Thomas Knapp endorses Gravel’s National Initiative

Press release from Tom Knapp:

Earlier this year, former US Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) left the Democratic Party’s presidential race to instead seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party. While that party passed him over in favor of former US Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), his ideas seem to be catching on with Libertarians.

The latest endorser of Gravel’s “National Initiative for Democracy,” which would enable a process for direct lawmaking by popular vote, is Thomas L. Knapp, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for US House of Representatives from Missouri’s 2nd District.

“The National Initiative isn’t perfect,” says Knapp, 41, of Greendale. “I’d prefer that it included a super-majority requirement and an explicit set of reservations analogous to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. But we’ve learned from experience that putting national lawmaking authority solely in the hands of 537 people in Washington results in a broken process dominated by corporate and sectional interests and geared toward protecting those interests rather than our rights.”

The National Initiative for Democracy would allow citizens to make or alter laws via an initiative and referendum system similar to those currently used in 24 states. Knapp points out that libertarian activists have successfully used those systems to promote and pass pro-freedom legislation such as protection for the rights of medical marijuana patients and limits on government’s powers of taxation and eminent domain.

“While many libertarians distrust democracy and fear its devolution into mob rule,” he says, “it seems unlikely to me that the American people would legislate as corruptly and incompetently as their representatives in Washington have. The National Initiative provides for a period of deliberation and debate, with any new law requiring affirmation by voters in two separate elections. Meanwhile, we frequently hear that Congress has passed new legislation without waiting for it to be printed so that they can actually read it.”

Knapp faces incumbent Republican Todd Akin and Democratic challenger Bill Haas in the November election. The Libertarian Party, one of three established political parties in the state, will run candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, six of Missouri’s nine seats in the US House of Representatives, and several state legislative and local offices.

77 thoughts on “Thomas Knapp endorses Gravel’s National Initiative

  1. Thomas L. Knapp


    What actually got me thinking about NI4D again was the exchange between myself and GE on democracy and whether it is a principle or a process.

    What sealed the deal for me were the following conclusions:

    – The US is a democracy. We can argue over whether or not it was intended to be one, but it is one — specifically, it is a representative democracy.

    – I don’t hate democracy any more than I hate any variant of statism, and I hate it considerably less than I hate most variants of statism. If we’re going to have a state (and I accept that, for the foreseeable future, we are going to have a state), then we could do a lot worse than having a democratic state. And since that’s what they have, and since I only have a few decades in which to make things happen, I’m willing to try to improve that kind of state when I’m not busy trying to abolish states altogether (the latter is a hobby of mine as well).

    – While the framers made good arguments for representative versus direct democracy as the preferred process, two centuries of watching the system they created deteriorate has revealed at least one flaw that makes direct democracy look superior: It’s much easier and cheaper to bribe 537 people with campaign contributions, post-political job offers, and even brown paper sacks full of cash than it is to bribe 300 million people.

    Legislation coming out of Washington these days is generally the product of a process in which the staffers consult with lobbyists, work up a package the lobbyists like, stick a flag on it representing something they think “the people” will fall for, and hand the whole thing to legislators who don’t bother to read it before passing it (hell, sometimes they don’t wait until it’s printed before passing it).

    NI4D’s initiative and referendum process requires two elections, held not less than six months and not more than one year apart, to pass a new law. This gives the citizenry a good deal of time to read the legislation and consider and debate its merits … and like I said, while it’s easy for, say, Boeing to buy 537 politicians, or at least a majority thereof, it would be much more expensive for them to buy a majority of the American electorate.

    I’m satisfied that NI4D represents a procedural improvement that is not inherently anti-libertarian, and other observations of initiative and referendum (e.g. Props 13 and 215 in California, the Hancock Amendment in Missouri, eminent domain limits in several states) demonstrate that it can be used to achieve pro-freedom goals.

    So, that’s where I’m at on it. It took me awhile to get there, but the conversation with GE provided a needed kick in the pants to make me buckle down and do the reading and thinking.

    Tom Knapp

  2. G.E. Post author

    Geez, I hate to think I’m responsible for your support of this horrible, anti-liberty idea. This is almost as bad as your senseless support for “debt repudiation,” which, in reality, is nothing but a giveaway to the federal government at the expense of the public.

  3. G.E. Post author

    How about a World Referendum while we’re at it?

    I, as a citizen of Michigan, have NO RIGHT to run the lives of people in Vermont and Alabama.

    Why does Tom Knapp support the monopoly U.S. megastate?

  4. darren

    For a libertarian, wouldn’t the practical question be which method of governing best protects individual liberties? Direct democracy, representative legislators, judicial review, jury nullification, etc.

    There is ample history on the initiative process in California and other states. So we should be able to tell whether it generally promotes or infringes on individual liberty. It certainly isn’t any less money-driven than federal elections.

  5. Thomas L. Knapp


    Yeah, allowing hundreds of millions of Americans all over the country, rather than 537 politicians in one city, to cast votes on proposed legislation is a “tool of centralization.” Also, black is white and 2+2=5.


    So you think it’s a “horrible anti-liberty idea.” That’s fine. You’re entitled to your ignorant prejudices, but I think I’ll go with my informed opinions instead.


  6. Trent Hill


    Allowing the Federal Government (controlled by the millionsa of citizens) all of the power to negotiate and legislate said laws is centralization. That is all that this Initiative will be used for.

  7. Trent Hill


    Prejudices you can probably alledge,without much of a smirk crossing anyone’s face. I don’t think anyone here will say Jason is without prejudice—but ignorant? I’v had many an arguement with our buddy Jason, and ignorant isn’t a word i’d pin to him. Misinformed, perhaps. But ignorant? Perhaps you’d like to change your choice of words.

  8. Fred Church Ortiz

    It certainly isn’t any less money-driven than federal elections.

    That’s a pretty important point. In my experience, initiatives are decided by who makes the better commercial.

