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Building a Kinder, Wiser Democracy

I have an alternative democracy

It is called “Tiered Democratic Governance” or TDG, for short.

The TDG will be built by average people.

The early builders of the TDG need only invest about 10 hours a month.

The Naysayers

The TDG does have its naysayers. And sometimes they naysay that my stated time commitment is much too low. And nobody has the time to build a new democracy anyways.

On one level, I would have to agree. Back in my days of being an active volunteer in a political party, I was spending a lot more time than 10 hours a month; 10 hours a week was more likely. That was the price I had to pay to earn some influence in the party.

A couple of years ago, I attended a Black Lives Matter rally in my hometown. I could see a lot of volunteer time invested to put this event together. This was not an event organized by a couple of people in a couple of hours a couple of days before. We are probably looking at least 50 hours of organizing for a couple hours of “action.”

The political commitment required for effective partisan or activist efforts is significant. Logic tells us that building a brand-new democracy will take much more time than 10 hours a week or 50 hours per event. Think fulltime and overtime, and with no pay.

This article will show my claim of 10 hours a month is reasonable. Stay with me!

First Step

Read my books. I have a 15-minute essay about the TDG. Unfortunately, this essay does not fully explain this new democratic concept. At best, the essay can only convince readers to move into my books.

Four TDG books are available for a free read from my website. This takes “I don’t have the money” as an excuse to not learn about this new way.

For sure, read the flagship book, “Tiered Democratic Governance, Governing Ourselves in the 21st Century.”

If you prefer shorter reads, I have about 300 articles on this blog. 

Consider 10 hours of TDG reading as the time investment for your first month.

Second Step

If you like what you read and can see yourself as a TDG builder, announce your TDG discovery to your social media. Say something like:

“If you are wondering about the dysfunction in our democracy, there’s this Dave fellow from Canada who has some interesting ideas. He says we average people need to build an alternative democracy.”

This message will take you less than five minutes per social media post. This is negligible time. If only 1% of your followers take your post seriously, this is a good return on your time investment to build a better world. Someone in your world just might become enthusiastic to build the TDG.

Third Step

For a little more effort, you could send an email to the young people in your life. They must be confused as hell as to how the current system, which got us into this mess, can be used to get us out of this mess. Here’s an example:

Dear Son/Daughter/Nephew/Niece/Grandson/Granddaughter/whatever

My generation screwed up. We are giving you a worse world than the world we received. You will be the ones who have to fix it. Sorry.

There is a Dave fellow from Canada who has some interesting ideas on a new democracy. He says we will have to build it. It needs only 10 hours a month. Consider investigating Dave’s way. I don’t see anything else out there. You young people have the energy for that 10 hours.

Love ______

The young people have more at stake. Your recommendation might turn some young person into committing 10 hours a month to build this democracy. If this is your only contribution to the TDG, it is a good contribution.

Fourth Step

Imagine this conversation you can have with one of your neighbors:

Neighbor: Man, I hate politicians. They can’t seem to do anything right.

You: It’s a crazy world. . . . You know there’s this Dave fellow from Canada who has some interesting ideas on average people building a new democracy. He says we only need about 10 hours a month to build it.

Neighbor: That’s ridiculous! Average people? Ten hours a month?

You: We can either try things out Dave’s way — or continue with the current way.

Neighbor: Maybe I need to take a closer look.

You: Come to my place next Thursday. 7:00 p.m. I will try to explain this new way as best I can.

Fifth Step

Let me remind you that you do not need permission from:

1. the political elite,

2. the wealthy,

3. the academics,

4. the civil authorities, or

5. a majority of your neighbors.

These people will never approve of your decision to build a new democracy. So just host your TDG meeting.

You might still feel inadequate to explain the TDG in your first meeting. Like many things, the TDG will become better understood as more practice is realized. Do not wait for full understanding to start building.

Sixth Step

When you have convinced a few neighbors to be TDG builders, hold another meeting to start building your constitution.

While I allow all TDGs to build their own constitution as they see fit, I recommend that each TDG follows these nine sections:

1. TDG Principles

2. Humanistic Principles

3. Boundaries

4. Membership

5. Electoral Rules: Schedule of Election, Ballot Design, Voter List, Ballot Counting,

6. Executive Committee: Number of executive committee members, authority & responsibility, quorum

7. Advisors

8. Amendment to this Constitution

9. Amendment to merge with another TDG.

In my novel, “Diary of a Future Politician,” the early TDG builders of Riverbend USA work through this list, section-by-section, to create their constitution.

The TDG Constitution of Northwest Riverbend

Written by average people, just like you and me.

Your TDG group can use this constitution as your template. Adjust the clauses to better suit local needs and ideas.

And if a local TDG group wants to step outside this outline and template, I would say: “Go for it.” The TDG will be a great experiment in democracy, learning from both successes and failures. We need these experiments!

