13. Democratic Governance

In designing a more evolved form of governance, the founders of the American democratic process did not have any historic references to guide them to develop the processes that would carry their new nation into the centuries and millennia ahead. They did their best and hoped that what they had created would carry the nation into the next century. It did, and it helped inspire more democratic forms of governance in many other nations as well.

Today, having seen the present performance of the democratic process that they invented, we know that if we do not further evolve our democratic processes that our existing ones will continue to decline in effective performance, resulting in the decline of democratic nations and the disintegration of their societies.

Today’s citizens are much more educated and in touch with affairs. Mass media and the Internet spread information at a rapid pace. Those who framed constitutions two or three centuries ago could never have imagined today’s world. Citizens today have both the right and the responsibility to participate much more directly in governance, more “in real time” as it were. Likewise, we today can only dimly glimpse what the world may be like when another two or three centuries have passed, and should not presume that anything we may create today will be appropriate very far into the future.

The First Intention

The Vision of Democratic Governance is the same today as it was before and during the American Revolutionary War as embodied in the Declaration of Independence. The vision includes that individual citizens have the ultimate authority and responsibility for the establishment of a democratic government, where citizens are free from monarchial rule, and are free to exercise their right of self-determination without interference from the government. That being the vision, the first intention was to form a democratic government that put those principles of democracy into place.

The Second Intention

Seeking to develop the second intention begs the original question, “What can we do to create an evolved democratic process as a major contributor to the centuries-long social sustainability of a democratic nation?”

Simply put, the second intention for the existence of the democratic process of all democratic nations must be to emplace systems which enable and foster ongoing evolutionary improvements to the democratic processes 18 that will empower them to contribute to the ongoing social sustainability of a democratic society and nation, while also sustaining the individual rights of citizens. When we will have done that we will have come a long way toward assuring that our children and future generations will have an effective democratic government that both protects them and empowers them to grow into their innate potential.

What remains is the decision to work toward those ends. At this early stage, that does not require a vote by a nation, state, or district. It only requires that enough people think this is a possibility and that this work is needed for the good of our grandchildren and all future generations. Remember, it only requires that 1% in any community to begin. In a democracy, the moral and ethical obligations and responsibilities for creating a more evolved democratic process lie with the public, specifically with each citizen.

Democracy is the only form of governance that has the inherent capability to transcend the original design implemented when it was founded. The factor that gives democracies that adaptability is the values of democracy that are synonymous with the seven innate values that give humanity its adaptability. When those values are in place, then what is required for the original democratic process to evolve is the consciousness of citizens to recognize that the democratic process that once satisfied the public needs in earlier years, no longer satisfies the public today.

Their dissatisfaction has become evident because the democratic processes have not evolved with the public’s evolving interpretations of the original values that prompted the founding of democratic nations. 19 Evolving value-interpretations are the original cause of social change, as discussed earlier. When the next evolutionary stage of democracy is not anticipated and is not provided, then the demands for an improved democratic governing process become visible as increasing public discontent and protest.

Of all the forms of governance none are socially sustainable except for those that are founded on the principles of democracy and the values that are innate to every citizen. Only a democracy has the capability and potential to transcend its own beginnings; all others will fail. Yet, there is no assurance that a democracy will last into the future ages until the values, their characteristics, morality and ethics become intentionally operational in the course of the democratic process. Even then a democracy has every possibility of failing until that democratic process daily operates with the conscious intention of contributing to the social sustainability of the individual/family and all organizations, i.e., anticipating social change.

What is required to prevent the collapse of democratic nations and to assure their transcendence is the moral commitment of citizens and those involved in the democratic process to move from self-interest to other-interest for all future generations. The democratic process does not exist to be milked for what office holders can gain from it, but exists to provide an improving quality of life for everyone. Democracies do not exist only for this generation, but equally for the hundreds of generations and the billions of our descendants.

The original form of the American democracy came into existence with specific intentions — to establish a democratic process as a non-monarchial form of governance. That having been accomplished successfully, there was no further effort to improve it, except in Thomas Jefferson’s perceptive thoughts.