    Tom cites a few examples of it working out pretty good, and off the top of my head I can think of a few negative examples too: an assload of bond measures, the three-strikes law (and the failure of a later attempt to only amend it to violent offenses only), and a new tax on phone bills residents of L.A. were tricked into voting for last year (the city claimed that it was already in place and it’s loss would cost vital revenue, the reality was it was illegally passed and placed on the ballot to legitimize it).

    I’m not as demophobic as a lot of other libertarians, any vote could go either way with the general mood, and so the task of bringing people around to our point of view would remain the same. And for that matter, if initiatives were limited to the constitutionally limited tasks of the federal government, all we’ve done is created another bigger, less active House.

    Gravel’s initiative fails on that point. Like true direct democracy it allows any majority sentiment to become law, without any consideration for basic rights.

    Also, while Tom doesn’t like federalism, it’s the only thing that made Prop 215 possible in the first place, and the continuing raids show how important defending and re-strengthening it is. We’re no longer at constitutional federalism and we’re not a direct democracy, but I’ll stick with supporting the former over Gravel’s bright idea.

  9. G.E. Post author

    Furthering the monopoly state is anti-liberty. Decentralism is pro-liberty, because it sets the competing states against one another in a contest to see which can be most libertarian. It is only through establishing anti-libertarian confederations — the USA, the IMF, etc. — that governments thwart what would be a race to freedom to attract productive individuals.

  10. langa

    “It’s much easier and cheaper to bribe 537 people with campaign contributions, post-political job offers, and even brown paper sacks full of cash than it is to bribe 300 million people.”

    How go you think special interests make sure their favorite politicians get reelected, other than by “bribing 300 million people”? This idea would just eliminate the middle man.

    Worse yet, it smacks of the kind of radical populism espoused by Rousseau. Under this misguided philosophy, liberty is defined in a strictly political sense, as the participation of citizens in the political process, which is thought to imbue the result of said political process with an inherent morality, since it’s based on the general will. As Rousseau himself put it: “Liberty is obedience to a law we have prescribed for ourselves.” While Gravel is too politically savvy to phrase it that way ( at least in front of the LP Convention), his National Initiative rests on little more than an updated version of Rousseau’s “general will”. There’s nothing libertarian about it. It seeks to use concepts like “equality” and “participation” as surrogates for liberty.

    When Madison & Co. were writing the Constitution, they explicitly rejected this radical populism in favor of classical liberalism, which held that the morality of a law is to be evaluated independently of the process by which the law is enacted. In the classical liberal tradition, the outcome of voting is morally neutral, while in the radical populist tradition it is automatically morally correct. Thus, populists can provide a moral justification for tyranny by pointing to demagogic dictators as the embodiment of the popular will.

  11. rob in cal

    For what its worth, in states that don’t have initiative rights, its usually the republicans supporting it, somewhat, and the Dems usually against it. Usually the liberal interest groups are against, with fears of a massive tax cutting revolt, or some anti-illegal immigrant measure a la prop. 187 in California getting traction. Governor Pataki in New York, Bush in Texas, I believe Ridge in Pennsylvania all were in support as was Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, but noone stepped up to push it through. Last new state to adopt state level initiative was Mississipi in 1992. Minnesota almost did in 1980 but liberal opponents narrowly defeated it, though a majority voted for it (it had a super majority requirement in that case). Oh yes I believe Minnesota governor Pawlenty supports it, and GOP in Minnesota has generally been for it. Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas are the midwestern holdouts against state wide inititive, which is truly a heartland and west coast specialty. Its those east coast “elite” states that by and large don’t have it, with Massachusets and Maine honorable exceptions.

  12. VTV

    I wanted this to be an article itself, and emailed it to the editors, but I guess I will just add it here. This is from my campaign website for my run for Congress as a Libertarian/Boston Tea Party candidate in Michigan’s 10th district.

    So I am a Libertarian. And I support the NI4D. Why is that?

    First of all, let me begin by saying that I will not directly enact the NI4D as a Congressmen. I would just be another person voting in favor of it when the matter came before the people. That being said, let me go on to explain why I do support it.

    In my position debating politics on a daily basis at, I got into debates about this often. There are certainly compelling arguments on both sides of this issue. But I think that a lot of it comes from one side being largely ignorant as to the truth of what the NI4D proposes.

    The NI4D proposes that we add a check and balance to the system that allows for the people of the United States to call for a federal ballot initiative Very much like we have on the State level in many states. This same system allowed former Libertarian candidate for President Steve Kubby to legalize medical marijuana in the state of California. It has helped the Swiss people to protect their freedoms for hundreds of years. It just helped the people of Ireland prevent the EU from depriving it’s member nations of individual sovereignty. What is a ballot initiative? Well basically what it entails is that the people can put together a petition to allow a matter of law to be brought before a majority vote of the citizens in the jurisdiction it will affect.

    Is there a possibility for abuse? Well as Senator Gravel points out in his book, when the people make a bad law they are more likely to feel the pinch and want to change it. And with the ability to do so they would get together and actually change it. Politicians on the other hand are more likely to try and cover it up, or continue to try and justify it because they don’t want to be out of a job at the next election.(Bob Barr’s flip-flopping on the various blunders he committed as a Congressmen come to mind…) Another serious misconception about the National Initiative is that it could be used to deprive us of our constitutional rights. The Supreme Court still has the ability to overturn anything unconstitutional that is passed in any law. Whether that law is made by the Congress, or by the people. This would still protect the minority from any such abuses.

    Another compelling question that I asked myself when I was coming to the decision about how I felt about the national initiative is what is wrong with our current representative government? I run into a lot of problems with some people in the “freedom movement” who spent a lot of time initially complaining about the flaws in our republic, and then afterward when this issue was brought before them suddenly ardently defended it. If the people in the republic actually elected our representatives it might be different. But we don’t. We cast our votes of course. (All Diebold hacking and voter fraud accusations aside) But to what end? Of the representatives I know of in Congress now, I can think of two that I trust for sure, and possibly one more. That would be Congressmen Ron Paul, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich, and Congressmen Robert Wexler. So, that’s three. Three people out of the entire Congress, and no Senators that I trust at all. If you can name me even ten that you trust and you are a Libertarian I would be highly surprised.

