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…


Saturday, October 11, 2008

ESPAÑA: ¿Quién Teme a los Referendos?

¿Quién teme a los referendos?

Ferran Requejo - 21/09/2008


Los procesos de democracia directa han ido adquiriendo relevancia en los últimos años, tanto en el ámbito de la teoría democrática como en el de la política práctica. Su objetivo es superar parte de las limitaciones participativas de la democracia liberal clásica. En algunos estados, la participación de los ciudadanos se circunscribe a los procesos electorales, limitando los referendos a casos muy específicos. Es el caso de la Constitución española de 1978, que regula de modo muy restrictivo la participación ciudadana en referendos. Esta es una más de las deficiencias institucionales del texto constitucional actual. El panorama europeo es bastante distinto. Analizando los referendos realizados en 12 países occidentales (10 europeos) en los últimos 12 años - y excluyendo el nivel cantonal suizo y el nivel local por su elevado número- se constata la realización de casi 200 referendos. No se observa, en cambio, ninguna correlación entre el grado de descentralización de un país y el uso de referendos. Resultan notorios los 28 casos de referendos relacionados con decisiones secesionistas, soberanía o sobre cambios importantes en la división territorial de poderes: representan un 34% de las consultas con "impacto institucional" de este periodo. ...

FERRAN REQUEJO, catedrático de Ciencia Política en la UPF y autor de ´Las democracias´ (Ariel 2008). ferran. requejo@ upf. edu

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