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I've thought of participatory democracy in the past, and your definition
presents a different angle from what I've normally considered to be
participatory. I haven't reached any conclusion, but I think it would be
good to throw this out there and see what others have to say.
>From your post,
> I thought we must get a good definition of "participatory democracy"
> since we have used this word in the manifesto.
.... and a little later in the same post,
> "The citizen must have the opportunity to participate directly in
> the decision making process - wherever possible, technologically,
> and economically.
I wonder if you are distinguishing representative democracy from
participatory democracy. Let's say we have some issue under debate, and
I will use the example that I have used in my own reasoning in the past.
The City Council is considering funding for a new sports stadium for a
professional team in town. As you can probably guess, this is something
that actually happened around here, twice! How does Citizen Jane
participate in the process?
She can go to the various town meetings and lay out her point of view,
(which is that the team can go hang itself for all she cares). She sees
no benefit from professional sports and has some documentation and
research material to back it up. So she goes to these meetings, and
gives it her all. Others, with opposite points of view, also show up and
give their all. The town meetings themselves have been called by the
council as a way of "providing the public with the opportunity to
participate in the decision" (I put that in quotes because it
approximates some parts of your earlier definition, pasted above).
At the end of all the town meetings, and after deliberating all the
evidence gathered by the many sides, the council votes. The resolution
to fund the stadium is passed. The actual decision is incidental to my
point, it only matters that the decision is necessarily in line with the
preferences of some and against those of others. Jane, in some sense,
has lost, since her point of view did not carry the day. Still, as a
good citizen, she will abide by the council's decision inasmuch as it
The next time she goes out to eat, she can't help but notice that the
restaurant tax has gone up by 0.1%. The fact that this is a small amount
is irrelevant, she nevertheless pays more. And she knows that the money
is used to fund the stadium. Now, Jane has never been to a baseball game
in her life, and she does not intend to in the future. As far as she can
tell, there has been no convincing evidence that the stadium is an
economic plus to the community, and the matter of building it is merely
a preference of the individual conuncilors who currently hold office.
Still, Jane is paying for it!
To my way of thinking, that is not particularly participatory. That sort
of democracy remains "representative", not "participatory". When all the
opinions are heard, the councilors, representing the community, made a
particular choice which, almost by definition, excluded some opinions.
So what might be an alternative? A simple matter that comes to mind is
that the stadium ought to be funded by raising ticket prices, hot dog
prices in the stadium, parking prices at lots serving the stadium, etc.
Usually, fans revolt against these. The council has simply given them an
easy way out by charging the entire city for the recreational habits of
a subgroup! Representation, in this example, is not fully enabling to
Other examples are easy to find, if one does not like the analogy I just
made. The apartment complex one lives in costs $50 a month more because
it provides abundant parking. But even those who opt not to have a car
must pay, they are provided a slot for the car they do not have! A union
strikes against a company and the few who wish to remain on the job have
no job to go to because they cannot do all of it themselves.
I am not saying that any of these are perfect examples for my point of
view, lest one finds flaws in the particular arguments I have put
forward. Instead I wonder if democracy might be better achieved if we
try to go after economic democracy, in the sense that the choices we
make include a cost in them, and we are always free to minimize our
costs by electing not to indulge in those choices. I.e, don't go to the
ballpark, don't pay for any of the costs associated with the new
Some of this is isolationist and may not be ideal, I recognize that. I
am merely throwing this out there as a way of debating what it means to
"participate". Is participating in the decision-making process to be
considered equivalent to bearing the costs and benefits of those
choices? What if the choices do not represent one's preferences, does
one bear the costs and benefits anyway, or is there a better way?
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