A Citizen’s Charter for Democracy and Independence

A Citizen’s Charter for Democracy and Independence

A Citizen’s Charter for Democracy and Independence

On the 52nd anniversary of Public Citizen.


Citizen-group leaders challenging the corporate state, dominated by giant unaccountable corporations, need to keep the following important suggestions uppermost in their minds as they pursue their missions.

1. Maintain an up-to-date understanding of the relentless expansion in degree and in kind of the corporate supremacists. The corporatization, commercialization, and monetization of the American public and private life—and livelihoods—is at an all-time high and burgeoning, with new technologies and mercantile extortions expanding every year. We must not underestimate the corporate predators. They are far more aggressive than they were in the 1970s and ’80s. They operate on a totally different scale! The corporate state has largely captured our governments. The corporate barons are expanding in every direction. Even the commercial control of childhood is growing at an unprecedented pace.

2. Raise the expectations of the civic community as to what has to be confronted and overcome. Expectations are low and far from overarching the battle and the war. Whatever the civic initiatives may be, the citizenry’s focus must be on the endemic incompatibility of corporatism with democracy, of congealed greed with justice, of structural immunities with the rule of law, of the separation of corporation and state, of the necessity to expand commercial-free zones of life and make adequate room for crucial civic, cooperative and gift relationships which invite the respect of our posterity. Low expectations mired in “it ain’t going to happen” defeatism gets us nowhere and leads to frustration/burn-out land.

3. Be intellectually active. Read, think, discuss, exchange, renew, encourage, revise and recruit. These are seeds of an ascending socially just society and will produce the fruits of a democracy. Be creative. Come up with new strategies and tactics. Start book clubs, organize teach-ins, and create your own media outlets. Discover all the significant corporate predations against which there are no civic advocacy groups at all. Establish such new groups to meet the new challenges. For example, the tyranny of fine-print contracts, massive billing fraud, and wholesale government outsourcing of public functions to corporations. There is a serious need now for a progressive citizen advocacy group on taxes and budgets.

4. Beware of the trend lines of the times that may not be reported in civic contexts. The AI Moloch, biotech, and nanotech were cited by computer software futurist Bill Joy over 20 years ago in Wired magazine in a prescient article titled, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” This article made a one-time splash and then was ignored by the establishment and, one might add, by many progressives and certainly members of Congress.

5. Maintain deep independence from any vested interests and political parties. Resist the corporate pressures of capture or co-optation.

6. Think generationally, as some First Native tribes or Nations have done. Good ancestors pay attention to the young, constantly looking for the best among them. Be alert to posterity’s trust in our legacy, and limit self-congratulations and nostalgias that feed complacency. Learn from mistakes and resilient responses to avoid stagnation.

7. Embrace the joy in fighting for justice—to maintain stamina and perspective. Senator Daniel Webster said, “Justice is the great work of mankind on Earth.” Don’t let the roads to that destination be tiring and discouraging. A public philosophy replete with the lessons of history and the traits of functional personalities can help. After all, what is the alternative? The white flag of surrender and daily dread over a world careening toward various omnicides?

8. Always keep the Big Picture on the table. Otherwise, you will be consumed with prevailing over a skirmish here or there while the corporate predators keep producing ever-greater abuses and learning how to game the system insidiously. The Big Picture for a civic culture worthy of the name must:

a. Subordinate the corporate entity to the supremacy of real human beings—this will take both constitutional and statutory changes, including taking on the matter of corporate personhood and federal chartering of large corporations as urged a century or more ago by three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Corporations must be made “unequal before the law” to real persons. SUBORDINATE!

b. Expand the privileges and status of self-reliant local economies and local institutions outside the economy so as to displace the runaway global corporations now omnipresent and often omnipotent. Civic zones, including the great commons, must be protected from penetrating corporate dominance.

A prerequisite of localism is an aroused civic consciousness for children on up to adults. When civic values are supreme over commercial values and yardsticks, all our lives are improved. There is a reason that, for over 2,000 years, all organized religions warned their adherents not to give too much power to the merchant class and its monistic, maniacal pursuit of profits über alles.

9. Rebuild civic education. It is too important to only be left to our schools. Any movement to advance a just and productive democracy should pay attention to after school civic seminars and civic clubs for elementary and high school students to develop civic skills by learning and doing. It is never too early to be civically engaged and motivated at the scale suited to a student’s age and community. Early in life, children develop a remarkable sense of right and wrong (See the studies by Harvard professor Robert Coles and Claire Nader’s transformative new book, You Are Your Own Best Teacher! Sparking the Curiosity, Imagination, and Intellect of Tweens) on which to build the deliberative citizenry for coming years. That sense must be nurtured before it is overcome by commercial exploitation, marketing madness and other coercive injustices.

10. Mobilize the people. In our system of government, civic mobilizations must focus relentlessly on the legislative branches. That is where the remedies for so many of society’s problems have to go for enactment into rules of law by national, state and local legislative bodies. Absent legal enactments, civic energies dissipate unfulfilled. For nationwide reforms and redirections, it is Congress, Congress, Congress. Last year we started the Capitol Hill Citizen newspaper, in print, to cover the uncovered. Become a Capitol Hill Citizen yourself and order copies from our website. We know the names of the 535 members of Congress who need votes more than they need campaign money. Strive to make voters informed, driven and focused with laser beam intensity. Lessons from our history’s best practices demonstrate this point. That is when the People have the Power. That is when the desired common necessities of life induce left/right convergences which are politically unbeatable. (See my book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)

A concluding observation to keep an optimistic mind. To prevail in Congress, it has never taken more than one percent of people—often much less—having the support of public opinion, and some advocacy skills. This one percent or less, spread out through congressional districts (that is about 2.5 million adults or fewer, devoting less than 500 volunteer hours a year and raising enough money for one or two full-time champions in each congressional district), could achieve what Americans have been awaiting for decades—a living wage, full Medicare for All, cracking down on corporate crooks, tax reform, resets for benign environments, repealing anti-union/workers laws, reigning in the blank-check military budget, adequate public works and public services and more.

For our country has many problems it does not deserve and many solutions it has not applied. We owe to future generations the closing of this democracy and moral gap.

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