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on 12 June 2014
Manuel Arriaga makes a cogent case for reinventing in this concise and readable book. I think it is well worth a read - in my beat as a former Britain correspondent for the Economist, covering the 2010 general election in the UK, and as a former political producer for BBC Newsnight, as well as working as a researcher for the Labour party in the House of Commons and the Lords in the 1990's, it became gruesomely apparently to me that our democracy worked more in breach than in reality. Politicians were led by the press - now, more and more, as the Internet has taken control of the press, with live web analytics, it is not clear who is leading whom. In many ways anarchy reigns, rather than democracy. If we want to take back control of our democracy we need to participate as citizens, at every level. Manuel Arriaga shows, with some very good examples, how democracy can work. Of course it can have unforeseen consequences - Swiss voters had the right, and used it, to vote in a referendum, to introduce quotas on immigration. That is democracy in action. Not always pleasant - but at least the case for and against is argued, in the open, and people have real power. This book is well worth a read.
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on 9 June 2014
If you think we lack ideas to make our democracies real democracies, this is a book for you! It's a very stimulating reading that will make you reflect on your own voting practices, triggering uncomfortable realizations about the reasons and influences underlying these practices - a sign of the great lucidity and necessity of Arriaga's essay.
And a special note to the bankers out there, who should not be put off by the summary: DO read the book, it is written for you too!
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on 7 June 2014
The book delivers a thorough analysis of why current political systems, dominated by big political parties, will always fail to represent citizens' interests. Arriaga therefore argues for a more sincere form of democracy, in which citizens are acknowledged as capable and reasoned decision-makers in moderated deliberative processes. He takes the reader on a world tour of promising deliberative democracy experiences and related innovations. Sadly, the main obstacle to transform such experiences into mainstream politics are.... these same political parties. Arriaga conveys his analyses and arguments in a remarkably clear way and a great sense of humor. The book is a must for all those, and I am sure they are many, who still believe in democratic values but understand the urgent need for radical reforms in order to solve current crises and avert the looming social and ecological catastrophes.
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on 10 June 2014
Highly recommended for anyone interested in making democracy work better. This book clearly lays out the problems inherent in our political systems, and then clear practical steps that could be taken to improve it. The great thing is that every suggestion has been tried successfully elsewhere in the world, so this isn't proposing pie-in-the-sky solutions, but a package of things we know will help. Also, it's a short book, which is great in that it doesn't muck around with excessive dull detail, and leaves you inspired and wanting to get going straight away. Read it now!
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on 28 July 2014
Excellent, concise and accessible with clear ideas for reform and justification for the method chosen (based on an Ancient Greek system… have we actually come up with anything new? :)). The author is keenly aware of the dangers and combats all the objections very neatly (the most frequently heard one in my experience being ‘Aren’t the population too stupid to decide anything?’). He also points to variations of this system that have been tried and are still operative around the world, which I found very encouraging.

A quick read which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to all and sundry, not just those who are into political theory, but basically anyone (I’m no academic myself!).

I found this book while searching for discussion on Leaderless Revolution by Carne Ross which is an elegant and thorough demolition of representative politics at every level, national through to supra-national. Leaderless Revolution is truly excellent but did not furnish any solutions. I feel that Rebooting Democracy could easily be the second part and provide all of the answers one has when completely disillusioned with the impossibility of making our current system work, particularly to long-term challenges as well as real social issues outside the experience of the typical career politician.

This book left me with hope for the first time in a long while. As one delves into the big issues of our time, climate change, tax havens, inequality, corporate takeover of government etc, you realise how useless our current system is to combat any of these and that political reform can’t be divorced from solving these.

There is a website you can sign up to for news and developments in this arena at http://www.rebootdemocracy.org which feels like a natural next step!

I couldn't recommend this book more highly.
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on 8 August 2014
If you've become disillusioned by the corporate led politicians that promise so much and deliver so little in our interest, then you've got to read this book. It describes, in a succinct way, the psyche of modern politicians, what must be done to correct our democracies and gives real life examples of some of the ideas proposed in these brilliant 116 pages.
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on 12 June 2014
Complaining about politicians failing our expectations has become a kind of cross-national sport, but as Arriaga skillfully explains, our dissatisfaction has endemic, theoretical roots.
Step by step, with a clear prose and a hint of irony, Rebooting Democracy takes the reader on a journey from discontent to a - grounded - hope.
Does the word democracy still has meaning? Yes it does, but structural reforms are much needed.
Take a break from discouragement. This essay is the right antidote to frustration.
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on 22 August 2014
I loved this book. It's the perfect answer to dichotomy of, on the one hand, the skepticism we feel when encouraged to embrace the current political system, and on the other, to the hopelessness that conspiracy theories engender. Arriaga has a firm understanding of where and how our systems are broken, and, more importantly, some wonderful suggestions, with evidence as to their implementability. The book is concise and the writing is witty and astute; it's an absolute pleasure to read.

Reading this book is like tasting a delicious, juicy peach for the first time, after a many months without any fresh produce, while learning that it's also good for your health. I share it with friends will refer to it often.
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on 10 May 2016
According to Winston Churchill; “Democracy is the worst form of government….except all the others”- and the first part of this book pretty much explains why. But the phenomenon that is Donald Trump has made a lot of people think that the world’s greatest liberal democratic system is well past its sell-by date and ironically, its economic nemesis is a barely reformed China. So now is a very good time to think about “re-booting” and what that might look like.

But is it a good read? One of the early adopters of the book was the anarchic Russel Brand, which presumably generated some useful publicity but suggests to a prospective reader that it will be puerile and impractical. This does Arriaga a disservice. He’s a published academic and he manages to make the book personal and passionate enough to keep things lively but avoids polemic nonsense. On the contrary, the second half of the book comprises a series of case studies that suggest how some fairly radical surgery can be applied to democracy in real-world situations. So, whilst this book isn’t for everybody, if you’re scratching your head and wondering how Donald Trump became a serious US presidential candidate, this could be both instructive and enjoyable.
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on 7 February 2015
Excellent. Highly recommend that everyone reads this one: it's very short (little more than a pamphlet really) but has some specific, powerful ideas about how we could improve the functioning of our democracy.

The biggest/most radical idea is for the use of 'deliberative citizens panels'. Essentially, a group of people is selected at random (like jury service) and tasked with scrutinising policy proposals. They're paid for their time, and they're given access to all the expert opinion and support that they want. They set their own agenda and in due course they reach a decision backed by a majority (or perhaps a 60% supermajority) and publish their findings. The press are obliged to prominently report these findings, and if there is criticism of them, the panel has a right to reply.

The idea is that such panels could, perhaps, replace the House of Lords, or could perhaps be convened to discuss particular, big, longterm issues (say, energy policy). There could then be a referendum on accepting or rejecting their findings as government policy.

Arriaga tries to keep focused purely on the functioning of democracy, without getting into politics - so I think this is a good read whether you're on the right or the left.
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