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand and hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinion change, with the circumstances, institutions must advance able to keep pace with the times....".
           Thomas Jefferson, from a letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.

With the successful accomplishment of the original intention for establishing the U.S. form of democratic process, the development of the second intention has been long overdue.

A One-Sentence Intention For Any Democratic Nation

Statement of Intention: The intention of democratic governance is to create a socially self-sustaining society with democratic processes that are sufficient to sustain the individual, the society, and their democratic-quality-of-life into a long and distant future.

That may not be perfectly stated, but the fundamental elements are there —

Purpose of this statement:  To set an intention for action.

Type of governance: A Representative Democratic Republic. The democratic process engages the public to co-create the fulfillment of the intention.

Process: Social sustainability via its self-sustaining design and functions.

Object:  Sustain the public, and its democratic-quality-of-life.

CAUTION: Failing to initiate the fulfillment of the intention is an act of omission, a covert statement that the democratic process and the existence of a democratic nation has no substantial and continuing reasons for its existence.

Organizational Adaptability. History is clear, while our species is sustainable, organizations and governments of every type, are not.

Fatally, organizations are not socially sustainable because they do not have the four primary values embedded into their “organizational DNA” as they are in our human DNA. The archeological detritus of the social history of humankind provides clear evidence that all empires, dynasties, kingdoms, and nations large and small have all failed to sustain themselves. 20 The four primary values have urged us, driven us, to become adaptable to survive and to continue to fulfill the values that have sustained us.

●   Said another way, organizations and non-democratic governments are not adaptable because their form, functions, option-development, choice-making and decision-making processes were artificially formalized and their structure crystallized, which prevents the organization from adapting to social change that is organic to the people they serve.

●   Not being able to adapt, organizations and governments have not learned how to survive the invisible slow creep of social change or of rapidly changing situations. Formalized organizations are not inherently incapable of adapting to the social changes of the host society, but today’s organizations were not designed with an intention to adapt. All 2nd Stage Democracies, as all existing democracies, will fail simply because they were not designed to adapt and evolve. 21

The evolution of the democratic process will occur when the public has a regular and consistent means to share their preferences and make them known to their representatives. By adjusting social, political, and economic policies based on the constancy of the seven core values that operate 24/7 in every citizen, social, political, and economic evolution can take place peacefully.

The Learning Organization

Organizational Adaptation. What is not built into our existing Constitution are the elements that give the democratic process the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

The link that connects adaptation to changing circumstances is a democratic process that includes citizen preference-making early in the option-development and choice-making phases of decision-making. What will make this a rational process is the use of thousands of Local Community Design and Validation Teams that will have the ability to make reasoned suggestions and recommendations by citizens of their communities. Rational decentralized option-development and choice-making will add to the credibility of decisions made by legislators and public executives.

The benefit of designing the democratic process to become adaptive to changing conditions is that it becomes a learning process for citizens and strategic planners.

Discern This Closely

It is not changing conditions that cause the downfall of societies, but the failure of societies to adapt to those changing conditions. The survival of any species is reflected in their ability to adapt to changing conditions. Adapting means growing when change occurs.

When we examine the history of all human civilizations, one startling fact emerges — ALL civilizations, societies, nations, organizations and their administrations, policies, and laws have failed. They all failed to survive! Consider some of the causes for those organizational failures:

●   Not one was founded with an intention to become sustainable. Not one was designed to become sustainable, either materially or socially. All took for granted (assumed) that their nation would perpetuate itself into the far distant future.

●   Most importantly, all failed because they were not designed as “learning organizations.”  Learning is the result of our urge to grow from experience to improve our quality of life, individually and collectively. When organizations take on the four primary values of social sustainability (life, quality of life, growth and equality), they will become learning organizations and grow into sustainable organizations.

●   They failed by not learning from their experiences, and did not keep functional libraries of wisdom to guide them.

●   All historic organizations failed to learn to adapt to changing conditions.

