The Ecological Contract: The Bioregional State as a Regionally Stable Check and Balance Between Republican Representation and Direct Democracy
"We the people, of the bioregions of the world..."
It is past time for another Solon--to arrange a green constitutional engineering deal. This would fix both the systemic difficulties of our originally incomplete and now corrupted national democracies' senses of checks and balances, it would arrange a wider Ecological Reformation of which additional state-formal state checks and balances are only a smaller part. The Ecological Reformation is a wider regional sense of civic, educational, and economic checks and balances within territorial states. The Ecological Reformation would assure more sustainable, regional, democratic development by adding sorely required regional institutions within existing territorial states. These additional civic institutions reflect greater regionalized priorities against current unchecked environmentally degradative and humanly repressive version of current national models. These additional institutions required in all watersheds of the world are toward a more representative democracy regionally in arrangements of civics, economics, education, and finance--without the demotion of the national state though with just a greater fleshing out of representation and development within it. In short, in my books Toward a Bioregional State (2005) and the Ecological Reformation discussed in this site, many additional governmental checks and balances and many other civil and economic checks and balances work together toward a more representative multi-regional politics and a more sustainable civilization.
This post's topic discusses how when you merge the ideas of republican representation with such a widened direct democracy these are hardly abstract issues of 'individual citizens' in 'abstract space'. Such expansions innately occur and reflect particular stable ecoregional contexts and group experiences as forms of shared feedback and ecological self-interest of peoples in particular regions. So with the bioregional state, you get a combination of direct democratic feedback and sustainable regional feedback about risk experience, from particular regions, at the same moment you improve republican representative institutions.
Žižek writes, "[in] his Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, T. S. Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy and non-belief, when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main corpse." Žižek feels it is time for more "authentic political events" like this as "the only way to keep our democracy alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main institutional corpse of state apparatuses and mechanisms."
I feel this way about keeping alive the spirit of democracy by throwing off the corpse of modern corrupted democracy, particularly the ongoing succubus or incubus effects of modern democracies that are delimited around simply individual citizenship issues and a lack of concern about the particular spaces within such a polity. Such abstracted arrangements have seduced some into believing its own propaganda: as if 'reform' politically or environmentally is possible by exclusively working within the current corrupted gatekept arrangement that fails to recognize stable regional concerns or group ecological-self interest that merges any individual citizen's experience within a particular ecoregional context. By thinking in this sited manner, we could over time build other parallel arrangements that over time could develop a more bioregional commonwealth. Only these parallel arrangements regionally speaking would be in a position of negotiation with such an abstracted, corrupted, and degradative edifice later. Participation within or expectations of direct 'reform' of a corrupt arrangement that is only growing more repressive and degradative innately fails to recognize that stable ecological self-interests of all citizens are unlikely to be expressed without the many institutions of an Ecological Reformation already in place to help facilitate it.
We are truly the living seduced by the spirits of a dead corpse. Given current polls of the United States for example, most of those living in the United States consider their states to be corrupt, though still many of the living are enchanted and seduced in a spell of sleep paralysis either to avoid talking about how screwed they and their environments are by their political elites as they attempt to work within current politics. Others attempt to render themselves ambivalent and dissociated to the traumatic experience, as a demonic political elite rapes them repeatedly with false flag terrorism ( 911;  Sandy Hook;  Aurora Theater,  Murrah Bldg, etc.) and then bills them for the pleasure while shocked and awed.
Let us wake up instead. Let us try something else. Let us be heretics for a living culture of wider choices of democracy and wider choices of markets instead of walking ritually into a dead voting booth or fake market experience that we know is rigged, is gatekept (gatekept both in our political choices and gatekept by powerful raw material regimes responsible for destroying market choices as well as the democratic process because both are effective checks against its degradation; such unrepresentative raw material regimes remove cleaner and safer economic choices from markets and demote our political feedback against it by vote fraud, rigged elections, corporate subsidies, and technological repression    ). Thus our whole political and economic experience is gerrymandered before we vote or shop.
A seducing and even demonic spirit of corrupt modern democracy expects us to keep lying still in a bed crawling with cockroaches and head lice from top to bottom. Why taking it lying down? Stand up. Wake up.
Particularly, the sense of Americans in being abused by 'elected' (selected, vote fraud sealed) representatives is at historic highs. By 2013, Americans even prefer cockroaches and head lice more than their representatives. Congressional approval is at historic lows of only 9%. That is some sign that people are waking up and throwing off the repeated rape attempt.
Americans Prefer Cockroaches More Than Congress
One of the arguments of Toward a Bioregional State is that corruption causes human tyrannies and ecological tyrannies combined. So corrupt states are characterized by their equal human tyrannies and ecological tyrannies, while more representative states are characterized by their higher human qualities of life and ecological sustainability. Such sustainable states are more representative. This is what is referred to as the Ecological Contract. Corrupt states break the Ecological Contract. Representative states innately fulfill it.
