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Faux Contracts

I really like Ron Paul, and all that he says, and all that he stands for. Except. Yes, there is one exception, and it’s a doozy: the importance he places on the US Constitution.

Let me explain. The US Constitution as it was originally written and understood, one that attempted to create a LIMITED government and a FEDERATION of states, was brilliant for its day. A federation is a construct that embodies the principle of subsidiarity, a cornerstone of natural law. So, I find the US Constitution to be wonderful in what it set out to accomplish.

However, over time, and almost from the beginning, it underwent corruption, as any dead document does. The limited government gave way to virtually unlimited government. Real federation gave way to a nationalism, where everything important comes from DC, and states have become beggars for handouts from the center of power.

How did this happen? The root cause goes back to that description I gave of the US Constitution: a dead document. If you look at it, it has the form of a contract. It has all this legal language, and an array of very official-looking signatures at the end. The problem is, none of the people who signed it, none of the people who voted to ratify it, not one is alive today. It is a dead document, which means that we are controlled by the dead. What gives them the right? No one and nothing. It is not about right any longer, only about might.

The problem with the US Constitution, as with any government established by constitution, is that every constitution is a faux contract.

That’s why this site is called Government By Contract. I believe that we need REAL contracts, not faux ones. Even one as clever as the US Constitution. Only with real contracts can governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed, and not by the consent of the long dead.

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Fair; not just

The issue is justice. Try this thought experiment.

Three people meet at a restaurant. Two of them are hungry and decide to get something to eat. They have their meal; time to pay the bill. They decide that the third person should contribute equally to pay for lunch. She objects, but the other two manage to get her purse and extract the money for her “fair share”. Does this seem just to you? This is how government works.

Closed Boxes

I had a conversation the other day with an old acquaintance, introducing him to the concept of cantons. “Too much about taxes”, he said. “It won’t resonate with most people”. The discussion that ensued went on for a good long time. At one point, in arguing against any idea that a political solution could work, I described the current political situation as a “closed box”. By this I meant that everything within politics was controlled by the special interests, not the people. As the recent rash of clearly intentional “miscounts” in several Republican caucuses and primaries shows (Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, Maine), no one can win an election who is not pre-approved. They’ll do whatever it takes, no matter how ungraceful. No amount of trying to elect “good” people will change the fact that those who get elected will do so because they will toe the line set for them by the most powerful special interests.

My solution to this vexing problem required that it be outside that closed box. I determined that taxes, necessary to the functioning of governments, could be used against them, because people still look on taxes as “their money”. My reasoning was that, if I could get enough people to want to take back control of “their money”, it would crack open those closed boxes from within. What a lovely sound that would be!

To me, the fundamental issue has to do with concentration of power in too few hands, causing the concomitant concentration of wealth in too few hands. These two things are inseparable (the Occupy movement has it only half right). The answer to both is to correctly address the first, and this is done by finding a way to redistribute power back to the people. This had been marvelously done with the US Constitution, with the idea of federation of states being truly realized and exercised. Since Lincoln’s war we have consolidation of power in the District of Criminals, and increasingly in the Executive Branch. I see cantons at every level of government, first locally, to be the correct answer to how we redistribute power away from special interests and the governments they control, back to the People.

Governments at every level of society seem to work perfectly in one sense: they always seem to benefit special interests at the expense of the people who actually pay for government with their taxes.

Some people say that government is too big, but how can we know? What metric can be used to determine whether or not government is the right size?

So, we have before us two questions that need answers. First, what can be done to prevent special interests from continuing to control governments everywhere to their own advantage, and to the disadvantage of the people? And second, how can we “right-size” government?

What I am proposing here is a new kind of organization in society that will answer both of the questions and accomplish both objectives:

1) Put the power of government back in the hands of the people who support it with their taxes, and
2) Ensure that only those parts of government that actually provide some good to the people continue to exist.

The organization I am proposing I call a “canton”. The word comes from the territorial areas that make up the Federation of Switzerland. But the type I am proposing differs in significant ways. Let me describe a canton in detail.

First of all, let’s consider the situation at the lowest level of government: the municipality. For this example, we will talk about a middle-sized town of just less than 100,000 citizens, where the town is funded mostly with property taxes. As things currently work, tax notices are sent to all owners of real estate in the town, other than those that are exempt, such as non-profit organizations. The property owners are assessed a certain tax on their property, payable to the town’s tax office. The tax office collects the taxes, which are then made available to the various departments of local government as determined by the elected town council. This is generally the kind of local government we have all grown up with for many generations in America. When times are good, it works reasonably well. We know that it doesn’t work perfectly (what does?), and we realize that there is some degree of cronyism, preferential treatment for some special interest groups, even some corruption. But, as the saying goes, you can’t fight city hall, so we tend to ignore a good deal of the imperfections, chalk it up to a system that, while imperfect, is generally good enough, and get on with our lives.

That’s what we do in good times. But when the times are not-so-good, we begin to feel the squeeze, and the issues that we were willing to ignore before become more unpleasant to deal with. Often the real pain comes when the town starts spending more than it takes in, forcing an increase in taxes, directly impacting our own family’s possibly fragile bottom line. We may even begin to move out of our comfort zone (which has become more uncomfortable), to seek some kind of relief.

At the same time, some of us just become more frustrated with the more glaring imperfections of the local government, and, prompted by a spirit of civic responsibility, determine to change things for the better for everyone. After all, since when have we been satisfied with “good enough”?

