Nation: American Scene: Participatory Democracy

AT mud time in New England—a kind of fifth season between winter and spring—residents in scores of towns still assemble for one of American democracy's oldest rites: the town meeting. The tradition is as old as the colonies and, some say, retains about as much relevance as a ducking stool. As population increases and modern municipal problems intrude, many Yankee communities find that they need the expertise and steady ministration of professionals. Yet in smaller towns the annual caucus survives as a functional exercise in participatory democracy.

In mud time 1970, 120 of the...

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