A new kind of democracy?!

I watched an interesting TV-program today, about the Participative Budget in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Its a project that has been going on since 1989 in Brazil, and has shown such promise that the Brazilian labor party is saying they will expand the program to the whole country.

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that the democracy as it is today is failing. Less people are voting every election in most of the developed countries, in fact I would go as far as saying we are approaching a voter participation so low that we have to say the democracy as it was intended has failed. And why? I think it is because people don’t feel like their vote has any influence on the day-to-day running of the country, county and city they live in.

The solution might be in letting people participate to a higher degree in what used to be political processes, where the elected politicians used to rule based on the mandate they got from the voters. That is what is happening in Brazil with the Porto Alegre “Participative Budget” project, where the people are allowed to participate directly in the budgets of their communities. And its going on not only in Porto Alegre – but also in more than 70 other cities all over Brazil.

There has been some very nice effects of the program, in some communities people that used to be living in slums are now able to live in good houses with all the comforts most of the developed world take for granted. And it is being paid for by commercial developers that agreed to develop houses in return for land. Something which would have been much harder before, when people didn’t have the same amount of say over what was going on in their local areas. The most profound effect in Brazil has been the development of infrastructure and the citizens being able to feel like they can have an input on how the money is spent on development of their local areas.

This is a great model to use in developing countries, but I also think that it would work to revitalize the democracy in developed countries. It would be a way for people to start feeling like they really could be able to participate in the decisions affecting their communities. Another nice effect of Participative Democracy in Brazil has been that the whole political process has become a lot more transperant, and the before all to common corruption has almost gone away. There are a lot of other countries that could have benifited from a more transperant process, for instance – it would have made it much harder for special interest groups to use money to influence the political process.


3 thoughts on “A new kind of democracy?!”

  1. I don’t think that can be used in the eastern countries. Things get much more complicated, people won’t get along so easily. People are much more greedy, they want more $.

    That is way I’m a defender of capitalism, not the fake one that is being used in USA, but the laissez faire capitalism, where economy is separated from the state.

  2. A democracy per se isn’t really that cool… a *constitutional* democracy, with significant bounds on political intrusion into civil rights, was the original intention and is still cool today, but a socialist democracy is easily manipulated into exploiting various minorities because the potential gains to winning factions are so huge.

    The economics you learn about in political schools and in corporate newspapers are drivel, but the real stuff isn’t so hard to understand. Use persuasion rather than coercion… minimize the attractions of political corruption… key principles.

  3. What makes you say that a socialist democracy is easily manipulated? You are aware that most european countries have what you would call socialist democracies (unless I am misunderstanding you now). Norway is among those. We have a monarchy, but one in which the real power is not with the King – he is just a symbol.

    The multi-party system we have in Norway seems to me to be a much healthier democracy than that of the United States of America. But we have the same problem here as I see in most of the other democracies in the world: The people are less frequently participating in the political process that governs them. In that respect the participative democracy in Brazil seems like a step to take to revitalize the democracy in the 21st century.

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