Occupy and allied movements have uncovered the glaring truth, we the citizens of most nations have little or no power to reform the current Market State system that is wreaking such havoc on our economies, our communities and our ecosystems. Can we stop the blatant enclosure of the ways and means of production (Market) and governance (State) … and through occupying, reclaim our right to sustainable and just livelihoods through local decision-making and management?
Many know the game is rigged, and to change things will certainly require more effort than signing a MoveOn.org petition or attending a formulaic training. Politicians don’t like to quote this little gem from William Penn, “let the people think they rule, and they will be ruled”. Instead, politicians say hopeful things that mainly end up in quagmires of partisan politics and judicial preference for big business and limited private interests. How can we reclaim our sovereignty, and find new ways to balance government and business interests in service to the 99%?
Occupy reminds Government where sovereignty originates… with the people. The May 1st general Strike in support of the workers of the world is a major opportunity to claim our sovereignty. See what OWS is planning. The global impact could be bigger than anyone expects.
So here’s the challenge: we can’t fully reclaim sovereignty unless we begin to practice subsidiarity, ie making deliberative local decisions about precisely how we want to see things change. I was with Ben Price, Democracy School Instructor for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, on Oct 15, 2011 — CELDF is the group that helped Bolivians and Ecuadorans write their “Rights of Nature” legislation, and they’re helping many US towns with their Community Bill of Rights — I’ll never forget what Ben said when we marched with thousands of people that day… “these folks have the power right here and now to stomp into City Hall (we were in Pittsburgh), and start writing legislation that benefits the 99%.”
And here’s where subsidiary deliberative processes are so essential — and why the folks on the ground need to be backed up by the information commoners… the network-developers, bloggers and story-tellers among us — to distribute the ideas and develop means for feedback and input… AND inspire those on the fringes to attend more actions, GA’s and People’s Conventions/Congresses. This is key for local legislation and will become increasingly necessary as the various local movements cooperatively tackle national and global initiatives.
But legislative change alone is not enough! Can we leave our systems in this state of bi-polar — Market State — decision making? Aren’t Market State structures proven vulnerable to monetary corruption? So how can we grow a third sector strong enough to hold our sovereignty intact and lend our subsidiarity a consistent institutional voice that can develop to hold government and business, at any scale, in-check and accountable?
We know that true deliberative democracy must always be vetted locally with the utmost transparency to maintain integrity, even when it associates and cooperates across scales . This is the horizontalist spirit, what Occupy has modeled and nurtured from Day 1. The Occupy Movement continues to develop many tools for these horizontal processes. Two good tools proposed here can add to that cache:
Co-Governing Our Commons: Local to Global Decision-Making thru Public Deliberation (one page): This is a prioritized list of considerations for deliberative processes where 100% of the legitimate stakeholder perspectives are welcome to the debate, and the people together consider ways forward that might not be possible until the many options are explored and the best integrated collective decision-making emerges. The initial deliberation helps to create a design and framing from which new directions and solutions can emerge as the deliberation evolves.
2. Social Charters build on this exploration of many stakeholder perspectives via deliberation, helping to clarify where the role of government must evolve in support of the people in their local places, and where the limits of business must be set to ensure benefits, not liabilities, for communities. Social Charters formalize the people’s claim to sovereignty, emerging authentically in each locale to manage and protect what must not be left to the excesses of the Market State.
This comprehensive tool (three pages) describes the role of Social Charters to protect natural, social and cultural resources (from energy to information systems, education to healthcare, and so on…). Social Charters enable communities to claim the higher value of their resources beyond the simple-minded monetization and enclosure regimes of the neo-liberal model. Social Charters develop co-governance guidelines to preserve the natural and social capital of resources for current and future generations while making provisions for economic production in right-relationship to human and natural communities.