    So, lets consider the real math of the situation. As this is often brought up.

    Should the 51% be allowed to tell the 49% what to do?

    That is certainly not an ideal equation. And thankfully it rarely comes up. And people apply it to the NI4D often. Especially my fellow Libertarians who are concerned about the possibility of tyranny of the majority over the minority. They often quote Ben Franklin and his analogy of the wolves and the sheep voting on what’s for dinner. I doubt Mr. Franklin was given a scenario where there would be a Constitution defending the rights of that minority of sheep to not be subject to any votes where they could become dinner. It is an excellent example how the founding fathers are often quoted out of context by many people debating this issue. So the first part of this that needs to be clarified is that with the NI4D, the 49% can ONLY be told what to do by the 51% if the law in question is Constitutional. Period.

    One of the things that Mike Gravel was trying to make Libertarians understand during his final speech before the voting to determine who our Presidential nominee would be, was that we already employ majority rule constantly in every day society. And that we had done so working on our platform throughout the convention. Should 51% of the Libertarian party be able to tell the other 49% of the party what should and should not be in the platform? We use that system because mathematically it is the fairest system that will treat the most people fairly most of the time.

    What about when electing representatives? Should Bob Barr’s delegates that represented the majority by a narrow margin of delegates been able to force their choice for our nominee on the other portion of the Libertarian party? Hey, maybe we should all be able to pick our own candidate. That is the only way to be fair right? Wait a minute, pick our own candidates? Why not just have everyone be empowered to vote as they want to on their own? Hmm…

    The republic already forces tyranny of the majority on us right now as Libertarians, as thanks to it we have no voting power in the Congress, or in the Senate, and we are not likely to elect a president in the foreseeable future. (.32% of the vote in the last Presidential election I believe?) Because we are that minority. So is the republic still the best answer?

    I am honestly more worried about a different set of math. And that would be the tyranny of the minority. If you are uncomfortable with 51% vs 49% let’s talk about the republic’s numbers. As right now we have 0.000176% (This number includes all of the Congress, the Senate, and the President.) telling the other 99.999% what to do. Well hey, that should be fine because the majority elects those people right?

    Wait a second, didn’t we just say that majority rule was bad?

    Will it be “mob rule” of the majority of the people? Or “mob rule” of a minority elected in a corrupted system where money buys your vote?

    And we tell ourselves that we are fine, because after all, the Constitution will protect us. Our representatives can’t do anything against the Constitution. Like say…the Patriot act? The Iraq War resolution? There are now about a dozen or so more examples I can provide. But I am hoping if you are reading this you already know what I am talking about.

    But hey, that’s against the rules! Can’t they be impeached?

    The only person trying to do this right now is Dennis Kucinich. He is doing all his power as a Congressmen provides him with. Just as he tried to do with our Vice President. And he is not having as much success as we would hope. Especially considering how blatantly obvious it is that his allegations are likely all 100% well founded. Should be easy to impeach someone for blatantly lying to the American people right? Particularly if they did so to take us to a war that some people think we will be in for hundreds of years?

    If we had a federal initiative, we wouldn’t have to depend on Dennis Kucinich to impeach people like this, we could immediately recall them. It is absurd that we have to suffer through four years of any President with an approval rating below 30%. Or any other statesmen for that matter.

    But instead we get to watch Congressmen Dennis Kucinich struggle against insurmountable odds. Because the majority of the Congress, and the Senate are all bought and paid for by campaign contributions from companies that are raking in billions on the wars that the Bush administration lied to get us into. It’s possible and even likely that a good deal of the people who would have to vote on such an impeachment resolution might even be profiting right now from those wars or seek to do so in the future. It is known that a lot of politicians retire from their positions to go immediately into the private sector for companies that gave them contributions during their careers.

    So now we look at an even smaller minority. That minority is the elected representatives who actually care about us and are not bought and paid for by the companies that use our government as a means to more profits. So, that two or maybe three Congressmen out of the 0.000176% of the population.

    You still confident that our republic alone is the means to achieve our Libertarian goals? People with Libertarian ideals are notoriously difficult to elect. We have this principled tendency to tell special interests and lobbyists to take a flying leap. So that means instead of at least having our own personal piece of the political power in the form of our votes on a federal ballot initiative, we get ZERO power other then the power to run for elections we cannot win and post on blogs that most people will never read. We have the power to speak out for candidates that we cannot possibly afford to fund campaigns for even a fraction as much money as the opponents they face will have. People will point to the money we raised for Ron Paul. I would then like to ask when the “freedom movement” has been able to reproduce that effort? Every attempt at a money bomb I have seen for anyone other then Ron Paul has failed. A lot of people donated to his campaign and now they are looking at their empty bank accounts and wondering if they wasted their money. It makes them naturally reluctant to do so for anyone else. And honestly I don’t blame them.

    Libertarians often say that most people are Libertarian and just don’t know it. Statistics also show that when the people are given the power to vote on the issues themselves they have a much better track record of voting in a Libertarian fashion. Why is that? Like Dr. Paul said, “Freedom is popular.” So who are you more scared of? The majority deciding if we want to live in a fascist state? Or a minority of elites propped up by corporate money that is already passing fascist laws as we speak?

    People are concerned about the media. Could the same thing that is being done to elect our representatives also be done to affect a federal ballot initiative? The NI4D has provisions in it to prevent anyone other then natural persons from donating to a campaign for or against an initiative. I should also point out that it is much easier to elect someone who claims they are going to do something for you and find out the hard way they were lying to you after election day, then it is for a law that you voted on as written suddenly changing it’s mind later. Laws are written on pieces of paper. They cannot be bribed. They do not have an ulterior motive of their own. It is a lot harder to lobby and bribe the people into giving away their freedoms then it is to convince a struggling Congressmen, Senator, or President to do so for the fair price of a good solid campaign contribution and a promise of a job after they are out of office.

