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The Peril and Promise of Local Politics
February 27, 2021 at 11:00 am - 2:00 pm EST
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In this salon, fellow Interintellect Daniel Golliher will consider local politics, its prestige deficit, its aesthetic failings, and its hurdles to engagement; he and attendees will discuss why these things arise, but–more interestingly–how they might disappear.
When you think of local politics, you likely think of blank-faced people sitting in metal foldout chairs in some dilapidated civic hall or church basement. In terms of aesthetics and tone, and often actual location, you’d be correct.
Local politics, and one of its subsets, local government, have massive problems. A nontrivial one is simply that the institutions and processes of both are aesthetically ugly, or perceived as such. As a result, people with the time, capital, and resources invest them outside the local public squares. They put them in their own bank accounts (or crypto wallets), their own portfolios, their own mobility.
And if your investment options are yourself or the entity behind a government website that offers to sell you city documents on compact disc, I strongly suggest you go with yourself.
But then here comes the big question: how do you change local politics? How do you make it, as an institution, beautiful and alluring? Can it even be done? Has it been done before?
Put another way: you can moralize at people for failing to engage locally (the stick), or you can clear hurdles and do some intellectual landscaping ahead of issuing a spirited rallying cry to them (a carrot).
If you don’t consider these questions, you can rest assured that others won’t either, and the balance of local institutions that most directly affect our quality of life will keep swirling the drain.
But the future is built by people, including the people reading this.
Good to read pre-Salon:
- Politics versus government, an essay of definitions
- What’s the problem with local government?
- A selection from Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities