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Book Review: If Mayors Ruled the World
Different places all over the world are experiencing an increase in the number of the common problems that plague the society. Most of these problems circle around terrorism, drug and gun trafficking and increased poverty levels among the citizens. For a long time, the democratic federal governments have been seen as having the ability to deal with these issues but the trust bestowed upon them is slowly weaning. This book provides a perceived better solution to the increased problems since the traditional structures in the federal governments have failed in their mandate. Barber argues that the cities and the mayors who are in control of operations within the cities are better placed to deal with the wide range of issues in the communities. The mayors and by extension the cities possess certain characteristics such as civil trust and participation, innovation and lack of influence by sovereignty; features that make them better placed compared to the nations to deal with the problems.
Through a book that appears to be addressed to political leaders especially in cities, Barber looks at the problems that the modern world is faced with and the inabilities that the federal governments have shown in dealing with the problems. The author delves into comparing how the two entities, governments, and cities operate. The former is characterized by bureaucracies that determine what is done and the policies that are adopted. The nations are obsessed with issues of sovereignty and boundaries coupled with jurisdictions of different players. The players in the nations are also subject to a number of factors that curtail the efficiency in providing solutions to the society.
Barber goes on to brand the cities and their mayors as the only hope to rescue the democratic setup and the problems that are arising in the society. He shows the characteristics that make the cities and mayors to be better placed to manage the society by noting aspects such as the mode of governance in the cities. Barber then quotes a number of case studies of cities and mayors all over the world who have portrayed the said ability of dealing with societal issues and problems. He goes on to provide a set of policies and suggestions that if applied can bring a positive change to the nature of societal approach to governance and decision-making.
Barbers major argument is the advantage that cities and mayors who run them hold compared to nations and the various governmental structures of governance. To him, the cities have a number of factors that predispose them to being better placed to provide better governance to the people. These are issues that are very practical and evidence-based. First is the issue of cities housing majority of the citizens now and in the future. The cities are also a representation of the sociocultural and political scene that helps in the building up of the society. Another factor that places the cities at a position of advantage is the freedom from issues of sovereignty and borders that the nations have to deal with.
The mayors on the other hand also possess certain factors that make them hope for better governance in the society when compared to the national political leaders. Their kind of governance is characterized by being inclusive and pragmatic which are essential for proper governance. Through their governance, the cities are able to cultivate a society that encourages voluntary partnerships that in turn give chance for different urban players to share best practices. Through this, city leaders are able to find common and effective ways of dealing with societal problems. This kind of networking processed by cities and their players has a positive impact on the nature of governance.
Barber through his writing makes a suggestion of how global governance can be effectively achieved through the cities and its mayors. He calls for the establishment of a parliament of mayors whose membership would be voluntary in nature. The body would be accorded with an increased say in global policies and drafting solutions to global problems. This would also form a platform upon which world leaders would share knowledge, wisdom, and best practices when it comes to governance. This can be actively used in dealing with the current problems that face the running the metropolitan cities in the country. These situations provide a unique set of problems since the urban leaders in this situation have to deal with people of different cultures, beliefs and ideologies. Through the adoption of Barber’s recommendations and examples, the leaders have the opportunity to learn from others about what works best in the urban setup. The world can also generally set up policies that will go a long way in drafting solutions for global problems such as the environment that need cooperation from players all over the universe.
Barber, B. (2013). If mayors ruled the world. Why cities can and should govern globally and how they already do.
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