“Good political institutions are those that make it as easy as possible to detect whether a ruler or policy is a mistake, and to remove rulers or policies without violence when they are.” ~David Deutsch

Sadly, for us, we do not live within a healthy political institution. Policies are underhanded at best and corrupt at worst, hidden beneath layer upon layer of malicious loopholes and oppressive agendas geared toward keeping the poor poorer and the rich richer. As for our political “leaders,” they may not be rulers, per se, but they are chosen by plutocrats at best and then entrenched by corporate lobbyists at worst. The entrenchment of power is the problem.

The façade is that we are a democratic republic. The sad reality is that we are a plutocratic oligarchy hidden behind a smokescreen of placated liberty and justice.

Power, in today’s world, comes in the form of concentrated wealth in the hands of a tiny cabal of corrupt global oligarchs. Unfortunately for us, they have failed miserably with this power. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Their character has been tested and deemed unworthy of sound leadership. Blinded by their own hubris and greed, they cannot see the error of their ways.

It’s time to upset this apple-cart of mostly rotten apples. It’s time for a complete system over hall, a rebooting of the Matrix. Here are five controversial ways to do precisely that.

1.) Replace involuntary vertical democracy with voluntary horizontal democracy:

“I do not wish to scrap the concept of democracy, but to maintain democracy as a radical ideal; that is, democracy understood as a state of affairs in which ‘the people’ have the power.  This is not only radical in the etymological sense of going to the root meaning of the word, but also in the political sense of seeking a fundamental transformation of society.” ~Brian Bernhardt

Top-down policy-making is old hat. Policy dictated from above and compliance expected at the bottom of an organizational hierarchy is outdated and parochial. Time, and much trial and error, have decidedly confirmed that it is fundamentally unsustainable and socially uncouth. It simply does not work for free-thinking reasonable human beings.

Horizontal democracy, on the other hand, is a social movement seeking self-management, autonomy and direct democracy. It puts the proactive citizen in the driver’s seat as the much-needed checks and balances to the overreaching entrenchment of power.

The important thing is this: such democracy must be voluntary lest it become totalitarian. Everyone must be free to participate or not, otherwise the ever-looming slippery slope into tyranny becomes that much more slippery. Even a voluntary vertical democracy would be far superior to the involuntary vertical democracy we live in now. But voluntary horizontal democracy remains the ideal.

2.) Lottery-in leaders, vote-out bad leaders (Sortition):

“If you vote, you have no right to complain.” ~George Carlin

The election-based system (especially representative elections) of appointing leadership has failed miserably. It’s time to usher in a new system of appointing democratic leaders.

Elections are ridiculously overrated. They attract power hungry egomaniacs at best and warmongering sociopaths at worst. People who seek power over others tend to be the least capable of handling it. There must be a way to guard against this kind of unhealthy power-seeking personality type in our democratic leadership.

One potential solution could be the implementation of a sortition-based system of appointing leaders, with assembly powers to vote out “bad seeds.” A lottery would balance out the system through simple probability, while empowering citizens and preventing power from corrupting, since voting-out would be the only time a majority vote would matter. Sortition through lottery, by way of voluntary assembly, would level the playing field, make lobbyists obsolete, prevent power from becoming entrenched, while educating the masses on civic-mindedness and maintaining a healthy egalitarian ethos.

Assemblies could be local and practical, growing out of an organic bottom-up approach that encourages proactive and informative citizenry which would see communities build county assemblies into state assemblies into national assemblies. All of which would use the lottery to elect leaders and voting to oust bad leaders.

3.) Replace militarized offense-minded policing with privatized defense-minded policing:

“The whole Good Cop/Bad Cop question can be disposed of decisively. We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appear to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop. We need only consider the following: (1) A cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them; (2) Many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked; (3) Therefore every cop has to agree to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked. Therefore, there are no good cops.” ~Dr. Robert Higgs

Ill-trained offense-minded policing has led to a corrupt and overreaching police force hellbent on meeting quotas which further leads to “legal” extortion. Offense-minded policing leads to militarized policing which inevitably leads to a police state. And though we’re not in a police state quite yet, we’re on the slippery slope toward one.

If, as Stefan Molyneux said, “The law is an opinion with a gun,” then it stands to reason that we should check such untenable power with a tenable solution. Privatized defense-minded policing is that solution.

