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L. Neil Smith's
Number 447, December 9, 2007

"People get used to the idea that they
are ruled by liars and thieves"

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Who Shall Bell The Cat?
by Michael Bradshaw

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Re Neil Smith's article "The Zeroth Amendment" in TLE #445

He proposes a new amendment to the United States Constitution for the purpose of enforcing the Bill of Rights. OK, I like that. "Death to the Tyrants!, etc." But. . . I see no practical way to introduce such an amendment to the states for ratification (because, as he so poetically puts it "they [the congress] are so putrescently corrupt that they shine in the dark") , nor any way to make three-quarters of the state legislatures ratify it, for the same luminous reason.

Who shall bell the cat?

How-some-ever. . .

What is wrong with putting it before the electors in the states, as an amendment to the state constitutions or an initiative-statute? Many states have provision for amending the constitution (or passing regular laws) by this end-run around the legislatures and governors. At least we can do both of those in California, if we have the will.

Ron Paul and his independent supporters have shown how the people who use the internet have the power to do amazing things at just about zero cost in money. It takes the time and effort of many individuals, instead.

I have put together the beginings of such a campaign web site at The United States House of Repeals as a central focus-point for state campaigns run by state-specific Houses of Repeal; and an amendment to the California constitution (to enforce the second amendment at the state level) under the California House of Repeals. If I live through my current not-so-nice situation re work and money, I will be happy to host or license-and-link-to other state Houses of Repeal that want to show a combined front with a similar look-and-feel. Fees for licensing the "House of Repeal" or "House of Repeals" names and hosting space would be nominal.

Some observations, solutions and analysis on traditional vs. free-market initiative campaigns:

1. Petitions do not need to be circulated by paid signature gatherers.

2. Petitions do not need to be printed or shipped back-and-forth (at ENORMOUS EXPENSE) by a central proponent committee. (The "proponent" is the person or group that presents the final form of the initiative amendment or statute to the attorney-general [or similar]; and is responsible for paying the election taxes [$200 in California] to certify the proposal and the proponent, circulating the petitions and turning-in the signed petitions to the county election officials—for the signature-count to put it on the ballot.)

3. Petitions do not need to be collected (at ENORMOUS RISK) by the proponent committee at a central place for re-distribution to the election officials of each county in the state.

1a) Petitions can be circulated (and are now) by volunteers doing one to five (or so) signatures each. More-each is better, of course, but a large number of short-term volunteers can be more effective than paid circulators doing hundreds of signatures each. They can network-out the job, like a Shaklee (tm) Distributor building a down-line organization. This may also eliminate the problem {How optimistic can he get? Oh, my goodness! Alter Ego} of corrupt and shining-in-the-dark judges, as we have seen over in Montana, throwing out the signatures to cancel the election that they do not approve of; on the excuse that some of the paid gatherers were from out-of-state. Only accept petitions from volunteer circulators who live in the county where the signatures were gathered. Say so on the web site.

1b) If you want to multi-level market the gathering of petition signatures, and want to see how it is done with product distribution, look in the yellow pages for a Shaklee (tm) sales leader. Most of them offer free training seminars in the business and you may like the products too. Study the marketing plan and adapt it to petition circulating. Talk to your friends and family. Build that down-line organization. Distribute petition forms down-line and collect the completed ones up-line. Hold them at the home(s) of a friend or relative to prevent them from being destroyed in a sneak-raid because you, the "sales leader" are high-profile. This paragraph describes an individual petition circulator starting to organize as a "distributor" with other circulators under him, and building up to be a "supervisor" who spins-off other "distributors" with their own groups under them. Just like network-marketing.

2) Don't just distribute the work of circulating and collecting petitions across the people-network. Distribute the cost too. The central proponent committee MUST control the form of the petitions. That can be done by composing the form as a locked PDF file with a watermark and an attached PGP signature from the proponent committee's secret PGP key. Check with your state attorney general (or similar) for the legality of watermarks and such. The printer or circulator can then verify with the proponent's public key that the file was originated by the real proponents, and is valid. Post it on the committee's web site, with instructions, for download by anyone. The individual circulators and group-leaders can have them printed locally in just the amounts needed for each person or group. Wastage is almost eliminated, costs are minimized and distributed and postage is saved. Each regional or county coordinator can have a sub-site within the larger state web-site owned and controlled by the proponent committee; and, perhaps, hosted by or affiliated with the United States House of Repeals.