Toward A Bioregional State is a novel approach to development and to sustainability. [It] proposes that instead of sustainability being an issue of population scale, managerial economics, or technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically "out of sync". He argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here-only waiting to be formally organized.To show that it is possible to work toward this Ecological Contract that states have with their citizens, three quick national contrasts to the United States' systemic corruptions in democracy and environmental conditions are shown. It is unsurprising that one of the least corrupt democratic states in the world, New Zealand (at least in citizens' opinions, comparatively) is moving toward implementing some of the ideas of the bioregional state. So is Bolivia. So is Bhutan. All seem strong on the Ecological Contract.
However in countries far more corrupt, unrepresentative, and degradative than these examples, people are getting desperate. Many rush blindly into being seduced and raped by just another abstract ideal: direct democracy. Direct democracy is argued by some as if it is a polar opposite to republican forms of representation. It is argued either to be pure and unsullied from all the corruptions presumed to come from representation processes innately (instead of specifically) or at least if such corruptions are admitted, it is simply jocularly assumed that it has to be better.
The bioregional state finds itself in a rather traditional position regarding dangerous potentials of direct democracy. However, instead of simply dually seeing representative republicanism as some kind of polarized cure (as if only direct democracy was dangerous), the bioregional state is even more fearful of how much more dangerous are the larger potentials and reality of a corrupted 'modern' republican representative electoral arrangement--since the latter when corrupted has even larger abstract capacities to repress its detractors or exposures of corruption than a more traditional abstract (Athenian) direct democracy ever could. What both still miss is that any republican representation or direct democracy has to be about particular spaces, instead of just about abstract coteries of individuals. Both miss the requirements that there is an Ecological Contract built into any kind of representation or direct democracy that has been overlooked.
Instead of this false choice between direct democracy 'or' representative republicanism as if these are our only options, the bioregional state uniquely argues that such flaws of representative republicanism can be cured by selective applications of the spirit of more direct democracy within (instead of against) the ongoing arrangement of corrupted republicanism. The watershed or bioregional based Civic Democratic Institution (CDI) and the Commodity Ecology Institution (CEI) are only two examples. This is, respectively, in the CDI, a civic regional check and balance on unrepresentative national politics; and in the CEI an economic regional check and balance on unrepresentative national raw material regimes that expand externalities in the region as well as demote more regional sustainable choices of consumers.
Both are in the spirit of direct democracy in their own jurisdictional venues.
The CDI is in the spirit of direct democracy to encourage the creation of a real regional deliberative democratic experience that lacks gatekeeping.
The CEI is in the spirit of direct democracy that exists when a real regional market economy exists that lacks a fake gatekept experience of raw material regimes or the gatekept experience of more general supply-side politics versus demand's desires. The latter 'supply versus demand' context is a situation in which larger suppliers start to have different interests than consumers over the particular kinds of material characteristics that they prefer. Plus, suppliers can act like raw material regimes as well, in banning, buying up (and then refusing to use), or repressing politically their own market competitors (particularly attempting to remove sustainable market choices) in order to gain greater market share less by market competition and consumer desires and more by supply-side economic and politically maintained consumptive administration of an ongoing delimited pool of choices that suppliers attempt to dominate instead of demand choosing, and thus attempt to dominate their consumers. There are other examples of this regionality of checks and balances in economics, posted elsewhere.
In the wider Ecological Reformation, there are additional regional educational checks and balances introduced in the spirit of direct democracy against the dangers of a culture entirely dominated by abstract ideas, abstract professional certifications, and abstract disciplines of knowledge. In such a context there is little room for learning about the geographic specifics of how social, biological, and physical issues interact differently in different spaces--which is the key to any realistic sustainability, or realistic democratic planning, region by region.
There are additional financial checks and balances introduced in the spirit of direct democracy in the wider Ecological Reformation: in more complementary currencies and other ideas (yet to be posted at this point).
All four different additional venues add a greater spirit of direct democracy in our lives. Plus, in doing this, this would occur innately within particular ecoregionally stable spaces. This can yield multiplier effects of more competitive democratic elections, more direct democracy, more representative market experiences suited to regional demands and prioritizations, more realistic regional knowledge being honored and required to be understood as varied, and more regionalized complementary financial markets and currencies.
