Government by the People

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Throughout the country there is a deep and growing dissatisfaction with government, particularly at the federal level. Crises go unanswered, policy is adrift and the economy is shaky. The president is either fundraising or playing golf. The Congress does nothing and seems quite happy to get paid for it.

We are heading for another election, which probably will make no great difference. We might get some more of Party A and less of Party B, but overall they will be the same politicians. The voters will be left with their current sense of anger mixed with helplessness.

The political class certainly carries much responsibility for this situation. But so do we, the people. We have forgotten that those we are sending to Washington should be not politicians but representatives. They should not live in a closed town and come out every few years to get re-elected. They should care about what we care about and do what we tell them to. The trouble is that we ourselves have forgotten what that means.

In order to instruct our representative we need first to know what it is that we want done. That does not translate into broad concepts such as peace, prosperity, security or compassion. It means concrete, specific actions or goals. In other words, we need a platform.

The platform is the link between the people and their representative, and the standard against which the representative’s performance can be evaluated. A physical platform is defined by its dimensions, the material it is made of, and by the weight it can carry. Similarly a political platform can be defined in terms of measurable goals, timetables and cost. To “provide jobs” is an intention. To provide one thousand jobs, paying a median salary, within two years, is a platform plank.

Politicians can get away with promises, principles and good intentions because we, the voters, will not go to the trouble of outlining what we want in terms specific enough to obligate our representatives to perform.

The political establishment will of course respond that, while this was possible “in earlier, simpler times”, today’s government operations are so complex that they can only be understood by political or administrative “experts”, not by “ordinary voters”.

This is hogwash.

In fact there are far more real experts in the general population than there are in government. How else could the country run? Within the voting population there are experts on every possible discipline: business, war, administration, logistics, science, education, etc. It is from the general population that government “experts” – if truly are so – are recruited. We, the voters, have far more expertise on how to solve problems and make things work than anyone in Congress or in the Administration. But until we get together and actually do our homework the politicians will continue to fool us with promises, principles and good intentions.

We can do this. In fact, it has been done before.

In 1854 our government was gridlocked just as it is today. As a result a grass-roots political wave created the Republican Party. Unshackled by conventional wisdom the new party put together the most audacious platform in U.S. history, proposing to:

–         Finance and build the transcontinental railroad

–         Create a sound banking system and a reliable national currency

–         Massively expand technical education by creating the land-grant colleges

–         Assure orderly (and free) distribution of land under the Homestead Act

–         Pass an import tariff to finance the government and support U.S. industry

They worked out how this would be done and passed all necessary legislation within four years. On that basis the U.S. went, in fifty years, from an agrarian nation to the world’s foremost industrial power.

We can do as well, provided we have the will to define what our national goals are and how we will bring them about. Let us build the people’s platform, and then tell our politicians to stand on it.

We have written for months now on problems facing the U.S. economy with a focus on jobs.  Our next several articles will discuss solutions to these problems and present them in a developing a National Interest Platform. Please note that we cover issues where we all share an interest and unite us rather that issues that divide the country further.  This platform can be used by voters to contact their elected representatives and insist on solutions or candidates who wish to run for office.  Either of these puts pressure on our federal representatives to put America back on a path that works for all Americans.

Born in Poland, Jacek Popiel was educated in Africa, Canada, and the United States. He speaks five languages. His career spans military and international business development in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, North America, and Japan. He is currently a freelance writer and political consultant. His book “Viable Energy Now,” grew out of his military and international business experience and his professional involvement with energy issues.

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