    It is much easier to sell a stupid person then it is to sell a stupid idea.

    Yes, it is inevitable that some bad idea or another will be passed with a federal ballot initiative. Just as we see people vote for “bad ideas” in the form of politicians like the ones in our current administration. The difference is when we vote for bad people we cannot do anything to stop them until after they can do plenty of damage. And we have to wait them out for the two or four years in office before we can make them answer for it.

    When “We the people” can oversee our own laws then we can change them ourselves. And we can do that without having to be elected in uphill campaigns against opponents who are not interested in the common good for the United States and instead are interested in the good for their corporate sponsors.

    Some Libertarians say they don’t trust the people. This argument also applies to the republic model, as the people elect those representatives as well. (Doing a bang up job of that aren’t we?)

    So unless a large portion of Libertarians win the lottery and are willing to buy themselves some Congressmen, Senators and Presidents (Even if we are just “buying” them by getting good people elected for the right reasons it still costs money and lots of it.) I do not feel that we will ever see anything resembling a Libertarian society in our lifetimes. It just is not in the best interest of the people in charge to allow that to happen. And make no mistake, they with the money are the people in charge. As long as our government is bought and paid for the republic will fail. Unless the people who gave money to Ron Paul are willing to go down the line and money bomb for a candidate for Congress, and Senate in every Congressional district and in every state, and unless they are willing to do more then just sit and complain about how much they dislike the way things are going in chat rooms and on message boards and instead actually get out there and help these people, you will never see this republic do anything more then it has and is doing when it comes to freedom. Watch C-SPAN for a while to get a feel for that. I doubt you will like what you see.

    Our Constitutional republic is not enough on it’s own to protect our freedoms.

    Read Chapter 12 of Mike Gravel’s book “Citizen Power” and learn the truth about why our government was designed the way it was. You will not only be shocked, you will be angry. I know I was. The short form of it is this. We wanted to ratify our Constitution. We used to do things by town hall meeting majority vote in the colonies. That ended when Madison realized that he could not get a Constitution ratified with slavery in it if the people were allowed to ratify it themselves. So the idea of electing delegates to handle our Constitution was pushed past the people. And you will never guess who won those elections? The rich elites of the early United States. And as soon as the matter was taken out of the hands of the people we got ourselves a constitution with slavery.

    Our founding fathers were great. But they had their own flaws as well.

    Do you think the majority of the people want to be slaves?

    Do you think an elected minority empowered in elections that are controlled by forces outside of the will of the people would be more likely or less likely to make us slaves?

    I know what my answer is to that. And it scares the hell out of me.

    That is why I support a Constitutional republic, that allows for federal ballot initiatives to be the final check in the system when the people we elect to represent us fail to do so. With a Constitution to protect the rights of the few. And a democratic ballot to protect the rights of the many.

  13. Mike Theodore

    Wow, VTV. You have alot of time on your hands. Now I can’t say much against that, especially in the way I think…

    “Libertarian candidate for President Steve Kubby”

    First time I’ve ever seen President Steve Kubby written out. I like that.

  14. VTV

    Well it is a complex issue, and therefore requires a lot of thought. I have spent a lot of time debating this issue with other Libertarians. The fact is, it is not in the best interest of the elite minority that Libertarian laws are passed. And never will be. The majority problem will sometimes create socialist issues, but it is far more effective at combating something I am a lot more worried about, fascism. Steve Kubby had to use a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana because tyranny of the minority was not going to let it happen.

    No system of government that has human beings in it will be without it’s flaws. But our republic of bought and paid for politicians will never be a superior vehicle to freedom.

  15. G.E. Post author

    This same system allowed former Libertarian candidate for President Steve Kubby to legalize medical marijuana in the state of California.

    No. That system was a state initiative. If nationalized, Kubby’s ballot proposal would fail and NO STATES would have legal marijuana.

    It has helped the Swiss people to protect their freedoms for hundreds of years.

    Switzerland is a small, highly decentralized republic of nearly autonomous cantons. That said, the intitiative has not protected the Swiss people from mandatory national service in the military (i.e. slavery).

    It just helped the people of Ireland prevent the EU from depriving it’s member nations of individual sovereignty.

    Ireland defended its state sovereignty against the E.U. mega-state — the NI4D seeks to undermine state sovereingty to the U.S. mega-state. Exact opposites.

    (1)Another serious misconception about the National Initiative is that it could be used to deprive us of our constitutional rights. (2)The Supreme Court still has the ability to overturn anything unconstitutional that is passed in any law. Whether that law is made by the Congress, or by the people.

    If what you say is true, then (1) the NI4D would be able to do very little. Substituting the people for Congress in the Constitution, only those things which Congress could do, the people could do. That’s not much. Congress violates the Constitution literally every day, violating individual rights. Why would the people be different? Why would the Supreme Court treat the people any differently than they do Congress? As for part (2), well then, the first thing the Supreme Court would have to do is overturn the NI4D, which is clearly unconstitutional.

    Should 51% of the Libertarian party be able to tell the other 49% of the party what should and should not be in the platform?

    No, and it can’t. Platform changes require larger than a majority. And that’s a totally invalid comparison anyway, since the LP is a voluntary, private organization, and the state is a monopoly funded involuntary through armed robbery.

    You still confident that our republic alone is the means to achieve our Libertarian goals?

    No, it has been an absolute failure. NI4D would only make it worse. You have entirely too much faith in the mob. Look at the initiatives that have been passed in your own home state, Neil! They’re all anti-liberty. An initiative to ban private companies’ recognition of same-sex unions was passed with over 60% of the vote in 2004!