In the book Toward a Bioregional State, there are many strategies mentioned for how to adapt our current republican current arrangements with more checks and balances. How greater democratic and regional choices are introduced and maintained are detailed in an outline below, in three points:  'before elections,'  'after elections,' and how this  stable ecological self-interested feedback is required to be recognized in our future senses of citizenship for any form of democracy, representative or direct. (For more details on all these different checks and balances suggested, see the later 'index' chapters in the book Toward a Bioregional State where over 60 additional checks and balances are listed.)
The 'modern' era of despatialized and individualized conceptions of citizenship has yielded various human individual freedoms though they are only enjoyed by a tiny slice of a much larger triaged global population suffering under human tyranny and ecological tyranny--and repressed from choosing more rationally and regionally for themselves their own deliberative concerns, their own material priorities, their own durable educational local knowledge, and their own financial mediums.
So for the wider world population, this period of mass democracies is very limited to some regions of the world and it is tied to much larger ongoing repressions of installed dictators, forced no-tax transnational corporations, and draining drug trades for the rest of the world, because such ruling mass democracies to continue their ongoing consolidations of power innately disrespect regional concerns--even from their own populations. Their parliamentarian elected representatives design their own districts and thus select the very people who vote for them instead of visa versa. Plus, those repressed in other areas of the world are hardly allowed to vote in such mass democracies, since they inconveniently live in another country despite their country still tied into the world system of commodity chains dominated by distant elsewheres that they are kept from having any influence over as democratic feedback should allow.
Meanwhile, an encouragement by corruption and authorization to vast consolidated corporations has contributed to regionalized economic shakeout in economics, with abstract knowledge disciplines in education and abstract developmental models being imported that unfortunately see nothing wrong since they have mostly always ignored regional implications of the human and environmental externalities of such abstract ideas turned into real world applications. Further strange abstract ideas hold that ever larger financial markets and more consolidated monies are somehow more representative or freeing instead of mostly being the active destroyer of the deeply interlinked sustainable relations of particular regions, particular cultures, and particular materials, and particular knowledge--which is all undermined at once. This global financial flow is without any checks and balance either, as it destroys and consolidates elsewhere the financial flows from the dying regionalized financial markets that still underpin real lives worldwide. This has caused a world of slums as the result of all these developmental models, with huge swelling urbanization of the poor as the effect of politically and economically undermining regional lives toward an unmoored population of destroyed languages and cultures.
Particularly modern mass democracies with their parliamentarian elected representatives were designed in a neo-Roman sense of republicanism by selected/elected representatives, and these developments were almost always framed against any ideas of direct democracy or particular regional interests combined (though see the Swiss). The Enlightenment period of political debate in Europe in the 1700s were about despatialized abstracts: novel future political philosophy ideals of checks and balances (like Montesquieu), constitutional engineering based on past comparisons to successes and failures (researched by Madison), voting rules (like Condorcet), or abstract 'rights of man' that were really rights of abstract individuals instead of the 'lived regional rights of man'--a politics of regionalism that redeveloped slowly in the 1800s from repressed languages/cultures, repressed regional economies, and developed its own political expressions ranging from libertarianism, regional parties, to green politics.
In the Enlightenment however, all were aiming toward an open future to develop improved forms of republican representation. They drew particularly in that century's many deeper analyses of the problems and failures of the Roman Republic. However, it is simply time to improve once more for the future by adding more forms of direct democracy and its widened choices within what already exists--by drawing on deeper analyses of the problems and failures of current republicanism that have developed over 200 years. One of these oversights is that citizenship or political feedback is individual though hardly only individual: it has a more shared ecological self-interest in its regionality of concerns instead of mere abstract individual citizen concerns. However, the abstract discussions of 'human rights' and 'constitutional engineering' and checks and balances in the late 1700s were missing a few crucial points of checks and balances that were sorely evident by the mid 1800s (like the unforseen developments of wider political parties, faster transportation and communication, gerrymandering, and widening denial of regionalized rights of cities, states, and communities that instead saw an attempt to repress such regionality out of existence toward exclusively individualized senses of civil rights and centralized clientelistic control (just to name a few; others would be the requirements for wider regional checks and balances as a consequence, or wider 'regional rights of man' in an Ecological Bill of Rights.)
As the 21st century rolls around, with our 200-year old constitutional engineering ideas of exclusively representative-based parliamentary arrangements based on ideas of exclusively abstract spaces and abstract citizenship, there are numerous flaws that have developed because of oversights like those mentioned above or others that developed over time. A list of 35 of these systemic difficulties with US democracy has been discussed already.
However, given a culture desiring quick solutions that cause problems in itself, some simply want to go back to direct democracy and unlearn lessons sorely learned by the Athenians themselves--as if direct democracy was the only other choice to a corrupted republicanism, as if nothing else could be invented.
What are some of these lessons against exclusive direct democracy?
