Monday, September 24, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 4

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Most significant for our purposes here, Athens innovated a form of randomly selected mini-public responsible for recommending public policy.  Their boule contained 400-500 members chosen by lot from the whole body of citizens over 30.  These members served one-year terms [like a grand jury].  Among other important duties—including qualifying and reviewing officeholders—they reviewed and prepared measures for the vote of the citizenry in the assembly.


“In the past 40 years, people around the world have been experimenting with new forms of mini-publics containing from only 12 up to 200 randomly selected citizens for facilitated deliberations lasting from several days to several weeks spread over several months.  Their very existence creates a new deeper form of citizenship than we’re used to, and a new, more inclusive public voice in the political discourse.


“With time and support, the ordinary folks chosen for min-publics perform a near-ideal act of citizenship. They learn about an issue in depth from all sides.  They discuss it with folks who think differently than they do. And in those conversations with their fellow citizens and with experts and stakeholders, they come to informed, thoughtful conclusions about what should be done.”

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