Solving democracy through complex systems

The United States of America is a broken country. Our dreams have been bent, tarnished, and mis-handled so often and for so long that we — the 300 million people who call it our home — have nearly forgotten what it means to live here. The government has gotten us so used to expecting solutions that we’ve nearly forgotten how to create our own. At the same time, we’re not really sure what the problems are that need solving. We know, though, that there are problems. Though nobody has a single solution; though there is no panacea or magic elixir; there is a way to approach what’s wrong: a method born out of complex systems analysis.

The following is a sketch of an idea I’ve been toying with since October, 2007. I’m sharing it in it’s draft form here for two reasons: 1) to get the idea into the ether because it’s something on which we all need to work and 2) to elicit your feedback. this document (PDF) charts out the idea, and the following few paragraphs are an attempt to get at the crux of the thing.

Complex problems require the ability for all involved in their solution to be able to think clearly, logically, intuitively, and critically. As society becomes more complex and our interactions with each other and our environment become that much more complicated, we need to be able to understand how our decisions and actions ripple out into the rest of the world.

To that end, the architects of our government intended that it be structured as a reverse hierarchy. In other words, the power moved from the people to the leaders and not the other way around. In order for it to work, the people — us — themselves must tackle the more complex issues in society: starvation, health care access, abortion, housing, crime. The proxies — elected officials — should only be allowed to address issues of a complexity relatively smaller: printing money, international relations, etc.

Current trends in education, government, and other aspects of this country seem to indicate a general dumbing down of the populace, however. This dumbing down is having the effect of giving our proxies more power than originally intended and subverting our Democratic Republic into something more akin to a modern-day corporation where strata are clearly defined. If the populace is dumb, it can’t make complex decisions.

In other words, by removing the complexity from our lives, by avoiding the difficult decisions at the state, county, and town level we are turning our reverse hierarchy upside down. By definition, a hierarchy only works if the people at the bottom deal with the easy stuff. If we’re dealing with easy stuff, then we’re at the bottom.

In other words, in order to fix what we all feel is wrong with our country, we have to do it ourselves. This is an Existential world, and there is no one to save us. No superheroes or omniscient politicians. In order to save ourselves, though, we need to be smart, savvy, calm, decisive, and willing to devote ourselves to the cause framed by our founders in the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. The foundation is there, we just need need to build upon it.

I need your comments and ideas on this. If it’s a thing, it’s not my thing. It’s our thing. Thoughts? Concerns?