The American Way Forward

If you don’t pay for the Wall Street Journal, you might not be able to see this article.  Find a hack around the paywall and read it. It’s a really nice summation of where we are in America today and how we got here.  The different political movements see the country very differently.  They tally the successes very differently.  However, the way forward isn’t how the game was played in the past.

Yuval Levin writes,

The greatest challenges that America now confronts are the logical conclusions of the path of individualism and fracture, dissolution and liberation that we have traveled since the middle of the last century. And the greatest resources at our disposal for tackling those challenges are the products of our having traveled this path too. We face the problems of a fractured republic, and the solutions we pursue will need to call upon the strengths of a decentralized, diffuse, diverse, dynamic nation.

I agree.  The way forward is not centralization.  The way forward is not via elite experts that think about things and send solutions out to people.  Network beats hierarchy.  Everything is becoming unbundled.  Software is eating the world. Everyone is a node on a network.

We have the power of decentralization in the palm of our hands.  Americans have embraced decentralized networks to solve all kinds of business problems.  Why not the government?

To be clear, I am not talking about elected representatives.  I am talking about the centralized bureaucracy that grows every year in Washington.  This whole branch of the government can be disrupted.

Check out the offices in the Presidential cabinet.  All these department heads oversee their own vast bureaucracy.  They all can be disrupted and made better.  Education, Health Care, Farm Policy, Food Policy, Finance, Housing, Urban and Rural Development, Welfare, Interior, Transportation, Energy, Labor, and Veterans Affairs can be totally remade.  They could become nimble organizations.

Levin is correct when he says there isn’t a Presidential candidate out on the trail that is talking about that.  Democrats are living in the past and speak as if it’s 1965.  Republicans are full of nostalgia too, and speak as if it’s 1981.   Trump doesn’t have anything forward looking-but correctly says they are all “horrible”.   Sanders doesn’t have a realistic way forward but correctly points out injustice.

This is not just about turning power over to, and sending money to the states and cities.  It’s seminal.  It’s rethinking the entire process and way government interacts with people.  In a way, decentralizing and thinking about the government as it relates to one individual is exactly the way the Founders thought about it.  However, it’s not been really technologically possible until today.

Powerful forces will fight change.  Public sector unions, and major corporations will fight it tooth and nail. Elites, that have gotten comfortable with power will fight too.

This is not some later 21st century futuristic idea.  America can do this now.  Government needs to think like a startup.  If government doesn’t change, Americans can look forward to being both fiscally, and morally bankrupt.

 

 

  • I am interested in this decentralization concept. How and what would that look like? and how would the outside world interact with that model when they already complain that the US is really 50 different countries? Network of Networks like Gen McChrystal talks about? http://www.amazon.com/Team-Teams-Rules-Engagement-Complex/dp/1591847486

    • Bitcoin is decentralized. I think you enable the theories of Ronald Coase. Defense and intelligence are much different than Education though. I think they need to be set up so there is good command and control and not ad hoc command and control.

  • Matt Kruza

    Agree with much of what you say, but I actually think this is why trump would be great. He is unequivocally the least wed to special interests OR political parties since maybe washington? (I know all the presidents and am hard pressed to think of one who would be less party loyal….. maybe roosevelt (teddy).. i know he tried to come back in the bull-moose in 1912). There are institutional checks and balances to protect against trump on the downside, but on the upside he could actually scare both parties into really negotiating paths forward. Will that happen..I am not sure, but its not crazy to think so in my estimation. He certainly shifts the overton window on many, many subjects

    • Trump isn’t offering solutions. Trump is basically saying we should close America down (no free trade, build a wall) and then we will make it great again. I love his slogan btw. I also think he has a reasonable tax plan.

      • Matt Kruza

        You don’t like his NATO or pacific rim stance (japan, south korea) and even saudi arabia that they all need to pay more for our mutual defense.. while some don’t like the risk, that is a specific strategy. His health care stances have been somewhat clear that need to de-regulate across state lines, mandate price transparency, and then potentially negotiate directly wiith the drug companies (the last being a liberal point usually, but given how the govt. is the biggest actor and the pharma companies so abusive, not one without merit). I get that he probably wouldn’t even convey his answers to you as eloquently as even I can in a few minutes, because he is a relative light weight on policy, but he has put out ideas, and what is great is there actually iis a lot of room for him to cut deals with BOTH parties. Which is what really scares the shit out of the wealthy and entrenched parties. He is not my ideal candidate( while not personally racist I don’t htink, he does not do enough to tamp down supporters who turn racist, and he is not extremely fluent on issues), but he is by far the most likely to change the system.

  • rruscio

    Jeff, I agree with what you wrote. Mr. Levin, a lot less. I have no doubt that ‘networked’ versus ‘centralized’ is a good thing. I also have no doubt that Big Govt / Business / Politics / Everything will fight to the death to keep that from coming about. Everyone wants change, and no body likes it.

    So, of all the current crop of Presidential candidates, which one has the highest probability of bring about change? If not Trump, who?

  • At http://www.elasticrepublic.com I talk about a decentralized Ballot Market. Essentially, Elastic Republic takes Ballots and makes them divisible like a currency and opens the Ballot Market every day of the term (rather than only on election day.) By doing so ER eliminated the Democratic majority-rule process that occurs on election day. The result is that every voter is representitive (rather than only a few in the Washington oligarchy.) Policy is set in the market between decentralized independent individuals who cooperate interdependently and establish maluable hierarchy via Ballotflow. Elastic Republic is searching for funding in an effort to educate and provide an alternative currency called Ballots which trade like Bitcoins, but membership represents the voluntarily inclusion in a non-discriminatory Republic State which manages policy creating contracts (as occurs everyday in corporate America.)