The roots of violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience,
knowledge without character, commerce without morality,
science without humanity,worship without sacrifice, politics without principles.
During the birth of the US in 1776, its founding fathers had the vision, courage, and wisdom to embark the then nascent country on the highest ideals of the European Enlightenment, inspired by the leading British and French thinkers. The major ideals sought after were namely: unprecedented freedom, equality, and full compliance with the law—all within a full adherence to a high spirit of humanism and respect for individualism.
The founding fathers embraced the Enlightenment ideals wholeheartedly, with enthusiasm and conviction. That was a very bold development, particularly because:
No nation had ever before dared to go in that direction, and much less dared to found an entirely new country on these ideals.
The new nation was already relatively large. Bold experimentation makes more sense in small universes.
The experiment was implemented without a prior pilot test—this was the pilot test—and consequently, it was an extreme all-or-nothing ordeal.
The seeds planted in 1776 eventually yielded spectacular results.
During the XIX century, by the time of the industrial revolution, many of the most pressing political issues of the new nation had been favorably dealt with. In addition, the huge wave of immigrants plus the highly hospitable investing environment injected great dynamism to the economy, catapulting the US into a self-sustainable accelerated economic rate of growth that led it to become the largest economy and the most powerful nation on the planet by the beginning of the XX century.
The melting pot experiment was also a revolutionary way of approaching that otherwise complex and satanized issue. No nation before dared to be so hospitable to newcomers, who arrived in droves, from all over the world, especially from Europe; that was also an astounding first.
Despite the not few difficulties and challenges that massive immigration wave created, the US was able to integrate the immigrant population with reasonable expediency, with fantastic results for both sides, the newcomers and the nation as a whole.
As an inevitable result of the successful US experiment, coupled with its increasing influence in international affairs—as it grew stronger by the day—most of the other political systems in the world were pressured to evolve and to adapt, using the US experience as a role model. The US became a worldwide beacon for freedom and prosperity.
The internal pressure—from their societies—to adjust and emulate as much as possible the successful US Model was particularly more noticeable in Europe. The European monarchies, albeit not exclusively, were forced to adjust to the new reality, eventually ending up as symbolic monarchies, with extremely limited political power—almost nil—mainly circumscribed to protocolary duties. The empire of Japan took longer to adjust, until the end of WWII.
As far as political systems go, there have not
been any significant breakthroughs since 1776.
If a careful and objective analysis is made, it is very easy and simple to conclude that, as far as political systems go, there have not been any significant breakthroughs since 1776, the year the US was founded. Granted, the then new political system made tremendous inroads, adding a very high socioeconomic value. The whole world benefited from it, to different degrees.
However successful that bold political experiment turned out to be, and indeed it was extremely successful—beyond the best scenarios anticipated by the most optimists, it eventually ran into decay, as every human endeavor does when not properly adjusted in search of continuous improvement, as talked about in Part One of this series.
The major contributions were rapidly assimilated during the first decades, and probably until a century later, but nothing more happened. To the contrary, some grotesque unintended consequences arose and took root.
Legislatures, through their political parties, took life of their own, like in a separate reality. Politicians soon realized that the new system could actually insulate them from the crowd, from society, from the mere force that put them in office, in the first place.
Since both transparency and more so the accountability system are so loose and ineffective in contemporary political systems, for practical purposes legislators have been able to mostly live on a separate reality, fairly apart from the real world. Being voted out from office turns out to be a not-so-terrible penalization after all. Contemporary political systems are not an all-or-nothing system. Not at all. In a bipartisan political system like the US’, losers still keep a great deal of power, influence, and privileges. Thus, legislators have learned to strive—according to their standards, namely keeping power— even when losing.
On the other hand, continuous improvement is a must in any endeavor, more so when dealing with the overall political system, unquestionably the most fundamental pillar of any society.
It really is very crucial to analyze, and to understand why in that hyper important field of endeavor the continuous improvement best practice has been conspicuously absent throughout the years. Let’s face it. The answer is not that difficult to come by. The political systems of most nations have become an island, with extremely loose and ill defined accountability standards. So far they have not been sufficiently compelled to change.
For practical purposes, the only major interactive pressure mechanism that citizens have at hand is voting poor performing politicians and/or political parties out of office. Unfortunately, that penalization is not enough most of the time, because it falls very short of being a reasonably effective management tool. There are several very significant limitations of being voted out from office as a penalization mechanism:
To start with, there is a substantial time lag between the actual performance and the corresponding response through the ensuing voting mechanism.
Worst of all, and very sadly, most of the time it actually really does not make much difference which party—or person—is in office. Most of the time, the difference is rather marginal, because the margin of maneuver is very limited for any elected officer, political party or combination thereof.
Because contemporary political systems are not an all-or-nothing proposition, as previously stated, the penalization of being out of office is highly insufficient and thus ineffective.
In other words, the poor state of affairs is a systemic problem.
Systemic problems require structural changes, profound transformations.
Nothing else will do.
The great challenge for contemporary societies resides in the fact that the only way to modify the system is through the legislature itself. That is to say, at the bottom of all this lies a monumental conflict of interest issue. Societies have been abducted by their own legislative powers; that has been a terrifying unintended consequence of the current political structure.
That political structure, as we know it, has to be profoundly modified, to close the huge disconnect between society and the legislatures. In Part One, we mentioned how to go about it.
The politicians and their parties have been in a comfort zone for too long—decades if not over a century, and counting—. Legally, according to contemporary political practices, politicians “comply” with their obligation to represent society at large. Unfortunately, they do so in an extremely deficient and loose way. As long as the law and corresponding regulations are not modified, the status quo will essentially perpetuate itself, like it has done so for the past decades. That is utterly unacceptable.
Management science has evolved in a dramatic way since late in the XIX century. There is a great deal of command from many valuable subjects that have to do with human behavior, effectiveness in reaching goals, and correcting severe deviations, among others.
Government has to be managed according to the highest known standards.
Citizens should not settle for less.
The cost/benefit relationship of achieving an appropriate structural reform of contemporary political systems is disproportionately generous. The benefit to be reaped from it substantially outweighs any associated costs. As stated in Part One of this series, in the US alone, the benefit of an adequate political system restructuring is in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from a very conservative perspective. There is no bigger social impact initiative on the planet than constructively upgrading contemporary political systems.
As we have repeatedly stated before in this space, all human designs and organizations are works in progress, unfinished business. Political systems are not the exception.