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Including rational thought in decision-making: novel idea?

The post last week brought up the idea that we need to think about what concepts and ideas are put forward in the public realm. From pop music to sports to local community events, our approach to decision-making is influenced by commonly understood cultural practices. Meaningful democratic decision-making requires that we think about the practices, ideas, and values that percolate throughout society. More specifically, when it comes to engaging a group of people to get together and go through a democratic decision-making process, practitioners need to think about how participants are being, or have been, educated. By definition, democratic decision-making is not limited to specialists. "Rule by the people" means everyone gets to participate in decision-making, even about issues where we are not experts. This does not mean, however, that democratic decision-making should be approached from a place of ignorance.  Robert Dahl  emphasized the importance of  enlight

Running for office: no experience necessary

There are moments when I hear people question the qualifications and experience of those who are running for, or hold, positions in office. Shouldn't there be some minimum, established, standard or criteria for holding a public position of power? Some minimum level of education? The short answer is no. If we start looking to impose minimum standards or benchmarks other than: 1) residency, 2) adulthood* we've missed the whole point of democracy, and a critical part of what democracy means. A fundamental democratic principle is equality of voice, or equality of voting. Every person has decision-making power. This principle is based on the concept that not a single one of us is more qualified, or has any right, to impose decision-making or power over others, any more than they also have a right to impose decision-making or power over us. By contrast, in other spheres of life, we want trained experts to hold some degree of decision-making power. For example, Doctors should pr

Democracy doesn't mean you get your way - Part 1

Open Houses and Public Hearings:  Public Deliberation, not Delegated Decision-Making Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, showing up at an open house or public hearing does not mean you get to veto issues that are going forward to council. Quite often, participants in municipal consultation events are frustrated and disheartened that their feedback does not lead to obvious and explicit policy change. "But I live in the neighbourhood! I should be able to say what gets built, and what doesn't!" These sentiments are common, especially at the municipal level when rezoning applications are put forward, or communities are reviewing their Official Community Plans (OCP's) to accommodate new and different developments. Which begs the question - why bother holding open houses or public hearings at all? Making decisions democratically is not always straight forward. Once we get beyond foundational elements of a democratic society (rule of law, freedom