But what if there were a machine, a magical contraption that could take the process of making tough decisions in a democracy, shake it up, dramatize it and make it both credible and conclusive? As it happens, the ancient Athenians had one. It was called the kleroterion, and it worked something like a bingo-ball selector. Each citizen — free males only, of course — had an identity token; several hundred were picked randomly every day and delegated to make major decisions for the polis.
Actually, the Chinese coastal district of Zeguo (pop. 120,000) has its very own kleroterion, which makes all its budget decisions. The technology has been updated: the kleroterion is a team led by Stanford professor James Fishkin. Each year, 175 people are scientifically selected to reflect the general population.
Tom Atlee Comments:
I’m not yet up to diving in re this fascinating TIME article on participatory budgeting based on Deliberative Polling methodology but some of you might want to. Interesting that they don’t cover Participatory Budgeting, which is becoming widespread in South America, or the experiments using Citizens Juries for budgeting in Canada… It is, of course, amazing that less-wise forms of deliberative democracy — like Fishkin’s Deliberative Polls and AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Meetings — are preferred by power-holders over more potent forms like Citizens Juries, Citizens Assemblies, Consensus Conferences, etc., to say nothing of Wisdom Councils (which aren’t strictly deliberative). On second thought, it is not surprising.. 🙂 But Fishkin and Lukensmeyer have the political savvy to clear the way for more advanced forms of wise democracy to emerge into public awareness and use. It’s up to us to use that space.
Dr. Mark Klein (cci.mit.edu/klein/) is a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, and an Affiliate at the MIT Computer Science and AI Lab (CSAIL) as well as the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI). His research focuses on understanding the cross-cutting fundamentals of coordination and applying these insights to help create better human organizations and software systems. He has made contributions in the areas of computer-supported conflict management for collaborative design, design rationale capture, business process re-design, exception handling in workflow and multi-agent systems, service discovery, negotiation algorithms, understanding and resolving ’emergent’ dysfunctions in distributed systems and, more recently, ‘collective intelligence’ systems to help people collaboratively solve complex problems like global warming.
Easily one of the top ten on the death of the American dream
September 30, 2007
I read this book while crossing the Atlantic. The author has done something extraordinary, the equivalent of Silent Spring for industrial-era capitalism as an immoral form of human organization. This book is unique but also tightly linked to the books that I list below.
The conclusion of the book focuses on how Wall Street has discovered how to profit from mega-disasters and financial melt-downs, and contrary to popular belief, Wall Street makes money from these economic down-turns. It is the individual, and the indigenous owners who are forced to sell below market, that lose, every time.
The author’s opening focus is on privatization, deregulation, and deep cuts in social spending, each as mandated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with other nasty triggers demanded by the World Trade Organization, that have been systematically used to loot entire nations and their commonwealths–this is apart from the immoral predatory capitalism that uses bribes to clear areas of indigenous peoples so they can steal all the gold or other natural resources, and their only cost is the bribe, while the host peoples lose billions in natural resources.
The author teaches us that “disaster capitalism” is the next step above immoral predatory capitalism, in which wars and disasters have been privatized and the global military-industrial-prison-hospital complex has moved one step closer to displacing all governments.
She spends time discussion torture by dictators as a silent partner to the free-market crusade, and this is a good time to mention that the book is a standing condemnation of all that Milton Friedman and “the Chicago boys” inserted into the IMF and World Bank via their students.
She provides a helpful discussion of how believers in Armageddon, including the neo-conservatives, are motivated by the belief that there is such a thing as a clean slate, and that Africa without Africans, or Iraq without Iraqis, are both desirable for that reason.
She does a tremendous job of outlining the three shock waves of disaster capitalism:
1. Government Disaster/War out-sourced
2. Corporate looting
3. Police terrorism
A portion of the book focuses on the urgency of restoring unions and the middle class, unions because they protect fair wages that create a middle class. She stresses that the 1970’s through the 1990’s saw a global (but particularly southern hemisphere) campaign to use the cover of counter-terrorism to murder and terrorize union leaders. As a graduate of the Central American and Andean wars, I can certainly testify to the fact that government death squads were as about looting and killing opposition leaders, and I for one saw no terrorists, only indigenous people’s at the end of their rope.
Interestingly the author singles out visionaries as being among the top targets for being hunted down and “disappeared.” Visionaries counter the government lies that seek to rule by secrecy, impose scarcity, and concentrate wealth within a small elite.
The author damningly documents how eager corporations have been to work with dictators to create police states that eliminate unions and enslave peoples at wages that cannot support a family, much less create a middle class.
She focuses on national debt and on government corruption as the two pillars of social destruction. As a student of E. O. Wilson and Medard Gabel, and many others, I can testify that there is plenty of money for all of us to be virtual billionaires, but it is corruption and greed at the top, enabled by secrecy, that have allowed a handful to create a global class war and impoverish the 90% that do the hard work (see my list on this one).