A failure to adapt, a failure to learn from experience. The irony of our desires is that democracies are not perfect, and never will be. Democracies are not perfect because they are developmental social organizations where each developmental stage of democracy provides the preparation to evolve to the next developmental stage. The nature of evolving democracies is to provide an adaptable democratic process that maintains the principles of liberty without license, freedom to choose, and the right of self-determination by its citizens, without jeopardizing the sustainability of its host society or other citizens.

Of all the forms of government, only democracy has the potential to adapt to the organic nature of those it governs. All other forms of governance are static and ultimately UNsustainable. Yet, democracy is not a “one size fits all” type of governance. Because of the nature of those it serves, democracies must emulate the adaptability of our species to become adaptable democracies, which opens the potential to become socially sustainable into centuries and millennia.

Failure to adapt. Taken as a whole, the representative form of democratic process invented by the founders of American democracy was designed without intention to fail in the long-term. The primary reason it will fail is that it is a linear, closed-end process that was not designed to adapt to changing conditions by learning from its mistakes and successes.

The Three Stages of Democracy

In the 1,000 year history of the development of democracy in western civilization, several conclusions can be made. These are presented below in three stages of the development of democracy in western civilization.22

Some minor conclusions are more subtle. As example, the hope of citizens increases and abates depending on how citizens perceive their ability to influence their government for a desired outcome. When difficult circumstances arise and citizens perceive that they have no ability to influence that situation, their hope can quickly turn into desperation. The most subtle of conclusions is that the fear citizens have of social, political, and economic devolution gives way to the hope of conscious and intentional evolution of political processes.

Stage 1, The Emergence of Democracy under Monarchial Rule

a.   When we examine the history of governance from the earliest of times, we see that there has been an ongoing two-dimensional oscillation between control by a central authority and riot, revolt, and revolution by the public against that authority. This continues today in some nations.

b.   When we examine the 1,000 year history of the emergence of democracy in western civilization its progress has also taken on a similar oscillation but in a three-dimensional spiral of evolutionary democratic progress overall.

c.   Every evolutionary progression was always preceded by public outcry for greater consideration of citizen’s preferences.

d.    Those successful evolutionary developments incorporated the means to satisfy the demands of the subjects by merging those improvements with existing processes of governance. This allowed for the continuation of governance but in a more evolved form of governance, albeit authoritarian rule. In this conclusion lies the hope for the conscious evolutionary improvement of democracies.

e.   Stage 1 ends with the revolution of the citizens to remove themselves from under monarchial rule.

Stage 2, Founding a Democratic Nation

There is a consistency of development of the United States democracy from 1776 into the late 20th century that I have named the 2nd Stage of Democracy. The 2nd Stage came to a close toward the end of the 20th century when all citizens over the age of eighteen were represented in the democratic process.

During State 2, the United States has transformed the Colonies of the British monarchy through revolution and collective collaboration into the longest-lived democracy in the history of the world. Mistakenly, almost all citizens have assumed that it will continue indefinitely in the same form as it has for the last 240+ years. When we assume what is to continue indefinitely, that is the point where the future becomes dangerous. I believe there are limits that a 2nd Stage Democracy can exist before necessity requires it to adapt and evolve to become a more effective democracy, by transforming itself into a Stage 3 Democracy.

Distinguishing Characteristics of a Stage 2 Democracy. The foremost distinguishing aspect of the 2nd Stage of Democracy is that it is a closed-end linear representative democratic process, not a system. Second, it does not have an embedded system for learning from mistakes and successes. As such, it relies upon the short lives and shorter memories of those we elect to be wise enough not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Without embedded feedback practices, and a “library of wisdom,” learning is impossible and permanently jeopardizes all conscious efforts of longevity, let alone social stability.

●   As a traditional organizational structure, this closed-end, linear process is hierarchical in nature, and related to the increase of power farther up the hierarchy. By itself, a hierarchy is neither good nor bad. Its effectiveness is determined by how well it can adapt and work to resolve public issues and move communities, states, and the nation into the future.