As realistically the most documented example, drawing from the history of Athens (ca. 500 BCE to around 322 BCE) direct democracy was analyzed either in its own era (Plato) or after it collapsed (Aristotle) as descending into its own forms of tyranny when corrupted. Tyranny hardly only comes from more royalist or oligarchic frameworks, they argued. It could come from representative constitutionalism and direct democracy as well. Following Aristotle's analysis in his Politics, a corrupted constitutional government becomes a form of tyranny which he called 'democracy.' Even most in the Enlightenment, when they discussed 'democracy,' were using this negative use of the term [read: Agents of the People: Democracy and Popular Sovereignty in British and Swedish Parliamentary and Public Debates, 1734–1800; by Pasi Ihalainen], contrary to some that later attempted to pretend that the Enlightenment was some harbinger or precursor of more widespread mass representative thought about democracy. Reviewing Athens' direct democracy failures:
- It was found difficult to eradicate systemic financial fraud and bribery.
- It was difficult to organize, under a required rapid response.
- It was difficult to expand as scale expands and thus either non-durable or prone to novel stratification and inequalities produced by its own once more equitable political and economic sponsorship process.
- It was non-durable as well from a lack of separation of powers that would have slowed policy action for review, thus tending to be:
- reckless (unpredictable or easily emotionally manipulated in policy without clearing thinking through consequences);
- arbitrary (brutal against some, in some cases, while strangely lax against others, in the same kind of cases [see 'reckless']);
- increasingly discriminatory, repressive and caste conscious; instead of presumptions that direct democracy has a history of supporting the expansion of its franchise or supporting equality, there was a huge expansion of war booty based slavery that came in only under Athenian constitutional provisions for direct democracy, combined with its increasingly self-voted reduction of citizenship scale in the direct democracy by its own members that were interested in being a ruling class preserving an enclave of previously smaller power, instead of interested in voting to widen the franchise to include all in debates who were influenced by its 'direct democracy' policies.)
- and thus even imperial; the increasingly warlike and predatory practices developed under pressure by Athenian direct democracy, and this foreshadowed Athens more formal foreign tyrannic 'outside rule' by others that conquered them--only a mirror image of the conquering and enslaving practices that Athenian democratic imperialism expressed on others a mere generation before. Athens more imperial period when dominated by the royalist Macedonians (like the father of Alexander and then Alexander himself) was after 322 BCE. However this experience by the Athenians was somewhat similar to, instead of so different from, the kinds of wars that their earlier direct democracy had dished out to others.
- Points like the above are why direct democracy with typically voting rules of 'all or nothing' majoritarianism is described as an 'illiberal democracy,' to contrast it with those moderns that claim that more representative based elections, checks and balances, civil rights of individuals, and civil protections of minorities from majorities are more of a form of 'liberal democracy.'
However, even this 'liberal democracy' of representative republicanism can be quite as illiberal as we discover how faults developed by Enlightenment political theory ignoring regional concerns (i.e., only premised on Social Contracts instead of Ecological Contracts) or from ongoing corruptions of such representative frmeworks themselves that have developed. These can be solved though.
Using the many flaws of the United States by the early 21st century as an example, it seems that the Enlightenment ideas were just a rough 'first draft': its arrangements of constitutional engineering and conceptions of a despatialized and merely individualized citizenship were originally incomplete, weak, or intentionally eroded later.
There can be two interpretations of the origins of corruption. On the one hand, loss of checks and balances can be enhanced by autonomous systemic informal corruption, though on the other hand, there is innately something the matter with a constitution (particularly the U.S. Constitution) if it was unable to address and to check such corruptions in the first place. Since the human condition is always to be the same, angels and devils combined, there is little we can do about ourselves or the former point. However, for the latter point, there is much that we can do to shore against our own corruptions and incomplete constitutionalism, i.e., adding additional checks and balances as required, missing earlier, and discovered by ongoing practices of corruption undreamt of earlier. This involves adding other missing civil rights as well as adding more ecologically regional civil rights.
So such an abstracted representative democracy can be just as illiberal as an abstracted direct democracy--and perhaps even more illiberal as many simply find it harder to conceive of how to eradicate the present day republican-based corruptions or are even afraid of talking about it.
One of the rationales for why some interpret that it is hard to conceive of improvement is that they seem to live in a two-dimensional political world when they say this. They adopt the false choice that the only other option is a 'return' to (the already experienced problems of) direct democracy simply by ignoring those problems seen in such situations in Athenian history particularly.
They ignore that another choice exists.
It would be to invent novel additional checks and balances based on a specific recounting of where the corruptions have developed in representative republicanism as practiced instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Cleaning the bathtub water is the route of the bioregional state. In Toward a Bioregional State (2005), over 60 different novel checks and balances are offered for consideration of how to improve our innately flawed present versions of representative republicanism.
