"By the People" recap: a little summary, and I almost lose it
Posted on November 14th, 2007 by Craig Newmark
The deal is the The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, a PBS show, organized a kind of citizens' assembly in Colonial Williamsburg.
They did a really good job getting a lot of different kinds of people, folks I would never have the chance to meet and talk things over. I spent a fair amount of time talking about shared values with an imam and a coupla ministers from different groups. For example, I learned that it's not so much an excess of stuff is problematic, it's the abuse of materialism is considered questionable, that is, when someone values material possessions over human values.
After subgroups met, they got together to present some conclusions, with remarkable consensus. For example, people felt that there needed to be a much better balance of personal responsbility and the free market versus governmental action. My take on the subject is that shared values include the notions that we should all give the other person a break, and that the market usually does a good job of that. However, there are times when the market fails, like in health care, and that's when public action, via government, is required. On the other hand, whenever you concentrate money and power, you get people capable of doing a "heckuva job", people who are basically screwups and/or crooks.
The core events of this convocation were at the original Virginia House of Burgesses, which is pretty much where the Bill of Rights was written. For those of you old enough to remember it, the Bill is what used to guarantee some basic rights, until rule of law was overturned recently in this country.
The guys who passed this stuff risked their necks, literally, and that led me to mention the blogger from Myanmar, Dawn, whose disappearance I documented earlier in this blog. A few folks noticed that I got emotional, and also referred to the House as sacred space, which I believe deeply but rarely mention this kind of thing.