Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit

The sun rises over London, England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

With the Scottish referendum on independence drawing closer, the one certain thing is that, no matter how the region votes, British or English politics will be irreversibly changed.

The history of tension between England and the parliament in Westminster can be traced back to the Scotland Act of 1998, which gave Scotland its own legislature.

Since then, affairs that affect only Scotland have been dealt with in Edinburgh. Lawmakers in Westminster have no say anymore in issues to do with transportation or the National Health Service north of the border.

Because affairs that affect only England are still settled in Westminster, however, this has led to the curious situation in which Scottish lawmakers can influence English policy but English lawmakers have no say over Scottish policy.

This, in turn, has led to some resentment when unpopular measure end up being adopted in England but rejected in Scotland, an example being the tuition fee increase from £3000 to £9000. Read more “Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit”

A Government by the People

Scale model of the United States Capitol
Scale model of the United States Capitol (Andy Castro)

Just a few days ago, President Barack Obama and his staff announced their Open Government Directive. In a memo, beginning with the lines, “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,” the White House announced its intentions to work toward a form of “collaborative democracy,” in which citizens would be able to input their ideas and contributions toward governance.

With programs like Peer-to-Patent already around, collaborative government seems closer than ever. Its tool? The Internet. Or, the “tubes,” as disgraced former senator Ted Stevens referred to them.

The directive lays out a specific timetable that can be found online and that orders all executive departments to create “open government” websites within ninety days of December 8, 2009.

It seems quite clear that this is a major change in how citizens will be able to deal with government. What is the nature of the change? As Clay Shirky tells us, “the impulse to share important information is a basic one, but its manifestations have often been clunky.” Read more “A Government by the People”