I am utterly blown away by the author’s overall assessment, in the middle of the book, to wit, that crisis is now used routinely to side-step reasoned democracy and completely halt political and social reform while furthering the ends of those who seek to concentrate wealth and power exclusive of the larger body of We the People.
The author is damning across the board of the failures of neoliberalism, which has been a “second pillage” of the looting of state-owned enterprises, following the first pillage, the looting of the natural resources of the commonwealth being targeted.
As part of this the author explicitly accuses the IMF of deliberately fostering crises in part by fabricating and manipulating statistics, or as the author puts it, “statistical malpractice.”
The author suggests that unlike the Mexican bail-out, when Rubin was seeking to protect Wall Street investments, Asia was allowed to collapse financially because the US wanted to put an end to the prospects of their being a “third” way that was more balanced than either capitalism for the few on one side, or socialism for all on the other. This is especially noteworthy because Latin America is today pursuing a similar “third way” and very likely to succeed.
The author declares that Donald Rumsfeld’s over-riding objective as Secretary of Defense was the privatization of war. The author tells us that he declared war on the Pentagon bureaucracy on 10 September (this is the same day that Congresswoman McKinney’s was grilling him on the missing 2.3 trillion dollars). On 11 September the missile won Rumsfeld his war with the Pentagon bureaucracy *and* it destroyed the computers with all the records on the missing money.
The author goes on to document how the Bush Administration privatized Homeland Security across the board.
As the book draws to a close she reviews the history of corporate-driven foreign policy, summing it up in three steps:
1. Corporation suffers set-back in a foreign country
2. Politicians loyal to the corporation demonize the foreign country
3. Politicians “sell” US public on the need for regime change.
The author scorns political appointees, noting that their “service” these days is little more than a pre-raid reconnaissance.
She concludes by suggesting that disaster apartheid is leaving 25-60% of the populations as an underclass, destroyed middle classes, and creating walled cities for the elite, death and suffering for everyone else. Dubai is one such walled city.
Corporations are red-lining the world, using stocks, currency, and real estate markets to crash economies, buy cheap, and then restore with a sharp re-concentration of wealth.
Ending on a positive note, she suggests that We the People are in the process of reconstructing our own world, and while I did not see mention of the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) or Interra and the other community-oriented systems, I believe she is correct, and that the Earth Intelligence Network, the Transpartisan Policy Institute, the People’s Budget Office, are all part of taking back the power and the commonwealth.
This is a great and necessary book. Others (the first two DVDs) listed below reinforce her findings.
Modern Manifesto in Defense of Citizen Public Against Corporate Fascism,
June 26, 2006
EDITED 22 Oct 07 to add some links.
Preliminary note: there are some really excellent reviews of this book that I admire and recommend be read as a whole.
Although I have reviewed a number of books on the evil of corporate rule disconnected from social responsibility such as democratic governance normally imposes, books such as Lionel Tiger, “The Manufacture of Evil,” and more recently, John Perkins, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and William Greider, “The Soul of Capitalism,” this is the first book in my experience to actually focus on the pervasive process of branding and the spread of corporate control (into schoolrooms and chambers of governance), and also focus, with great originality, on the emergence of an active citizen-based opposition to corporate dominance.
In terms of lasting effect, the most important value of this book to me has been the identification of the World Social Forum as a “must attend” event. I plan to do so.
The bottom line in this book, at least to me, is that government has failed to represent the public and sold out to special interests. The author notes how the US helped derail a United Nations effort to establish, in 1986, a transnational oversight body to help avoid the “race to the bottom” and develop standards of equal opportunity and human rights for labor. Other books, such as “The Global Class War” have focused on the emergence of a global elite that works together to exploit the public and the workers, and that is a part of this story.
The author is very forceful in singling out Microsoft as an exploiter of temporary labor, and goes on from there to highlight both the sweatshops overseas and the “temp” gulags here in the USA, not least of which is Wal-Mart, where other books give us great detail.
I learn for the first time about “culture jamming” and the rise in activists who seek to out corporations, I am reinforced in my view that corporate facism is rampant in America, and I am much taken with the quote on page 325, from Utah Philips, to the effect that those killing the earth have names and addresses.
I am inspired by the author’s discussion of “selective purchasing” as the ultimate means of bringing corporations to heel. WIRED Magazine has explored how bar codes can be used to connect potential buyers to all relevant information. Whereas before I have advocated information about water and oil content, now, instructed by this author, I believe it should be possible to also acquire information about labor content (hourly wages, benefits or not, cost paid to labor for the item) and source of capital.
Over-all the book discusses the broken relationship in the triad between the people, the government responsible for representing them, and the corporations that exploit them as consumers and employees and stockholders. I put this book down reflecting on how much power individuals actually have, and how little they know about how to use it.
