Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fixing Democracy

Today begins 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.  Atlee begins by discussing some of the difficulties we currently face.


“Ordinary people don’t have time to get informed on all the issues. So they delegate their decision-making power to politicians. Most politicians, by the nature of their jobs, tend to have big egos, big ambitions and big bank accounts (or at least the ability to please rich and powerful supporters). These qualities lend themselves to conflicts of interest and corruption as our politicians travel their path to power, and especially when they have finally achieved that power and want to use it and hold on to it.


“Rare is the politician who doesn’t want to be reelected—and reelection usually requires a significant amount of money and some compromise of integrity. From early on, politicians are surrounded by powerful special interests that gravitate to centers of concentrated power, bringing a lot of money, persuasion and demands with them. It is hard to ignore them when your political career is at stake.


“Even when a politician’s integrity remains mostly intact, he or she may soon become habituated to the privileges, obeisance, assumptions and fellowship that go along with power and the elite culture in which he or she has become embedded.  Furthermore, the intensely competitive atmosphere of business-as-usual politics—with its ongoing strategic pressures and often ruthless attack by opponents, the press and adversarial interests—cannot help but have an impact.”

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