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Sat Nov 1, 2014, 05:14 PM

Democracy Is for Amateurs: Why We Need More Citizen Citizens

I am more and more convinced that citizen panels/commissions are the next evolution in Democracy. Democracy (and Republics) have been an improvement over previous forms of government, but it is still possible, some would argue inevitable, for the government to separate itself from the people, corrupt or stack the deck in the favor of an elite.

Personally it seems to me that Parliaments (more evolved since they allow the citizens to mount new parties if the current ones fail), combined with citizen panel "stewardship", and lessening the professional political class (not eliminating, we will always need specialists), would be the direction to move.

Anyone know of an organization who is focused on advocating for this approach?

This article by The Atlantic goes into this concept:


Democracy Is for Amateurs: Why We Need More Citizen Citizens

Eric Liu May 11 2012, 9:00 AM ET

America can't afford to leave its government in the hands of professionals.

This year I'll wrap up a decade as a trustee of the Seattle Public Library. Our board of five citizens has unusual authority. Appointed by the mayor, we are an independent operating body. The city council gives us a line in the budget, but how we spend those funds, on what programs, in what allocations across which neighborhoods, with what kinds of popular input, and under what policies -- all such decisions rest in the hands of our citizen board.

There's something very American about such a volunteer body. We celebrate the "citizen scientist" or "citizen diplomat" or "citizen soldier" on the idea that while the job -- scientist, diplomat, soldier -- requires professional expertise, amateurs who care can also step in and contribute. Indeed, this is something of a golden age for amateurs. With big data and social media amplifying their wisdom, crowds of amateurs are remaking astronomy, finance, biochemistry and other fields.

But not so much the field called democracy. The work of democratic life -- solving shared problems, shaping plans, pushing for change, making grievances heard -- has become ever more professionalized over the last generation. Money has gained outsize and self-compounding power in elections. A welter of lobbyists, regulators, consultants, bankrollers, wonks-for-hire, and "smart-ALECs" has crowded amateurs out of the daily work of self-government at every level. Bodies like the library board are the exception.

What we need today are more citizen citizens. Both the left and the right are coming to see this. It is the thread that connects the anti-elite 99 percent movement with the anti-elite Tea Party. It also animates an emerging web of civic-minded techies who want to "hack" citizenship and government.

Why is government in America so hack-worthy now? There is a giant literature on how interest groups have captured our politics, with touchstones texts by Mancur Olson, Jonathan Rauch, and Francis Fukuyama. The message of these studies is depressingly simple: democratic institutions tend toward what Rauch calls "demosclerosis" -- encrustation by a million little constituencies who clog the arteries of government and make it impossible for the state to move or adapt.

Full story:

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