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?

Support for Vermont secession

Second Vermont Republic

You may have read about this on Monday via the AP, or you may have seen it in The Onion. Whichever source you heard the news from, I urge you to support — even if not a Vermont resident — this movement. While only 13% of the population of Vermont are behind a secession movement, it is a vocal and viable minority. As a natural born citizen of Vermont, and a former resident, I am lending my ethical support to these folks.

I’m not a revolutionary. I’m not a radical. I’m not an anarchist. I have read very carefully the movement’s points of order, and reasons for secession. What I found were some very salient points. Points that I was initially inclined to believe were overly utopian, but I caught myself on that point.

Why shouldn’t residents of a region feel entitled to safety, peace, economic security, in addition to the other rights granted US Citizens by the Bill of Rights? The movement towards creating the Second Vermont Republic is emphasizing those points in a peaceful separation from the United States. They hold up Switzerland as a political and economic model, and I don’t believe they are far off. However, there are questions the movement will have to answer if it is to succeed.

How will residents of the Second Vermont Republic make their living? The service and manufacturing industries — according to my data — are the largest in the state. Will there be enough support for both of them for individual families to sustain or improve their ways of life?

Will federal grants to public universities continue to be funded, or will there need to be a new method of supplying research grants to the University of Vermont and the like?

Will there be tariffs on trade? Will there be a need for a Vermont passport? What about Vermont’s relationship with Quebec?

I will look for answers to these questions as time passes, and perhaps they are even addressed within their manifesto. I will continue to follow the progression of this movement, and let them know that a native son of Vermont, who was born on town meeting day, is rooting for their success.