●   As a hierarchy, the chain of authority is top-down, with laws and executive orders originating from governors and the president proceeding down to the level of citizens. This is in reality no different from the chain of authority of the king, a monarch, except that citizens elect those in the democratic chain of authority. All of this lends itself to a linear, authoritarian management process and pyramidal organizational structure, which makes it impossibly difficult for large hierarchies to produce effective local-level social programs. Citizen participation is limited to the vote, much like a simple electrical “on-off” switch. It never accesses the ongoing and ever-present intelligence, wisdom, or knowledge of the voter, individually or collectively.

●   Operationally, our contemporary representative process of democracy has been set up intentionally to guard against the domination of one person, political party, or interest. While this provides a system of checks and balances, it unfortunately also was designed to guard against the inclusion of the public. Considering the larger majority of the public in the 1700s was thought to be a rough and illiterate rabble, that was a reasonable design. But, given a highly educated, informed, and involved public of the 21st century, this older design is exclusionary and isolates the public from contributing qualitatively to their representation. As the capability of citizens to participate more effectively has risen, the quality of their representation has decreased alarmingly.

●   When the above characteristics of the 2nd Stage of Democracy are acknowledged and we add in the pernicious “me-ism” and “I’ll get mine first” attitudes of our contemporary culture, it becomes clearer how our state legislatures and Congress have become so embroiled in highly adversarial and competitive positioning. The adroit art of political compromise seems to have come to a miserable end.

●   What we see now is gross evidence of linear thinking: adversarial-competitive, win-lose, with-us-or-against-us, either-or, us-them, us-or-them, our-way-or-the-highway, insiders-outsiders, and “winner takes all.” These characteristics and attitudes lead to further separation and political isolation between political parties, and particularly from the public. The business of democratically managing the public’s business has come to a sad and incompetent end.

●   Being male dominated, it is inherently masculine in nature with typically male-minded predispositions of linear either-or thinking. This unbalanced thinking is further reinforced by the linearity of the subject-verb-object linguistics of the English language, which unfortunately makes it easier for women to accept what men tell them.

●   It is paternalistic, a continuation of the paternalism of the monarchy that governed the Colonies until the British were beaten back to their homeland. Even though women have been elected to state legislatures, governorships, and to congress, politics is male dominated and masculine in nature.

Paternalism. The Unites States, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Spain, and others, are democratic nations that have a history of some form of monarchial governance that acted much like a parental or patriarchal figure in relationship to its subjects. In that form of governance, the responsibilities of social, political, and economic-financial existence were not shared. Those forms of governance protect its authority by keeping information vital to governance from the public for making decisions, leaving the public out of the loop. Yet, immature as this form of governance has demonstrated in its relationship to its subjects, that same paternalism carried over to these democracies in relationship to their citizens.

That development is not a fault of the American founders of democracy but simply a design flaw, a carryover from its origins that did not become apparent until 150 years later when American citizens had achieved far more capability through education, being informed, and through improvements in communication technologies.

In the early stages of an evolving democratic society, democratic paternalism is an advantage until the public has become better educated, more informed, and is technologically capable of ongoing “dialogue” with their public executives. If that paternalism does not yield to more frequent public participation as that society matures, the relationship between government and the public begins to take on a familiar, adolescent, and discordant “parent-child” interaction.

Parentalism. The relationship between citizens and their representative democratic government is too uncomfortably similar to that of a parental relationship with children. When the parent makes all the decisions for the child without ever consulting the child concerning any matter whether minuscule or life-changing, the child will become resentful and hostile because the child has come to feel that they are not of equal importance to the parent. This becomes particularly egregious as the child matures. Similarly, well-educated and informed citizens of mature democracies have come to resent the interference of their government.

As with maturing children, that is the time for citizens to take on more responsibilities in their own governance and become more fully, personally acquainted with the responsibilities of democratic governance in the matters that sustain their communities, states, and nation. Such a “reality democracy” requires an “eyes wide open” approach to decision-making with transparency of the facts supporting the decisions that take society in a chosen direction.

Dependency relationship. Today, there is a lack of reality in the relationship between those who govern and those who are governed. Said another way, there is a definite sense of being out of touch in the relationship between the governing and the governed because the public is so much better educated and informed than their patriotic forefathers and foremothers of the 1700s and 1800s. This is particularly unhealthy because it has led to a dependency relationship between much of the public and government.

