More information on The Elite or People Governing America

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More information on The Elite or People Governing America

This information is about a book written by Charles A. Beard.

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States is a 1913 book by American historian Charles A. Beard. It argues that the structure of the Constitution of the United States was motivated primarily by the personal financial interests of the Founding Fathers. More specifically, Beard contends that the Constitutional Convention was attended by, and the Constitution was therefore written by a "cohesive" elite seeking to protect its personal property (especially bonds) and economic standing. Beard examined the occupations and property holdings of the members of the convention from tax and census records, contemporaneous news accounts, and biographical sources, demonstrating the degree to which each stood to benefit from various Constitutional provisions. Beard pointed out, for example, that George Washington was the wealthiest landowner in the country, and had provided significant funding towards the Revolution. Beard traces the Constitutional guarantee that the newly formed nation would pay its debts to the desire of Washington and similarly situated lenders to have their costs refunded.

Definition of Direct Democracy

Direct democracy comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein all citizens can directly participate in the decision-making process. Some adherents want both legislative and executive powers to be handled by the people, but most extant systems only allow legislative decisions. Direct democracy in its traditional form is rule by the people through referenda. The people are given the right to pass laws, veto laws and withdraw support from a representative (if the system has representatives) at any time.

The Theory of Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is essentially a legislature made up of all citizens where the citizens are directly engaged in their own self-governance. In a pure direct democracy system, the laws passed by the masses are the laws of the land and there are no other law making branches of the government. The idea of a direct democracy has existed for centuries and was most clearly represented in ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece, the male adult citizens of Athens, as a single assembly, approved and initiated laws for their city. Additionally, in Rome, all male citizens were permitted to participate directly by direct vote in one of the four assemblies that had been established for the purpose of legislation.

Direct democracy as a legislative principle was not introduced into the United States Constitution, however the theory of direct democracy has been developed into practice in a number of states. The movement towards direct democracy began in the United States in the late 1800s due to an generalized distrust by the people of the local governments. Cynthia L. Fountaine, Lousy Lawmaking: Questioning the Desireability and Constitutionality of Legislating by Initiative, 61 S. Cal. L. Rev. 733, 736 (1988). The people believed that the local governments had become corrupted by corporations. Id. The movement was supported by the Progressive movement as a way to battle the power of the corporations; it was believed that initiatives would reflect the free decisions of the popular will. Id.

Cons to Direct Democracy

The main objection to direct democracy is that the general public is in a poor position to judge the appropriate actions of government. The public is not as interested or informed as their elected representatives. Much of the public only has a superficial understanding of most political issues and is likely to be swayed by a charismatic yet irrational argument. Representative democracy, it is argued, represents a compromise between the mob rule of direct democracy and the autocracy of a dictatorship. It has been said that the public may not be good at making good political decisions, but they are good at choosing the people to make those decisions.

Another compelling objection to direct democracy is that it is open to demagoguery (One person influencing the people). Another objection to direct democracy is that of practicality and efficiency. Deciding all or most matters of public importance by direct referendum is slow and expensive, and can result in public apathy and voter fatigue. Modern advocates of direct democracy often suggest e-democracy (sometimes including wikis, television and Internet forums) as a method of reducing these problems.

It's also believed that direct democracy operates best in smaller communities or populations. Larger communities would be too complex and extensive for direct democracy to work efficiently.

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