Friday, November 19, 2010

"participatory democracy"

Once upon a time, when flower power was having its say, when LSD was in vogue, and when young men wore their hair long, the politically concerned came up with the phrase "participatory democracy." No one questioned the phrase, I guess because it was so meaningful to them. I had always thought democracy was participatory by definition, but I have been wrong before. I guess it was a little like the current tendency to use the phrase "end result."

Anyway, I was a reporter back then (late 1960's, early 1970's) and one day I decided to ask various power brokers what they thought of the term "participatory democracy." One of the people I called was the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in Massachusetts. Anthony Scibelli was arguably the most powerful politician in the state. He could make things happen ... find the funding for anything. But one of the ways I gauged his power was by the fact that he was willing to speak plain, direct English to the reporters who called him from time to time.

So I put the case to him -- that some people felt that his power to appoint friends or relatives or political allies to various important posts could hardly be termed "participatory democracy." He listened politely at the other end of the phone and then responded:

"Really, I couldn't agree more," he said affably. "But if they feel so strongly about it, let them get elected."

A reporter lives for responses like that.


  1. Was it Churchill who said that democracy was the worst possible form of government, except for all the others? Nor can I remember the name of the ancient Greek who said all governments, no matter what form they present, are oligarchies. Democracy sounds reasonable for use by reasonable people if we were such a thing. As it is, democracy would appear to be a few wolves and a flock of sheep voting on the menu... never goes well for the sheep.

  2. Insteading of wishing death to humans, they should serve the higher God. For God can change anything. I am not so sure myself about if God can change anything, but i am sure about the alternative called life.

    I understood little more than the word democracy. About that.