Magazine article New Internationalist

Festival for Democracy

Magazine article New Internationalist

Festival for Democracy

Article excerpt

HUMANITY is faced with a deepening crisis of inequality and eco-destruction. Both the state and the market have failed to address this critical situation. Indeed, in the era of globalization -- when the unaccountable World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund call the shots -- our weak-willed politicians tell us we shouldn't even bother. Well, we've tried everything else. Why not try democracy?


Decisions should be made by those most directly affected by them. The nation-state is a fragile site for democratic life. Its huge bureaucracy and professional political class insulate themselves from democratic pressure. They dictate to the democratic units underneath them, reorganizing cities, eliminating mayors, reshuffling tax systems, destroying elected educational authorities. Instead of power flowing up from local units (cities, towns, regions), orders are passed down according to an often undemocratic doctrine of national sovereignty. We need a change of direction.


There is a vast tool kit of direct democratic methods that could be used to influence policy. Local assemblies could have more say in local issues. Petitions and referenda could propose, and then put to a vote, profound changes. Recall laws could make representatives much more accountable. Proportional representation would allow for a wider range of opinion in elected assemblies. New technologies could enhance popular decision-making and opinion-gathering. All such changes could bring government closer to an active citizenry. Citizens would then be nearer to governing themselves rather than taking orders from an often arbitrary state.


For too long the economy has dominated society rather than being of service to it. People are shaped to the needs of capital rather than capital to the needs of people. …

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