsibility to enforce the People's
right to make
the People's Congress operate for the People's benefit as the
Explanations and details are contained in this website. It was started
in 2003 when “big-money” control of Congress was huge but had not reached today’s
national awareness. The website has evolved to become a “notebook
of relevant material of textbook length, including a draft Constitutional
Amendment, State enabling legislation, justifying documentation, and
references. It is therefore somewhat complex to read and,
the authors do not have the skill to make it entertaining.
Nevertheless, it contains important justifications for its thesis that a
Direct Democracy Initiatives Amendment is the only effective solution
for Congressional excesses. The
Constitutional Amendment and its two lengthy references are somewhat
daunting. However, anything less would leave key elements undefined,
thereby inviting Congress to dilute and subvert the People’s will.
Moreover, it complies rigorously with the existing US Constitution,
avoiding shortcuts that would lead to unnecessary battles over legality.
It is the authors’ hope that some
readers will plough through the details and provide digestible
motivational commentaries, blogs, etc., finding this website a useful source of references.
To this end, the website is published under a
Creative Commons License—i.e., similar to that used by
Wikipedia et al.
3. Foreword About 2,500 years ago, ancient Athenians invented
direct democracy with
initiatives as its cornerstone. It lasted
almost 200 years (until the Macedonians conquered Athens). It is called the "Golden Age" because it is the
foundation of our
western civilization and of all the world's democracies. Not only did
the system work, it produced arguably the
most productive and creative period in our
entire human history. Ancient Athenian cornerstones of
Juries of randomly-selected citizens decided right from wrong,
innocence from guilt. The Founding Fathers
Athenian jury concepts (via the Roman Empire, Magna Carta, and English
common law) as the heart
of the Judicial Branch for settling all manner of disputes from
murder and rape to massive class actions and complex financial
Majority votes of the People made the important decisions.
The Founding Fathers adopted it as the method by which we elect our
Presidential and Legislative branches of representative democracy.
For over 100 years, our States and Cities have made majority vote by
initiative a de
facto part of governance–about 70-percent of the People vote
which in ancient Athens meant a
Council of 500
citizens selected quasi-randomly by lot,
set the electorate's voting agenda on initiatives proposed by citizens.
Athenians considered the
Boule to be the
incorruptible and most important cornerstone of democracy.
However, our Founding Fathers
did not know this—archeologists did not find and translate the
key documents until
1891, 115 years
after the constitution was framed.
Direct Democracy Initiatives are the People's only permanent and definite method to assure
that government, Congress in particular, operates and knows that it must operate for the People's
benefit and not for the benefit of Congress, Congresspersons, or their friends. All
alternatives to Initiatives
as the People's ultimate control of their government are temporary
patches and, as the People are painfully aware, ultimately fall far short or fail
completely. Congress is outstandingly good at finding and creating
loopholes and end-runs around legislation that attempts to constrain
its excesses. Therefore, one-time fixes can never be sufficient—the
repair process must be permanent and ongoing to be effective.
This plan proposes the incorruptible
initiatives system NOT the
initiatives system used today in 24 states and many
cities. In October 2011, the
LA Times commented on the "Oregon" system: "These days, signatures for initiatives are gathered and
ballot measures are put to voters by powerful public employee
labor unions trying to tighten their grip on Sacramento, by
private businesses trying to shape the market and state
regulations to their advantage, by billionaires who sometimes
seem to push policy measures as a kind of hobby, by would-be
politicians who try out their campaign chops on pet measures
and, occasionally, by grass-roots groups trying to shape law the
way they believe it should be." Later sections of this
in detail, clarify how they avoid Oregon initiative defects, and show
why they are far more effective and trustworthy.
Nevertheless, grass-roots State Initiatives are an important tool of the
People to propose this constitutional amendment in the 24 states
with initiatives—a high proportion of the 38 states needed to
ratify a Constitutional Amendment. Gaining enough support in the
balance of 14 needed out of the 26 remaining states without initiatives will require a
final great hard-ball push from the People by state electoral vote, fund-raising, campaigning,
referendum, protest, etc as necessary.
