More Rebooting America Quotes
By Arnold Kling
In general, the writers are better at diagnosis than prescription.I like Jan Frel and Nicco Mele:
It is not easy to watch the American media culture (from progressive to hard right) being totally sold on the idea of one president for 300 million people, as though the presidency is still fit to human scale. The only issue at hand seems to be which individual is best suited for this task.
First, people can, with relatively moderate and manageable levels of effort, come together to act effectively on problems that they could not tackle in the past. Second, people can and do work cooperatively together, needing neither markets nor hierarchies, governmental or otherwise, to organize them.
Voting developed as a process to support self-governance in American history, and at its inception in the 18th century it was new and innovative. In the town halls of New England, citizens gathered together, debated, and decided among themselves those who would hold leadership positions in the community. The method has not scaled to address the wicked problems we as a country and world face. Wicked problems are incomplete, contradictory and have changing requirements; and solutions to them are often difficult to recognize because of their complex interdependencies—solutions may reveal or create more wicked problems. Economic, environmental, social, and political issues are wicked problems.
Most change in communities occurs through small pockets of activity that emerge and take root over time. These pockets result from individuals, small groups, or an organization seeing an opportunity for change. Seldom are such pockets orchestrated through a top-down strategic plan; instead, they happen when people and groups in communities start to engage and interact, and when they create a sense of what I call authentic hope.
If I was in charge of reshaping our democratic system, the first thing I would do is make it more ad hoc. People should not have to be involved in the process for years on end to make a difference in politics and governance. I would encourage fewer leadership positions and design support staff, committees and offices to be flexible enough to support the leaders of the moment.
I would focus on providing stability through redundancy rather than through perfection. Our governmental system is designed to identify one right leader at a time, one person who will stay in power for years at a time, solving our problems for us. People have moments of greatness; they are just not great most of the time. We are living in a time that allows for large networks of people to work together to solve problems, where we can all lead when our gifts and expertise are needed most.
Government should mimic what is going on in the non-profit and advocacy worlds. New leaders and new activities are springing up to address specific concerns but then dissipating again. We saw this with the groundswell of support for Amber Alerts and the movement for a Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. The more we remove barriers to entry into the political leadership process the more innovation and experimentation we will see.
Beth Simon Noveck:
Our representative institutions of democracy create “single points of failure,” the concentration of power in the hands of too few, whether legislators in Congress, bureaucrats in the administrative agencies or cabinet officials in the executive branch. The insider-dealing and money-politics that have been the hallmark of the Bush administration exacerbate mounting illegitimacy and distrust of government. And with the complexity of our global economic and environmental crises, the strain on our institutions becomes increasingly manifest. Even in the absence of bad intentions and overt corruption, our political professionals are not in possession of the best information or expertise to make decisions in the public interest.
David B. Smith:
Over the past couple of centuries, it seems as though the people have abdicated power to our local, state, and federal decision making bodies. Individuals have grown more and more powerless by allowing ourselves to get pushed to the outside of the political process. We have relied upon our elected officials to identify the problems they want to fix. They have sold us on these issues, informed us about how they plan to solve them, and then gone about doing all of this with very limited input from us, the citizenry.
The first Congress had a House of 65 members representing 40,000 voters and three million citizens (they had a whopping 1.3% voter turnout back then). That’s a representative for around every 600 voters or 46,000 citizens…
Today, by contrast, we have 435 representatives and 300 million citizens—one for roughly every 700,000 citizens…Instead of a group to represent, it’s a mob to be managed.
He points to a concept called Parpolity, which deserves a separate post.
The Founders would have created protections against concentrated corporate power taking over the building blocks of democracy. They would have limited all corporate political speech and corporate lobbying, and constitutionally limited direct or indirect corporate funding of campaigns.
If you’ve read this far, note that I am not necessarily agreeing with everything I quote. In fact, the one just given, coming from a visiting law professor at Duke, is a real jaw-dropper.