Why We Need Amateurs to Run Our Democracy

The American democracy increasingly rests in the hands of professional politicians and special interest lobbies. In the age of the citizen scientist, we need a renaissance of the citizen citizen. 

What's the Latest Development?


In our era of big data, we celebrate the citizen scientist as someone who harnesses amateur tools to contribute to a professional field, but what about the citizen citizen? Our democracy has become too controlled by professional politicians and special interest groups, says Eric Liu, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. "When self-government is dominated by professionals representing various interests, a vicious cycle of citizen detachment ensues," said Liu. "Regular people come to treat civic problems as something outside themselves, something done to them, rather than something they have a hand in making and could have a hand in unmaking."

What's the Big Idea?

How can we restore the democratic element to our democracy? First, says Liu, we must admit that the American consumer muscle is grotesquely large and its citizen muscle has atrophied. Voting as consumers means politicians sell us self-interest at the expense of communities: "lower taxes, more spending, special rules for every subgroup". Next, governments should take a lesson from inspirational grants like the X Prize that tap our collective smarts, focusing on what needs done and letting citizens decide how to do it. Finally, more platforms are needed where citizen citizens can actively serve. We have Teach for America, so how about Code, Write, Design and Build for America?

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less