The ideas range across four kinds of checks and balance improvements (not touched on in this summary, though in the book) in the areas of additional missing checks and balances, novel constitutional engineering, changed voting rules, as well as other civic institutions (like the Civic Democratic Institution and the Commodity Ecology Institution--one for each watershed in the world). The latter are non-governmental, though designed to enhance and to inculcate a bioregional civic virtue (versus ongoing corruptions of it), and to develop and to widen regional material virtue toward sustainable material choices managed by the region itself (versus ongoing degradative and delimited choices).
The same civic and environmental virtues of bioregional environmental citizenship could be enhanced by different versions of education as well as different versions of finance.
The Spirit of Direct Democracy--Added Back into Representative Democracy In Many Ways
Many improvements of the bioregional state are based on the spirit of direct democracy instead of always simply the use of direct democracy a tactic. First, I would argue this spirit of direct democracy is best defined as the widening of our choices at various stages of the lived process of choosing political representatives (and education, market choices, and financial medium choices). So, second it is equally the widening of choices in any lived experiences: our market experiences, our financial medium experiences, and our educational experiences. Third, so the spirit of direct democracy is against others' attempts at curtailing our lives to be a mere experience of a delimited, guided, and closed design to suit various developed repressive monopolies and oligarchies. Such monopolies and oligarchies can in turn survive only by the fact that they actively are delimiting our wider choices in all four of these venues, by seeking to maintain their unrepresentative clientelistic control by maintaining such delimited choices around us in social life.
Equally, fourth, the spirit of direct democracy is the equity of participation of all peoples in any regional situation that affects them regardless of whether are deemed formal citizens or otherwise by a gatekept arrangement. There is an ecological self-interest of peoples to have rights of feedback against any unrepresentative decisions placed upon them that contributes toward their human degradation and their local environmental degradation, which are a merged experience. In a context of an equity of participation, peoples in any situation should be deliberating more than as individuals. They should be deliberating regionally as individuals how to move toward more representative developmental decisions for themselves regionally, by removing the gatekept human and ecological tyrannies placed upon them from the outside in their region at the same time.
First, the spirit of direct democracy is in the Civic Democratic Institution (CDI) in how it solves several systemic problems with direct democracy--like the following four. Quoting from the book Toward a Bioregional State:
"As important than what it selects for is what the CDI institutionally selects against including in a political process— politics of exclusion,  short term popularity,  one issue popularity, and  ‘landslide’ bloc voting practices. The political process of the CDI aim to mitigate these four mobilizing processes of social recognition." (p. 280)...
"Through the institutional winnowing of extremists or reductionists [described by the voting practices in the book or here] (though including the potential additional positive recognition of some moderate who only cursorily had been recognized before), one has a set of [regionally civic] people who have run the gauntlet of the four above categories and could be considered politically legitimate representatives of a community, instead of only representatives of contending processes of mass psychological manipulations of politics of exclusion, short term popularity, one-issue popularity, and landslide bloc voting practices.
"The above four processes generally are considered the methods of recognizing groups of interests in society, instead of [recognized] merely [as] a biased system which tends to do the opposite in perpetuating reactionary and one issue politics around short term popularity, elected through a system of bloc voting practices. Each of these four ingredients of this ‘representative finding process’ finds nothing like ‘representatives’ at all: they find individuals and interests which can be highly unrepresentative. The CDI is designed to introduce a ‘second process’ to politics, a group of citizens beholden to the community and filtered through several processes which select against the four above-mentioned issues. As such, they could have a beneficial effect on addressing issues of consensus as well as providing a pressure group for airing of consensus issues kept out of the political process. As a representative and different pathway of politics, they would promote a consensus based forum for a geographically specific politics." (p. 281)Second, the spirit of direct democracy is in the Commodity Ecology Institution (CEI). It solves several systemic problems with corrupted consumer markets--that can be corrupted by raw materials regimes politically or corrupted by other more basic systemic problems with the aforementioned differences of material interests potentially in supply versus demand that potentially gatekeeps consumer representation choices through markets as well, even without political corruption of when particular suppliers are treated as raw material regimes. So the Commodity Ecology Institution is designed to solve regionally gatekept consumer markets. So the CEI keeps markets open for maintaining ongoing greater choice, instead of markets becoming a form of corrupt or supply-side gatekeeping on consumer and sustainable regional choices. This puts the direct democracy back into local markets by keeping suppliers from conspiring with each other or the wider state against the public and the consumer, as Adam Smith knew so well that merchants did conspire against the consumer all the time.
Third, the spirit of direct democracy is in the regionalized forms of local knowledge in novel forms of degrees required as capstone educational experiences.
