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Community of 7,000 [†]

Individuals have no effective voice in any community of more than 5,000 to 10,000 persons.

People can only have a genuine effect on local government when the units of local government are autonomous, self-governing, self-budgeting communities which are small enough to create the possibilty of an immediate link between the man in the street and his local officials and elected representatives.

This is an old idea. It was the model for Athenian democracy in the third and fourth centuries B.C.; it was Jefferson's plan for American democracy; it was the tack Confucius took in his book on government, The Great Digest.

For these people, the practice of exercising power over local matters was itself an experience of intrinsic satisfaction. Sophocles wrote that life would be unbearable if it were not for the freedom to initiate action in a small community. And it was considered that not only was this experience good in itself, but was the only way of government that would not lead to corruption. Jefferson wanted to spread out the power not because “the people” were so bright and clever, but precisely because they were prone to error, and it was therefore dangerous to vest power in the hands of a few who inevitably would make big mistakes. “Break the country into wards” was his campaign slogan, so that the mistakes will be manageable and people will get practice and improve.

† Alexander, Christopher, et. al., A Pattern Language: Towns • Buildings • Construction, New York, Oxford University Press, 1977.

Based on projected 2025 population counts from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission [‡] we identified 34 boroughs across 8 counties with 5,000 to 10,000 residents.

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