3) Regional or county coordinators can collect the petitions directly from the independent circulators or the local/personal (Shaklee (tm) style) networks for storage until turn-in day; when they will be turned over to the county election officials for the signature count. Each regional coordinator can cover a single large county or several small ones. These coordinators must maintain physical security of the petition forms until turn-in day by keeping them away from home, or another known storage facility controlled by the coordinator, such as warehouse space rented in his name. Distributing them among several family members or friends should keep the forms safe until turn-in day.

The above outline has the following strengths:

  • By using a large (at least three, and five or more may be better) proponent committee the risk of assassination of the proponent is spread-out and minimized. If there is only one proponent, he may be killed; and thereby the campaign is killed. If four proponents are assassinated (arkanside, anyone?) it would look rather more fishy than one automobile crash on a lonely road. Spreading the risk reduces the risk by a larger proportion than the spread.

  • Once the petition form is posted and downloaded by the field people, the proponents do not handle any actual petitions, except their own. At that point (subject to varying state laws) the campaign is physically out of the hands of the proponents. By spreading the responsibility for the details of the campaign in the field to the coordinators (county or region), supervisors (heading multi-level down-line groups), distributors with personal groups and individual circulators who ship/post completed petition forms to the regional coordinators, we reduce the risk to the campaign from the assassination of any or all of the proponents; as each coordinator is, in effect, running a separate campaign in his county or region, with deputies among the supervisors. Coordinators may not know any individual supervisor or distributor until the petitions are forwarded to him; so he cannot betray his whole organization to the DHS until near the end of the campaign when the petition forms are sent to him.

  • It keeps the cost and work-load manageable for the proponent committee members. They can then concentrate on the public-outreach part of the campaign with speeches, talk-show appearances and such.

  • It distributes the workload and costs among the field people according to the capacity, talents and level of commitment of each individual.

  • It distributes the decisions and responsibility for the details of the campaign in the field among the leaders in the field, according to the level of commitment and work-load of each one. The organization is hierarchical because it is governed by state laws, but the "chain of command" is distributed according to the network, or "cell" system. And here we see a parallel between the workings of the Communist Party and free-market capitalism (especially network-marketing), with a taste of military staff-command. How about that?

I will leave the finding of flaws to the readers. I have eliminated as many of them as I can along the way, but I ain't a god.

In summation:
El Neil's idea is a good one, but I cannot see it working at the federal level. It can work (if we are lucky and aggressive enough) at the state level through the initiative process in most states. And hanging the bastards, either with or without it.

At the state level, the third paragraph of "The Zeroth Amendment " is not needed. Perhaps the addition of "or agent operating on behalf of the state" or similar words may be added to the "public official or employee" in the first paragraph. That would also cover folks like Blackwater.

Some states may be converted to the initiative process that are not now able to use it. See your state constitution for opportunities to do that.

There are methods of avoiding the pitfalls of the traditional initiative process in many states. The cost and risks of the circulation process and the legal system may be greatly reduced.

Much of the work of organizing such a campaign has already been done in network-marketing (with free training available nation-wide), and there is a focal point at the United States House of Repeals. If I cannot continue the "H of R", I will give or sell it to someone else.

I worked for years on the Second Amendment enforcement initiative for California. It is written in a mixture of plain-English and legalese. So that not only regular people can understand it, but lawyers may understand it too. It is heavily over-punctuated so that small parts may be struck-down by appellate courts without affecting adjacent parts, thereby preserving its integrity. It is not in the public domain as I retain copyright to the proposed amendment and the parts of the web site that are my work. However, if you want to use parts of the initiative for boiler-plate (or use it as a springboard for derivative works) in an amendment or law of your own, I hereby grant permission to do so.

I was unable to form a proponent committee in California. Nobody that I was able to contact that was qualified to do the work was interested. That was years ago and now the times have changed. Perhaps they have changed enough and in the right direction that the idea of a House of Repeals in every state may fly after all.

El Neil's "Bill of Rights Enforcement Amendment" would be a really good start.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

Michael Bradshaw is the Speaker (also the Lord-High Janitor) of the United States House of Repeals,
Copyright © 2007, Michael T. Bradshaw


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