Experts and the Will of the People


Book by Harry Collins, Robert  Evans, Darrin Durant and Martin Weinel: “The rise of populism in the West has led to attacks on the legitimacy of scientific expertise in political decision making. This book explores the differences between populism and pluralist democracy and their relationship with science. Pluralist democracy is characterised by respect for minority choices and a system of checks and balances that prevents power being concentrated in one group, while populism treats minorities as traitorous so as to concentrate power in the government. The book argues that scientific expertise – and science more generally — should be understood as one of the checks and balances in pluralist democracies. It defends science as ‘craftwork with integrity’ and shows how its crucial role in democratic societies can be rethought and that it must be publicly explained. This book will be of value to scholars and practitioners working across STS as well as to anyone interested in decoding the populist agenda against science….(More)”.

Politics is for Power, Not Consumption


Eitan Hersh at the Boston Review: “…What I’m doing I call political hobbyism, a catchall phrase for consuming and participating in politics by obsessive news-following and online “slacktivism,” by feeling the need to offer a hot take for each daily political flare-up, by emoting and arguing and debating, almost all of this from behind screens or with earphones on. I am in good company: these behaviors represent how most “politically engaged” Americans spend their time on politics.

In 2018, I asked a representative sample of Americans to estimate about how much time they spend on any kind of political-related activity in a typical day. A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics. Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It is all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.

Political hobbyists tend to be older than the general public, though they are found in all age groups. They are disproportionately college educated, male, and white. In the current climate, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans or independents. Not only are they different from the general public, they also have a different profile from people who engage actively in political organizations. For example, of the people who spend two hours a day on politics but no time on volunteering, 56 percent are men. But of those who spend that much time on politics, with at least some of it spent volunteering, 66 percent are women.

Those who volunteer, such as the group in Westmoreland County that is out convincing neighbors to vote and to advocate, have something to show for their commitment to their political values. As for the rest of us, all we have is a sinking feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming challenge.

As a political scientist, I study the ways that ordinary people participate in politics. The political behavior of ordinary people is hard to understand. We don’t often reflect deeply on why we engage in politics. However, when we step back and investigate our political lives, we can paint a general picture of what motivates us. Summing up the time we spend on politics, it would be hard to describe our behavior as seeking to influence our communities or country. Most of us are engaging to satisfy our own emotional needs and intellectual curiosities. That’s political hobbyism….(More)”.

76 things you can do to boost civic engagement


Rebecca Winthrop and Meg Heubeck at Brookings: “It isn’t too complicated. Civic engagement is the glue that holds self-government together. Yet civic participation and engagement has been on the decline for several decades. Therefore, each and every one of us must be as active and involved in our community and country as possible. Self-government is hard work and requires effort. Action is essential to maintaining the foundations of our democracy, no matter which political party happens to be in power.

To be a truly involved citizen, we must reconnect with our founding documents. We must learn and practice the skills of civic participation beginning with voting and moving onto legislating, speaking out, and building coalitions to solve problems on the local, state, and federal levels.

While by no means comprehensive, the “Democracy 76” list below provides specific and practical actions that we all can take to be an involved citizen. The list is broken into five actions that are essential components for engagement. It is expressly free from politics and partisanship and should be undertaken by all Americans—regardless of political perspectives or affiliation….this list has contributed to the call to action of the newly launched Purple Project for Democracy, which has as its central mission to create a more active, engaged American citizenry, ultimately strengthening the very foundations of our democratic form of government. This is certainly something the founding fathers would support….(Full List)”.

Realizing Democracy


Supplement to Stanford Social Innovation Review that seeks to …”speak to an increasingly shared understanding among policymakers, civil society leaders, and scholars that democracy reform today must address underlying systemic roots of exclusion and inequality. …Articles: 

Fixing Democracy Demands the Building and Aligning of People’s Motivation and Authority to Act

By Hahrie Han

It is often tempting to try to solve problems by looking for policy fixes, new technologies, and informational solutions, instead of addressing underlying power dynamics.

Realizing Democracy Demands Addressing Deeper Structural Roots of Failure and Possibility of Shared Power By K. Sabeel Rahman

As long as it is more profitable to rig the rules than play by them, our better angels are unlikely to thrive. Part of the Winter 2020 issue’s Realizing Democracy supplement funded by the Ford Foundation.

