The Vermont Papers: Recreating Democracy on a Human Scale
The Vermont Papers proposes a radical change in government. The authors are passionate advocates of such basic American values as self-reliance, tolerance, community aid, diversity, and liberty. Their subject is the plight of democracy in America. They argue that Vermont can show the rest of the nation how to govern itself democratically in the next century. Bypassed by the industrial revolution, Vermont is poised to leap into the 21st century. With its tradition of strong, local town government buttressed by the growth of information technology, Vermont is ready to make a breakthrough toward a postmodern, human-scale democracy. Bryan and McClaughry propose a system of government through bio-regionally based shires that will become new and vital little republics. Power will devolve from the state to the shires, with each shire small enough to be known, governed, and loved by each one of its citizens. The state's responsibilities will focus, instead, on such issues as air and water pollution, civil rights and liberties, and relations with other states and nations. The authors give detailed, specific recommendations, and show clearly how the new democracy will work.
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Independent Publisher- Here's a quick checklist of the heroes and villains invoked in The Vermont Papers. Good guys: The People, cussed hardscrabble liberal Vermonters; direct democracy; town meetings; and the "George Washington of Vermont ... the boozing, brawling, blasphemous giant," Ethan Allen. The Bad Guys: elites; technocrats; centralism; almost all state-wide standards; many environmentalists; the education lobby that has killed small schools; and all "systems manipulators" who, by statute and bureaucracy, exercise a feudal power over the Green mountains of Vermont. The People yes! say the authors Frank Bryan and John McClaughry. Though they excuse themselves from liberal and conservative labels, they are populists throughout, from the book's dedication to Ethan Allen, to the back cover flap showing Bryan in his John Deere cap and McClaughry in a Farm Bureau chapeau. What Brookings Institute fellow, what Heritage Foundation pundit would be pictured in a feed cap? Bryan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Vermont, has been gathering data on town meetings (that forum of pure democracy) for the last ten years; McClaughry was a senior policy advisor in the Reagan White House and, more importantly, has been a townmeeting moderator for twenty-two years. Both have ridden the roller coaster of public discussion many times and still they say let the people with the mud on their boots decide everything. If Bryan and McClaughry have their way, Vermont, as we know it, will cease to exist. This book is an earnest, detailed blueprint to transform Vermont, shrinking the state government by three-quarters and returning power to the towns and a new entity, the shire (an area somewhat smaller than a county). Vermont would, in the Swiss manner, become a federation of autonomous cantons, here not working with Swiss precision but rather a "healthy chaos" of cantankerous Yankee republics. Back to the towns and shires go welfare, education, the lower courts, roads, and much taxation. In a reversal of the usual order, all unspecified powers are reserved by the town and shire, not the state. The state looks after civil rights and the environment (but no prissy ordinances against leaving a junk car or three in the dooryard); runs a supreme court; and administers all sundry financial matters. This shrunken state government is Ereed up to lobby the Federal government and play a world role (through die Office of Global Involvement). "Our reform abandons the way of government currently in favor: education by mega-standards, welfare by mailbox, police protection by radio, and health care by stranger," say the authors. If the roads and schools vary from shire to shire, then that is the price of democracy. The bulk of the book is taken up with the intricate details of this new goverturient, including everything from creating heraldry and pageants for the shire to a ten-point program for agriculture and a timetable for a Vermont constitutional convention to set their plan in motion.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.