Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Would Rousseau approve?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a French philosopher who was perhaps most famous for his work on the social contract. This book outlines political order, and the memorable quote is the first line, 'Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains'. We are in chains because of political organisation. However in order to be free Rousseau believed that we had to participate in politics. To paraphrase his work, all you need for good government is participation and a chat under an oak tree.

The Morecambe Parish Council gives us a new level of participation. Rousseau would be pleased with Morecambe for doing this. However there is a strict agenda to parish councils. There are no 'matters arising' unless they are strictly regulated to prohibit any new information. There is no 'any other business' because the council. and more importantly the public, who have the right to be present at each meeting, do not want agenda items sprung on them. Rousseau would not be happy with this. He was 'anti-agenda', but overall I think that he would be pleased with what is happening in Morecambe.

The need for delay in agenda items reminded me of the maxim that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. I was told that three days notice are needed before an item could be discussed but meetings may be monthly or even less frequent. So a delay of one meeting may mean that it is held over for months This may be a wonderful defence of our democracy. It may be that the decision making process is quite slow.

One person raised a question about getting things on the agenda. The responsibility rests with the parish clerk. The questioner was concerned that some voices may not be heard but there is always this possibility in any organisation.

Change the world

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