Monday, October 20, 2003

Building A Better Democracy

Back from my vacation (FYI, it's cold in Canada) I spotted a couple of articles on addressing different aspects of American democracy that could use some improvement. The first covers the need forindependent leadership institutions for the purposes of promoting, researching, and publicizing information relevant to the selection of effective political leaders. The press seems to have lost interest in this (unprofitable) role, replacing investigative research with press-release journalism. Baker's solution to the problem seems overly simple and ignores some critical issues (such as, even if the information is out there, how do you get people to read/watch it?) and ignores the obvious difficulties in implementation, but the general theme is quite relevant and the problem is an important one. The public would be well served by trustworthy and neutral expert opinions which can counter the spin and funny numbers the candidates start throwing at each other with regards to their policies. The second article addresses the presidential debates, and the monopolistic control that the two major parties have over them. Apparently a group of activists is attempting to establish an alternative, open source-type, debate format. Again, I would mark their chances for success (at least in the 2004 timeframe) as exceedingly unlikely, but it is an important issue. The debate format needs to be one that is not restricted to the two major parties, and one that truly challenges the candidates to the limits of their abilities. I think public sentiment has been growing in this direction for some time, and given another 10 years of public lobbying it might very well happen, particularly if we see any more 3rd party candidates of any significance refused entry to the debates.

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