• Posted: Oct 24, 2007 22:25:35
• Comments Welcome
• Vote CoolPhotoblogs
• Purchase a Print
The candidate sees it as his or her job to present his or her vision of the future and to convince voters he or she is the right person to bring that vision into reality. But the distance between the candidate's vision and the day to day reality voters inhabit is never more apparent than in face to face meetings such as political coffees in voters' living rooms. The public is forced to trust that elected officials will stay true to their campaign promises when operating in the rarefied, isolated air of government. But they seldom do. That is the danger of representative government.
Alternatives exist. Chicago's ward patronage system and Middle Eastern tribal systems, for instance, offer individuals opportunity to interface directly with people of power, present their problems, and receive direct individually tailored responses. Lobbying efforts in Washington and graft corruption in developing countries are both manifestations of the same idea. It is very often an effective way for individuals to get a meaningful response from government. But the consequences for others are usually ignored.
Where government seems to work best is in small open forums such as condominium associations and town councils. Within such forums only a few are given the power to vote on specific issues, the elected board or council members, but discussion and debate is usually open to all. All sides of an issue are heard and evaluated by the entire community. Arbitration and creatively compromised solutions are forged that address both immediate and long term concerns. In the end, perhaps not everybody is uniquely satisfied, but a consensus is articulated that lets everybody know exactly what is expected of them and what the benefits will be. Community not only survives but flourishes because each and every participant has a meaningful role to play.
The sad part is that despite its numerous advantages town council forms of government have nearly faded from the American landscape. Newer generations have absolutely no experience with such participatory forms of government. The type of organization that consumes most people's lives in today's world, namely corporations, grooms workers to silently obey instead of actively participate in planning.
Where is participatory government? It has died of neglect and disuse by member citizens.
February 1971 Chicago