Reply: Radical Democracy

I would have written this in reply to the blog post itself, but I must admit that I’m unsure if videos can be embedded in the comment section.

Despite the seeming radicalism of Fred’s proposal for a neighborhood-based democracy, it isn’t radical at all! It’s mainstream enough that it was the subject of an episode of Yes, Prime Minister and, as Fred himself reported, there was a serious ballot proposition in California a while back to implement something similar.

None of this should be taken to mean that Fred’s proposal is bad. To the contrary, it’s a fantastic idea that improves on democracy as is. By re-aligning districts to include only a few households, an individual’s vote matters sufficiently and there is an incentive to be knowledgeable about political affairs.

My concern is how legislation that was unpopular at the district level, but popular at the regional or national level, would get through. Take for example transportation issues, which oftentimes are unpopular at the local level despite popularity at the regional level.

In my native Los Angeles, attempts to build additional roads between the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles basin have been repeatedly thwarted by a few small ultra-rich enclaves that fear that people might be more easily able to visit their neighborhoods if the roads were built. Similarly, in the greater Washington DC area, the expansion of the light rail system was originally opposed in richer parts that feared the poor would gain access to their neighborhoods.

On a quick aside, if you haven’t watched Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister, go watch it right now. It is several decades old now, but still holds up as a great political comedy.

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