Contrary to what we've been taught, democracy is not a spectator sport

Democracy is a contact sport that everyone should play. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, it is not a spectator sport. It was specifically designed for amateurs and when professionals take over, they only ruin the game.

There are a large number of ways to get democracy wrong (calling a republic a “democracy” is one), but there are an even larger number of ways to get it right: equal, in fact, to number of voters in the population. Our guardians tell us that the game is over when we cast a one-time, win-lose, majority-rule vote about something, but it’s not. The game isn’t over until we, the people, say it is and those decisions are best made by consensus.

This site is dedicated to the proposition that responsible adults like us can and should collaborate on determining the conditions of our own existence and make binding decisions about the things that matter most.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contents

  1. Who are Guardians and Do We Need Them?
    Guardian functions–such as safeguarding shared resources–are necessary because we can’t be everywhere at once and do everything directly all the time. Guardian roles, however, transform this obvious, common-sense idea into the notion that guardians themselves must do everything important, from setting agendas to telling the rest of us how to live a good life. Who are these people and why have we let them con us into this for so long?
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  2. A Brief History of Guardianism
    Over the eons, human history shows our gradual climb from despotism to more direct control over the things that matter most, yet our quasi-parental guardians still force their will upon us.  How did it get that way and what have we done about it?
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  3. Guardians and Private Property: Domain Versus Dominion
    Guardians love to tell us what to do with our stuff, including (and especially) real estate–particularly when the patch of ground we live on is used to determine our rights and obligations as citizens. James Madison said, “The people who own the country ought to govern it.” The question is, who really owns the country?
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  4. Guardianism, Equality, and Fairness
    Might makes right, we’re told, so we should we happy when guardians lose power and citizens get stronger. Property rights gradually expanded to include individual and civil rights as well–it’s a wonderful story but it still leaves us wondering: how much inequality is fair?
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  5. The Myth of Majority Rule
    Guardians depict all conflicts as contests to be decided by one-time, win-lose, majority-rule votes. As it turns out, this is the worst way to make most collective decisions: deciding everything and settling nothing. Is there a better way to make communal decisions that last?
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  6. How Political and Economic Guardians Cooperate
    We used to call government and industry a society’s political economy. That term went out of favor when guardians convinced us that “private” and “public” sectors are two different things. They’re not, and can’t be as long as we participate in both. Why are our political and economic freedoms interlocked and why do guardians work so hard to keep that a secret?
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  7. Guardians and Private Profit
    Let’s be honest: you can’t make a profit unless you charge more for something than it cost. Fine. But who says how much is too much? Unless you’re a guardian, it isn’t you.
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  8. Guardianism and the Law
    Can laws be interpreted objectively, like “natural laws” in science? Or do they always reflect the preferences of a dominant group? Would this question even come up if guardians didn’t make and interpret our laws?
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  9. The Democratic Personality
    Society informs it citizens, so citizens get the society they deserve. Guardians cultivate aggressiveness, collusion, and elitism among themselves while requiring docility, obedience, and passivity from the rest of us. Consensual democrats value inclusion, participation, reciprocity, and empathy. Under consensual democracy, do nice guys finish first?
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  10. Three Myths About Participation
    Guardians try to convince us that direct participation can only work in small groups, handle small problems, and that a few, “superior” people always make better decisions than the rest of us put together. Do these cherished guardian assumptions stand the test of time?
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  11. Selfishness Versus Self-Interest
    People are self-interested, and that includes a desire to avoid unnecessary problems. Everyone, not just altruists, has a stake in accommodating the reasonable needs of others–but when do those needs become unreasonable?
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  12. Workplace Democracy: Can Employees Manage Themselves?
    Who rightfully “owns” labor and the surplus it generates–the entrepreneur who supplies the tools or the worker who uses them? Guardians force employees to sacrifice rights they’d never give up at home or in politics, just to put bread on the table. How did we let this happen?
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  13. Can We Mandate Consensus?
    Consensus doesn’t require unanimity, only that we try to accommodate different views. When people consent to something, they don’t obstruct and evade it, enforcement costs go down, and compliance becomes commitment. Sounds great, but how do you mandate an open mind?
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  14. Can Consensus Be Taught?
    Adults don’t need parental supervision. They make their own decisions, individually and cooperatively with others. Like other social skills, participation and collaboration can be learned and practiced–but how we teach them makes a difference.
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  15. Institutions That Promote Consent
    Participation is like a muscle: use it or it wastes away. We get good at something only by practice–and there are plenty of ways to hone our consensus-seeking skills. Why don’t guardians let that happen?
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  16. Life In a Consensual Democracy
    Direct participation in meaningful political and economic decisions is no more idealistic or irrational than the belief that guardians always have the best answer. The framework for consensual democracy is surprisingly simple and flexible, but some assembly is required!
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