Food for thought: ‘small d’ democracy

Found an article (“Democracy from the ground up“, which is actually an extract from a book by historian/political economist/activist Gar Alperovitz) that includes some very thought provoking points/reminders, a few snippets of which I wanted to share:

“Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam suggested that a decline in associational activity, in turn, had produced a decline in trust and ‘social capital’ foundational requirements of democracy in general. His response was straightforward: the nation should develop as many ways as possible to encourage local involvement the only way, he held, Americans could hope to renew the basis of democracy throughout the larger system.” […]

“In his study, Democracy’s Discontent, [Michael] Sandel holds that it is important to recover the meaning of the ‘republican tradition’ in American political life — a tradition that ‘taught that to be free is to share in governing a political community that controls its own fate. Self-government . . . requires political communities that control their destinies, and citizens who identify sufficiently with those communities to think and act with a view to the common good’.” […]

“City Limits, an aptly titled study by Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, demonstrates that as a result of the underlying relationships, policy choices are often ‘limited to those few which can plausibly be shown to be conducive to the community’s economic prosperity’. Partly this is because business owners have more money, hence usually more political influence. But quite apart from such considerations, local political leaders feel they must promote economic development, and they accordingly feel they need the help of the business community.” […]

“Commonly, too, the thrust of decisions favorable to business groups radically constrains all other choices. The use of scarce resources to develop downtown areas, and especially to attract or retain major corporations, inevitably absorbs funds that might alternatively be used to help low- and moderate-income neighborhood housing, schools, and community services.”