When I started Cotonomy I was given a lot of advice by experts: First I was told that the public won’t understand what I am doing, they need simple ideas. Second, the public does not care about improving the world they just care about what’s in it for them. Third, keep the explanation short because the public does not like to read. The more people that gave me advice the greater their consensus defined a “public” that is dumb, lazy, and self-absorbed. Another interesting detail was how none of the advice givers ever considered themselves part of this public they defined.
I am 47 years old and have worked in finance, law, technology, and most recently founded Cotonomy. I have seen many sides of human nature and from all different perspectives. I also love studying history. My education and life experience has made me an unabashedly huge fan and believer in the “public”. I consider myself honored to be part of them. In fact, if there is one institution I believe most in it’s the public.
The one thing that could be considered a fault of the public’s is how quickly they trust the wisdom of some anointed “expert” or “leader” over that of their own judgment. If you want to lead the public you must be mindful of this weakness because as a leader of free people your ultimate responsibility is to empower them to believe in themselves. Your goal must never be to rally the public in support of you as their caretaker but to give them the power to take care of themselves. In a democracy, this is the sacred bond between leader and people.
We are once again heading to the election of a president. As I watch the leading candidates battle it out, it becomes painfully clear that while they all talk about the “people’s interests” or “what is best for the people” none of them talk of handing more power over to the public. They are really just arguing over who should have the power to “take care” of the public. Should it be large corporations, should it be the government or should it be a little bit of both. No one talks of policies that give the public greater control over corporate or government power. Nor is anyone putting forth solutions for how to ensure economic liberty for all individuals. It is an orgy of egos consumed with themselves and oblivious to empowering the public.
People very often misunderstand the responsibilities of those in a democracy. There are leaders and voters. Democracy holds a core belief that all human beings possess the necessary skills for evaluating who should lead them. Society will consist of all different people with all different perspectives and levels of education but together they will possess the ability to choose a good leader. This assumes that there is a real choice from which the public can choose.
The other responsibility goes to those who seek the honor of representing the people. Our founding fathers were again certain that among society there would always be enough people with the education, skill and virtue who would be willing to step forward and offer the public a suitable choice for leader.
Learning to be a good leader is a lifelong practice but it begins by recognizing that a leader’s role is to empower the people being lead. If you think the public lazy, self-absorbed, or not too intelligent then you are unfit to lead them. But, if you do believe in the public then you must fight for policies that give over to us greater control and responsibility for our economy and government. Fidelity to furthering the public’s control and power is the pivotal test for any leader of free people. It is the solemn duty of those who lead a democracy. It is the only way that liberty and democracy can continue to grow in a healthy and sustainable way.
I believe this election, like many in the past, has offered the public only one choice. Choose the party that puts the public under the care of corporate America or choose the party that puts us under the care of government. In either case we are being asked to choose a master instead of coach or supporter.
Worst of all, both choices can only accommodate a small portion of our population leaving the vast middle left to fend for themselves on a sinking ship. Corporations do not seek to create more corporate competitors but limit them. They also seek to lower labor costs, not increase them. This accommodates an increasingly smaller number of workers who can find refuge aboard the dominant mega corporations.
Then there is the government option that is completely reliant on taxes from our citizens so they can redistribute. Only our government is so deep in debt that it cannot continue offering lifeboats to an expanding population that finds themselves without a job or wages to tax. As citizens desperately try to swim to the safety and support of government paid college, healthcare, retirement income and food, they swim to a lifeboat that is limited for how long it can help. Eventually the lack of government money forces it to begin removing those from the boat that have become so reliant on their help or they must seize more private assets to help keep the lifeboats afloat. In a democracy, government is not capable of being a long-term solution.
Both options are the wrong option for free people and neither option is about you. They are about helping a party representative or party win a contest but not about us. You and the public we belong to, are the best option and always have been. We are the people that get up each day and do the nation’s work, raise the next generation and sacrifice our children to preserve the ideal that all men are created equal and therefore have the right to steer the ship and not just row it for benefit of a select few.
We all know we are in desperate need of real change in this country but unfortunately the answer does not begin with another presidential election. It begins with us recognizing that we the people must return to being the center of economic power first. This will allow us to reclaim our political system. To achieve this we must unite in using our buying power, while we still have it, to force this transition.
Democracy did not make free or independent people. We were a nation of farmers who were economically independent and envisioned a system of government that would not interfere with our economic independence. We don’t have to bring back the farm to be a nation of economically independent people, we need to bring back our belief in ourselves and choose only those leaders that put us at the center of power. COTONOMY!