Stage 3, An Evolved Form of Democracy

Any new idea or concept, in order to be accepted and make a contribution to the betterment of society, must be seen and accepted as a natural and necessary development of existing concepts and social structures.

To successfully build the Stage 3 of Democracy, we will need to retain those aspects of our traditional 2nd Stage of democracy that are working and lend themselves to its improvement and effectiveness. These include,

1.   The direct connection between the values stated in the Declaration of Independence and the seven core values of social sustainability.

2.   There already exist long term democratic processes in place that have produced a social, political, and economic culture of democracy that will lend itself to the public’s acceptance of the 3rd Stage of Democracy; and the qualitative interpretation of the world “equal.”

3.   The First Amendment provides the context for the development of the 3rd Stage of Democracy, and the qualitative interpretation of the word “equal.”

4.   The Internet is already in place that connects all democratic nations for similar democratic developments.

5.   The first and second intention of the founders of the United States democracy are fulfilled:
     a) The Revolutionary Colonists successfully pushed the authority of the British monarch back to his homeland;
     b) to create a sovereign democratic nation.

6.   There is an history and culture of local citizens meeting together to discuss and promote legislation…

7.   … and share their views, perspectives, opinions, and preferences with their elected and appointed public executives.

Whatever We Re-Design Must —

1.   Be compatible with the Constitutional framework of our nation, and offer an inventive means of linking the values of the Constitution with the innate, sustaining values of our species;

2.   Recover the quality-value relationship that citizens had with their congressional public executives before it vanished after the Apportionment Act of 1911;

3.   Become a democratic evolutionary development to bridge the democratic tragedy that the Apportionment Act created; and,

4   Offer an inventive way to engage contemporary technologies to give citizens an ongoing and continuous means of offering their collective intelligence (think in terms of “knowledge workers” in high tech industries) to create a “trend” of intelligent consensus to share with public executives.

5.   Offer a means for public executives to receive ongoing feedback from constituents; and keep pace with social change and the ever-changing hierarchies of needs of citizens whose interpretations of the seven core values of social sustainability are constantly evolving.

Learning To Adapt To Changing Conditions

Only an organizational system that has double-loop learning processes designed into it is capable of incorporating feedback processes so that the organization, its participants, and citizens learn from their collective mistakes and from their successes. 23 When this is designed into a 3rd Stage Democracy, with a focused long-term local-to-national vision, then that democracy can adapt, survive, exist, and perhaps achieve social sustainability.

NOTE: Psychologist Chris Argyris and philosopher Donald Schön’s intervention research focused on exploring the ways organizations can increase their capacity for double-loop learning. They argued that double-loop learning is necessary if organizations and its members are to manage problems effectively that originate in rapidly changing and uncertain contexts.

Single-Loop Learning. Argyris and Schön describe single-loop learning as “adaptive learning” [that] focuses on incremental change. This type of learning solves problems but ignores the causes of why the problem arose in the first place.

Double-loop learning is described as generative learning that focuses on transformational change that changes the status quo. Double-loop learning uses feedback from past actions to question assumptions underlying current views. When considering feedback, managers and professionals need to ask not only the reasons for their current actions, but what to do next and even more importantly, why alternative actions are not to be implemented.

Moving From Inflexible Structural Social Systems

While the four primary values have sustained our species, the three secondary values give us the conscious capability to peacefully adapt to a world that is becoming more and more populated. The key words here are “conscious” and “adapt.” As a species we have unconsciously relied upon the four primary values to urge every person to live and yearn for a better quality of life, to grow into their potential, and to do so equally as anyone else. The three secondary values, however, are volitional, meaning that they come into operation unconsciously and consciously, much like breathing.

As our societies become more and more complex and populated, the more that we will need to more consciously invoke and implement the three secondary values that make us human — humane — and to achieve a natural flexibility. Otherwise our developed societies will not survive, regardless of whether they are democratic or totalitarian. Strengthening existing inflexible organizational structures to resist the natural evolution of our social institutions will only cause greater problems for us later…, when we are forced to change to survive.

