Criteria To Define What We Need
A Well-Functioning Democracy

A democracy has several core functions, and a well-functioning democracy simply does a very good job carrying out these functions. Elements central to a well-functioning democracy include:

1. It ensures that the people are sovereign. It incorporates and reflects citizens' interests, needs, and values, allowing the majority's will to decide most contested questions while at the same time upholding the rule of law and guarding minority rights.

2. In a clash between the interests, needs and values of the broad majority and the wishes of elites, the people should usually prevail.

3. It protects public health and safety, both in the immediate and in the long term.

4. It constitutes a government, passes laws and budgets, collects taxes, issues regulations, and efficiently and effectively provides facilities and services best provided in the public sector or that are needed and would not be provided otherwise.

5. It helps identify and assist society's many governmental and non-governmental sectors take advantage of opportunities.

A democracy can be considered to be "working" to the extent it carries out these functions well, and "failing" to the extent they are carried out poorly.

By these standards, our government isn't doing very well. In fact, it is failing miserably. The trends in public understanding of and support for democracy and the government it designs and creates are very negative. Support remains, but it is tenuous.

On issue after issue, from health care to guns to climate to taxing the rich, our elected "representatives" ignore measures supported by 60 or 70 percent public opinion margins, and instead enact measures supported by, and in the interests of, the few.

Most critically, our democracy and government is failing to protect our health and safety from threats including climate change, pandemics, and a rogue's gallery of "black swan" dangers. It is even failing at the simple safety issues, the mundane things, such as keeping our bridges from falling down and killing people, or keeping the mentally unhinged from buying machine guns and then using them to randomly murder us, dozens and sometimes hundreds at a time.

As for opportunities, too many of our elected officials behave as if a course of action that doesn't directly and immediately put money in the pockets of some constituency isn't worth considering. Then they compound their short-sightedness by worshiping the invisible hand of a market made stupid and blind by a rigged system of predatory and monopoly pricing, subsidies, targeted tax breaks, and other special favors won by lobbyists, usually in return for campaign contributions.

As a result of this stacking of the deck, this legal in-plain-sight corruption, this willful stupidity, we leave fantastic opportunities to benefit the whole of society lying abandoned, while catering obsequiously to the desires of the rich and powerful.

In light of the manifest failures of our democracy and government, it is a miracle that there remains as much trust and support as there is for the government and the governance that our system creates. If we were wise, we would see this trust as a precious resource, and do everything in our power to nurture our democracy back to health... before all trust is gone.

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