Based upon the precept that for any free human being who is unable to protect themselves or their property, whether due to lack of skills, an ailment, age, or even plain cowardice, they are free to hire a defense-minded policeman or police force to help protect them and their property. As long as this police force remains defense-minded and doesn’t become offense-minded by forcing their values, ideals, rules, or laws onto others, then it is a morally tenable means of policing. It’s only when the hired police force (such as the state-driven police force we see in the streets today) violates defense-mindedness by becoming an oppressive, extorting, violent force with the monopoly on power, forcing its values, ideals, rules, or laws on otherwise free people, that it ceases to work well.

Simply put: Healthy policing is an extension of healthy self-defense. Self-defense turned violent and overreaching is no longer about self-preservation. Similarly, defense-minded policing turned violent and overreaching is no longer about protecting and serving. Violence should only ever be used in self-defense and never as a means toward enforcing one’s values, rules, or laws onto others, no matter how popular they are.

4.) Replace profit-based prisons with rehabilitation-based prisons (for violent defenders only):

“Absolute freedom mocks justice. Absolute justice denies freedom. To be fruitful, the two ideas must find their limits in each other.” ~Albert Camus, The Rebel

The profit-based prison/jail system is the height of human wickedness. The total prison population has grown by 500 percent over the last 30 years. It is human governance at its worst. Fundamentally immoral and sickeningly outdated, this system of punishment has become a grotesque abomination of our lizard-brain kneejerk reaction to crime, and our out of control plutocratic system of governance. Equal parts extortion and slavery, it does nothing in the way of rehabilitation and therapy, and everything in the way of profit and criminal relapse.

Furthermore, prisons and jails are ridiculously bloated with non-violent “criminals.” Prisons and jails should be for violent offenders only, with rare exceptions of extreme theft or fraud. Those committing petty offenses or drug “crimes” should never have their freedom taken away from them unless they are violent. These should be settled through fines, rehab, psychiatric counseling, and/or probation. Another controversial perspective that deserves its own section but won’t get one: All drugs should be legalized with focus on education rather than prohibition.

Apropos, those free individuals who decide to opt out of the voluntary, sortition-based, horizontal democracy should be allowed such freedom, with the explicit understanding that they waive any direct benefits and that they abide by the non-aggression principle. Should they, or anyone for that matter, violate this most fundamental social principle, they waive their right to personal freedom and will then be placed into a rehabilitation-based prison for violent offenders after a fair trial of due process.

5.) Balance funding between military, education, healthcare, and infrastructure:

“Once weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured to sell weapons.” ~Arundhati Roy

As I wrote in 5 Things Nobody Tells You About the Military Industrial Complex, “Let’s stop kidding ourselves. The elephant in the room is a long-nosed, heavy-breathing, militant asshole with its trunk up our skirts. Even worse, it’s a flappy-eared, terrorist-generating war machine with an American flag tattooed on its flank. But nobody wants to acknowledge it. It reeks to high-hell of rotten peanuts and drone strikes, but nobody wants to admit that it’s standing right freaking there!”

The U.S. military is larger than the next seven militaries in the world, combined! Let that sink in. World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of that total. If that’s not a bloated military, I don’t know what is. It’s time to scale back. It’s time to see the military industrial complex for what it really is: a terrorist generating war machine propped up by profiting weapons manufacturers. As Brigadier General Smedley Butler made clear, “War is a racquet conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the very many.”

The propaganda machine that the military industrial complex uses to convince its citizens that it needs more money is based on blind patriotism and a myopic nationalistic pride that imagines the money is going to our brave military men and women. Nothing could be further from the truth. It goes toward $200 million B-52 bombers and faulty F-35 fighter jets costing $400 billion each. Each! That is the height of insanity. Just imagine what good use that money could go towards.

And yet we all just go about our day imagining that the government knows best. Meanwhile, our education system falters, our health care is being eroded, and our infrastructure crumbles. As Chris Hedges poignantly surmised, our “inability to be self-critical and self-aware, coupled with the cult of the self, has lead to a collective suicide.” We can no longer see the error of our ways. As Noam Chomsky said, “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” And here we are, not even knowing that we don’t know.

God forbid we wake up and smell the oil spill, or realize that it is mathematically impossible to ever pay off our national debt, or that an automated resource-based economy is far superior to the outdated monetary-based economy that currently runs (ruins) the world. God forbid we take seriously the wise words of Antisthenes, “The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue.”

God forbid we try to get over the hump of our current failures as a species. Or admit to ourselves that we are fallible, imperfect, and prone to mistakes, while also realizing that we can, and have, improved when we put our imagination and determination to the test. Sure, progress is difficult and self-improvement, enlightenment, and utopias will always be elusive, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s all the more reason to try harder. As Baruch Spinoza said, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”

(Featured image: Shuttershock)