Fourth, the spirit of direct democracy is in a more regionalized security of durable regional financial markets and currencies--like examples provided by Catherine Austin Fitts or Bernard Lietaer. More regionalized currencies can encourage ongoing regional community: "Bernard Lietaer argues that the monoculture of money is what creates economic instability, leading to liquidity crises. He calls for a greater diversity of alternative currencies, citing innovative and enormously successful initiatives..."
Bernard Lietaer: Money diversity
In conclusion to this section, the bioregional state feels that both direct democracy by itself as well as current republicanism by itself are both flawed by themselves, though that further checks and balances can be achieved in representative republicanism which derive from absorbing the spirit of direct democracy and its wider choices as further required checks and balances within such republican democracy--instead of being forced into some delimited false choice of either one or the other. This additionally provides multipler effects by recognizing that such deepening of the spirit of direct democracy innately occurs in particular bioregional environments instead of just as a bunch of abstracted individuals. People as groups in particular regions have a spatiality and their concerns. They tend to deliberate about the similar concerns of removing risk in their lives--particularly when it comes to health, local environmental protection, and local economic concerns that are eroded by external plutocratic arrangements attempting to keep a particular region from expressing any political feedback against such human and environmental degradation and attempting to keep them from inventing other better choices of politics and material choices toward better futures that are more aware of the specific regional interactions of human, environmental, and economic health.
Widening of Our Choices at Various Stages of the Lived Process of Choosing Representatives
Another way to think about widening choices with the spirit of direct democracy is in the lived process of making our representatives. So, what characterises all lived processes of making representatives, particularly, how do we choose our representatives in our modern democracies? How can it be opened more to the spirit of direct democracy?
There are three levels of improvement here in the bioregional state. As mentioned in the preface of Toward a Bioregional State, the book is both a form of green constitutional engineering as well as...
...a political theory of the origins of unsustainability as caused by multiple and identified types of informal corruptions in practice that have passed as ‘democracy’ so far, due to willing oversights of required formal checks and balances in three additional areas:Let us provide some quick examples of novel checks and balances against this gatekeeping in practice for how the spirit of direct democracy can be added to existing republicanism to widen our choices:
one, assuring a competitive marketplace of ideas in informal party politics before elections instead of informal gatekeeping on debate and divide and conquer politics funded by the same corporations;
two, assuring formal state frameworks provide a context after elections for checking or balancing informal parties’ desire while they are the governmental incumbents to exclude other parties; and
three, assuring permanent stable geographic expression of citizenship risk, instead of at present, informal parties being allowed to create and constantly manipulate voters into pocket boroughs which rig vote totals and demote voter choices. (p. xii)
Before elections, to assure a competitive marketplace of ideas in informal party politics, assure the removal of gerrymandered districts is in the spirit of direct democracy in the development of legislation and constitutions mandating stable watershed districts as voting districts, which would encourage all parties to compete for the same stable arena and represent it, instead of incumbent parties deciding on who they want to represent by changing the district lines all the time. Other suggestions with the spirit of direct democracy would be equal time in media debates for all legal candidates--which never occurs in the gatekept and openly repressive United States as plutocratic groups make sure that public is kept in the dark about their legal electoral choices. Other encouragements toward a wider choice as the spirit of direct democracy would be a situation where 100% of the voters are encouraged to be appealed to in any election by candidates. This kind of situation can only exist under PRMA voting rules suggestions. Other direct democracy suggestions are how the non-governmental cultural institutions of the watershed based Civic Democratic Institution (CDI) and the Commodity Ecology Institution (CEI) assure that a wide array of culturally virtuous people in the region (and materially virtuous sustainable businesses) are recognized more by what they are doing already in being well liked instead of simply liked by what they can promise (and lie) to achieve in the future. All the above have a direct democratic spirit to them. Particularly the CDI's voting arrangement attempts to remove four difficulties with direct democracy kinds of voting. Turn to the book for more explanations of that.
