A lot of us pay our taxes online. We type in our dangerously private, personal information and trust government computers to protect us. State and federal revenue agencies don’t have a problem taking in money this way. It’s fast, efficient, and cheaper than paying people to sift through mountains of paper. That’s one of the great things about the digital age. The opportunities for better government are endless. Cyberspace can even move lawmaking into the future. It can give people the power to stop government officials, lawmakers, and even our commander-in-chief from doing stupid things they insist need doing, like letting refuges from the Middle East into the U.S.
Instead of waiting for an election to push ballot initiatives and referendums, cyberspace gives us an opportunity to make our own decisions, on demand, when we need to. Congress, the White House, state governors, and local officials are currently debating the best way to put us in danger by admitting Syrian nationals and who knows what else. This is one of those instances where government has too much power to screw up and the people should be making the decision. Our lives are our own. We should have the final say in how the government we pay for puts them in jeopardy.
Government coerces, but initiatives give people power
Ballot initiatives and referendums force states to follow the will of the people. That’s how Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana while it is still illegal at the federal level. Initiatives give the people power to run their states and their lives the way they want to.
No level of government seems to have a problem using cyberspace when it comes to coercion, whether it means paying our tax bills or signing up for mandatory health insurance. We should also be using it to move government into the 21st century. The opportunity exists to give us real power over our lawmakers instead of handing over our decision-making and listening to those we elect tell us what to believe in. When that happens, we have no power.
Is there a better example than bringing the Syrian conflict to America?
Instead of Congress and the White House trying to justify bringing refugees into the U.S. by telling us what our values require us to do, we should have the power to make that decision and give lawmakers their marching orders. The stakes are too high to entrust this kind of decision-making to officials who have proved repeatedly that they are unable to deal with anything pertaining to the foreigners they let into our country.
Online initiatives would be hard because government needs them to be
If there was a serious push to use online initiatives and referendums at the national level, the first argument against the idea would be about security and fraud. Ironically, government deems its systems good enough to collect our sensitive personal information but would likely not consider them safe enough for voting even though many federal lawmakers don’t think we should have to show identification at the polls.
If fraudulent voting isn’t a problem and lawmakers don’t care who votes, then we have all the more reason to be voting online to make quick decisions that affect us all. We can quickly organize state and even national ballot initiatives for issues like the new refugee crisis. It’s not like the question is a hard one to ask:
Do you favor bringing Syrian refugees into America?
If the people want to do something stupid and vote “yes,” at least we only have ourselves to blame. Our sometimes dimwitted lawmakers are off the hook.
Fear of giving the people power means no national initiatives?
Instead of debating whether Jefferson really said that government should fear the people, let’s just agree that the concept is a good one. America was not founded on the belief that we should quake in our boots at the feet of our leaders. We exist because our founders wanted to prevent that from happening.
The White House likes to bring state, local, and community leaders on board when it needs broad support for something controversial. The problem for we, the people is that broad support can mean many different things that often have little to do with what is good for the nation. Too often it means support from those who agree on a bad idea someone in Washington wants to shove down our collective throat.
The issue of letting in refugees shows just how much power has been taken away from us. The Federal Government has repeatedly demonstrated that it cannot adequately screen, vet, track, provide for, or keep Americans safe from the immigrants it lets in. The president’s telephone conference with 34 governors claimed to be about the safety of Americans. The process appears to be a done deal, whether we like it or not:
That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees—including Syrians—we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States. 1
Mind you, this is from a White House that willfully refuses to enforce immigration law or border security absent a congressional immigration bill. It comes from a government that had problems vetting those attending flight schools after 9/11, as the GAO warned, and can’t keep track of visa overstays, but still expects us to trust its screening of refugees from one of the most dangerous areas of the world while terror warnings fly across the airwaves and hundreds of people die in the space of a few weeks on the ground and in the air.
This is the kind of thing the people should have the power to decide, either state by state or as a nation. Most of us don’t have secret service details. We aren’t escorted to public events. We don’t have our own 747 to jet around in so we don’t have to worry about who is sitting next to us on a plane. We are living our lives with other Americans while those shielded from the consequences of their decisions tell us what to do and when to do it.
That’s not what this country is supposed to be about.
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