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…


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

10 Downing Street's e-Petitions

10 Downing St. has set up a website where british citizenry can post their petitions to the prime minister. The petitions can gather signatories on the site, and completed petitions generate a response from the Prime Minister. It is unclear whether this site has in fact been a means for the public to influence policy, or merely a gimmick to allow people to believe that they have a voice in government. It's mere existence however is yet another example of how the internet can be a revolutionary tool in bringing direct democracy to bear on a large scale. The trick is to make the popular will binding, and create a system in which representatives are merely executors of that popular will. Barack Obama in the U.S.A. has proposed measures in his platform that would allow for much more significant citizen participation and transparency than this somewhat symbolic british measure. To learn more about his proposals see our previous post on the subject. (click here) It is encouraging to see such proposals reaching the mainstream but we must continue to build upon them and push for deeper direct democracy. - Editor

Click here to visit the P.M's e-petitions site


13 November 2007

There is a long-established tradition of members of the public presenting petitions at the door of Number 10 Downing Street. The e-Petitions service has been designed to offer a modern parallel, which is more convenient for the petitioner. Unlike paper-based petitions, this service also provides an opportunity for Number 10 to respond to every petitioner via email.

Since its launch in November 2006, the ePetitions site has proved to be a highly popular innovation, helping people communicate with Government and with the Prime Minister's Office. ePetitions has become a part of the landscape of debate in the UK.

The service allows any UK citizen to create a petition and collect signatures via the website. Petitioners are asked to meet basic criteria, but we aim to accept most petitions. The principal reasons for rejecting petitions so far have been obscenity, potential to cause offence, libel or duplication.

Facts and figures

Since its launch, the site has been very busy. The facts and figures to the end of October show:
Over 29,000 petitions have been submitted, of which over 8,500 are currently live and available for signing, over 6,000 have finished and 14,601 have been rejected outright.
There have been over 5.8 million signatures, originating from over 3.9 million different email addresses.

The most common reason for rejection is duplication - many users have commented that there are petitions on similar subjects clogging up the site. We are trying to eliminate too much duplication or overlap, although we need to balance that with the need to allow for the nuances of similar petitions.
The other common reasons for rejection are: legal issues, offensive language, party political content and issues outside the government's remit.

If a petition is rejected, petitioners are given a chance to reword their petition. Some users choose to resubmit their petitions, some prefer not to.

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