Democracy is not just a town meeting but a structured artifact

Note: this was posted in 1997 to an early internet experiment.
For more, please see my page The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

a sustainable, global world -- the Earth Thanks for the examples and amplification. Another example, classic in its ambiguity, is the seniority system that used to be so much stronger in the US Congress. Since congressman and senators from agrarian and (also for a different reason) southern states were more likely to get re-elected, their constituents came to possess disproportionate ability to veto. This produced, and produces, in different times and in different contexts, outcomes that were either reactionary obstructionism, or a legitimate mechanism for rural citizens to ensure that they were factored into solutions, or both.

As your and my examples indicate, democracy is not just a town meeting but a structured artifact. Particular forms of these structures produce results that are more or less frequently more or less good. We tend to pay little attention to the overall effectiveness of these structures; we just get angry on the particular occasions when the outcome isn’t what we happen to want.

Citizens need to pay explicit attention to the design of these structures so as to get sustainably good outcomes. Actually, Madison et al seem to have been above average at designing them. Maybe what we need is to get good at using them and at learning to extrapolate their meaning into other areas like markets

Mon, 24 Feb 1997 18:38:59 GMT

For more, please see The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

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