Monday, October 23 , 2017, 1:20 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Tam Hunt: You Say You Want a Revolution?

Well, ya know. We all want to change the world.

Well, at least the many millions of Americans voting for Bernie Sanders in the primaries and caucuses this year did. And still do.

Many Sanders supporters are now feeling a bit empty and lost, not knowing whether to hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton or to abstain and hope for the best.

Or (gasp) actually let Donald Trump win and hope the two-party system implodes and something better rises from the ashes to take its place.

My suggestion is, first, please hold your nose and vote for Clinton. The stakes are way too high to allow Trump to win. He is utterly and irrevocably unfit for the office of president of the United States.

He has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons on ISIS in the Middle East, and has refused to rule out using them even in Europe. A person who would say this kind of thing is not someone who should be allowed within a mile of the nuclear codes.

Trump also has called climate change a hoax and stated that he would pull out of the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change because it would give control over U.S. energy decisions to “foreign bureaucrats” at the United Nations.

This claim isn’t even “truthy,” it’s blatantly false. The Paris Agreement is an important symbolic document, but it actually commits the U.S. and other signatories to nothing concrete.

It merely calls for all nations to craft plans to reduce their emissions. There’s no requirement regarding by how much or by what date.

We also need to keep in mind that there is a potentially very long-term issue hanging in the balance with this election: the political balance of the Supreme Court.

For a couple of decades now, the court has been tilting to the right with many 5-4 decisions on key issues such as election donations under Citizens United, the election of George W. Bush instead of Al Gore in 2000 after the disputed Florida election (yes, one justice was responsible for the debacle of the Bush presidency), challenging government actions as unconstitutional, gun control (the Heller decision that created an individual right to own guns where none existed before), striking down President Obama’s coal emission limits law (just before Antonin Scalia died) and others.

With the death of Scalia, the colorful leader of the conservative wing of the court, in February, President Obama should have had the chance to tilt the court back toward the middle. However, the Senate has refused to even hold hearings to replace Scalia, overtly refusing to follow its clear responsibility under the Constitution to do so.

It is clear now that hearings won’t be held until after the presidential election this fall.

The winner of the presidential election thus will be able to choose Scalia’s replacement and the tilt of the court for the next couple of decades. This may be the single biggest result to come from the upcoming presidential election because the court is the arbiter of last resort for what is considered constitutional legislation.

States and the federal government can pass all the laws they want, but if the court says a law is unconstitutional it won’t stand.

Not only will Scalia’s replacement be a serious issue for the court, the country and constitutional rights, the next president also will likely be able to choose two or three more replacement justices because of the age of many of the remaining justices. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, Anthony Kennedy is 79 and Stephen Breyer is 77.

Scalia’s replacement plus one or more justices means that the next president will be all but certain to shape the highest court of the land for decades to come.

Addressing the argument that perhaps good progressives should let Trump win and hope the whole corrupt system implodes, I implore you to think this scenario through.

Very bad things could happen under Trump, some of which I just described, and not just here in America. A man with an ego the size of Trump’s could and very likely would attempt to project U.S. power, as an extension of his own ego, far and wide and in ways not contemplated since the time of the authoritarian leaders of the World War II era.

Yes, the two-party system in our country is hopelessly corrupt, but we can and should change it incrementally, not by burning the whole thing down. We’ve seen abundantly in recent years the damage that can come from wrongful extension of U.S. power.

There’s a simple rule: The bigger the use of force and violence, the bigger the unexpected consequences. Iraq is Exhibit A in this argument.

Observers before the 2003 war, myself included, warned strongly of the damage that would likely result from the Iraq War. My worst fears did, in fact, come to pass in that poor country and it is still recovering today, with more than a million dead Iraqis and many thousands of U.S. troops paying the ultimate price.

It would not be a good idea to carpet bomb the U.S. political system by letting Trump take office. Far too many intended and unintended consequences would flow from that outcome.

So we vote for Clinton and then what?

OK, so once a good progressive has held their nose (tightly) and voted for Clinton and the Democratic Party corporatist status quo that she represents — because the alternative is so much worse — what’s next?

Well, there are many more things to be done to continue the revolution through evolutionary change, using various new tools that are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

We now have the real possibility of moving toward a world that transcends national borders and historical human conflicts while at the same time diminishing the power of economic elites and the corruption that such concentration of power brings.

Will this happen in the next 20 to 30 years? No. But will it happen within 50 to 100 years? Possibly. And we can start working in real ways now on projects and organizations that will hasten this day.

I voted for Bernie because I saw his call for becoming more like Denmark and the “Nordic model” more generally as a positive step forward for America. And his focus on reducing the dramatic inequality of wealth and the corruption of our political system that such inequalities engender was entirely justified.

Even though I voted for Bernie, and agree with much of his platform, I consider myself a left libertarian, not a traditional progressive.

The libertarian in me wants to see decentralization of power away from the federal government and toward local and state government, but also away from government in general where possible and toward people making their own decisions directly, without paternalistic leaders making decisions for them.

New systems for self-governance are coming into being around the world, made possible by the information revolution and enhanced direct democracy.

