Saturday, February 03, 2007


250k - Philosophy, et cetera passed 1/4 million visits earlier this week!

Carnival of Citizens - The next edition looks likely to remain in the standard format (though incorporating the sort of 'response space' Kenny suggested) -- official details will be posted to the newsletter once available.

I'm told there's a fair bit of support for converting it into a "symposium" style after that, though the precise details haven't been worked out yet. Feel free to chip in, back in the public brainstorming thread.

Flatland - I owe Brandon one for bringing to my attention this classic story. It introduces some fascinating perspectives, including the point in a dimensionless void, who cannot even conceive of anything external to itself. And of course the main character, a square in the plane of "Flatland", who is initially shocked to learn of a third dimension from which a visitor can see his "insides"! Quite delightful. I can't wait to see the how the movie turns out...

Better Together - this report on promoting civic engagement was put together by a group including political philosopher Amy Gutmann and Senator Barack Obama. Worth a look. Here's a nice section highlighting the need for meta-politics:
Recommendation 4: Broaden the Role of Citizens in Restructuring Government. Most political debate revolves around questions of government spending and regulation. Should the government provide more money for K-12 education? Subsidize prescription drugs for senior citizens? Require that all gun owners be licensed? We spend far less time mulling an equally important set of questions: How government should be constituted (i.e., highly centralized, or highly decentralized), what the responsibilities of different levels of government should be, and what processes should govern political decision-making. Because these questions receive inadequate attention, we endorse formal and regular re-evaluations of local, state, and national government structures along the lines of the charter-review commissions recently empowered to rethink the governing structures of the City and County of Los Angeles.

As happened in Los Angeles, such reviews should tackle a fundamental question: Which level of government should fulfill which functions? While some programs can be effectively provided only by the national government, as proponents of community involvement, we are concerned about the concentration of power in larger and larger entities. When policy decisions and delivery take place on a plane far above local capacities, then ordinary people tune out, figuring they can’t make a difference. From the vantage point of increasing social capital, smaller is better than larger, and local is better than national. To the extent possible given the imperatives of equal treatment and program effectiveness, governmental decision-making authority should be pushed downward so that citizens believe they can have an influence over the policies that affect their lives.


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