Testing Democracy

We are often told we must learn from history, and that we should learn from the experiences of others, but how often do we learn about forms of government from scientific experiments? MIT economist Benjamin Olken got the chance to run a field study on direct democracy in three Indonesian districts: one predominantly Muslim, one predominantly Christian, and one with a mixed population.
In fieldwork involving 49 Indonesian villages, Olken arranged to have major decisions on public-works projects in some settlements decided by plebiscite — in which all citizens get a vote — rather than by the traditional small councils of village leaders. Unexpectedly, the types of projects selected by majority vote were nearly identical to those picked by village elites; the voting public did not try to redistribute wealth to themselves. And yet when people were allowed to vote, they expressed greater contentment with the results than when decisions were simply handed down by the elites. The conclusion was that even if democracy doesn’t make a material difference in people’s lives, it creates greater civic cohesion.

Of course, this experiment only compared direct voting to village councils, in which the leaders are close to the citizens. Whether the results of this study can be extrapolated to a comparison with larger governments is unclear. Link -via Digg

(image credit: Benjamin A. Olken)

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Good luck with that.

1) The government wouldn't allow it.


2) Anyone who says "yes" is probably in prison, or will be for saying such.
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Sometimes it doesn't matter if one's voice is listened to as much as the fact that their voice has been heard. It’s all about having a choice on the issue. As a member of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, know that we will have our day... just you wait! For Cornelius!
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