Tom Atlee: End of Year Lists and Wiser Democracy

Cultural Intelligence
Tom Atlee
Tom Atlee

End-of-year lists and wiser democracy

Several end-of-year lists for 2013 demonstrate that things are, indeed, getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster. Personally, one post particularly encouraged me this year. It described WHY Congress can’t generate much policy wisdom and how we could change our political and governance STRUCTURES so that making wise policy was more routine. That would generate bigger and better end-of-year lists in the future, as well as a better world.

Dear friends,

There are so many negative developments, it is hard to track them all.

There are so many positive developments, it is hard to track them all.

Things are, indeed, getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster simultaneously. And since it is the end of the year, we find competing lists being offered to get us to think one way or another about what happened in 2013.

At the end of this post you’ll find six such lists from eco-progressive perspectives. (If you want to compare them to a more mainstream list, see or, for libertarian-conservative lists, see or If you have a favorite 2013 list, go ahead and add it as a comment on this blog post.)

I notice that much of the good news in the lists below celebrates the successes of activists or the resurgence of activism. Reading over them, I realize how much I would love to live in a political system that doesn’t require activists fighting and making noise to have good things happen – how much I want to live in governance systems that transparently operate on the informed, well-considered will of us all when we come together to co-create healthy communities and a good future for our children.

With that in mind I think that for me one of the best things that happened in 2013 was seeing the article below posted on the progressive news site The article, “If Crowds Are Wise, Why Isn’t Congress?” by Ahmed R. Teleb, describes how both our voting methods and our lack of true diversity in Congress makes it virtually impossible to generate real policy wisdom using our current political system. Teleb describes how better approaches to voting and the use of random selection in democracy – as practiced in ancient Athens – could vastly increase the level of political wisdom that governs us. With such systems, the positive results for which activists now have to battle would become more routine.

A small number of activists on all “sides” – liberals, conservatives, libertarians, greens – are beginning to realize that our systems are STRUCTURED in a way that prevents the emergence of wise policies that the vast majority of us would understand and support. Teleb’s article gives us a glimpse into what’s possible, into directions for structural change, into a different order of social change work whose successes could dominate our end-of-year lists in 2014, 2015, 2016, and beyond.

How different each year would be if we were celebrating victories that change HOW our governments make and implement policies so that our common lives and destinies were at last being shaped by our collective wisdom, our collective aspirations, our collective capacities… and we knew that we would never lose that again.

Blessings on the Journey.


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