Mario Monti is working through Italy's debt crisis. Is the US watching?
Italy may find Prime Minister Mario Monti's dose of discipline hard to swallow, but his depoliticized democracy is the only form of government that can move Italy forward. Monti's experiment may also serve as an antidote to the political dysfunction in the West – especially the US.
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In none of these instances is anyone suggesting doing away with one-person, one-vote democracy and transferring popular sovereignty to a meritocratic elite, as is the case, for example, with the demonstrably competent Communist Party mandarinate in China. In every case, the ultimate say still resides with the voting public.Skip to next paragraph
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But in each case the “vetocracy” aspect is stripped out of policymaking. Instead of only pulling the lever out of narrow self-interest or being called upon to sift through the spin of special interests at election time, the public would be able to decide on considered policies proposed to them by bodies entrusted to take into account the long-term common interest.
The current travails of governance in the West suggest that an evolution of democracy is necessary in which institutions with meritocratic elements are established as a way to counterbalance the short-term, special-interest political culture of electoral democracy.
Meritocratic institutions with delegated authority, after all, are not foreign to democracies. We have independent central banks, higher courts, and powerful regulatory bodies in areas ranging from food and drugs to the environment and health.
Even in California’s radical democracy, key powers have been granted to commissions appointed by the governor that regulate development along the coast, oversee the state’s energy and water supply, and administer the University of California. All are accountable to the public because they are appointed by democratically elected officials, yet they are all insulated from the electoral process itself.
Italy’s experiment with depoliticized democracy will be closely watched as an antidote to the paralysis and dysfunction that afflicts the West today. If political decay can yield to good governance in Italy, everyone will benefit from the path blazed by Mario Monti.
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