But I do have four salient features each TDG must follow:

1. Tiered, indirect elections

2. Voting based good character and capacity for governance

3. A culture of consultation

4. An advisory board

If an early TDG departs from these four salient features, it won’t function like a TDG should. My TDG book explains these salient features in more detail.

Ten hours a month? Get real, Dave!

I am real. Let’s do some math.

I recommend that each local TDG meeting lasts no longer than 90 minutes. And these meetings are held every two weeks. So these meetings bring a total of three hours per month for each TDG builder. And since you are working with neighbors, there is no commuting.

In between the meetings, an email draft of agreed clauses should be sent to the builders. The builders should read and comment on the draft. Reading the other comments should generate more discussion. Some discussion will reaffirm the original clause, some will improve that clause, and some will cause reconsideration. Allow for lots of editing as ideas are flushed out. The previous draft should inspire a better next draft. With this email approach, builders will spend another three hours a month.

The email draft will require a writer. Nearly all Medium contributors have the writing skills to be the writer for their local TDG constitution. The writer should draft whatever consensus that seems to form in the bi-weekly meetings and send the draft to all the builders. The writer could also summarize the email comments and prepare an agenda for the next meeting. I estimate another three hours a month for the role of the writer.

At this point, most builders are spending six hours a month on their local TDG constitution. The writer is spending nine hours a month. So my estimate of 10 hours a month is not unreasonable.

But these 10 hours will have far more impact for the future than the much greater time invested by today’s many partisan and activist workers.

I hope that I have convinced you that building the TDG will not be a time-consuming activity. You can still be with your family, go to work, socialize, and enjoy your recreation. A month has 720 hours, you will find 10 hours for the TDG if you really want your society to go in a TDG direction.

Or you can wait for someone else to fix democracy for you!

Learning this New Way

While you are engaging in your TDG meetings and email discussions, remember that the TDG is asking us to do things in a different way. We need to cast aside that democracy is about championing our own opinions into some kind of victory. Rather we deliberately need to develop a collaborative, consultative, and consensual approach — to combine our knowledge, experience, and wisdom with the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of other people.

Your opinions are necessary. So when discussing each clause, give your opinion of what it should entail. Let others give their opinions on the clause. Practice listening carefully to those opinions. Try to understand why they think the way they think. You don’t have to agree, just understand. Learn to feel the consensus that seems to be forming as these opinions are clashing with each other.

Realize that no one is able to always predict the future accurately; we are just collectively making our best guess.

With all builders thinking in this way, we are building a new culture. Building the TDG is where we can cast aside the old culture — and just focus on the new culture.

Developing this new culture is required for the TDG to work well in the future. For the early builders, this new culture is actually more important than that first constitution.

No Quick Fix

In our world of promising instantaneous results, we should not expect a new TDG constitution to be built in a couple of meetings. Even with the Riverbend template.

Learning the new ways will not be easy. After each meeting, you should reflect on how well you participated in a consultative way. What did you do well? What could you improve? If our fellow builders are having the same reflection, the next time we meet, we can take our new culture to a little higher level. More meetings mean more opportunities to improve ourselves.

If we follow the Riverbend template, we will work through those nine sections. Each section should generate lots of discussion, which gives us practice. If we get only one section written per meeting, that is OK.

And when you finish the last section, you probably should review the earlier sections — just to make sure all the sections have good synergy with each other.

I estimate that — with the nine sections, meetings every two weeks, and email discussion — your local TDG group will need three to six months to build your first local TDG constitution. This time will allow time for reflection and refinement, for writing better clauses, for connecting clauses to each other, and for putting this new culture into practice.

You will be a changed person with this experience. You will have a deeper appreciation and understanding of how people should work together.

After the Constitution

After consensus has been reached for the new constitution, hold a ratification ceremony. Your group has done some great work. Congratulate yourselves!

Then conduct your first election as per the rules of your new constitution.

If you are not elected into the executive committee, your time investment in the TDG will be less than 10 hours a month. However, you should still be active in your TDG community. Keep being friendly with your neighbors. This will help you cast a wiser vote in the next TDG election; you might even be elected. Encourage other neighbors to join your TDG. As well, the executive committee might ask you to serve on a committee; consider that task as your contribution. And, of course, donating funds to your local TDG will give the executive more consultation practice on how to spend those funds on projects for the TDG.

If you are elected to the executive committee, your time investment might go to 20 hours a month. This is still manageable for many volunteers. But I also think you will enjoy the TDG culture. Participating won’t be a burden. You will start seeing how governance will work in the future.

Ten hours a month is all the TDG really needs from you.

Many Medium contributors are spending much more time on Medium. Are they really changing the world?

And then there are the partisans and activists still putting a lot of passion and time into their political work. What have been the lasting effects of their intense contribution?

Methinks the better long-term investment of political time is with the TDG. And for only 10 hours a month.

Published on Medium in 2023

The TDG Essay

Four Salient Features of the TDG

Inspiration for the TDG

Donating to the TDG