Deliberative Democracy

I’m not a deep thinker. Oh, I think and solve problems and understand stuff like most folks, but unless something matters to my here-and-now, it tends to flit away from my consciousness after a bit.

So imagine my surprise that I’m still thinking about a column I read in Time Magazine almost two months ago! Maybe it’s not that surprising, since it came in the middle of the Election Season That Wouldn’t End.

The article was written by Joe Klein and talks about making decisions in a democracy without politicians.

Savor that a minute. Isn’t that a lovely idea?

Well, guess what? There is such a beast.

The ancient Athenians had kleroterion, a system where several hundred free male citizens were picked randomly every day to make major decisions.

In the Chinese town of Zegoa, they use a similar system today to make budget decisions for their town of 120,000 people.

“Each year, 175 people are scientifically selected to reflect the general population. They are polled once on the major decisions they’ll be facing. Then they are given a briefing on those issues, prepared by experts with conflicting views. Then they meet in small groups and come up with questions for the experts ”” issues they want further clarified. Then they meet together in plenary session to listen to the experts’ response and have a more general discussion. The process of small meetings and plenary is repeated once more. A final poll is taken, and the budget priorities of the assembly are made known and adopted by the local government. It takes three days to do this.”

Wouldn’t this be awesome?? To spend a few days doing real work and then actually having something to show for it?

It wouldn’t be like jury duty where you usually have to trudge in and sit in uncomfortable chairs until they tell you to go home because you weren’t picked. No, your voice and your intelligence would not only be required, but actually welcomed!

There’d be no lobbyists, no career politicians, no staff appointees, no party to kowtow to, no biased media screaming at you, nobody pouncing on any sound bites … heck … no sound bites!

We The People would truly become stakeholders in our country. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt like my opinion mattered much to anyone in power. And my vote? Pfft. Always seems wasted by a lack of good choices. The people in power are all chosen by their party machines, based not on how smart they are or how they would govern, but by whether they have a chance at winning and/or how good they fundraise and/or whether they go to church every Sunday.

Plus, I really resent how much time politicians spend NOT fixing problems or doing the hard work that needs to be done.

If they weren’t endlessly fundraising to perpetuate this dysfunctional cycle, maybe they could actually read the bills that cross their desks … or have honest debate … or learn how to compromise. But they’re so busy slamming the other guy and digging in their stubborn heels and endlessly fundraising to perpetuate their dysfunctional cycle so they don’t have time to read the bills ”” well, you know.

I’d love to see something like kleroterion in the United States. Would you? How could we eject Big Money from the political process to make this work?

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