    Your article was well-written and well-reasoned (in parts), but it falls flat in the face of what I’ve presented above.

  16. G.E. Post author

    Mike – VTF is running for Congress, and thus, it is incumbent upon him to write articles like this showing the development and articulation of his ideas. If anyone has a lot of time on his hands, it’s you, young’n.

  17. Thomas L. Knapp


    When VTV mentions that initiatives passed by the prospective NI4D are subject to the same constitutional strictures as legislation passed by Congress, you write:

    “If what you say is true”

    … which indicates that part of the problem is that you’re critiquing a proposal you haven’t actually bother to familiarize yourself with first. I’m not surprised by that, given your previous errors of fact with respect to NI4D.

    NI4D is less centralized than the current method of federal legislation.

    The current method is that legislation is approved by a majority of 435 US Representatives, a majority of 100 US Senators, and a president to become law.

    The NI4D method is that legislation is approved twice by a majority of voters all over the country to become law.

    In either case, after it becomes law it is subject to challenge in the courts vis a vis its constitutionality.

    In the case of constitutional amendments, the process is not only more decentralized, but sets a higher bar than now exists.

    Currently, constitutional amendments require the support of 291 US Representatives, 67 US Senators, and majorities of legislatures in 38 states.

    Under NI4D, constitutional amendments would have to be approved — TWICE — not just by a majority of US citizens voting, but by a majority of US citizens registered to vote.

    It’s not very often that a majority of registered voters vote at all — can anyone remember the last time that a majority of registered voters not only voted, but voted the same way on a question?

    The NI4D is also inherently less corruptible than the current federal legislative process.

    When power to legislate is centralized in the hands of at most 537 people and conceivably as few as 270, the result is predictable: Those with an interest in legislation favorable to themselves will purchase the favor and subservience of the number of legislators they need to get what they want. They may do it through campaign contributions, they may do it through inducements such as promises of jobs after the legislator leaves office, or they may do it with even the plainest forms of bribery. But they’ll damn well do it, and they won’t give a tinker’s damn if the Constitution or your liberties are trampled in the process.

    It’s a lot harder and more expensive to bribe millions of voters than it is to bribe 270 politicians. Voters don’t have to be worried about getting re-elected. There are only so many corporate directorships and vice-presidencies to be handed out. And presumably those millions of voters will be more inclined to defend their own liberties, even to the extent that they are offered inducements to do otherwise, than politicians who consider themselves exempt from law in any case will be to defend the liberties of those millions of voters when they can get the equivalent of garbage bags stuffed with unmarked bills for sacrificing said liberties.

    In addition to being less centralized and less inherently corruptible than the current system, NI4D is inherently more deliberative.

    I strongly suspect that few US Representatives and US Senators read all the bills they vote on. I strongly suspect that many US Representatives and US Senators read none of the bills they vote on. And it is a matter of public record that in some cases, bills are passed by both houses of Congress when NO members of either house have read said bills, for the simple reason that the votes occur before the Government Printing Office can get the paper off the goddamn presses and over to the Capitol.

    NI4D initiatives require two elections for passage, to be held not less than six months and not more than one year apart. Every American will have at least that much time to read the legislation, to consider the legislation and to debate the legislation.

    Finally, contra your assertion, no, the NI4D is not “unconstitutional” — it is supra-constitutional.

    The Constitution’s authority relies entirely on the (fictional) premise that it was a compact created by “the people” pursuant to the Declaration of Independence’s peremptory assertion that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [securing rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    Do you deny that the US system of government as it is now composed has become destructive of the end of securing the rights of the people whom it claims to possess a legitimate jurisdiction over?

    If you deny the plenary power of “the people” to have created the Constitution as it claims they did, on what moral claim does your reliance on that very document versus its alleged creators rest?

    Tom Knapp

  18. jpritikin

    “I’d prefer that it included a super-majority requirement and an explicit set of reservations analogous to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”

    A super-majority requirement actually empowers a minority. A super-majority is not the correct way to make a decision more deliberate. Deliberation is facilitated by requiring two elections, at least six months but not more than 12 months apart.

    There is no way to safeguard the Bill of Rights, or any other part of the Constitution, from its creators. Even now, if 100 million people wish to rescind the Bill of Rights, who is going to stop them? The National Initiative merely makes the process for constitutional amendment orderly and deliberative. The National Initiative nurtures good government by nurturing education, not by attempting to impose arbitrary restrictions on the content of initiatives.

    Smith, D. A., & Tolbert, C. J. (2004). Educated by Initiative: The Effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political Organizations in the American States. University of Michigan Press.

  19. VTV

    Thomas Knapp pretty much outlined what most of my rebuttal would of been. G.E. I would say you do need to look closer at the NI4D as your argument does show a lack of understanding of it’s application.

    Is it the perfect answer? No it is not. There will be no perfect answer with imperfect human beings trying to govern themselves. But what we have going now is far more imperfect. Do I have more faith in the mob? I have more faith in the people to govern themselves then I do in elected officials who are bought and paid for making decisions supposedly on “my behalf”.

  20. Thomas L. Knapp


    You write:

    “A super-majority requirement actually empowers a minority.”

    Yes, it does — but I’m not so much interested in who is empowered as I am in what they are empowered to do.

    The state’s general roles fall into two classes: The prohibition of certain acts and the seizure of certain assets.

    We can (and I have) argue all day long over whether or not the state should even exist, and if so which acts it should prohibit and which assets it should seize.

    While I have specific views of my own on both subjects, I am willing to stipulate:

    – That the state does exist;

    – That the state does prohibit certain actions and seize certain assets; and

    – That the state is almost certainly to continue to exist and to prohibit certain actions and seize certain assets regardless of any exertions I might engage in to cause it to cease to exist or to act.

    Since I am not a fan of exertion san reward, I tend to focus my activities on modifying what actions the state prohibits, what assets it seizes, and how it determines what actions it will prohibit and what assets it will seize.

