Localizing government

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About

Localizing government is one possible thing type::solution to the problem of the responds to::corporatocracy in the United States (and possibly elsewhere). The idea is that decision-making processes would be initiated at a level no larger than that of a city or county, and possibly as small as a neighborhood or community, with larger decisions being negotiated between local governments (presumably by representatives appointed by their members).

Advantages

Government that is more local rather than being larger in geographic scope:

  • is generally more accountable and responsive to its constituents
  • does not pose as much danger from concentration of power
  • is much more free to adopt quality standards at a level suitable to members of the community, since standards cannot be imposed from outside (this has both good and bad aspects)

Disadvantages

However, government that is smaller in geographic scope also:

  • lacks the ability to act as quickly in dealing with problems of a scale larger than the individual governments
  • faces additional obstacles in working together to achieve goals that are too large or expensive for any individual government
  • lacks the ability to directly impose uniform quality standards (e.g. food safety, human rights, access to medical services)

See /objections for more discussion of the disadvantages and how they can be answered.

Methods

The transition from the current governmental structure to a more localized one can be via either (or both) of two main paths: top-down (government reform) or bottom-up (grassroots reform).

top-down

The existing government in the US -- including many states and certainly at the national level -- has largely been captured by corporate/big-money interests (exacerbated by the 2010 Citizens United decision which granted political money the status of free speech), so it is unlikely that reform can come from within the system by:

  • mass appeal to current legislators (they are too conscious of the need to please the Big Money spenders)
  • election of populist candidates (some may win, but most will lose due to outspending by pro-BM candidates)

The only top-down reform venue which has not been eliminated as an option would seem to be that of a Constitutional convention in which many specific changes would be written into the US Constitution, starting with a reversal of the Citizens United decision.

See discussion at LessigWiki:

bottom-up

Enacting change from the bottom up (i.e. grassroots) will require more work, but also presents more opportunities. Strategies include:

Starve the Beast

(This phrase is used here ironically, because it was originally used by anti-tax and typically pro-corporate forces (such as the Koch brothers) who urge making the government smaller -- in order to prevent enforcement of regulations that "tie the hands of industry" -- by depriving it of tax revenue.)

  1. create more local autonomy:
    • locally-grown food
    • locally-created energy, including home energy installations (such as solar panels)
    • locally-made staple products such as clothing
    • encourage farmers' markets, grocery co-ops, tech shops (e.g. RDU Tech Shop)
  2. this increases the power of citizens over that of large corporations:
    • corporate lobbying power decreases
    • citizen independence from large corporations increases
    • the process of organizing local entities means that citizens are also better prepared to deal with bad legislation, and to push for good legislation

What's not clear is:

  • how the transition ultimately takes place (through legal/legislative means, through municipalities "going rogue" in some way, or something else)
  • whether this can be done quickly enough to prevent the powermongers from retaliating with draconian anti-independence legislation, shattering local orgs before they are ready to fight back

Another possible angle is to encourage businesses of any size to disconnect from the corporatocracy by

  • reducing or eliminating commerce with businesses that support it (e.g. boycotting Fox News, Koch Industries, etc.)
  • providing public lists of needed supplies or services they are not able to obtain outside the corporatocracy, along with some indication of prices they would be willing to pay, allowing business plans to be made towards providing those items in a locally-oriented and human-friendly way

Own the Beast

This method may or may not be workable depending on the resources and methods available, but it is worth keeping in mind.

The goal is to seize control of large corporations through legitimate ownership processes, principally through purchase of voting stock, starting with small corporations whose influence and resources can then be used to target larger corporations.

Once a corporation has been "taken over", it would be restructured for collective ownership, along lines suggested by Richard Wolfe and making use of new preference aggregation and collaborative reasoning tools to ensure accurate representation of all stakeholders.