Vital Signs

The Town Meeting

When America was closer to her democratic roots, citizens held town meetings to discuss problems and vote on policies. I was born too late to participate in any of those meetings myself, but the idea of getting together with other concerned citizens to discuss important issues has a nostalgic appeal for me. Consequently, I jumped at the chance to attend a meeting of townspeople to discuss "what we would like the next President to do about the economy."

The meeting was unforgettable, but what I got out of it was not a list of actions the President might take to rescue the economy, but rather insight into why the economy is in need of rescue in the first place. The meeting began with a discussion of the symptoms of our sick economy—the unemployed, the homeless, the trade and budget deficits, decay of our infrastructure, the number of people on welfare, on Food Stamps, or without adequate medical care, the fact that young people can't afford to buy a house, even with two incomes, and so on. The people spoke with great eloquence. After about an hour, they moved on to their ideas of how to fix the problems.

At this point, the mood of the meeting changed. The anger at the state of things turned into the excitement of a crusade. Faces glowed and voices filled with fervor as citizens described their pet ideas on what should be done. I was dumbstruck. I had expected this part of the meeting to be a discussion...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here