Monday, January 23, 2012

#23 / Grassroots Democracy In Venezula

The January 30, 2012 edition of The Nation
has an article by Gabriel Hetland, entitled "Grassroots Democracy in Venezuela." The article discusses a kind of democratic budgeting process actually being used in Venezuelan communities. That process is based not on a notion of "representative democracy," but on a model of "participatory democracy." Ordinary members of the community develop the budget, instead of having budget decisions made by "government officials who stay in their air-conditioned offices all day and make decisions there."

Electing the people who hire the people who run our lives for us is not truly very "democratic," if democracy means, as Hetland says it does, "giving ordinary people control over the decisions that affect their lives."

In the United States, public revulsion with "representatives" who no longer represent "us," but who are beholden to and represent "the 1%," threatens to undermine our believe in democratic self-government itself.

The Hetland article makes plain that self-government can work, but only if we get involved ourselves, and if don't assume that someone else can make our decisions for us.

The article also makes clear, by the way, that any genuine democracy takes a lot of work!

1 comment:

  1. Well, yes. Considered as a monumental whole, it seems overwhelming to think of running our own lives, neighborhoods, communities, bioregions, states and country.

    But if we think of it in small steps, it's quite a natural process.

    We, first of all, make decisions for ourselves. We don't look to others to solve our problems for us.

    For those problems that transcend our personal lives, we turn to our family to work with us to solve them.

    For problems that involve other families and individuals, we work in our neighborhoods to find common solutions.

    For problems that transcend our neigborhoods, we form neighborhood associations to craft solutions.

    And so on.

    You see how it goes. We work in incrementally larger groups to find common solutions to problems at the appropriate level of organization.

    There's no need for large centralized organizations to deal with a family problem. There's no need for permanent institutions that draw resources and time just keeping themselves intact in case they might be needed.

    Ad hoc organizations, created when needed and disbanded when their tasks are completed, something like a grand jury, can deal with 90% of the tasks of government.

    The problem with professionalized government and legislature is that it must keep doing things even when those things are unnecessary or harmful.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


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