The intentions of the founding fathers of America are pretty damn clear. They wanted to ensure that government was “for and by the people” (admittedly their idea of “the people” was a bit more limited then it is today). That is the bigger half of what makes any democracy. How they decided to fulfill their aims was very logical by 18th century standards.

Election of representatives to government in service to the will of the people is fraught with potential abuse simply because there is no guarantee that once elected they will actually serve their people. The whole system of checks and balances and the various independent institutions was created precisely to try and ensure that. And it worked reasonably well until more recently.

The other half of the democratic equation is that “the people” know what the hell is going on. Several hundred years ago, when news traveled a hell of a lot slower or not at all, this was a genuine concern. Transparency in the goings on in government and the rest of the nation was very far from being a given.

The good news for democracy today is that in our post WikiLeaks society, we are more informed (some would say too informed), then at any other time in recorded human history. If there was ever a time when democracy could get close to perfection based only on the fact that the people are well informed, it is now. We are getting very close to an Age of Maximum Transparency. The only thing that may stop the onslaught is if the internet is ever tamed.

The bad news is that at almost exactly the same time that we have become a much more open society (this goes for “non-democratic” states as well since they cannot control the internet except temporarily and poorly) in terms of information, our democratic systems have seriously malfunctioned. To the extent that we can say that we are rarely properly represented anymore. This has reduced the people of the “free world” to little more than well informed but frustrated spectators, whomever they elect.

The reasons behind the severe degradation of our representation in government are simple, but could not have been foreseen by the 18th century revolutionary intelligentsia. Our current democratic systems were built upon the unstated assumption that national borders were relatively impermeable and that the seat of power was to be found in the nation's capital. Therefore a national system of checks and balances built to withstand intra-national pressures worked perfectly fine.

Today power is situated outside of the nation (even outside of the most powerful nation in the world), and borders are almost totally permeable. There is absolutely no representation internationally. Its the wild west out there, and the people who have been able to take advantage of that fact damn well want to keep it that way. Today, in terms of representation, we have been reduced to electing ineffectual leaders that can't do much through no real fault of their own cuz it just ain't happenin' in your back yard anymore.

So to sum up : Not to long ago we lacked information but at least we might get people elected on a national level that could and would do something about what we did know. Today we know a hell of a lot more, but are no longer represented at the only level that counts today; internationally. To bring it all back into 18th century terms; it is sort of like being able to elect your mayor but having no right to elect your president/prime minister.