    As a procedural matter — and I consider democracy a procedure, not a principle — I prefer that it be as difficult as it’s possible to make it for the state to prohibit action X or seize asset Y.

    Or, to put it in your terms, I prefer that the default state be “empowerment” of people to do what they will and keep what they have, with said default state being as difficult as possible to modify.

    While there’s no exact calculus that can be applied, my working hypothesis is that the higher the threshold for enacting a prohibition or seizure scheme, the more likely it is that minorities whose rights are under assault will be able to put together coalitions consisting of themselves and their sympathizers to prevent it.

    A majority of 50%+1 to decree that Adam and Steve may not marry is not only possible but has been observed to have happened. If a super-majority of 66 2/3% + 1 is required to stop Adam and Steve from marrying, there are more likely to be enough Adams and Steves and sympathizers for the rights of Adam and Steve to enable that prohibition.

    A majority of 50%+1 to seize the property of all those with skin tones registering higher than measurement X on this device might be attainable. A super-majority of 66 2/3%+1 would presumably be more difficult to attain versus those with skin tones registering higher than measurement X and those who, for whatever reason, believe that the property of said persons should remain theirs.

  21. Thomas L. Knapp

    Erratum (there were several typos, but this one is important): I meant “disable” rather than “enable” in the last clause of the next-to-last paragraph of the above comment.

  22. G.E. Post author

    When VTV mentions that initiatives passed by the prospective NI4D are subject to the same constitutional strictures as legislation passed by Congress, you write:

    “If what you say is true”

    … which indicates that part of the problem is that you’re critiquing a proposal you haven’t actually bother to familiarize yourself with first. I’m not surprised by that, given your previous errors of fact with respect to NI4D.

    Tom: You’re really not operating at full capacity, are you? I was not saying “if that’s true” to a potentially factual point — not to the notion that the NI4D was subject to the “same constitutional strictures as Congress” — but pointing out that IF this were true (hypothetically, because it WOULD NOT BE), the NI4D would be able to do very little, and IF the Supreme Court actually ruled unconstitutional things unconstitutional (WHICH IT DOES NOT!) then the NI4D itself would be unconstitutional. There is certainly no constitutional right to impose democratic-socialist will on people in neighboring states, and there IS a constitutionally recognized right to free form the oppression you seek to impose. POINT BEING: That the NI4D would make the mob, just as Congress is now, unrestrained by the Constitution and I would rather have Congress in charge than the mob. Look at the initiatives the mob has passed in various states. Some good ones, but many more bad ones. Here in Michigan, they’ve been virtually all bad.

    You are entirely hostile to the notion of federalism or [sic] states’ rights to the point that it is sickening. The NI4D is Lincolnian-centralist in that it seeks to make the citizens of Vermont subject to the will of people in Alabama, and that is WRONG. Just as wrong as the people of China imposing their will on those in Tibet.

    I’m against a national anything, period, because I’m against the United States’s existence as a nation-state.

  23. VTV

    Well G.E. no offense, but the United States does exist. And will continue to do so. The concepts of a lack of state and Anarchy are far more unrealistic overall.

    And I absolutely do not trust the congress more then I trust the people. The people want to be free. The congress is proving that it is more then willing to take our freedoms.

  24. VTV

    I should also point out that I am a big advocate for state’s rights, and that I feel that states should be able to opt out of any federal law that is not specifically called for in the Constitution.

  25. G.E. Post author

    Well G.E. no offense, but the United States does exist. And will continue to do so.

    Not for long.

    The U.S. nation-state is evil and nothing should be done to strengthen it.

    The concepts of a lack of state and Anarchy are far more unrealistic overall.

    I’m not talking about anarchy. I’m talking about state sovereignty. What’s unrealistic is to think that the U.S. Empire can endure.

    The people want to be free.

    “No offense,” but that’s very naive and demonstrably untrue.

    I should also point out that I am a big advocate for state’s rights, and that I feel that states should be able to opt out of any federal law that is not specifically called for in the Constitution.

    Put a criterion in the Nationalist initiative that any new nationalist law would be null and void within a given state without 2/3 voting approval, and I would not oppose it. Of course, this totally does away with the need for a Nationalist referendum and makes it strictly a state-by-state one. So I guess I would still oppose it on the grounds that it would be ridiculously unnecessary.

    But you say only if it’s not “specifically called for in the Constitution” — so this would mean virtually no law could pass. But you would trust the Supreme Court, I presume, to determine whether this was the case?

  26. G.E. Post author

    Look, the NI4D is a Lincolnian-nationalist proposal that seeks to impose conformity and homogeneity on the several states. Anyone who is able to understand that competition between states is better than a monopoly state is bound to oppose it.

  27. VTV

    I simply do not agree. And I do not feel my position is naive. I think we do have a fundamental difference of opinion as to the reality of human behavior in governance. It’s not uncommon that I run into that wall with most anarchists. But I respect your right to your opinion as much as I hope you respect my right to mine.

  28. VTV

    Also, please be careful, you are starting to head down the road of personal attack when you make statements like “Your naive” or “Your not operating at full capacity. Ad hominem always starts to creep in when debates go this far. I know your better then that.

  29. Trent Hill


    He really ISNT better than that,lol. Ad hominems are a result of GE’s fantastic hyperbole that he employs without reservation. But most people see it and understand it for what it is, bellicose protection of an idea GE cannot defend with simple statements, instead employing personal attacks or outrageous statements. *shrug* you get used to it.

  30. Thomas L. Knapp

    “You are entirely hostile to the notion of federalism or [sic] states’ rights”

    I’m certainly hostile to the notion of states’ rights. Being a libertarian, I’m generally hostile to anti-libertarian concepts and principles.

    Federalism, on the other hand, is not a principle, it’s a structural approach to a specific problem. I don’t have any great problem with federalism … but NI4D doesn’t make the system any less federalist than it already is.