After elections, the same spirit of direct democracy is to hold open choices here as well. The point mentioned in Toward a Bioregional State is to preserve against any developing gatekeeping in incumbent parties, by assuring by other more formal institutional checks and balances keep the temporary incumbents or office holders from getting more power than they were elected to handle, exactly, down to only granting them power based on the percentages of the votes that they received and nothing more. This is equally connected to PRMA voting rules. It is equally connected to the flexible cameralism and flexible executive arrangements suggested. All three are built to represent particular electoral percentages of support in each electoral outcome--described elsewhere. Particular election outcomes, in their strength or weakness of support for particular candidates, in other words, decide partially the extent of formal powers temporarily devolved to the winners. This is the spirit of direct democracy in that representatives only get the meaning of exactly what their vote totals gave them, and nothing more. (For instance, typically in republican representative elections, even a tiny plurality win of less than 50% is poorly designed because it gives such 'winners' the full 100% of electoral power. To the contrary, PRMA, a flexible cameralism, or a flexible executive would make sure that this is avoided, and that what is respected is the spirit of direct democracy in which a plurality winner only gets plurality power, and only a majoritarian winner gets fuller power; and a plurality-winning executive candidate is only a Prime Minister (under closer checks against getting rogue Presidential power--having to rule in closer association with a legislature that can provide a vote of no confidence to remove them easily), and only a majoritarian winner is a President getting a predictable full term. So the direct democracy spirit follows the incumbents into power and only gives them power to the discrete amounts that they were trusted by their vote totals. This would additionally assure that there are incentives of all parties to challenge systemic vote fraud of the discrete totals, instead of ignore it, as the totals suddenly matter for the power received and the organization of power after the election. (Most of U.S. Presidents or U.S. Congress are just plurality wins and should only be trusted with more Prime Minister powers. However, they are mistakenly getting and acting as if they have some kind of majority mandate and exercise artificially full Presidential powers even though the particular voting total outcome shows that they are less trusted with this power, and deserve less power. Read more about PRMA and flexible executive arrangements to see how this works. Plus, after elections, the CDI and CEI arrangements as well serve in the spirit of direct democracy as an ongoing regional voice, a regionally organized cultural and material check and balance in a region's ecological self-interest to assure that any elected current incumbents keep representative and sustainable politics and developmental choices suitable for the region.
Both before and after elections, providing for stable watersheds as ungerrymanderable districts assures that no one is able to gatekept or to rearrange a form of ongoing ecologically self-interested and stable commons-style feedback about shared environmental risk into the wider territorial state and its developmental and political actions. This is the spirit of direct democracy as well.
All three levels work in synergy with each other to remove any potential gatekeeping of choices that would facilitate more oligarchic, corrupt, and unsustainable developmental process.
The Ecological Contract
To close with a quote from the introduction of Toward a Bioregional State, think how the spirit of direct democracy flows through all aspects of the bioregional state as a form of check and balance within representative republicanism. Think how when both of these combine, it innately implies something spatially specific about our citizenship, our politics, and our concerns as ecologically embedded specific groups instead of our concerns revolving only around a sense of abstract individual citizens:
Four summary points of the principles of the bioregional state that make it different from all other democratic institutional designs can be discussed in this short review.
First, any additions to formal democratic theory that would make it a formal ecological democratic theory would remove the false sense that the state is only a ‘social’ organization. An ecologically democratic state is instead more empirically described as a formal facilitation framework for economic developmental issues and a feedback mechanism against unrepresentative and unsustainable ones.
Second, to keep a geographically representative developmentalism on track for sustainability, it is important to consider that a state is always situated either within a particular ecology, or more typically, it includes multiple and varied ecologies, with the state manipulating them for good or ill. When a state’s informal politics contributes to its own ecological demise through expanding and underwriting externalities in human, ecological and economic health, it can hardly be called a ecological democratic framework or a sustainable democratic framework in all senses of the word sustainable, because this leads to a form of unsustainable ecological tyranny built equally from political economic corruption and informal socio-political repression against attempts to alter this ecological tyranny. This is the environmentally degradative process that is maintained perversely and sadly in the name of ‘formal democracy,’ as if there is nothing to improve upon.
I argue that unless additional checks and balances are added that address from the beginning these biased interactive effects, nothing called democracy can ever be achieved or sustainable—socially or environmentally. Without the bioregional state, all that democracy will ever become is a repetition of aristocratic-royalty states under different symbolic legitimations and under an ecological tyranny.
Environmental degradation as a process of informal corruption expansion is innately wound around expanding ecological and social tyranny in informal and formal politics as much as in economics. The issue becomes the formal illegitimacy of existing democratic institutions when it comes to sustainability because they are the facilitators for, instead of the feedback mechanisms against, this ecological tyranny.
A third point is that there is nothing called an abstract or individualized citizen in practice. We live in different bioregional arrangements which have to a large degree their own history that makes them very durable human-environmental contexts of politics. If citizenship is only a particular arrangement dealing with formal rules and prescriptions, then we require a kind of post-Rousseau Social Contract, or “Ecological Contract,” for understanding how both citizenship is changed and for understanding how the responsibilities of the democratic state are changed in an era of sustainability. Toward this Ecological Contract, the bioregional state is a formal facilitation framework that checks and balances against informal corruptions and informal gatekeeping in formal democratic states, when informal parties attempt to repress instead of represent the politics of particular geographically situated citizens that want to influence state development by removing human, ecological, and economic externalities they are experiencing.
