One could make similar points about the design of the economic system that the government is required to support and manage; about financial regulatory systems that largely pre-date computers; about the way that lobbying currently subverts the processes and the democratic representation of the people as a whole. What is there about the way that funding and patronage ensure that vested interests hold sway and, about the ownership of the media that entrenches polarised and outdated Values, panders to knee-jerk opinion and dumbs down the electorate.
To some extent this is a way of saying that the life conditions are as we would expect them to be at this stage in the Graves theory model. However it is also to say that the problem is systemic, rooted in the way that systems reflect the Values from which they were created and that we face a significant challenge in trying to create a political framework that will work for these life conditions unless that new thinking goes wide and deep. Anything else is likely to be tinkering at the margins. Put yet another way, the problem is not the politics – it’s the culture. Culture eats political strategy for breakfast too.
Another perspective that we might need to look at is the conditions for change. In SD terms, are we headed rapidly into a Gamma trap - the stage where there seems to be rigidity and stuckness? Does what I have already said imply that we have no Beta flexibility left, which would imply that we are looking at the conditions that both ferment revolution and call for second-order, radical change? If so we face the risk of a tipping point that would lead to destructive outcomes. How do we take that into a political impulse that is designed to show a light at the end of the tunnel. How does that revolutionary pressure get channelled into something constructive? Given these conditions, will anything less supply what is needed?
There are, I think, a few guiding lights. One would be Conscious Capitalism. What would conscious politics look like? Another would be polarity thinking? How would we use the imagery and thinking processes that offers in order to construct a non-polarised platform – one which explicitly recognised and intentionally balanced the conversation so that we could undermine the Right-Left rhetoric. Another might be holacratic decision-making. While holacracy as a system is not (I think) suitable for large organisations, let alone States and Nations, how might we design the democratic system in a way which reflected its thinking in three critical aspects. Firstly, how would we improve the balance of top-down and bottom-up in the decision-making (democratic) process so that it genuinely represented a balance of stakeholder needs. Secondly, how would we emulate the way that it seeks to increase local accountability and autonomy? Thirdly, and perhaps the most difficult for governments which are required to enshrine decisions in legal statutes that will last for a long time, how do we inculcate a sense that decisions need to be made which are flexible, capable of being adjusted to fast moving circumstances. How do governments implement dynamic steering? It has to be OK for leaders to change their minds without appearing weak. It has to be possible to defend decisions as “right then, superseded now”.
When thinking about a politics that is neither Republican nor Democrat (Tory or Labour etc.) it is easy to be drawn into “Third party” thinking. As soon as that happens, it appears that the party has to formulate policies and state how it would manage things. In a world which evidently requires flex-flow thinking that would mean that our policy amounts to “we will do what seems best at the time”, “we will be responsive to changing conditions” and “we will balance everyone’s needs”. That would not be acceptable to most people because there is fear and insecurity present which emotionally demands certainty and what is currently perceived as “strong leadership”.
The only time that strong leadership is allowed to look that flexible is in wartime. People know that wars cannot be managed by policy. They know that battle plans do not survive contact with the enemy. Since we are in crisis, or headed for it, it is arguable that we need to kind of leaders who can both act in that way and take people with them on a large scale.
That aside, I think that what will be required is the least amount of politics possible. Do I sound like a libertarian? Many libertarians are arguing for the right things from toxic values, asking for there to be no constraints on their self-interest. What would it take to create a greater degree of activism, an increased localisation of the agenda, increased personal responsibility for the care and well- being of self and others? For example what could we do rather than generating huge industrialised health systems driven by pharmacological and technological medical intervention? Yes, there are parts of medicine that take big investment and benefit from technological advance; I wouldn’t want Pat to lose her access to dialysis. But the industry makes its money from treatment, not prevention, and the percentage of medical problems that are iatrogenic – caused by medical interventions – is a problem that goes unacknowledged.
Rather than give other examples (like how a prisons industry thrives on increased crime) I want to focus on the root issue. Flexibility means giving both power AND responsibility back to the more localised structures – in essence to the people, but in such a way that it is managed on behalf of those who can not or will not manage themselves. The responsibility has to have primacy over the power but the power must be adequate. And that means that we make fewer laws about HOW problems are to be solved and more laws that focus on the requirement of WHAT must be solved. That is to say, the law must call for people to demonstrate that they are seeking the right outcomes, that they are measuring the results and accountable for progress towards them. The weakness of most legal structures is that they attempt to specify precisely what and create legal loopholes. Specifying the outcomes makes less work for lawyers.
And ultimately, outcomes must be needs based. We need to align with awareness of fundamental, functional requirements, not dogmas and theories. Focussing on outcomes also makes it more possible for leaders to take a dynamic steering approach. The democratic agreement is not based as it has been on persuading people about the "right way" to the goal. It is based on an agreement about the goals themselves. The goals can be then set at the level of big, inspirational and overarching visions or at the more granular level that respond to both perceived and externally identifiable needs and that people can be enfranchised to articulate.