  31. G.E. Post author

    I don’t think stating something is “naive” is an “ad hominem” attack. If you think people want freedom, then you are wrong — Ron Paul says high-school civics-class faith in democracy is “naive” — is he engaging in ad hominem attacks?

    There is no evidence to suggest people want freedom. The people want to steal from their neighbors with the government’s guns. This is the history of the expansive democraticism that Gravel advocates. At least with Congress beholden financial interests, there are some safeguards on the property rights of the 49% who have a little more than the 51%.

    My “attack” on Tom Knapp is in response to his misrepresentation of my words, and saying that I was “ignorant.” Something you yourself called him on, Trent.

  32. Trent Hill


    There is certainly a difference between alledging that SOMEONE is naive, and that an IDEA is naive. One is certainly hostile, the other is an observation.

    Furthermore, I didn’t alledge that you attacked anyone in this thread. I simply pointed out that that is naturally where your vitriolic hyperbole goes. I’v reconciled myself to it–just wanted to inform our new friend.
    As for the “ignorant” comment by Knapp–I admonished him on that, and he deserved it. Knapp admits he is a new convert to this idea of a National Initiative but immediately dismisses any speculation on wether its pro or anti-liberty, a discussion he claims to have had with himself recently–but then calls someone ELSE ignorant for engaging in it? Pretty lofty.

  33. G.E. Post author

    Trent – I said VTF’s idea that “people want to be free” is naive. I didn’t call him any names.

  34. Thomas L. Knapp


    No, as a matter of fact I did not deserve an admonition for referring to GE as ignorant with respect to NI4D.

    GE attempted to argue against NI4D in a way which demonstrated that he didn’t even know its provisions. In other words, he argued from a state of ignorance of the issue he was addressing.

    I, on the other hand, am a “new convert” to NI4D precisely because I’ve invested a number of hours over the last two months or so familiarizing myself with its actual text, its supporting material (including but not limited to Senator Gravel’s book on it) and various arguments previously advanced by both supporters and opponents. I’ve also spent a good deal of time thinking about how implementation of NI4D would impact the ability of the state to initiate force.

    That’s GE’s first problem here. His second problem is more complex and less easily addressed.

    GE is a very principled guy, and I respect that. However, he’s up against a problem that’s not unusual among recent converts to an ideology.

    The problem occurs when said converts reach sound conclusions on some foundational principle of their newfound ideology, but then attempt to convert said conclusions into shorthand filters designed to save them the trouble of subjecting each new situation to full analysis. Such filters are often imperfect to the extent that they reflect assumptions which are not necessarily implied by the principle, or omit assumptions which are necessarily implied by the principle.

    The filters applied by GE prevented him from getting to the real issues.

    GE heard “National” and ran it through a filter labeled “not federalist = bad” (a filter which includes assumptions not necessarily implied by the non-aggression principle — a problem completely aside from the fact that NI4D neither increases nor decreases the level of “federalism” in the system to which it is to be applied, which he would have known had he not chosen to remain ignorant of NI4D’s details rather than educating himself on those details).

    GE heard “Democracy” and ran it through a filter labeled “democracy = mob rule” (a filter which does not account for the fact that NI4D is to be applied to an already democratic system and that the relevant question with respect to the non-aggression principle is whether it enhances the potential of that system to initiate force, retards that potential, or neither).

    His choice to remain ignorant and to use ad hoc filters, rather to educate himself and go to the foundational principle to analyze NI4D left him blind to the fact that NI4D, while it neither increases nor decreases the ultimate potential for initiation of force in toto in the system to which it is applied, does create an institutional drag on the process of initiating force (due to its two-election, minimum six-month interval requirement) and does decentralize the process of initiating force such that there are fewer inducements to do so.

  35. Trent Hill

    “Trent – I said VTF’s idea that “people want to be free” is naive. I didn’t call him any names.”

    Nevermind then GE.

  36. Trent Hill


    Filters can pretty easily eliminate obviously-bad policy proposals. for example, if I ran into you at Walmart and asked you, “Hey man, we’re trying to raise money for the Fascism Party!”, you would immediately punch me in the face and probably put my writing-hand through a blender in the electronics department. You wouldn’t need to research the party. By the name and the principles associated with that name, you know what it entails.

    By the same token, GE reacted similarly. I’ve read Mr. Gravel’s book, so i’m not argueing from ignorance when I say–this policy is a dangerous EXPANSION of government. We are granting an EXTRA policy-making power to the government. Furthermore, we are inviting such a policy to further destroy any semblance of Federalism we still have. Our goal should be to REMOVE the Federal Governments ability to legislate on many of the issues it legislates on–instead you’d like to EXPAND that power.

  37. Thomas L. Knapp


    Read the text of the Democracy Act. It expands nothing. It merely reallocates a particular power to that power’s alleged source. It has no impact at all on federalism, as it repeals neither the 9th nor the 10th Amendments.

    You are correct that we all use filters, and that “Fascism Party” would certainly trip one of mine (I wouldn’t punch you in the face or run your hand through a blender, though — that would be initiating force!).

    What I’m saying is that the filters GE is using are reducing signal and leaving him with noise. Noise as opposed to signal, combined with the choice to be ignorant of the topic, probably isn’t going to produce reliable conclusions.

  38. G.E. Post author

    Knapp is still ignoring the fact that my statement was not made out of ignorance. He is ignoring what I’ve actually said and reading what he wants to believe I said.

    I know now, and knew then, and have known for a long time, that the NI4D supposedly cannot supplant the Constitution. Neither can Congress. But it does. So why would the NI4D be any different? There’s nothing “ignorant” about my statement.

    “Not federalism = bad” >> I’m opposed to any national laws, period.

    “Democracy = bad” >> I’m opposed to the existence of a public sphere to be democratized.

    Call these “filters” if you want.

  39. Trent Hill

    GE makes a fine point about the supposed agreement between the Constitution and NI4D. In fact, i’d be willing to state that the people would be even more likely to broach that document than Congress.

