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…


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Zealand: Police Let Public Write Laws

Last fall, New Zealand opened up the task of writing a new police act legislation to the public through the use of a Wiki site. The following BBC article describes the process. You can also visit the Wiki site by clicking HERE. The site gives a summary of the results of the process, which is now complete, and encourages future input. This initiative is but one of many that illustrates how the internet is a viable means and a valuable tool for implementing participatory and direct democratic processes worldwide. - Editor

NZ Police Let Public Write Laws

"Self-policing" should correct any corrupting entriesNew Zealanders have been given the chance to write their own laws, with a new online tool launched by police.

The "wiki" will allow the public to suggest the wording of a new police act, as part of a government review of the current law, written in 1958.

Police say they hope to gain a range of views from the public on the new law before presenting it to parliament.

The wiki, one of the first of its kind in the world, is open to any internet user, police say.

'Wiki sandbox'

The wiki is the latest round of public consultation in the 18-month review of the 50-year-old law.
Launching a wiki version of a statute is a novel move, but one we hope will yield a range of views from people interested in having a direct say on the shape of a new Policing Act

The officer in charge of the review, Supt Hamish McCardle, described the site as "similar to a whiteboard" and said it was open to anyone who wanted to have their say on the new law.

It even includes a "wiki sandbox" that lets nervous newcomers practise their posting.
The final document will be given to a parliamentary committee in 2008 to be considered with other information gathered during the review period.

"Launching a wiki version of a statute is a novel move, but one we hope will yield a range of views from people interested in having a direct say on the shape of a new Policing Act," Supt McCardle said.

Aaron Smith - from the US-based Pew Internet Project, which studies the evolution of internet uses - told the BBC News website that the wiki was a new frontier in online government.

"You see a lot of government sites worldwide allowing for various feedback mechanisms... but in terms of bringing this to the public in the form of writing laws, that's obviously a different thing entirely and something that we certainly haven't seen yet," Mr Smith said.

He said any possible corrupting of the process should be reduced by the "self-policing" nature of wikis.

"It would certainly be difficult for people to put in bogus information... without people recognising that fact and the community of users correcting that before the finished product is completed," he said.

A "wiki" - from the Hawaiian word for "quick" - is a type of website that can be easily edited by anyone. The most well-known wiki is the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Visit the Wiki site:

No comments: