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5.0 out of 5 stars Should be compulsory reading for all politicians & bureaucrats... from local to global, 22 July 2007
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This review is from: Good and Bad Power: The Ideals and Betrayals of Government (Hardcover)
This amazing manual should be read and used by anyone wanting to see the true meaning of democracy reapplied to governance at whatever level, especially if direct action or even anarchy are not to emerge from increasing frustration amongst ordinary citizens over their apparent inability to influence matters of concern in their day-to-day lives... beyond being allowed to vote once every 4 or 5 years.

Over the last 20 years, I have become increasingly concerned by the continual reduction of local democracy in local government, largely due to more and more centralisation and the inability of local councillors to do very much about local needs. That concern was focused by the lack of candidates willing to stand in the local elections in May. For example, and one similar to a point made by Geoff Mulgan, in our district council area, there are 3 town councils and 31 parish councils, the level that the political classes refer to as being `closest to the citizen'. Only 2 town councils and 3 parish councils needed to hold elections on 3 May as none of the others had sufficient candidates to fill their council numbers and appeals for others to stand forward are still being made in the local press.

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), I decided to take the opportunity offered by the 2007 series of RSA Coffee House Challenges to organise seminars to discuss the situation and assess possible solutions. The RSA, established in 1754, has a long history of achieving successful solutions to a range of social, educational and commercial problems. It benefits from a Fellowship of over 26,000 drawn from a considerable breadth of disciplines, illustrated by the Society's full title of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce.

The RSA Coffee House Challenges (CHCs) are local events organised by local Fellows to examine and seek solutions to local needs, based on the original 18th century chattings in the coffee houses of the day amongst interested people from a variety of backgrounds. The series in Shropshire were entitled PUTTING THE `CO' BACK IN `OPERATION' and attracted a good breadth of viewpoints, including a Fellow who has worked on the redevelopment of democracy in ex-USSR countries for some 15 years.

It soon became obvious that any change in local democracy was going to have to achieve a sizeable redirection of national operations based on improving the participation of individual citizens, again a central concern for Geoff Mulgan. The basis for such a possibility was put forward under the identity of `Effectocracy' (from the Latin effectus... `doing, effect, execution, performance, result'), a proposal that is now being examined in a second round of CHCs.

And then I saw a brief comment on GOOD AND BAD POWER, leading me to devour it from cover to cover as a fascinating and stimulating contribution to my holiday reading. It helped lighten Ian Rankin's increasing darkness!

GOOD AND BAD POWER flows. It is superbly written, researched and presented. It is a page-turner, full of enlightening background, relevant examples and common sense, building stage by stage to the final summary of the overall proposal. It appears to have no political bias and seems to concur with most of what we are proposing under `Effectocracy'... which does bias me towards Geoff Mulgan's conclusions. Even so, he feels that political parties are necessary to good governance, whereas our general belief is that the `do-as-you-are-told' Whip system leaves little room for improving the ability of individual elected representatives to actually plead the main wishes of their constituents.

Above all, this guide and proposal is more than timely as we see increasing suggestions from a variety of sources that a change is needed if politics, politicians and government are to regain any semblance of credibility amongst those who the former are apparently serving, i.e. the citizens, taxpayers and voters (remember us???). If anyone is interested in info on `Effectocracy', please ask - <coinoperation@mac.com> - and you shall receive... and we are looking for a snappier term/title that can be more easily illustrated visually.
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