Pages of Notes on This Book–Other Reviews Largely Worthless,
May 31, 2006
Edited to remove opening at suggeastion of earnest Amazonian, and to add several books and recommend my list of transpartisan books based in part on Reuniting America’s list.
I have five pages of notes on this book, which is my 708th book of non-fiction pertaining to national security and competitiveness, and in the context of the other 707 books (okay, three on MGBs and three on menopause), this is, without question, a five star book.
There are several key points that I take very seriously, and I believe that this book could usefully be read with moderate Republican Clyde Prestowitz’s ROGUE NATION, and Senator Edward Kennedy’s AMERICA: Back on Track. Readers interested in my recommendations might also look at my lists, especially my lists of Democracy and on Collective Intelligence.
Key point #1: AUTHENTICITY is lacking in politics, and could be what wins the 2008 election for either John McCain, if he can avoid the “born again Bushophile” slander, or Mark Warner, if he can bring himself to field the moderate Republican from Maine Susan Collins as a Vice President, and a coalition cabinet committed to electoral reform. McCain is especially attractive to me because he could–as author Joe Klein notes–fix the military by ending military-industrial-congressional corruption and putting a stop to corporate welfare. Warner, on the other hand, could field a credible coaltion government that ends both the corruption of special interests and the corruption of the Republican and Democratic party leadership who force their party members to vote the party line instead of their conscience (see Tom Coburn’s superb BREACH OF TRUST).
Key point #2: Consultants have drained democracy dry and actually driven voters away. This is almost a no-holds barred indictment of the consultants and polling firms that grew from the 1970’s. The author is especially pointed and strong on Patrick Caddell and on Bob Shrum, with Joe Trippi getting honorable mentions. On the one hand, the author slams polling and consulting for distorting both what the people think, and for vacating the value of real leadership–he is compelling in suggesting that the people want leaders to lead with vision and authenticity, rather than follow the numbers like sheep.
Key Point #3: Politics, in its highest form, was Bobby Kennedy in Indianapolis on the night of Martin Luther King’s murder by assassination. The author opens with this vignette, the rest of the book is about politics at its lowest form.
Key Point #4: Television has changed how we select our leaders, and this is generally a very very bad thing. In turn, the cost of television advertisements has fueled massive corruption within both parties. Since the airwaves are part of the public broadcast spectrum, it is certainly clear to me that we have to eliminate the cost of television advertising, and demand equal free time for all validated candidates, at all levels. This is a non-negotiable condition for democracy in the multi-media era.
Key Point #5: Witch hunts and negative politics are the stock of the mediocrities that populate both the Republican and the Democratic parties (I am a moderate Republican and consider both parties to be equally corrupt, the Democrats are simply more inept).
Key Point #6: Here the author is supported by Henry Kissinger (see my review of DOES AMERICA NEED A FOREIGN POLICY?), as both consider the speed of politics and the speed of the real world to have dramatically out-paced the sources and methods by which we acquire, evaluate, and act on information. Government–and the U.S. Intelligence Community and the general inter-agency policy deliberation process are, in one word, INCOMPETENT. We desperately need to harness collective intelligence through new open source software and open source intelligence capabilities that are widely and freely available to citizens as well as their elected or appointed representatives.
As a side note, the author documents the very early and heavy engagement of Saudi Arabia in sponsoring sophisticated and sustained polling of American views and concerns. It can be safely suggested that the Saudi Royal Family has funded sufficient polling to know America as well, or better, than most US politicians.
The author believes that the Reagan era killed concepts of civic duty and long term strategic sacrifice, and that a climate of intellectual cowardice and political correctness led to a shutting out of those who would speak plainly or serioiusly.
John Kerry is slammed as a banana peel politician who uses slippery words, Dick Morris is slammed as a charlatan, the Republicans are slammed for slease, anti-society, pro-market (that is to say, pro-already wealthy Wall Street), and for having no policy process (something moderate Republican and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill supports in the book PRICE OF LOYALTY). The author slams Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks as delusional and unprofessional. As the recent chorus of generals including General Tony Zinni might suggest, the author is probably on solid ground with this assessment.
On a nuanced note, the author considers Shrum to be off-base in advising Senator Edwards to focus on class warfare, as he finds that this mantra is not effective with either the bi-partisan “common guy” or the social conservative “leave me alone” group. Everything I read in this book confirmed my view that the next congressional election needs to be about personal integrity and indepedence and authenticity, and the next presidential election needs to be about electoral reform–about re-engaging and honoring the votes of every citizen, and keeping those who are elected honest after the fact of election.
I may have read a different book than that which has been so demeaned by the other reviewers to date, but I can certainly say that I did read every word of this book, and I found the author to be thoughtful, authentic, and worth every minute that I spent absorbing his views.