Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

News from the Agora: Movement Edition

In the depressing regular news, Obama and Congress are planning to cut federal spending to avoid a “fiscal cliff”, and, if history is any guide, and it is, spending cuts will result in significant economic contraction.  This makes the American worker easier prey for the foreign companies like Foxconn, Volkswagen, and, in Virginia, Ikea, all of which are using Americans as their cheap labor.  Oh, also those spending cuts will partly come out of “entitlements” that you’ve already paid for.  Oh!  Also, Israel is mercilessly destroying Gaza again, for no real reason.

Wow, that’s all really depressing news for a Thanksgiving.  Nothing to do but curse the darkness – wait, what’s that light over there?

Occupy Sandy and Rolling Jubilee

Occupy Wall Street has taken some unexpected turns and transformed into some interesting and vital projects.  First, there is Occupy Sandy, organized in response to Hurricane Sandy and the slow and uneven responses of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross.  Many residents of the areas struck by flooding and other destruction have been dissatisfied with the response of the established emergency response organizations (especially FEMA), and Occupy Sandy has been able to fill in the gaps.  Occupy Sandy and the People’s Relief has been effective in mobilizing and organizing mutual aid, distributing emergency goods, cleaning homes, clearing out damaged buildings, and other services.  The leaderless organization has become an unofficial partner of FEMA, the Red Cross, and the National Guard, and volunteers in these groups often look to Occupiers for instruction. read more »

Welcome to Democracy in Principle!

Philosophyhelmet is now Democracy in Principle!  Change your bookmarks!

The original title of the wesbite, Philosophyhelmet, was intended to reflect the goal of discussing philosophy for a general audience.  By now I think it clear that this site is really about the philosophical theory behind the idea of a free and democratic society, and its practical application to the social problems of today.  Hence, my website from now on will be Democracy in Principle, which suits the theme of my discussions on the philosophical foundations of democracy, and what that means for our collective future.

Delacroix's 'Liberty Leading the People'

The Thesis of Democracy in Principle

For new readers, the general thesis of Democracy in Principle is as follows:

First, most social problems are failures of our social institutions (the ways of organizing our interactions).  However, most of our social institutions exist because of our choice to reproduce them by undertaking the practices that they are made of, and so we can remake these institutions if we choose to do so.

Second, the fundamental principle of social organization in general is justice, which delivers to all members of society primary goods in equal degree.  The primary good of any society is the freedom to pursue one’s values to the extent that all other members can also pursue their own values.

Third, people pursue values not only individually but also collectively, and for free individuals to do so collectively, they must be organized democratically.  Of course, this applies most importantly to the state itself.

Fourth, for democracy to be effectively achieved in any society, the basis of all social organization must be the directly organized community that manages its affairs by the direct assembly of its members.  The state must be derived from the participation of such organized communities.

Finally, American society is not a democratic society.  The Constitution of the United States was not intended to establish a democracy, and for however much it has evolved since then, the American state fails to be effectively democratic.  That’s okay, though, because we aren’t bound by the documents of the distant past.  Americans can and must forge a new constitution to repair its failing body politic.  If it makes you feel any better, the Founding Fathers would have mocked us for being so attached to such ancient parchment.

Highlights from the Past

Among the posts from Philosophyhelmet, a good introduction to the theses of Democracy in Principle would be You Tell Me It’s the Institution…, which defines my working definition of social institutions.  I talk about the problems of a specific social institution in Freeing People, not Markets, where I talk about the often incompatible relationship between markets and the actual freedom of the individual.

In Why Occupy?, I hammer out the means and aims of the great international movement of last year and hopefully into the future, Occupy Wall Street.  What do they want?  It’s not that hard to decipher.  Finally, in my most recent article-length post, Participatory Representation, I attempt to sketch out a method of electing officials, primarily representatives, in which the deliberative participation of the people replaces the corrupt political machinery of political parties and special-interest lobbying.

In the Reading Room, you can find my English translation of ‘the Girondin Constitution,’ the first republican constitution of Revolutionary France.  The authors of the Girondin Constitution, which include such historical luminaries as Tom Paine and the great French mathematician Condorcet, had an exceptional vision of what a democratic-republic should be.

Also in the Reading Room is my Model Declaration of Rights.  The purpose is to outline the sort of rights, and a couple of duties, that are required for an advanced industrial democratic society.  The Model Declaration is also intended to start the very necessary conversation about writing a new constitution for the United States, the old constitution being both dead and incomplete.

Democracy in Principle is intended to both revive an ancient conception of liberty, equality, and democracy, as well as make clear why such a conception is necessary for the future of humanity, free or otherwise.

Common Sense for the 21st Century

Author Dan Hind has recently released his e-book, Common Sense: Occupation, Assembly, and the Future of Liberty, and it’s fantastic.  The fifty-five page e-pamphlet encapsulates the deep-rooted rot of our societies, and the “common sense” – the accumulated assumptions that shape our understanding of the world – that make the rot invisible to those living within it.  The core of our contemporary common sense is comprised of the cult-like mantras of “the market” and “the expert.” read more »

The Big Question of 2011: Why Occupy?

The big news of the last year has undoubtedly been the rise of democratic movements all across the world, beginning in 2010 in Tunisia and spreading to our own supposedly democratic shores as Occupy Wall Street.  Though our intrepid reporters (me – I was the intrepid reporter) brought you a firsthand account of its Richmond branch, we are a philosophy site, not a news site.  So on this New Year’s Day, I’m answering a question that I’ve heard a lot since my attempt to be involved in the local Occupation.  Namely, why? read more »

Consensus and Majority Rule

In my report on the Occupy Richmond assembly, I discussed the shortcomings of the consensus model versus majority rule.  I think I came down too hard on the consensus model at the time of its writing.  I shared the frustration of the assembly that its business was held up by commitment to a principle – the 90% threshold – that they had not chosen for themselves.  But the consensus model has a very sensible background, and an appropriate application.  However, there are simply limitations to the human capacity for the extended reasoning that consensus requires.  Let’s take a look. read more »

Personal Notes from Occupy Richmond

A scene from Occupy Wall Street (not Richmond)

I had been to the October 6 meeting in Monroe Park of the not-yet-existing Occupy Richmond movement.  Some seventy or so people met and decided to meet back at the park today (October 15) to have a further assembly, and to stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.  The assembly went pretty smoothly, at least in my view, though others might disagree.  I know from history that democracy is a messy, tumultuous thing, and can be full of yelling and confusion and bad feelings.  To a society that is accustomed to being calmly but badly managed by smug pricks with bachelor’s degrees, it may seem like a circus where the chimpanzees got loose.  But that’s the price you pay for freedom. read more »