With "Athenian" initiatives,
self-organizing groups of citizens (e.g., study groups, self-selecting
teams of the nation's best minds, blue ribbon panels, nonprofit
organizations, and occasional insider information from a repentant
ex-congressperson) will often propose knowledgeable, realistic, and
effective initiatives. An Assembly of 500 randomly-selected citizens will
winnow and rank them, and qualify just the very best–about a dozen every two years to avoid
voter overload. The 500 citizens are like a super-grand-jury;
big enough to represent accurately the views of the entire population,
and protected so that tampering attempts lead almost
inevitably to discovery and prosecution. A super-large-jury has the
wisdom to rank and winnow the proposed
direct initiatives so only the best few go on the ballots.
as a whole always make the final decisions at the federal elections ballot.
This Plan proposes to incorporate
Boule cornerstone-of-government in modern form (i.e.,
stripped of all authorities except
processing initiatives), which as a
constitutional amendment will
reliably improve our dysfunctional federal government and help control
its excesses. Compared to Congress, initiatives will provide an
extremely small proportion of our laws, but
initiatives will have great leverage by
changing Congressional laws, rules, perquisites, etc to ensure that
Congress properly fulfills its constitutional duties. In
later sections, the Plan explains in detail why we need this
constitutional improvement to our system of checks and balances
and how we can implement it.
Our word democracy comes from the Greek words dēmos
"People" and kratos "rule". Following that tradition, the
Greek word Boule,
"the will after deliberation", is borrowed from the
Greek and frequently used here instead of "U.S. Citizens'
Initiatives Assembly" because it is brief, easy to remember, and
it cannot be confused with other types of citizens' assemblies.
A Modern Boule is a far better
than signature petitions for nations and larger states. Because a Boule
consists of randomly-selected members, is
more tamper proof than a Federal
Grand Jury. It is virtually immune from special interests' influence, and to
all intents and purposes incorruptible and trustworthy.
For large electorates, a Boule
costs less than signature petitions (e.g., it can be
used in large states). It permits citizens' feedback on
proposed initiatives for many months before the Boule makes the decision
whether to qualify them or not. It operates independent of
government. It ensures that ballot initiatives are important, well
constructed, and thoroughly vetted.
Because the Boule is a single
deliberative organization, mirroring the People as a whole, it can rank
the proposed Initiatives and select only enough that they do not
overload the electorate. It offers independent majority and minority
opinions on the Initiatives.
A Boule is similar in many ways
to a Citizens’ Assembly:
B.C. Citizens' Assembly
Photo by Stuart Davis #715955
by kind permission of
The Vancouver Sun
History, Results, 2004 and 2009 Referenda
This Plan's modern Boule has less scope and authority than the original
Athenian Boule, preserving only the power to manage and qualify
Initiatives. Moreover, there are many variations on the theme of a deliberative Citizens'
Assembly, so the structure and functions of a Boule require finer detail
to clarify specifics:
The Plan calls for concurrent action on
(i) a U.S. constitutional amendment for nationwide initiatives and (ii) a
revalidation of the Athenian initiatives system at state
and/or large city levels. This concurrent approach has three principal
Because of the great time needed to process a U.S. constitutional
amendment, and the lesser, but still substantial, time for state or
city revalidation, concurrency will save many years. The easiest
states in which to make the concurrent validation are those that
already have a direct initiative process.
the 16 states with direct constitutional initiatives (i.e., AZ, AR, CA,
CO, FL, IL, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, and SD) a state
constitutional initiative is all it takes to replace Oregon with
Athenian initiatives. In 3 direct
legislative initiative states (i.e., ID, UT, and WA) the People can
pass a law requiring a state constitutional referendum.
The momentum for a national initiative will encourage the state/city
revalidation; the state/city revalidation will encourage the national
This approach will update details from current experience, manage
expectations, provide an irrefutable demonstration for doubters,
and allow cross-fertilization of ideas—all without incurring
additional risk. This is entirely feasible because, under the U.S.
constitution, the final details of the Amendment are determined at
the Article V Convention of the states, which will occur after a
state has validated
smaller states and cities, the Boule approach has an unavoidable
the smaller the population the
more expensive it is
per capita. For example, a nationwide
initiative system will cost about 35¢ per capita per year—1/60th of
the cost of running Congress. For California it would cost about ¢70 per
capita per year, for Washington State about $3.50. However, by comparison, the
ancient Athenians thought it worth paying several hundred dollars per capita per year!
