We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mexico: Micro-loan Exploitation Requires Civic Action for Developing Alternatives

Mexican banks are loaning money to poor Mexican families who wish to start a small business. Thought to be a development tool in the neo-colonial world, micro-loans are intended to give otherwise unlikely borrowers credit. However, outrageous APRs create profit for the bank while the borrower struggles, and often fails, to pay back loans with 80-120% interest. Loans aren't the only culprits exploiting the poor. Grupo Elektra has teamed up with Banco Azteca to sell electronics and home appliances on credit with equally astounding interest rates. While the corporations reap great profits, families sink further into debt by paying far more than a product is worth. While credit seems like a viable way to help the poor acquire start-up goods for an income-generating endeavor, it has become clear that in many cases the only beneficiaries are the banks and corporations.

What can communities do to help create jobs that do not require individuals to put up capital or credit?

Maybe people don't see an option beyond this line of credit, or they haven't had the opportunity to learn from each other's mistakes. In either scenario, communicating with each other and uniting and organizing to face these issues would be a great step toward escaping exploitation, especially if it resulted in a more grass roots and popular approach such as that of the horizontalidad movement in Argentina. (see previous post on horizontalidad)

For specific details about micro-loans in Mexico, see this article:

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