Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The New England Town Meeting

Today is Town Meeting Day. Some towns have changed the date, but traditionally it's the first Tuesday in March, or the second if the month happens to begin on a Tuesday.

The New England Town Meeting is the foundation of American democracy. Don't be confused by the 'town meetings' or 'town hall meetings' that politicians and political candidates sometimes hold. They are a different animal altogether.

Town Meeting is the annual meeting in which a town makes the majority of its government decisions. What's making this hard to explain is that many people confuse the terms 'democracy' and 'republic.' Most governments that are called democracies are actually republics. In a republic, the citizens elect the government, while in a democracy, the citizens are the government. The elected officials in a traditional New England town don't set policy; they are executives who carry out the decisions made by the people during Town Meeting.

I'm very grateful for having grown up in a New Hampshire town with a traditional Town Meeting, and I'm grateful to my parents for bringing me every year, even when I was small. It helped me understand concepts like democracy, self-government and how to be a responsible member of a group.

No comments:

Post a Comment