Special interests' influence over
Congress has become excessive. It causes government to
promote special interests'
well-being over the People's
As a direct consequence, each year government squanders at least
$350 billion of the
People's wealth—over $4,000 per year from a family of four.
Moreover, the related
decay in our highest elected officials now permeates governance and the business
elite, as evidenced by gross malfeasance, corruption, and
government-sanctioned theft in many of our
most trusted institutions. The situation is intolerable; we
cannot permit it to stand.
in our republic the People can elect representatives who will solve these problems.
Unfortunately, special interests—for
example, big business, lobbyists, multi-national corporations,
military-industrial complex, foreign governments—select the slate of
viable candidates in both parties and influence them long before
the People vote. Today, our constitutional checks and balances cannot restrain the
impact of media's enormous cost and its extremely persuasive technologies.
The resulting huge campaign spending by special interests translates into almost
permanent reelection of their chosen candidates. Inevitably, those
elected have major obligations to their contributors.
and will not resolve
these problems because solutions are contrary to the personal
interests of a majority of its members. Voters may change
political leadership, but, despite campaign promises, improvements are
usually cosmetic. Congress is a law unto itself and can always reverse
improvements, create loopholes, and make end-runs.
that underlying causes remain unchanged; these systemic problems continue to grow. The Constitution's preamble
defines fundamental concepts of our republic—government must promote the general welfare. Excessive promotion of
special interests' welfare over the People is clearly dysfunctional governance.
would be stupid to permit managers of a business to set their own pay,
perquisites, ethics, and rules for vendor gifts—we know that such a
company would be a disaster. Nevertheless, we permit congresspersons to
do exactly this and more. So, how can we retain the benefits of good
representative government while providing oversight control to keep
congresspersons responsive to our wellbeing after we elect them?
must lie in improved checks and balances—it is manifestly futile to keep
hoping that a preponderance of congresspersons will somehow overcome
their human nature. The literature abounds with authors who criticize
government but offer no solution or hope that Congress will somehow
implement a solution. This Plan takes a proactive stand: it applies the
constitutional right of the People and the power of the States to enforce a solution
upon Congress over inevitable congressional opposition. The plan follows the
explicit remedy prescribed by the
in the U.S. constitution—it conforms strictly to the written word of the
6. Only the
can control congressional excesses.
History has repeatedly proved that Congress cannot and will not do it. Constitutional separation of powers
bars such control by the President, Judiciary, or
Moreover, a commission of appointed or elected members cannot have this power
constitutionally unqualified and because its members are subject to
by special interests and by Congress. Thus, the responsibility to limit
congressional excesses falls unavoidably upon the People.
Politics is about power. Because congressional maneuvers
and special interests largely nullify the People's votes, the People
retain very little federal power. Nationwide Citizens'
Initiatives are the
only constitutional way
for the People to gain significant power to set things right. However,
the approach taken for State and City initiatives is
inadequate—not least because they are wide open to special interests'
abuses. Consequently, this Plan uses a nationwide ballot Initiative process
that is a great
improvement over that used in the States. In particular, it
has ample safeguards ensuring that special interests can
never gain control, that ballot
initiatives will be
clear, that Initiatives receive
before they get on the ballot, and that the number of initiatives will
overload the voters.
Nationwide ballot Initiatives are necessary not because the People
have a perverse desire to exercise the
congressional control function directly,
but because they have profound convictions that Congress has ceased to
be responsive to the popular will and that Congress has no innate
ability to reform itself. The goal is to overcome Congress' detrimental
resistance to change in order to permit long-term improvement of
representative government—not to undermine or to micromanage Congress.
solution is entirely consistent with the Founding Fathers' views. For
U.S. Citizens are familiar with initiatives—about
70 percent of the People can vote on
initiatives at their state or local elections. Polls constantly show that voters overwhelmingly
support nationwide Initiatives by about
three to one. By their use of initiatives in
24 states, of
referenda in 3 additional states, and at
local and city levels for over 100
years, the People have demonstrated that they are competent to exercise this
At a national level, Switzerland has used
nationwide initiatives/referenda since 1891—i.e.,
about 120 years—to overrule their government.
