Tom Atlee: A society governed by the people’s wisdom…

Politics, Resilience

Tom Atlee
Tom Atlee
A society governed by the people's wisdom…

Last weekend I joined a small group exploring the idea that society could have the capacity to generate “public wisdom” and that we could empower that wisdom to support wiser public policy and popular behavior.

Because many people don't know what we mean by “public wisdom”, we clarified that, for the purposes of this inquiry,
the word “public” means that

– the wisdom is generated by ordinary people
– in groups who embody the diversity of their communities
– for the guidance of officials and the citizenry (the whole public)
– regarding public affairs and the concerns of the citizenry
– in forms that are known about and readily accessible to everyone.

and the word “wisdom” means, simply,
– taking into account what needs to be taken into account
– for long term broad benefit.

Evidence suggests that under the right conditions, ordinary people can produce that kind of wisdom on behalf of their community or country. (I explore those “right conditions” in my 2012 book EMPOWERING PUBLIC WISDOM.)

In our gathering last weekend, my colleague Carolyn Shaffer invited me to answer the following question:

“How is life in the public realm better after empowered public wisdom takes hold?”

Her question invited me to assume that a culture of empowered public wisdom had already come about. It was an interesting exercise. I want to share with you my answers. Perhaps they will help you see why some of us are so attracted to this approach to social change.

When I imagine myself in a culture that enables and empowers public wisdom, I imagine a society in which the following are true:

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