An amazing thing happened recently when Bernie asked those who support his movement to step up and run for office themselves. He created a web page to help potential representatives sign up and run for local office.

More than 7,000 people signed up in the first couple of days! If even a fraction of these people actually run and win our system may be improved in many ways.

But better representative democracy is not the real revolution. The longer-term and more far-reaching revolution is the movement toward true direct democracy, made possible by new technologies.

Direct democracy is a powerful antidote to oligarchy and plutocracy, and the corruption that they inevitably bring, because it’s far harder to corrupt all voters than to corrupt a much smaller number of politicians.

There are now many powerful new tools designed for direct democracy in various circumstances.

Electronic direct democracy is the new kid on the block.

Direct democracy has been around for a while: California pioneered the initiative, referendum and recall in the early 20th century. Electronic direct democracy promises to take the idea of direct decision-making by the people to a new level because of the ubiquity of information, smartphones and Internet access.

Despite a rocky start in the last decade, online voting can now be done very securely with new tools, including the “blockchain,” a distributed ledger that records all votes in any particular election being held.

A number of European countries are now using blockchain-based online voting platforms. Followmyvote.com is developing a software package to allow for blockchain voting more widely and is currently raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign.

Bitcoin is the new international currency that can and should be part of this growing revolution in people power. It is also based on the blockchain technology, and was in fact the origin of the blockchain.

Bitcoin is a currency that is controlled by no one and issued by no country or bank. It’s entirely based on mathematical algorithms and practically unhackable cryptography — because it’s based on the blockchain distributed ledge.

Bitcoin’s use, acceptance and market value — more than $10 billion worldwide — has grown steadily since it was created in 2009. You can buy anything now with Bitcoin, and some companies are even issuing Bitcoin debit cards.

Despite many proclamations in recent years of its impending demise, Bitcoin is still alive and kicking. It isn’t just surviving, Bitcoin is thriving, reaching new multi-year highs in the last few months. The price as I write is more than $690 per Bitcoin.

An equally exciting development is a new programming platform Ethereum, with its own online currency called Ether.

Ethereum was the recipient of one of the largest crowdfunding campaigns in history of more than $18 million. Ethereum takes the distributed security model of Bitcoin (the blockchain) and expands it beyond just a currency.

Ethereum is a tool, a platform and a global network that hosts any programs users create. It’s a way to further avoid national boundaries and overzealous regulators. The ether currency is also thriving, and it may well surpass Bitcoin in value before too long.

Glocalization and “cloud countries” may be our future

The combination of these new tools now allows many activities that are normally done by local and national governments to be done in the cloud, accessible anywhere in the world. A new model for political association is coming into existence: the cloud country.

This development is still quite nascent, but it’s easy to see the large potential for this new model of political association.

Cloud countries are virtual organizations that anyone can join regardless of personal geography. Cloud countries can in theory keep traditional countries honest by offering competition for many everyday services like marriage certificates, birth certificates, elections, insurance, education, etc., and even passports eventually.

A key feature of cloud countries is that they can and usually do provide for direct democracy for any and all governance issues and decision-making.

People savvy enough to join a cloud country should be savvy enough to take part in online elections for matters large and small, creating constitutions, voting on new laws, budget decisions, website rules, and even adjudicating disputes that may otherwise be left to courts.

The sky’s the limit in terms of the potential for smartphone and web-enabled direct democracy to change governance for the better.

Bitnation.co is the most advanced cloud country today, with a couple of thousand worldwide citizens, and it has entered into partnerships with various entities including the Baltic country of Estonia.

Bitnation hopes to allow people to choose their country rather than accepting the accident of birth as the main factor of nationality. The cool thing, however, is that belonging to a cloud country doesn’t change one’s normal nationality and all the benefits that confers. Cloud countries don’t have a problem with dual citizenship.

The cloud country revolution and the increasing ability to “glocalize” provides a new way of living in worlds we choose.

We can and should be firmly rooted in our real geographic communities since this is the basis for mental health and stable societies. But we can now also be connected in very real ways to many people around the world who may share and enrich our lives through the exchange of ideas and virtual community.

This is the essence of “glocalism.” Reducing limits to free movement of people between countries is another key step in glocalism.

A final point about the benefits of this kind of revolution: The information revolution and the electronic direct democracy that it has enabled will allow for peaceful and incremental evolutionary change that will, when we look back after a number of years, result in truly revolutionary changes.

The world doesn’t need more upheaval at this point. There are already far too many major problems here now or on the horizon.

The incremental revolution that electronic direct democracy and glocalism allow for may be just what the doctor ordered for a world already dealing with enough turmoil.

Bernie’s campaign inspired a lot of people, particularly young people who are disillusioned with politics and their ability to make a difference.

That inspiration needn’t end with Bernie’s campaign ending because of the various efforts I’ve described above. Young people are more inclined to be active online so the electronic direct democracy and glocalization tools we now have available are all but assured of strong future growth.

— Tam Hunt is a lawyer and owner of Community Renewable Solutions LLC, a renewable energy project development and policy advocacy firm based in Santa Barbara and in Hilo, Hawaii; co-founder of Solar Trains LLC, and author of the new book, Solar: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright.​ Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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