Switzerland modeled its constitution on the U.S. constitution with a direct
democracy overlay. Despite many early political doubters of the People's
competence, the People have demonstrated exceptional judgment. Swiss
initiatives have never caused a crisis and have several times helped
defused crises (Fossedal
p. 91)—a far better record than most representative lawmaking.
Starting as a poor mountainous
nation with few natural resources and no seaports, Switzerland has thrived
to become a top-ranked economic, democratic, and stable nation. Today,
it is ranked #1 as the best country in which to be borne; the US has
slipped from #1 to #16, according to the highly-reputable Economist
(The lottery of life, Nov 21st 2012).
The Founding Fathers
in 1787 avoided mentioning any form of
direct democracy in the
Constitution because they
believed that the entire electorate had to meet in one place (Wilson,
By 1920, state initiatives had proved that this constraint is unnecessary.
Initiatives are not a
panacea for all that ails this nation. Expectations must be realistic.
Nevertheless, they will solve many current
as they arise. Cumulatively, Initiatives will have a major long-term impact
on our nation's success and a huge
cost-benefit to the
7. Outline of the
Operation of a Boule (i.e.,
Citizens' Initiatives Assembly)
Citizens Propose Initiatives
groups of Citizens and
qualified U.S. organizations will
write the proposed initiatives. Small groups tend to be
creative than large groups. Some examples are a
blue ribbon panel, a study group, a self-selected team of
the nation's best minds, a nonprofit
organization, or any group of 25 ordinary citizens. They propose Initiatives for federal legislation and
constitutional amendments by
publishing them in a specific newspaper, category, and day of
the week. To control a flood of Initiatives, an
of $10,000 will decline over time. A Citizen may propose one Initiative every
A blog shows some
Citizens Provide On-Line Feedback
All proposed Initiatives, modifications
and comments will be available and searchable on-line from the
Boule's web site
in the form of web blogs
or successor technologies. By publication or after registering a valid
Internet ID, U.S. Citizens' and qualified U.S.
organizations will improve Initiatives by providing
feedback on proposed
Initiatives, participating in opinion polls, etc.
480 randomly selected Citizens (an
accurate cross-section of all Citizens eligible
to vote). It does what a
does well—it deliberates and ranks the proposed
after a process of
expert help, feedback, etc. The Boule may suggest
corrections and/or improvements to the Authors and the
Authors may re-propose their Initiative.
Boule will be
independent from government,
the People through Initiatives, protected to a
higher degree than a Federal Grand Jury, extremely
tampering or media exploitation.
The final selection will be from Initiatives that
have passed all the safeguards and will not
overburden the Voters. At
each general election, a maximum of
qualified Initiatives will go on the ballot as
Candidate Direct Initiatives.
In addition, the Boule may submit up to twelve
Candidate Indirect Initiatives to Congress over each two-year
period. Congress may modify them, may or may not
pass them, and they are subject to Presidential
veto. Indirect Initiatives are appropriate when the
Authors believe that Congress will
support them, thereby
saving the nationwide
Electorate much time and effort. If Congress or the
President decides not to take appropriate action, the
Initiative can still go on the ballot as a Direct
Citizens Vote on Initiatives
The People make the actual decision to
approve or reject each Candidate Direct Initiative by voting at general elections. If
passed, they become law that neither Congress nor the President
8. Anticipating federal excesses,
the Founding Fathers
built a remedy into the U.S. Constitution.
Their wording of Article V explicitly grants the States the necessary
constitutional power to
curb federal excesses by use of the second method of amending the
Article V Convention of the
States. Reasonable care will avoid
The wording of the second method follows:
Congress, …on the application of the legislatures of two thirds
of the several states, shall call
a convention for proposing
amendments, which… shall be valid to all intents and purposes as
part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of
three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three
fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification
may be proposed by the Congress…."