This is where a canton can make a difference. So, what is a canton? In some ways it is like a political party, since its members share common principles and values. Its members have one other thing in common: they are taxpayers. As such, they want their taxes to go to projects of the local government that are consistent with their values. This, we are told, happens now, because we have the right to vote and elect all the town officials that make the important policy decisions about how our taxes are spent. But it turns out, this doesn’t really work. The people who get elected generally do so with the support, not just from the people who elect them, but from special interest groups, who have quite different agendas. And since the elections are based on majority votes, and these majorities can at times be quite slim, a great many of the people casting votes cast them for those who end up on the losing end of the election. These people of the minority then are, to a very real extent, unrepresented by the officials the majority elects. On the contrary, the officials who win these elections may have principles and values diametrically opposed to those of the minority, and will direct all funding of programs and departments accordingly.

The aim, therefore, of a canton, is to be an organization of taxpayers, united by a common set of principles and values, representing the personal interests of each member, organized as a group for common action. To do this it must first acquire enough members to be a force to be reckoned with. Then, it must take away from the local government the right to spend the taxes acquired from its members, and to assert the right to spend those taxes according to the principles and values of its members.

What will this accomplish? It will create a set of organizations (cantons) whose sole purpose is to see that local government does not serve first the special interest groups, but the people, and all of the people, according to each ones principles and values. Second, it will provide a method for right-sizing government by funding only those departments and projects that accord with the needs and desires of the taxpayers themselves.

Where, you may ask, does a group of taxpayers get the authority for something so radical? It comes from our very own (quite radical in many ways) Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Our current forms of government have served us reasonably well for a very long time. We do not need to abolish them. But it has become increasingly clear to many that now is the time to alter them in ways that seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness. If you agree, become involved in the canton movement. If we succeed in attracting enough members to our local cantons, we can calmly and thoughtfully proceed to the next phase, creating a system of government very much like our current one, but responsive to every person, their values, their good, and the good of all.

I wrote in October 2011 about Gerald Celente and his promotion of Direct Democracy. He continues to promote this idea. I still think it is a bad idea. Here’s why.

With any kind of democracy, everything is winner-take-all. If a bill comes up in Congress, but we have instituted Direct Democracy via the internet, we will have more people voting (not a bad thing), but we still have only one result, and if the result is not what I would have voted for, my money nevertheless is used to pay for it.

With cantons, my money is NEVER spent on something I don’t support, as long as my canton acts according to my principles and values. If it chooses to do otherwise, I find another canton next year, and my old canton is thus diminished by at least one person’s taxes. Do you see the difference?

Direct democracy would be better, but it still isn’t good enough. Cantons are just as easy to establish as Direct Democracy, and produce better results in that every person pays for only what they want. Direct Democracy is still winner-take-all, and results in the dreaded “tyranny of the majority”. Why go there when there is something better?

I got a very challenging comment from Breck in Spokane:

OK Dwight, I’ve read up to May 2010. I think that’s a reasonable amount of the website to have studied before breaking off and going directly to the “source” – you – to ask for an example of how the canton works. Thus far I have a GENERAL idea of what you are talking about but that’s all. I believe you need to lay this out in more detail at the place on the website where most people will first get into your thoughts. I have a difficult time reading along on anyone’s thoughts and ideas without having some “Site Plan” that I can use as an outline and roadmap for the whole concept. Thanks, Breck in Spokane

Breck, thanks for your very well-written and thoughtful comment. Not for lack of trying, but I have to admit I don’t have a good answer. This blog has been a journey of discovery for me. I learn things from thinking and writing about them. I have learned a lot about why society is ailing today, and I have some idea about what needs to be done. But, as you see, I am not completely “there” yet. Work with me.

Let me tell you where I am today with regard to the question “how”. My belief is that the process of repair of society starts at the bottom, so I am in the process of trying to create cantons locally. I have started a meetup group called South Jersey Canton Formation Group. So far I have gotten one person to join, and that person appears to be a bit of a phantom, since I have not been able to contact him/her in any way. But I’m not done trying to get local people interested.

What would we do? We would create “virtual” cantons, giving them names, and discussing what their values and principles would be. The next step would be to get people to sign on with these virtual cantons, with the hope that they would become less “virtual” and more “actual” cantons, with a true legal status and genuine contracts. The cantons would work together to get control of the local taxes paid by the taxpayer/members of the cantons. This is clearly the hardest part (and none of the parts are easy; please note gift for understatement). It would require putting pressure on the local government to cede a power it has no intention of ceding. The only way this can be accomplished is by the People standing up for their rights.

My goals in creating local cantons are simple:

1) Redistribute power back to the people to whom it belongs, or, said differently, let the taxpayers determine what their taxes pay for. What does this accomplish? It reverses the long-standing consolidation of power in too few hands that has been hoovering the taxes of the middle class into the pockets of the elites (oligarchs and plutocrats) who own us serfs. It restores the dignity of the serfs, so that they can function again in their full human capacity.

2) Right-size government. How can we right-size government? It cannot be accomplished by turning over the fruits of our labor (taxes) to the political elite who spend them for their own benefit. When we take back control of the fruits of our labor that are seized as taxes, we assign ownership to our canton, to be spent for OUR benefit, according to OUR principles and values. Whatever doesn’t get paid for gets trimmed.

The goals are simple; the accomplishment is mind-bogglingly difficult.

If it seems I am slow to accomplish my aims, please consider that I have a fulltime job (thank God) that occupies most of my days, and other activities in my life that take up much of the time I am not working. Life is like that. So, I am doing what I can, when I can, with my limited gifts.

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