Optimizing Democracy versus Slow Democracy

In an article on “Slow Democracy” published on 20 November 2013 on the openDemocracy website Susan Clark and Woden Teachout describe a highly constructive process of citizen engagement in policy making at the community level  ( http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-clark-woden-teachout/slow-democracy ).

In a comment on the website I suggest that “Slow Democracy”, focusing mainly on better deliberation, appears to be an element of what needs to happen, i.e. optimizing democratic decision making processes in a comprehensive fashion, not only at community but also at national and international levels.

On one hand the terminology one uses might not be that important. On the other hand it describes a program. What we as civil society appear to need is policy making of the highest degree of effectiveness and efficiency, efficiency not only in terms of money but also in terms of time used to come to the best policy strategies. With respect to global warming for example we all, the citizens in every nation around the world, need the very best policy making strategies as soon as possible.

So if we need the highest degree of effectiveness and efficiency in policy making, and if terms contain a program, then it appears useful to call a spade a spade and join forces behind what we need to achieve, the optimization of all our democratic policy making processes. Joining forces behind what we want to achieve is necessary to get to results.

Here my complete comment on the article:

Very exciting to read about the various constructive ways in which citizens got involved in decision making at the community level in Portsmouth NH.

I would like to pitch the concept of “Optimizing Democracy”, however, against the concept of “Slow Democracy” presented in the article. I suggest that “Slow Democracy” with its focus on better identification of the issues at stake and better deliberation is a necessary element of what we urgently need to do: take comprehensive measures to generally ”optimize democratic policy making” at all political levels.

The well-being of our children and of future generations anywhere in the world, also in Portsmouth NH, does not only depend on their education, the policy issue discussed as an example in the article. The well-being of our children and of future generations is also immediately and very severely threatened by a number of existential global developments which need to be managed as effectively as only possible at national and international policy making levels. They are issues such as global warming, the changing of the quality of human life by biogenetics, the potential loss of freedom by constant surveillance from corporations and governments, potentially increasing unemployment also in the middle classes through robotization, and a destabilization of our entire economic and social systems all over the world by these developments.

If citizens in the US as well as in any other country on earth care about the well-being of their children and grandchildren, it is of the greatest importance that they take the game up one significant level: Efforts in improving policy making as they paid off at the community level in Portsmouth must be implemented for national policy making as well. Taking such measures is also of the highest degree of urgency as data on global warming for example prove. Not only with respect to local issues, also with respect to the big problems threatening to affect the well-being of people everywhere in the world, citizens must get involved and improve, or best – given the existential nature of some threats – optimize policy making systems and processes. Only the very best policy making procedures and systems will be able to handle those challenges.

I suggest that in order to organize the “optimization” of national policy making, citizens in the U.S. need to form an organization which we might call: “Optimizing Democracy USA”. In the UK it could be called “Optimizing Democracy UK”. Any democratic country urgently requires such a citizens’ organisation looking after the quality of policy making in their nations. Since the set-up of our democratic policy making systems is rather ineffective in many ways, these citizen organisations in each country need to co-operate in solving the existential threats for all citizens in the world.

The article on slow democracy desperately calls for leaders with “clarity, wisdom, and courage.” The question is: Where do we get these leaders from? In a democracy it is the very own responsibility of citizens to identify which precise qualifications leaders must have. Citizens must then train and select their leaders so the persons in charge have the required qualities to manage the public affairs both at community or national level adequately. The future of a society and of the world depends on the quality of leaders it trains and selects.


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