I have been talking about the politics of our current system lately and how policy makers fails to see the problem with growth. But, can we create a just government that supports a sustainable, steady state economy? What does that mean for democracy if we change our economy model?
Read up on the democracies that inspired our founder’s and you will see a strong connection to steady state principals. True democracies are governments run by the people, either by elected officials (representative government like the US) or through direct participation (similar to ancient Greece and most tribal democracies). A steady state economy is one that supports local communities and accounts for the people and the planet instead of just profit. Together, democracy and a steady state economy work very well together.
Ancient, Sustainable Democracies
Today’s democracies have all been inspired, in one form or another, by the United States. Our country was founded by men with great ideals. Many of these men were well versed in history, especially of the other historical democracy of the Greeks. Many of our founders also witnessed first-hand the tribal democracies in the Native Americans they had known.
Most of this world has been democratic throughout history; 99.9% of those democracies where tribal communities. These communities learned over the centuries that a democratic lifestyle allowed for the most harmony the community and the environment. They learned to live within their means, together with the earth in a sustainable fashion.
“A democratic indigenous culture is sometimes described as being similar to a Garden of Eden. It’s a stable culture, living in peace and relative abundance. People have figured out their relationship to all other living and natural things, and to one another. They live within their means, not taking more from their environment than it can naturally regenerate within their lifetime.“
Living in peace with nature and each other is the ultimate goal of a steady state economy: dividing the resources up to create a just world (fair distribution) without using those resources too quickly or creating too much waste from their use (sustainable scale).
Influence On Today’s Democracies
The Iroquois Confederacy, a group of five Native American nations, were welcomed as dignitaries by the founders. Representatives of the Confederacy were invited to the 1775 Continental Congress, spoke to Benjamin Franklin about the danger of too much power in a single elected leader (the president) at the Albany Conference, and were again in attendance of the Continental Congress when the US Constitution was written.
John Adams wrote his observance of the three-branches style of government the Native Americans practiced:
“It would have been much to the purpose to have inserted a more accurate investigation of the form of government of the ancient Germans and modern Indians; in both, the existence of the three divisions of power is marked with a precision that excludes all controversy. The democratical branch, especially, is so determined, that the real sovereignty resided in the body of the people… The sovereignty is in the nation, it is true, but the three powers are strong in every tribe.”
The Native American lifestyle often influenced colonists in the New World so dramatically they left the civilized world to join them. There were many “white Indians” – colonist that defected to join the native population because it offered a more fulfilling life, as Sir Francis Bacon noted that well-bred Christan gentleman will “quit his high station and luxurious world, to dwell with savages… But never yet hath it been seen that a savage will, of his own free will give up his savagery, and live the life of a civilized man.” (Hartman, What Would Jefferson Do?)
If all we desire in this world is fulfillment, should not our government give us the means to do so?
Steady State and Democracy Can Go Hand-In-Hand
Democracy can be inherently sustainable – synergistic with a steady state economy. A true democracy is a government of peace; it finds the balance between people and the planet. The tribal democracies that gave Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams influence in drafting our own where ones that survived for thousands of years in harmony with the planet, their lives and their neighbors.
Our current economic model is counter-intuitive to the true nature of democracy. However, today’s democracies are overrun by corporations and greedy, liquidating politicians that perpetuate the lies of growth for their own self-interests.
We the people should take back our democracy. In doing so we will be one giant leap closer to a steady state economy and a sustainable future. The same works both ways – once we move our government to a steady state economy, we will be one giant leap closer to returning to “by the people, for the people.”
How do we move to a steady state democracy? Start a social revolution!