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Beyond elections, public participation, and citizen input, democracy must produce wise public policy–or else the nation will find itself in real trouble. In Empowering Public Wisdom, lifelong activist Tom Atlee proposes innovative and practical ideas for collecting and distilling the wisdom of ordinary people in order to infuse the political process with common sense and provide people with ownership of the process.
Empowering Public Wisdom recognizes currently popular forms of progressive democracy advocates, such as citizen participation and voter education, but suggests that what is really needed is a re-thinking of the very concept of democracy; Atlee advocates the use of “public wisdom,” a collective intelligence that can be drawn upon to guide public policy and action. Reaching beyond partisan politics, Atlee explores how a diversity of views can be engaged around public issues in ways that generate a coherent, shared “voice of the people” that takes most or all of the population’s perspectives and needs into account. Atlee’s core approach is through “citizen deliberative councils,” in which a small group of people randomly selected creates a “mini-public” or a microcosm of the larger population. Citizen councils engage in the study of a public issue and make recommendations to public officials and the community, but disband afterward; when a new issue arises, a new council is formed. Ultimately, Atlee aims even higher, suggesting a possible fourth branch of government to better balance our current democratic system.
Combining a radical vision with practical solutions, Empowering Public Wisdom provides a unique voice in the political arena.