In my last piece, I took a look at Terry Goddard’s crusade against “dark money” — an expansion of state power that is an assault on free speech, in my opinion. He has accepted the help of Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS Arizona) in the signature gathering for the ballot proposition.
SOS Arizona is fresh off a victory in which it forced a law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor on to a ballot prop, subverting the legislative process.
The “dark money” issue never gained traction in the Legislature, but who needs the Legislature when you have SOS Arizona? At some point, we will have to decide if we want the Arizona to remain a representative republic or become a direct democracy.
Our system of government at both the federal and the state level is that of a representative republic in which elected representatives consider and pass laws that are accepted or rejected by an elected executive. An alternative to the representative republic is the direct democracy in which the citizenry votes on every law. The ballot prop exemplifies the mechanics of a direct democracy.
Some might say, “What’s wrong with direct democracy? Give the power to the people!” Well, that sounds good, but it is prudent to take a few calming breaths and think it through. It is natural for people to associate with the like-minded and form factions. James Madison, a prominent founding father, recognized this and saw direct democracy as a potential tool with which majorities could oppress minorities. His example was those who did not own land (a majority) forming a faction that could use the law to take land away from the landowners (a minority), thus subverting one purpose of government which is to protect minority rights. The same thing could occur with a representative republic, but with far more difficulty.
Madison also believed that a legislator would represent a constituency consisting of many factions and therefore be more inclined to vote for the greater good, and that the legislator would also be more open to compromise. A legislator will hear from all sides of an issue, then, hopefully, take a few calming breaths and think it through.
So far we have looked at the mechanics of governments and their effects, but we have not addressed the impact on society. The reason that Americans are so creative, generous, happy and prosperous is because our lives are centered on the civil rather than the political side of society, or you might say, the private sector rather than the public sector.
The reason that we are a representative republic is because we farm out government work to representatives so that we can pursue the more important work of bettering society through our work, play, worship, volunteerism and studies. Societies in which government power is at its hub take that power from the people who end up forming factions that fight each other over influence, or even the capturing, of that government power.
Do we really want to fight each other for power, or work together where we agree and leave each other alone where we do not?
I am deeply concerned that if SOS Arizona is as wildly successful with Goddard’s project as it was with its last effort, we will see the ballot proposition become the avenue for those who cannot get their agenda through the Legislature. The ballot prop will become a parallel and competing form of government to the Legislature.
We need to decide which is better for Arizona and pick one. Neither works as well as we would like, but for the sake of our society, our people, we should stick with our representative republic form.