Of The People, By The People, For The People

Bottom-up democracy is grass roots democracy, involving all of the voting public; top-down democracy is democracy by those with power, those at the top of the money chain. There seems to be a battle between those with power and those with votes.

Democracy is supposed to rely on words, not force. Therefore, we should build up our ability to use words not our ability to use force. The use of words involves all or most of the people; our ability to use force involves only certain people. That is the problem with bottom-up democracy; it is easier to involve some of the people than to involve all of the people, or even most of the people.

There are several current obstacles to bottom-up democracy in America. One is US Supreme Court’s recent decisions that have made bottom-up democracy more difficult when it removed barriers to money in politics and eliminated federal checks on state voting-rights abuses. Only certain people now are able to influence politics or even to vote.

Another obstacle to bottom up democracy is the unenlightened and biased voters who vote. Opinion and prejudice have increasingly been substituted for science and reason. This has been documented over and over again. Democracy needs voter agreement on the difference between knowledge and opinion and between facts and falsehoods. Many voters don’t acknowledge or admit these differences.

This has caused Daniel Boorstin, a former Libarian of Congress to write: We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that they can live with them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. This obstacle is so big it could be that the tyranny of illusion may be a bigger deterrent to democracy than the tyranny of money.

A third obstacle to democracy is all the people who are eligible to vote but don’t voluntarily vote. And of course the people who don’t vote because they are prevented or deterred from voting by political action.

It is hard to know which of these obstacles are likely to be overcome in the future. Some will say these have always been the problems of democracy and will continue to be. I have been writing for years about the problem of false beliefs and I am not too optimistic about changing this. To me, overcoming the third obstacle, getting more people to vote may be the most likely. However, I don’t have a formula for doing this. This will require bottom up, grass roots strategies.




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  1. says:

    I really like this one.  There was a good column of David Brook’s in todays NYTimes that is another piece of the obstacles you outline.  A thought I have regarding people voting is a little mixed from the thought that all people should as well as have the ability to vote.  Years ago I was involved with the League of Women Voters to get out the vote, and we were everywhere making it possible to register.  I remember thinking some  of the people we registered were not ones I thought would put any serious thought to how they voted.  I wondered then if we really wanted them to vote.  Makes me cringe just to think I would actually have that opinion–but I see so many people that blindly vote–for whomever they are told to vote for.  Then there are those that are kept from voting because of race.  Your quote from Boorstin is very provocative. Marianne

  2. Robert Leon says:

    Partner, How pessimistic! Is there really no hope? Maybe it is a matter of time. If things get really bad (tea party becomes really strong) then there might be a strong reaction from the rest of us.

    Sent from my iPad


  3. John Krumboltz says:

    We are being lied to multiple times every day. Every advertisement distorts the truth to some degree. Take the word “Save.” “Buy our product and save 20%.” We don’t seem to realize that the list price (the asking price) is an arbitrary number invented by the seller to maximize profits. That arbitrary asking price may well be triple the cost of producing it, so reducing it by 25% still leave the seller with a big profit. And the purchasers have even less money to add to their savings accounts. The word “SAVE” in advertising is a deliberately misleading lie. John

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