Nationally, we are utterly incapable of collaboration, compromise or making any progress on solving problems. Yet in cities big and small, where most people live and work, the ability of residents and officials to solve problems has not abated and may actually have picked up.
In 2015, popular government seems to be receding globally. With the qualified exception of Tunisia, the Arab Spring did not transform dictatorships into democracies, and democratic governments seem unable to find consensus solutions to many pressing policy questions.
The world is more complicated. The knots are somehow knottier. Bringing in a council of concerned citizens to patiently untie the Gordian knot of politics may take longer. But, in the end, consent is mightier than the sword.
Citizens, for their part, grow cynical and angry and learn nothing from poorly designed, empty-gesture or cynically rigged public participation exercises. As a consequence, the spiral of mistrust, gridlock and political dysfunction deepens.
This is an encouraging sign as it shows Italy's ability to face its crisis not just by falling back on technocracies or populism, but by injecting new meaning in institutions citizens had progressively lost their trust in.
In just two hours, about half of the diverse table groups that took part in the America Speaks National Town Meeting were able to find enough common ground to reduce the deficit in 2025 by $1.2 trillion.
Matt Leighninger of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium has written "Creating Spaces for Change: Working Toward A 'Story of Now' In Civic Engagement" focusing on community organizing and deliberative democracy.
It was distressing that many progressive intellectuals leveled withering scorn at the event AmericaSpeaks held this Saturday, simply because they viewed it as a vast right-wing conspiracy to manufacture public consent to slash public programs.
Most concerned citizens are frustrated that they can't seem to make their voices heard by elected officials. But is that really true? Or is there a way to radically amplify public voice -- and build a powerful lobby of informed active citizens?