Any gatekeeping by informal political parties against sustainable politics is an ecological tyranny. An ecological tyranny represses all environmental feedback from citizens attempting to demote their personal experience of externalities created by ongoing, unrepresentative state policies.
Without additional formal checks and balances on informal politics in the bioregional state, it is argued, the process of this expansion of informal corruption creates an informally guided state developmentalism. This will always be an ecological tyranny which is self-destructive of the state itself, a state’s own ecology, the health of its people, and the health of its own economy.
Presently we are trapped within these un-ecological democracies that are underwriting and protecting this process of politically sponsored ecological degradation. How do we instead explain to others that the state has an Ecological Contract with its people, and if this Ecological Contract is neglected, they can overthrow it? ...[or I recommend, drift away from it first to develop something better?]
How do we, instead of facilitating informal corruption of our formal democracy, facilitate a democratic politics as a seamless form of ecological feedback? Fourth, this is done by understanding that a people’s self-interest is geographically specific and protective of a particular geography, as mentioned above. Citizen feedback is always in and from particular geographic spaces and human-environmental contexts. To create the additional checks and balances for an ecologically sound developmentalism is merely to latch onto and facilitate an already-existing affirmative feedback from watersheds/bioregions that is ignored though waiting to be formally organized. This is done by aligning political feedback as closely as possible to a direct feedback from particular geographically
specific areas into the state. My first suggestion is through watershed based vote districting.
As discussed in the early 20th century by Frederick Jackson Turner and others, though overlooked in democratic political theory, there is a history of innate geographic specificity to political pressures of “sections,” as he called the phenomenon. He researched this for decades and found that environmental-social “sections” were the underlying rationale that explained much of the United States’ political movements, patterns of political alliances, and protests.
Using similar terms in the bioregional state, particular geographies are catchments basins for human, ecological, and economic risk. Geographies have an influence on people’s citizenship pressures through their durable and lifelong concerns of avoiding expansions of ill health, ecological destruction, and economic immiseration in their particular geographies.
Political feedback against expanding risk is therefore rather geographically specific and shared by particular areas. Instead of party based, or ideologically based exclusively, it is shared by all within particular areas, with all these various areas within an overarching abstract state. All of us socially and ecologically share our experiences of human health, ecological, and economic externalities based upon the watersheds in which we live. Typically, we mobilize accordingly, until we come up against unsustainable state frameworks run by corrupt informal parties that attempt to stop our sustainable feedback. Changing the formal state toward the bioregional state is the manner in which informal corruptions are removed through more checks and balances to facilitate already existing feedback against the informal ecological tyranny.
The state’s Ecological Contract requires it to facilitate civil and environmental pressure against informal corruption expanding externalities upon peoples, ecologies, and economies. However, in unsustainable states our geographical feedback is registered only in informal gatekeeping ways into the state in “out of phase” ways that keeps this geographically specific expression from registering directly upon any informally managed state developmentalism. On the other hand, in the frameworks of the bioregional state that support the Ecological Contract, this direct geographic citizenship pressure is merged with many additional checks and balances to remove existing informal party conflicts of interest when in power.
In the past 20 years, European sociologist Ulrich Beck has noted our whole political outlook has moved into a ‘risk society’ framework. He describes a nexus of politics that has moved from merely fighting for a distribution of material goods, into one more and more fighting to get rid of ‘environmental bads.’ Even though from comparative historical analysis, I would disagree that there is something novel or modern about this type of citizen pressure for environmental amelioration,
I believe I am the first to take these ideas and apply them to formal institutional democratic theory by asking what kinds of additions to democracy would be required to facilitate an ecologically sound democracy, in order to let democracy as a process get rid of these ‘environmental bads’ through facilitating an ecologically sound democratic politics.
In conclusion, I believe I have described something worthy of consideration—both because it is a novel idea and because it has a prescriptive intent even to the level of offering ideas for slow strategic implementation. I believe this will be a gauntlet for the next millennium that will define the existing issues of formal democratic political theory as innately flawed and totally politically illegitimate
without addressing the main issues raised in the bioregional state: how to establish checks and balances on the competitive informal gatekeeping organizational contexts of parties, how to create a competitive marketplace of ideas in the party context, how to make parties compete for the full electorate instead of collude for the partial electorate, and how to align the state with the innately geographic specific issues of citizenship expression.
All of these ideas are in the spirit of direct democracy while avoiding its flaws.
The spirit of direct democracy as a regional phenomenon is in the green constitutional engineering plan of slow additions and improvements to our representative republicanism with more required checks and balances and with a wider Ecological Bill of Rights. The spirit of direct democracy is equally throughout the many proposals of the wider Ecological Reformation as how to apply wider checks and balances to our education, our economics, and our financial mediums.