Renewing Democracy Requires the Creation of an Inclusive Collective By Marshall Ganz & Art Reyes III

Community organizers have a significant role in addressing the atrophy of civil goods that has transformed Americans from active citizens into political customers or nonprofit clients.

Building Political Bases to Make Multiracial Democracy Work By Doran Schrantz, Michelle Oyakawa, & Liz McKenna

Powerful organization, rather than efficient mobilization, is the way to re-center people in our political life.

Revitalizing Civic Infrastructure at the State Level Is Necessary for a Healthy Democracy By Alexander Hertel-Fernandez & Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith

Recent research documents only a weak electoral connection between state legislators and their voters. It’s time to break the cycle and restore political power to ordinary citizens over entrenched minorities.

Re-Envisioning the Roles of Prosecutors and Attorneys General to Make the Justice System Work for Everyone By Arisha Hatch & Terri Gerstein

Community organizations nationwide are helping to reimagine the role of law enforcement by pushing prosecutors to embrace a new criminal justice reform agenda and collaborating with attorneys general to protect working people.

Democratizing Economic Power to Break the Cycle of American Inequality By Felicia Wong, K. Sabeel Rahman & Dorian Warren

The sharp and growing imbalance between the wealthy and the rest of Americans dramatically alters how public policy itself is formulated—and what those policies ultimately look like.

New Forms of Worker Organization to Free Democracy From Corporate Clutches By Andrea Dehlendorf & Michelle Miller

To rebalance our democracy and economy, a real system of economic checks and balances must exist to ensure that working people have power in their workplaces.

The Los Angeles Teachers’ Strike Is a Master Class in Using Unions to Secure Progressive Wins By Jane McAlevey

Good strikes force the very consensus building that America needs, and the sooner we reprioritize unions, the sooner we can reclaim democracy.

Democracy and Prosperity Require Uncorrupted Governments With Strong Regulatory Power By Anat R. Admati

When corporate engagement with governments serves narrow interests and money is critical for campaigns and influence, the system causes “corruptive dependencies,” exacerbates inequality, and leads to the perception that our “captured economy” is rigged and unjust.

How Government, the Economy, and Civil Society Can Achieve the Democracy We Need and Deserve By Lisa García Bedolla

Three takeaways to establish the structural and institutional guardrails necessary to creating a serious, concerted, and holistic effort to address issues of power and inequality across civil society, government, and the economy….(More)”.

Our Futures: By the people, for the people


Guide by Laurie Smith and Kathy Peach: “This is a guide to how mass involvement with shaping the future can solve complex problems.

Moving beyond citizen assemblies and traditional public engagement, participatory futures techniques help people to develop a collective image of the future they want, so that we can make better, more informed decisions.

Governments, city leaders, public institutions, funders, and civil society must be at the forefront of this approach, supporting it through funding, strategy and practice.

Our guide contains practical suggestions for how to do this. Examples include:

  • Carrying out publicly-funded, mission-orientated research that is informed by participatory futures exercises.
  • Creating new legislation that requires UK Government departments to use these approaches to inform decision-making and strategies.
  • Embedding these approaches in the Civil Service Competency Framework and equivalent frameworks for local government and charities…(More)”.

Public value creation in digital government


Introduction to Special Issue by Panos Panagiotopoulos, BramKlievink, and AntonioCordella: “Public value theory offers innovative ways to plan, design, and implement digital government initiatives. The theory has gained the attention of researchers due to its powerful proposition that shifts the focus of public sector management from internal efficiency to value creation processes that occur outside the organization.

While public value creation has become the expectation that digital government initiatives have to fulfil, there is lack of theoretical clarity on what public value means and on how digital technologies can contribute to its creation. The special issue presents a collection of six papers that provide new insights on how digital technologies support public value creation. Building on their contributions, the editorial note conceptualizes the realm of public value creation by highlighting: (1) the integrated nature of public value creation supported by digital government implementations rather than enhancing the values provided by individual technologies or innovations, (2) how the outcome of public value creation is reflected in the combined consumption of the various services enabled by technologies and (3) how public value creation is enabled by organizational capabilities and configurations….(More)”.

Voting could be the problem with democracy


Bernd Reiter at The Conversation: “Around the globe, citizens of many democracies are worried that their governments are not doing what the people want.

