The insight that modern democracy, its procedures and decision-making are rather short-term guided, is not new.
When Alexis de Tocqueville travelled through the United States of America in the first half of the 19th century, he made an honest effort to understand what American democracy was and how it worked. He thought American democracy – and democracy as he came to understand it in general – hardly able to deal with long-term issues and to work steadily and effectively for long-term goals. The short time until the next elections, its influence on the behaviour of the elected politicians, the fast changing emotions of the people, the many possibilities to manipulate them and the readiness among influential members of the society to do so for particular interests – all these were and still are good reasons for serious doubt in this matter.
Because of the enormous growth of our economical, technical and organizational possibilities to change the world’s outlook within a few years’ time and the racing speed of the development of our societies, the issue of shorttermism and ways to reform and develop our political decision-making institutionally in order to allow a sustainable, long-term shaping of our future have become more and more urgent. By now, they are crucial for our efforts to guide communities, countries and the whole world away from actual nofuture paths towards sustainable, long-term pathways of development.
The Future Council Foundation, founded in 1997, has since tried to initiate the creation of future councils to complement the work of governments and parliaments systematically and institutionally with a long-term dimension and to make it politically arguable and convincing. Within the last years quite a few institutions of that kind have been created – not very strong ones, but already quite tenacious. By creating the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and by establishing global sustainable development goals, within the United Nations a kind of a World Future Council is being created these months.
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