What Would Thomas Jefferson Make Of e-Democracy?
The movement to harness technology to democratize American democracy is gaining traction. Is that a good thing?
During the heated presidential campaign of 2008, the CNN/YouTube debate proved so popular that eventual president Barack Obama held Open for Questions, an interactive program in which citizens submitted questions for the president via YouTube. Almost 93,000 people submitted just south of 104,000 questions, resulting in over 3 million votes to decide which questions most warranted a presidential response, which the president submitted March 26 in the first-ever online town hall from the White House.
Now, the Fraser Institute, an independent research organization in Canada, is conducting a first-of-its-kind essay competition to decide what they will study. Entitled the Essay Contest for Excellence in the Pursuit of Measurement, the competition has already solicited entries from as far as India and China and will award $10,000 to the winner. “The idea is to get people’s opinions about what they think is important to measure that would have an influence on public policy,” says Raaj Tiagi, a senior economist who came to the Fraser Institute from California. “People can submit essays, but you can also provide a link to something on YouTube.”
YouTube is a vital component in the new democracy movement, which isn’t lost on its parent company, Google. A big part of YouTube’s active role in this interaction was the establishment of YouTube Nonprofit Program. Working with charities and non-profits the same way they would with corporate partners, YouTube recently launched their new “Call to Action” feature, allowing non-profits to use innovative videos as a direct link to fundraising and mobilization efforts. Their first Call to Action partner, Charity:Water, launched their video on World Water Day and managed to raise $10,000 in one day to build wells in the Central African Republic.
Even before Call to Action, groups like Avaaz and 24 Hours for Darfur used YouTube while even Haagan Dazs released a video on YouTube to inform people about honeybee colony collapse. With the White House already looking to the web, everyday people could soon have a greater hand in public policy. “I think the Call to Action feature in the future will be interesting because we’ll see more non profits gathering petitions for a cause to send to congress,” says YouTube’s Nonprofit and Activism manager Ramya Raghavan, who points out some interesting YouTube precedents.
“One example is called In My Name. We got hundreds of people to make videos about what they wanted their leaders to do to end poverty. They were played in the UN for a few months for world leaders. In January, we ran our second Davos Question, a program that had people submit questions to ask world leaders in Davos [at the World Economic Forum]. One of our goals is to provide access and information to citizens who might otherwise not have it.”
Could this be the long-awaited solution to economic inequality?
Under capitalism, the argument goes, it's every man for himself. Through the relentless pursuit of self-interest, everyone benefits, as if an invisible hand were guiding each of us toward the common good. Everyone should accordingly try to get as much as they can, not only for their goods but also for their labour. Whatever the market price is is, in turn, what the buyer should pay. Just like the idea that there should be a minimum wage, the idea that there should be a maximum wage seems to undermine the very freedom that the free market is supposed to guarantee.
Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.
- According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
- Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
- Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back
- In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
- Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
- The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points
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