Building a Global Network of Mayors from the Ground Up

The latest release on the front page of TED is a talk by Benjamin Barber: Why mayors should rule the world. He describes an all-too familiar world without borders, of corporations without borders, of terrorism without borders, of doctors without borders, and shows how the modern nation state is failing to represent its constituents as our interdependencies become increasingly more global.

The solution, according to Mr. Barber, is to build a global network of mayors in order to connect a world without borders, starting from the ground up. Apart from the fact that many cities around the world are currently working together to solve environmental, economic, and security issues, organizations such as United Cities and Local Governments are working to support democratic local self-governance within the wider international community.

At first I was overjoyed to find a solution to the central issues of both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party, by usurping the authority of both mega corporations and mega governments with a hyper local solution whose power rests in the hands of the people. It wasn’t until I read the reviews that I remembered the political challenges to such a solution, being that the vast majority of us are divided along political lines such that local issues can hardly compete for our attention.

Dismayed by the responses, I went back to reading Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, my current go-to for challenging my latent Liberal leanings. In one of the chapters about government financing I discovered a point of similarity to the TED talk which describes a mayors connection to the “invisible consequences” which many economists and most politicians often overlook. The point is that when you walk around town and live with those whom you represent, you’re more likely to experience the complexity and understand the real world consequences of your decision.

This of course is not the case when politicians are primarily interested in power. Once again, local issues can hardly compete for our representative’s attention when the prospect of political gain is within reach. It would seem that any gap between elected officials and their constituents provides the opportunity for corruption, which is why it’s important to highlight the necessity of self-governance as in the mission statement of the UCLG, in order to ensure that our voices are heard both locally and around the world.

To take a step back and see the opportunity that a global network of mayors affords is to realize a new definition of what it means to be an Independent. More importantly, it provides us with a framework on which to build, one that we need not demand from our Representatives, but can discuss with our mayors and the members of city council. As Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”


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