Friday, September 28, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 8

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.


“Of course, such an implicitly powerful institution, even if randomly selected and temporary, requires thoughtful design and procedure to help it be wise and sustainable.  It shouldn’t be too large or too small—or deliberate for too long or too short a time. [Like Goldilocks’ porridge, it needs to be ‘just right’ and that will take some time and experimentation.]Like a trial jury, it needs legal and procedural safeguards to protect if from manipulation.  It needs dependable information—and help understanding that information. It needs good facilitation, and we need to ensure that the facilitation can’t be abused.


“We need to design these councils well. Then, as they are institutionalized and become more powerful, they join the list of democratic institutions—like elections and freedoms—that we need to protect. Public wisdom, like liberty, requires both good systemic design and constant vigilance. This is probably a different vision of democracy. To most people democracy involves thousands or millions of citizens discussing, advocating and voting on public issues. Truly, it does. But it also involves the society as a whole, acting together.


“Nowadays when individual citizens act together, they almost always act in partisan groups and so on—to elect candidates or push for public policies they favor. The latest trends in revitalizing democracy focus on mass participation—getting as many people as possible to do these things—to talk, to vote, to volunteer, to protest—the more the merrier. Mass public conversations, voter registration drives, online citizen input websites, voter information websites and other approaches seek to involve more and more individual citizens in informed civic activity.” That is all very important, but…..

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