Startup Democracy

New Yorkers express their concerns to the incoming Mayor Bill dd Blasio. A listening project sponsored by the Open Society Foundations.

Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, is spreading in various US cities and states. Can it improve democracy?

Vida Urbana / City Life in Boston fights for economic justice

A Robin Hood in Boston?

Vida Urbana works on economic justice, especially fighting foreclosures.

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Check out their cool video, “The Bank Attack”

Viva Teachers:  Bringing teachers’ voices into education policy.

Viva Teachers:  Bringing teachers’ voices into education policy.

A deliberative democracy tool, designed to encourage input from citizens on the government’s legislative agenda. This web-based platform allows ordinary citizens to propose policy solutions to problems including fighting corruption. Within 3 weeks, 1,800 registered users posted nearly 6,000 ideas and comments. Parliament has since set a timetable for the most popular proposals to be introduced in the formal proceedings.

Ben Sachs: New Unions for Political Quality



Public policy in the United States is disproportionately responsive to the wealthy, and the traditional response to this problem, campaign finance regulation, has failed. As students of politics have long recognized, however, political influence flows not only from wealth but also from organization, a form of political power open to all income groups. Accordingly, as this Essay argues, a promising alternative to campaign finance regulations is legal interventions designed to facilitate political organizing by the poor and middle class. To date, the most important legal intervention of this kind has been labor law, and the labor union has been the central vehicle for this type of organizing. But the labor union as a political-organizational vehicle suffers a fundamental flaw: unions bundle political organization with collective bargaining, a highly contested form of economic organization. As a result, opposition to collective bargaining impedes unions’ ability to serve as a political-organizing vehicle for lower- and middle-income groups.

This Essay proposes that labor law unbundle the union, allowing employees to organize politically through the union form without also organizing economically for collective bargaining purposes. Doing so would have the immediate effect of liberating political-organizational efforts from the constraints of collective bargaining, an outcome that could mitigate representational inequality. The Essay identifies the legal reforms that would be necessary to enable such unbundled “political unions” to succeed. It concludes by looking beyond the union context and suggesting a broader regime of reforms aimed at facilitating political organizing by those income groups for whom representational inequality is now a problem.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 60

Keywords: labor law, union, labor, politics, collective bargaining, political equality, equality, campaign finance, campaign finance reform, political organizing, organizing, law and social change, social change, social movement, community

JEL Classification: J50, J51, J53, J58, J59

Accepted Paper Series

From the G20 to the G1000 - participation in Europe

Participatory democracy in Europe, from the G20 to the G1000.