Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seize Democracy!

The revolution in Egypt will inspire millions of people to defy their governments and no longer submit to tyranny. But the street protests ironically acknowledge the authority of the state chiefs. When protesters demand reforms, they recognize the rulership of the regime. An alternative would be to refuse the jurisdiction of the regime.
People country-wide would create local village and neighborhood councils. They would then engage in civil disobedience to the prior regime. They would refuse to pay taxes to the old regime. They would refuse to obey arbitrary restrictions, such as permits and license to engage in production and trade.
The prior regime could seek to stifle the local democracy. They could send in the police to break up local meetings. But people could meet in houses and cafés. It would be difficult for the regime to stop local meetings nation-wide. The people would also coordinate their activity via the Internet. Has there been an election via twitter?
The prior regime could send in thug police to wreak shops that refuse to pay taxes or bribes. They could arrest vegetable peddlers with no license. So the pioneers of seizing democracy would have to be brave. But we have seen that people will have courage when they know that the people are with them.
A group of neighborhood councils would elect a greater-area council, which would take charge of the highways and larger facilities. These councils in turn would elect the next wider council, and so on to a national parliament. The parliament then elects the president. All representatives are subject to recall and replacement at any time.
The Old Testament provides a guide to governance in Exodus 18:21: ye shall choose out of the entire nation capable and trustworthy persons who hate corruption, and ye shall appoint them to be leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens. Thus the thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens represent the areas of governance.
There would thus be a parallel people’s government along with the prior regime. The national army chiefs would then have to decide which government to recognize. The sympathies of the soldiers would be with the people, and the army would switch sides. The prior regime would be gone.
With power divided into neighborhood cells, it would be difficult for the military to capture power. Bottom-up small-group cellular democracy would be government by majority. But democracy is not enough. The people of Egypt also called out for “freedom! freedom!”.
Raw democracy can impose the tyranny of the majority on religious and other minorities. A danger of seizing democracy is that people have prejudices, and could falsely blame innocent minorities for their troubles. That is what has been happening in Iraq, where Christians are being persecuted and driven out.
Let us hope that the call for freedom in Egypt was for freedom for the people and not just freedom from the regime. When people seize democracy, they should at the same time declare a state of freedom. They can adopt one simple constitutional rule: do not coercively harm others.
Revolutionary democracy has to establish economic freedom, not just freedom of speech and religion. Having abandoned the old tax structure, it would be tragic for the new government to once again stifle the economy with coercive rules and punitive costs. The youths of Egypt were also rebelling against the lack of economic opportunity.
A free society requires a truly free market. The new realm should impose no restriction or tax on peaceful and honest enterprise. All that is needed is to penalize force and fraud. The councils would declare the land value as the legitimate property of the people, and collect a community rent from all land holders. The local councils could then pass on some of the rent to wider-area jurisdictions. The assessments and collections would be organized by a board with representatives from the whole set of councils. But ultimate power would rest with the neighborhood councils and the people.
We need to differentiate righteous revolution from tyrant take-overs. A righteous revolution establishes genuine democracy and freedom. No more pharaohs!
Power is ultimately with the people. Physics differentiates between potential power and kinetic power. The people of Egypt transformed their potential power into kinetic power. If their revolution be righteous, they would cast off the power of the old realm, while recognizing and protecting the individual power of each person in the new democratic liberated Egypt.


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