(Article V, 2nd Method)
seeking state support for the new Constitution, the Founding Fathers explained this remedy as
The Constitution and the intentions of the Founding
Fathers are united and clear. The People have the
and the States have the
and duty to alter a Government that harms the People. Since the problems will
worsen, procrastination increases the
must check congressional excesses and deficiencies otherwise we abandon
Dream that is
already slipping away
in large part due to special interests' influence.
and state constitutions
each state to limit federal Government's excesses.
These are powerful obligations, because all state legislators
have sworn oaths to support both constitutions. State legislators can
fulfill their duty most prudently by putting the issue to a
state referendum. (State governments can
important additional benefits.)
As shown in the schematic, State legislation,
and initiatives are valid methods to initiate an Article V Convention.
Referenda are preferable because they
of the States with the inalienable right of the
alter their government. Their
brings momentous constitutional authority to bear on any constitutional
disputes with Congress. Referenda are available in
all 50 states.
majority of legislators in any of the
24 initiative states disregards
their oaths, the People can use a state initiative to initiate the plan. If
legislators in any of the other states disregard their oaths, the People must
elect legislative majorities who will respect
their duty to the People.
matter how much authority the voters and state constitutions
give to state referenda and initiatives, U.S. and state Supreme Court decisions
generally argue that
the State Legislature, not an initiative or referendum, must make the
to Congress. The States should comply with this literal interpretation of
Article V until the U.S. Supreme Court clarifies these matters.
the constitutional power to deny the
States' application, though it may cause delays. Reasonable care will
avoid second-method procedural
speed the process.
10. When several states support this plan, they should
annex it and improve it.
When they annex it, the states will have complete control over the
Amendment's content and wording—this web site will
surrender all rights. After
34 states have submitted applications, Congress
shall call the
Convention. The Convention will propose
Congress will choose the
method. Finally, 38 States will
ratify it. If state
legislators embrace the plan, the Amendment will cost just a
few million dollars and
could take effect in as little as five years. If
they oppose it, costs could climb past
250 million dollars and
it could take perhaps 15 years.
11. Passing the
will be tough—but it is
and real change will certainly ensue.
(By comparison, our current practice of electing charismatic politicians
who promise solutions is seductively easy, but they inevitably fail to deliver
real lasting change.) Federal government,
conglomerate media and many
special interests will almost unanimously oppose the Amendment. Though
our success is certainly possible, no one can assure it. However, if
we do not try, success is impossible; we condemn ourselves, and our
decedents, to a substantially lesser quality of life.
To avoid dependence on opponents' resources, the
Amendment campaign must initially rely on the
Internet, which the media does not yet control. Self-initiated
support must come from citizens, public interest organizations, blogs,
promoting web sites and concurring politicians at all levels of
The issue reached the 2008 presidential race. One candidate,
Senator Mike Gravel, proposed a plan
to limit congressional excesses—the
National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D). The NI4D concept has much in common
with this plan, though there are important differences
where certain features of NI4D were inappropriate. Other
presidential candidates realize that the People are serious about
forcing Congress to change its ways but avoid confronting the issue of
nationwide initiatives. The issue will increase in importance but we can expect almost
all congressional candidates to finesse it. On the other hand, many State
candidates may decide, under voter pressure or to limit Federally
mandated State expenditures, that change is overdue and come out in
Ultimately, the amendment campaign must focus on gaining
support of state legislators.
Realistically, the public debate will begin in earnest only after the
first state legislature places a
state referendum on their state ballot asking the People in their
state if they support a
U.S. Citizens' Initiatives Amendment. The People's vote will probably reflect the
votes in favor for
each vote against. Once this public support
becomes apparent, state legislators will mostly decide to support the
Amendment or face serious reelection difficulties.
As the Peoples'
with Congress turns to anger
and the States decide to limit federal encroachments, this adjustment to
our system of constitutional checks and balances is
hundred years ago, our ancestors introduced state ballot initiatives to limit
big business excesses in state government. Today, nationwide
"Athenian" Initiatives can limit special interests' influence and
federal government excesses.
However, as with any significant government reform, it is a great threat
to vested political and economic powers. Realistically, it will take
great public misery before the demand for serious fundamental change
tipping point. Unfortunately, the nation seems to be heading in that
direction. In the event, this website presents perhaps the best and
least tumultuous option, which could emerge as the right solution, in
the right place, at the right time.