It seems that many people today fear what the future will bring to their lives. For some, this awareness is much like an incessant alarm clock trying to awaken us to the opportunity now to create a far more secure financial future. For yet fewer, we are actively designing a future that is far more friendly, and socially sustainable. And just a very few actually do see the tendrils of social evolution reaching out to individuals and groups to create the first stages of that friendly future.

The future for such prescient individuals begins here, today, with like-minded progressive people. When the primary value EQUALITY invokes our empathy we become aware of the inequality of others, that requires us to come to the conscious awareness (consciousness) to then act in compassion to come to the aid of others; or choose to ignore them. Which choice-decision-action is more human — humane and ethical?

For societies, that consciousness must become awakened so that individual citizens and all citizens collectively choose to activate their sense of equality, compassion, and “love” for humanity to help others adapt to living more closely on an over-populated planet. If we choose, consciously or unconsciously, not to apply the three secondary values at a societal level, then the four primary values will operate on their own, and this will maintain the ongoing ethnic, religious, political, and gender competition for their selfish existence, to the detriment of everyone. Conflicts are no longer regional, but global. The way through this is to consciously engage our intuitive minds individually and collectively to choose to live without conflict, in peace — the organic state of human existence.

“In any structural system, there is a time of perturbation. This happens when standard operating procedures no longer work within an ever-evolving environment. We frequently see this played out in the world of business. When a company reaches a creative and financial plateau, a state of perturbation, and does not reevaluate its methods, products for training — in general, its overall structure — but instead reacts to the plateau by simply doing more of the same, that structure will crumble.”

“Thomas Paine was an English-American activist and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His developing beliefs of divine intelligence within humanity and active rejection of demagogy set him apart from the traditional religionists of his era.

…  This genius nature might remain dormant if we were to never lean into and embrace the inconvenience. One might perceive it inconvenient to become involved in the social inequality struggles of others when those struggles appear to not be our own. Yet struggle for anyone is struggle for everyone when you hold sacred the principle that there is only one of us. Paine’s willingness to voice his disdain of unjust governmental practices landed him in prison, fueled his determination for justice and spirited his authorship of the renowned pamphlet “Common Sense,” which galvanized the American Revolution. He cared little about the consequences of inconveniences. It was his conscience and heart that drove his actions toward revealing a greater reality.” 24

David Ault’s description of changing conditions are surely causing great perturbations around the world that seem to now swirl around the stability of the United States in many ways. Several questions come to mind. Do we accept the perturbations of changing conditions and let the status quo continue to crumble? Or, do we accept the inconvenience of those changing conditions as motivators to improve our antiquarian democratic process and re-invent the social and political framework that supports our communities and societies? Because all historic societies have been proven to fail, are we willing to sit and watch our own go the same way?

18  -  Raphael, Daniel 2016 The Progressive’s Handbook for Reframing Democratic Values.
19  -  Raphael, Daniel 2017 Designing Socially Sustainable Democratic Societies. Pages 131-155 relate to the three evolutionary stages of democratic governance.
20 -  Diamond, Jared 2005. Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking, Penguin Group, New York
21  -  Raphael, Daniel 2015. The Progressives Handbook for Reframing Democratic Values. p. 77,78. Visit https://sites.google.com/view/danielraphael for a downloadable PDF.
22  - Raphael, Daniel 2015  The Progressive’s Handbook for Reframing Democratic Values From Chapter 2, “Foundations for the Appearance and Rise of Progressives,” p 77-102.
23  - Argyris, Chris., & Schön, D. (1996) Organizational Learning II, Addison Wesley, Reading, MA.
Argyris, Chris, Robert Putnam, Diana McClain Smith (1985) Action Science, Concepts, Methods, and Skills for Research and Intervention Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1978) Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.
Senge, Peter (1994) The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Currency Doubleday.
24  -  Ault, David 2018. “Take What Shows Up On Your Plate,” August 23, 2018 and “Inconvenience,” August 27, 2018, Guide for Spiritual Living Vol 91 No. 8, p 60 and p 64.