I had considered opened a new topic for these thoughts which follow, but felt this one might be a more appropriate forum to introduce them, as an extension of the theme of the privatization of government, and its inverse concept, publicization. My intent is to unify, and transcend, the topics being surfaced in the course of the current presidential contest, in an attempt to move the conversation to a more actionable agenda for regaining the possibility of a cohesive, healthy, modern democratic society in our own country.
Many of us have looked to our founding documents - the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - for meaning and guidance as we consider what kind of society we desire and expect to see established and maintained. But I propose that it is the words at the end of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which should be foremost in our minds -
"that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
It is above all else the forces of "privatization" that most threaten this vision of our democracy, and the times in which these words were spoken, I would suggest, more closely resemble the current state of our social and political institutions, than it does the time of our country's founding.
The ability to hold together as a community of mutual interest, catalyzed by a government "of the people" has been eroded on all possible sides, arguably to the point of complete dysfunction. The threats share a common theme - the erosion of trust between people, the feeling of shared values and interests. Where this trust has been eroded, we have collectively failed to replace it with equally strong binding energies, and the result is a self-sustaining drive toward complete surrender to "private institutions", in which trust is replaced with contracts, courts replaced by arbitration, accountability replaced with the choice (or lack) of a better alternative.
How this trust could be reestablished is the question at hand, and even the premise that it can be reestablished is difficult to support in light of the the collapse of the institutions which might operate to enable this level of cooperation among so diverse a body of people.
It would seem that what's needed is not a major effort at "reforms", but rather a wholesale revisiting of the values we hold in common, if any, and a restatement of those principles in written form, which could be agreed to by such a majority of our citizenry that they form a basis for re-imagination, re-architecture, then rebuilding up from the ground a complete system of self-governance, inspired by and evolved from the same basic founding principles that have managed to carry us to this point, but honed with all the lessons that almost 250 years of human and institutional experience, and informed by the intellectual and psychological growth which has occurred since our almost mythical founding as a country.
I'm suggesting of course the need for a Constitutional Convention, and further that it may be the only available option for our survival as a unified democratic republic, freed from and insulated against those defects which have steadily risen up to overtake it's ability to remain the force of social, economic, and political cohesion that it once promised to all its citizens. While this may seem like strong medicine, I've considered that the alternative is even worse, that a country in which half of us will not be able to accept the results of the upcoming presidential election without feeling themselves under a semi-permanent existential threat, is with a very high probability a recipe for profound disaster.