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Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society

Appendix A: Some Positive
Near-Term Policy Changes

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In This Chapter:

Steps Toward a Good Society

The society described in Chapter 2 is quite different from our current society. To get from here to there will require many intermediary steps.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

— Henry David Thoreau

Below are listed some examples of specific policy changes that I believe would begin the shift toward a good society.[1] Though they would be significant steps forward, these policy changes would not alter the basic nature of current institutions, nor would they require large changes in our culture or the U.S. Constitution. Most could be enacted now by federal, state, or local governments. I believe these measures would serve well as near-term, achievable objectives of progressive change movements.

Note that these are only my ideas about near-term progressive goals. Other progressive activists may seek to move in other directions.


The business of politics consists of a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money… a world where every quid has its quo.

— Don Tyson, Chair of the Board, Tyson Foods[2]

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Citizen Access to Information

Employment and Poverty

The child was diseased at birth, stricken with a hereditary ill that only the most vital men are able to shake off. I mean poverty — the most deadly and prevalent of all diseases.

— Eugene O’Neill, playwright

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Personal Income Taxes

We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

— Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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Corporate Taxes and Subsidies

We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.

— U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, letter to Col. William F. Elkins, 21 November 1864

Other Taxes

Here are three Constitutional changes that would forever change the scale of politics and economics in America. Three four-word amendments that could change the shape of our future. “Corporations are not people.” “Money is not speech.” “Waste is not commerce.” If the Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitution as they should have, and if they had adhered to the will of the people, these amendments would not be necessary. But it didn’t and they are.

— David Morris, Institute for Local Self-Reliance[4]

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It is the habit of every aggressor nation to claim that it is acting on the defensive.

— Jawaharlal Nehru

Conflict Resolution

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Corporate Accountability

So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not.

— Milton Friedman

International Agreements

Goods produced under conditions which do not meet a rudimentary standard of decency should be regarded as contraband and ought not to be able to pollute the channels of interstate commerce.

— President Roosevelt in a message to Congress on the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act

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News Media

Every man has the right to be heard; but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal chords.

— Adlai E. Stevenson

Childrearing Assistance


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It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

— Hubert H. Humphrey

Health Care

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Community Development

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Domestic Violence

It is the duty of the government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right.

— William E. Gladstone

Some Recommended Programs to Prevent Violence

The National Academy of Sciences established a Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior, to review the status of research on violence. It found that “While sentencing for violent crimes grew substantially harsher between 1975 and 1989, the number of violent crimes failed to decrease. This happened apparently because the violence prevented by longer and more common prison sentences was offset by increases due to other factors and suggests a need for greater emphasis on preventing violent events before they occur.” It therefore recommended the following long-range preventative measures.[6]

Child Development Programs

Biomedical Strategies

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Gun Control


Drug Policy

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Law Enforcement and Prisons

Distrust all men in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Programs Shown to Prevent Crime

Very few crime prevention programs have been evaluated using scientifically rigorous standards and methodologies. After evaluating 500 prevention program evaluations, researchers found only 15 programs with enough evidence to show that they work (listed below).[7] All other programs have either not yet been evaluated sufficiently to determine their value or been shown not to work. This includes drug prevention classes focused on fear and other emotional appeals, neighborhood watch programs, storefront police offices, and correctional boot camps using military basic training. The programs that do work include:

Appendix B. Additional Figures

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Notes for Appendix A


Many of these ideas are suggested and further described in these references:

Holly Sklar, “Economics for Everyone,” Z Magazine 8, no. 7/8 (July/August 1995): 44, which is adapted from Holly Sklar, Chaos or Community? Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats for Bad Economics (Boston: South End Press, 1995, HC110 .I5 S57 1995).

Ronnie Dugger, “Real Populists Please Stand Up: A Call to Citizens,” The Nation (August 14/21, 1995): 159.

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994, HJ2381 .B37 1994).

Kevin Phillips, Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans and the Decline of Middle-Class Prosperity (New York: HarperCollins, 1994, HT690 .U6P48 1994).

Ralph Nader, The Concord Principles: An Agenda for a New Initiatory Democracy, pamphlet, 1 February 1992.

Joel Rogers, “Turning to the Cities: A Metropolitan Agenda,” In These Times 22, no. 22 (Oct. 14, 1998): 14–17.

Michael H. Shuman, Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age (New York: The Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 1998, HC110 .E5S49 1998).

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, annual (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, HD72 .H852).

An overview of the UNDP recommendations for the first ten years is here:


Don Tyson, Senior Chair of the Board, Tyson Foods, Inc. quoted in National Review, February 20, 1995.


For more on the Ten Times rule see Sam Pizzigati, The Maximum Wage: A Common-Sense Prescription for Revitalizing America — by Taxing the Very Rich (New York: Apex Press, 1992, HC110 .I5P59 1992).


David Morris, “Why is Local Self Reliance Important? A Conversation with David Morris,” interview by Michael Closson, Center for Economic Conversion, Positive Alternatives 8, no. 3 (Spring 1998): 7–9.


The Hawai‘i Healthy Start program, first begun in 1985, uses paid paraprofessional home visitors from the com­munity to provide services to at-risk families. Its goals are to reduce family stress and improve family functioning, improve parenting skills, enhance child health and development, and prevent abuse and neglect. Workers visit the family from the birth of a child (or before) until age 5. They visit weekly for the first 6 to 12 months. They offer a range of services and arrange support from other social service agencies.

A preliminary evaluation found that the program cut abuse and neglect by a factor of more than 2.6 and improved the health and development of the children. Ralph B. Earle, Helping To Prevent Child Abuse — and Future Criminal Consequences: Hawai‘i Healthy Start, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, NCJ Report Number 156216, October 1995.


Albert J. Reiss, Jr. and Jeffrey A. Roth, eds., Understanding and Preventing Violence: Panel on the Understand­ing and Control of Violent Behavior (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993, HN90 .V5U53 1993).

The study also recommended three situational approaches and further research into social and community-level interventions.


Lawrence W. Sherman, Denise C. Gottfredson, Doris L. MacKenzie, John Eck, Peter Reuter, and Shawn D. Bushway, Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising, NIJ Research in Brief Series, U.S. Department of Justice, Of­fice of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, Report Number 171676, July 1998.

The full text of the 1997 report and annual updates are here:

IcD-AA-8.08W 4-30-01

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