  40. G.E. Post author

    Trent – Yes, you’re right — the people would be quicker to violate individual rights than Congress is. “The people” would be more redistributionist, whereas at least now, producers have the ability to buy off congressmen to defend their property.

  41. hogarth

    “The people” would be more redistributionist, whereas at least now, producers have the ability to buy off congressmen to defend their property.

    People *are* producers.

  42. G.E. Post author

    Really? I thought only cylons produced wealth.

    “The people” means the 51% collectivist horde that would suck dry to 49%.

  43. VTV

    G.E. my friend, I am VTV, not VTF. 🙂 Now, that out of the way as I stated previously, I do not feel that the people will give up their rights as easily as the congress already is. I gave that argument already, so I suppose we have come to the point where neither of us can convince the other. At least we agree that the republic model is not working. There are tons of Ron Paul Revolution people who reject the NI4D because for some reason they believe in this republic concept that is failing miserably.

  44. G.E. Post author

    There is one black cylon model and one hot Asian one. Plus there are the final five (I don’t know who they are yet so don’t spoil it for me!!!)

  45. Fred Church Ortiz

    They underuse the black one and the Asian’s practically human (in any other context, how racist would that phrase be?)

  46. VTV

    The asian one is hot though.

    And that is my favorite show right now. Absolutely. Does reveal a new strategy, we need to get a Libertarian secretary of education and then ask the cylons to invade. Let’s make sure he/she doesn’t have cancer first though.

  47. G.E. Post author

    I’m on episode 3 of season 4 now; downloading them from Amazon via illegally acquired Pepsi Points.

    I HATE HATE HATE the president and Dee above all.

    I like Baltar.

  48. G.E. Post author

    When you say “gets cool,” I hope you mean she gets thrown out an airlock. I hate that beyatch.

  49. Ross Levin

    Clarification: the text of the Ni4D law states that if it is passed it would set up local and state ballot initiative processes, too, where citizens could, in theory, repeal federal legislation. Or you could write a law to that effect. That’s the beauty of the system, that citizens have the power over it and if they see something that is wrong, they can fix it themselves. If you want to, you can fix it!

    And Tom, this is great! You can contact Skyler or someone else at the Gravel Youtube channel so they can update their Ni4Office thing that they have going. They need to include you in their list of candidates running for office that support the Ni4D.

  50. G.E. Post author

    I don’t like the National Initiative forcing initiatives on local governments.

    However, if this means that local governments could easily opt out of ANY federal law or program, then maybe it’s not so evil.

  51. Ross Levin

    GE – the national initiative wouldn’t change the way federal laws work… they’re imposed just as much now as they would be with initiatives.

    As for the second part of your comment, that would depend on what legislation the people put forth and if it is ruled constitutional by the judicial branch. If you wanted to put forward a law that made it possible for every jurisdiction to review every federal initiative on its own and decide whether or not to pass it, then you could try to turn that into a law.

  52. Ross Levin

    GE – have you read any of Gravel’s books? Citizen Power, especially, would be informative about this issue. They’re quick reads and definitely worth your time, even if you disagree with what you know about the national initiative.

  53. G.E. Post author

    GE – the national initiative wouldn’t change the way federal laws work… they’re imposed just as much now as they would be with initiatives.

    Well, this differs with what others have said. I suspect you are right, they are wrong, and the Nationalist Initiative IS evil.

    As for the second part of your comment, that would depend on what legislation the people put forth and if it is ruled constitutional by the judicial branch.

    It is a National-Socialist lie that the dictators in black robes are supposed to be the sole arbiters of what is and what is not constitutional. I do not trust them any more than I trust the parasitic mob that the NI4D would empower.

    If you wanted to put forward a law that made it possible for every jurisdiction to review every federal initiative on its own and decide whether or not to pass it, then you could try to turn that into a law.

    Well, there would be nothing to stop the Court from finding it “unconstitutional,” which they would. The Court’s imperative is to preserve and maintain centralization of political power, and no, I don’t think the NI4D is “dencentralist” in any meaningful sense. The people of Alabama have NO RIGHT to impose on the people of Vermont, or vice versa. The NI4D would only make it easier for crimes of this nature to take place.

    have you read any of Gravel’s books? Citizen Power, especially, would be informative about this issue.

    I own that book (got it for free in Denver before Gravel participated in the virtual gang rape of Mary Ruwart), but I have no intention of reading it. I’m just saving it in case I ever run out of toilet paper at the wrong time.

  54. G.E. Post author

    I’m currently reading Don Quixote. The next political book I plan to read is Human Smoke. I think my time is much better served reading the classics and anti-war literature than reading the deranged ramblings of a credit-card fraudster.

  55. Ross Levin

    Hah! A third party man reading Don Quixote!

    Aside from that, apparently you don’t believe in a federal government? In that case, I would tell you that the essence of the national initiative is empowering the people to make laws, and not just doing that at the national level. is an organization trying to do it at many state levels, and there are efforts all over the country to do it at the local level, many of which have succeeded.

    It’s worth opening your mind a bit, GE, and reading some stuff that normally wouldn’t interest you. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised. And if you don’t, you’ll only be right.

  56. Melty Rox

    Etomologically, “democracy” goes back to the ancient Greek city states where male aristocrats voted only on decisions (referenda) never on putting someone into office.

    Yes, I think this sort of thing works best at the municipal level.

  57. G.E. Post author

    Come on, now, Ross! I was trying to get a big reaction out of you! You’re too cool of a customer, I guess. I know you NI4D guys aren’t all bad, including Gravel. Welcome back from camp, by the way.

    apparently you don’t believe in a federal government?


  58. Ross Levin

    So, GE, you’re not opposed to the Ni4D, really, but opposed to the fact that it reinforces the federal government? How do you feel about more local efforts for ballot initiatives, like ?

    And, kind of off topic, I’m ready to start contributing any time…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *