Democracy: A cure
In the last part, we discussed how today’s democracies have became controlled by the rich and powerful – and the “special interests”.
Today, let’s discuss how we just might be able to benefit from history’s lessons – and avoid the same potholes in the road – as we set out to create our own democracy.
Looking back at history, it seems that James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and the “Father of the Constitution” actually predicted – accurately – that democracy would lead to the powerful – via special interests – becoming even more powerful.
Because he recognized that “special interests” were ultimately a form of free speech, Madison knew that there was no simple way to forbid them.
He ultimately placed his greatest hope in the “delegation of government” to a group of citizens elected by the rest.
His words represent a very modern concept: delegation. The more specialized life gets, the more we delegate.
Delegation is how successful businesses are run. The shareholders of companies own the company, but they delegate the day-to-day management to people who can focus on it and are experts in the field.
Shareholders retain full control but understand that they cannot run the companies themselves.
Of course some executives will abuse the power given to them, but when they do, shareholders can remove them and often do.
In the opinion of many of America’s founders, delegation would produce better government, because it would be run by people interested and experienced in public affairs – yet still accountable to the people.
Above all, for Madison, it was a way to diminish the effect of narrow interests and short-term thinking – which is the problem we’re experiencing today.
Everywhere in our lives, delegation and specialization are increasing — but in politics it’s going in the opposite direction.
In the business world, if you try and argue that anyone can run a large company because experience doesn’t really matter, people would laugh you out of the room.
Say the same thing about government and you are viewed as weird.
Even though we cannot file our own tax returns, fix our own computers or dispense healthcare for ourselves, we have decided that we can create laws and run government for ourselves.
What we need in politics today is not more democracy but less.
By this I do not mean we should embrace dictators but rather that we should ask why certain institutions within our society- such as the Federal Reserve and the Supreme Court – over the years have generally functioned better than others such as legislatures.
As an example, let’s take a look at why it makes sense to shield the Federal Reserve decision-making from politics:
First, interest rates are a complicated subject that specialists are better equipped to handle than people that are not experts in the field.
Second, monetary policy takes a long time to take effect and so it requires patience and a steady hand.
And third, the pain of fighting inflation (which is higher unemployment) precedes the benefits (which is permanently lower costs of goods and lower interest rates).
Therefore, good policy cannot be governed by short-term considerations.
Thinking through that example, it’s not hard to conclude that the argument for the Fed’s independence applies just as persuasively to many other areas of government.
Many policy areas require specialized knowledge, skills and training — and decisions will have consequences that last quite a long time.
Some examples of such important policy areas are many of the topics that have been sucking up a lot of attention in the U.S. media lately — especially in the 2012 presidential election that just occurred.
Just think of health care, environmental policy, immigration or tax policy.
These are things that have been debated and turned into political footballs – with the public’s long-term interests becoming the clear victim of the politicization.
If those things were simply delegated to bodies of topic experts – much like monetary policy is delegated to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors – then surely it would result in smarter decisions and policies…
… a much healthier effect than the political stalemate and stagnation we’re realizing from the current approach that’s based on the idiotic assumption that we – the general public – are all experts in each of those specialized fields.
As we set out to develop our own new democracy, I would argue that perhaps we should look outside the United States for more helpful and relevant examples.
IE: Since we are a new and developing democracy, it would be more accurate to look to developing countries for hints.
In the developing countries, I’d argue that the need for delegation is even greater because the stakes are often higher.
Looking back over the last 50 years, it’s clear that dictators have not done better at policies than democrats – far from it.
But over that time period, almost every success story in the developing world has taken place under a liberal authoritarian regime.
Just think of South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile and of course China…
… their governments were able to make smart choices for the long term and were rewarded with strong economic growth and rising standards of living, life expectancy, literacy and education.
On the other hand, it is difficult to think of a Third World democracy that has achieved continuous growth rates like those of the countries listed above.
Countries that have gone down the path of democratic reform are quickly obstructed by the need to maintain subsidies for politically powerful groups.
As an example, India has been unable to engage in sustained reform mostly because its politicians will not inflict any pain – however temporary – on their sponsors.
As a result, for all its democratic brilliances, India has slipped further and further behind on almost every measure of human development: education, literacy, health, life expectancy and infant mortality.
In the United Nations human development index, India now ranks behind China, Guatemala, Bolivia, Syria, and even Cuba.
Surely it’s time to ask whether democracies such as India, so glorified by Western academia, are truly accomplishing much for their people.
The solution is not to move away from democracy!
Democracy has incredible benefits regardless of its effects on growth and development. It has real economic advantages. Although it seems to not produce the best results in identifying the very best leaders, it usually does protect against the worst.
IE: You may not always get a great leader through elections, but you will also usually not get the worst kind of leader either.
There must be a way to make democratic systems work so that they do not perpetually result in short-term policies with depressing results. The stakes in our new online community are simply too high.
I’m concluding that delegation just might be the solution we’re looking for.
It is important to stress that delegation is completely compatible with democracy. Authority is delegated to institutions, but the ultimate power rests with the people through their democratically and meritocratically elected representatives.
Two-thirds majorities in legislatures (Senate and Congress) should be required to override the decisions of the delegations. Special committees should regularly oversee the work of all unelected bodies.
This is a very different vision from that of the supporters of direct democracy, who say that everything should be taken directly to the people for vote.
But every time things are taken directly to the people for vote, it seems that it becomes just another avenue for the already rich and powerful to exploit the occasion to create even more opportunities for themselves and their friends.
Democracy is losing its legitimacy – and this is such a tragedy because democracy, with all its flaws, still represents the “last best hope” for people around the world.
Using technology, we really can create a brave new world that takes advantage of history’s lessons – and enables a new breed of politician to emerge.
In our community, our politicians (Success Coaches!) will first need to pass through a merit-based filter…
… a measurement process that requires that they first succeed at helping their “local” community — as opposed to helping or making promises to their powerful or rich sponsors or funders — before they become eligible for election.
And after they succeed at earning positions of power, one of their most sacred duties should be to delegate many of the important policy decisions to proven, topic experts – holding them accountable to results.
In our Declaration of Liberty, you may have noticed these words:
… by delivering a better and knowledge-based meritocratic democracy to the people of the world…
By knowledge, we mean:
1) Delegation to knowledgeable people – with proven skill in their areas of expertise — insulated from special interests between election cycles
2) With a special focus on the roles of the future – betting that actionable knowledge will continue to become more valuable in society than capital.
We’re talking about continuing to invest and expand on our knowledge roles…
… roles that focus on the production (blogging), promoting (advertising), financing (boosting), providing (selling and servicing) and teaching of knowledge.
By meritocratic, we mean:
The positions of power are only unlocked to individuals based on their merit – their accomplishments – in an apples-to-apples measurement approach.
The idea is that in society, politicians and educators have two things in common:
They both are there to serve the people; and they are both economy builders.
And because an economy is the platform and fuel by which abundance is derived and social programs are enabled, these two roles (politicians and educators) will be the centerpiece of our merit-based approach.
To be more precise, in our approach, all politicians ARE educators (Success Coaches). They are one and the same.
Both roles should be measured on their success and ability to build the economy.
A panel of experts should continually examine the measurement technique – the yardstick – the process by which our politicians and educators are being measured.
On a side note, this merit-based approach should also help ensure that when a politician or educator’s desire, ability or enthusiasm to serve the people is gone, so should their role.
Unfortunately too often we witness politicians that arrive into positions of power based on good intentions and a sincere passion to serve the people…
… but end up clinging onto power – for themselves and their friends — long after their passion, desire and/or ability to serve the people has faded.
We hope that our meritocratic approach will help guide our politicians to a respectable retirement as soon as they have successfully completed their “prime time” for serving the people…
… making way for fresh, new energetic players that are hell-bent on making a difference in the lives of community members.
I hope I have been successful at making the case that delegation just might be the cure to much of what’s wrong with today’s democracies.
No, I wouldn’t dare suggest that we get to work, attempting to force such a policy into today’s leading democracies….
… because that would require successfully wrestling away power from the special interests, rich and powerful…
… a fight that even the most optimistic of political scientists have conceded will never be won.
But here, together, the only “powerful” people we needed to wrestle power away from – the owners and employees of FanBox – are willingly handing it over to us…
… so that we are free to make the right choices, right from the onset.
I hope we choose to say “No!” to special interests right from the beginning…
… and immediately adopt a strategy of delegating the most important policy decisions…
…to topic experts that are accountable to the people, and inaccessible to the “special interests”.
In my humble opinion, we should permanently embed this approach directly into our soon-to-be-drafted Constitution.
But enough of my opinions.
What do you think?
Please share your thoughts.
After everyone has had an opportunity to weigh in, in the next part let’s get busy drafting our Constitution.