When voters pick representatives to engage in democracy, they hope they are picking people who will understand and respond to constituents’ needs. U.S. representatives have, on average, more than 700,000 constituents each, making this task more and more elusive, even with the best of intentions. Less than 40% of Americans are satisfied with their federal government.

Across Europe, South America, the Middle East and China, social movements have demanded better government – but gotten few real and lasting results, even in those places where governments were forced out.

In my work as a comparative political scientist working on democracy, citizenship and race, I’ve been researching democratic innovations in the past and present. In my new book, “The Crisis of Liberal Democracy and the Path Ahead: Alternatives to Political Representation and Capitalism,” I explore the idea that the problem might actually be democratic elections themselves.

My research shows that another approach – randomly selecting citizens to take turns governing – offers the promise of reinvigorating struggling democracies. That could make them more responsive to citizen needs and preferences, and less vulnerable to outside manipulation….

For local affairs, citizens can participate directly in local decisions. In Vermont, the first Tuesday of March is Town Meeting Day, a public holiday during which residents gather at town halls to debate and discuss any issue they wish.

In some Swiss cantons, townspeople meet once a year, in what are called Landsgemeinden, to elect public officials and discuss the budget.

For more than 30 years, communities around the world have involved average citizens in decisions about how to spend public money in a process called “participatory budgeting,” which involves public meetings and the participation of neighborhood associations. As many as 7,000 towns and cities allocate at least some of their money this way.

The Governance Lab, based at New York University, has taken crowd-sourcing to cities seeking creative solutions to some of their most pressing problems in a process best called “crowd-problem solving.” Rather than leaving problems to a handful of bureaucrats and experts, all the inhabitants of a community can participate in brainstorming ideas and selecting workable possibilities.

Digital technology makes it easier for larger groups of people to inform themselves about, and participate in, potential solutions to public problems. In the Polish harbor city of Gdansk, for instance, citizens were able to help choose ways to reduce the harm caused by flooding….(More)”.

New Directions in Public Opinion


Book edited by Adam J. Berinsky: “The 2016 elections called into question the accuracy of public opinion polling while tapping into new streams of public opinion more widely. The third edition of this well-established text addresses these questions and adds new perspectives to its authoritative line-up. The hallmark of this book is making cutting-edge research accessible and understandable to students and general readers. Here we see a variety of disciplinary approaches to public opinion reflected including psychology, economics, sociology, and biology in addition to political science. An emphasis on race, gender, and new media puts the elections of 2016 into context and prepares students to look ahead to 2020 and beyond.

New to the third edition:

• Includes 2016 election results and their implications for public opinion polling going forward.

• Three new chapters have been added on racializing politics, worldview politics, and the modern information environment….(More)”.

Democracy Beyond Elections


United Nations Democracy Fund: “newDemocracy and the United Nations Democracy Fund have recently announced a 2-year agreement centred on doing democracy differently. Making democracies more inclusive requires bold and innovative reforms to bring the young, the poor, and minorities into the political system to start to address the crisis of political representation which sees people becoming less and less engaged.

newDemocracy has been selected to develop and distribute a handbook on ‘Democracy Beyond Elections’ designed to show how nations at various levels of development can apply the principles of representation and deliberation in ways that are appropriate for their economic and educational circumstances. This handbook is now available to read online here, and available for download here….(More)”.

Private Law, Nudging and Behavioural Economic Analysis: The Mandated-Choice Model


Book by Antonios Karampatzos: “Offering a fresh perspective on “nudging”, this book uses legal paternalism to explore how legal systems may promote good policies without ignoring personal autonomy.

It suggests that the dilemma between inefficient opt-in rules and autonomy restricting opt-out schemes fails to realistically capture the span of options available to the policy maker. There is a third path, namely the ‘mandated-choice model’. The book is dedicated to presenting this model and exploring its great potential. Contract law, consumer protection, products safety and regulatory problems such as organ donation or excessive borrowing are the setting for the discussion. Familiarising the reader with a hot debate on paternalism, behavioural economics and private law, this book takes a further step and links this behavioural law and economics discussion with philosophical considerations to shed a light on modern challenges, such as organ donation or consumers protection, by adopting an openly interdisciplinary approach….(More)”.