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Redefining Democracy Part 2

Diversity is the future

The review

In Redefining Democracy Part 1 I attempted to describe the problems that produced the crisis we are struggling to understand. In short the modern nation state ideal is a predominantly capitalist economy with a semi-representational political system predicated on western European ethnicity and the communication problems of the 18th century. This worked very well for close to two hundred years. In fact it was declared the victor in the great 20th century battle between the American model and the Russian (USSR) model of distributed versus centralized management. This was obviously so seriously overplayed that the whole thing is an embarrassment. Unfortunately for the US the great conflict was so heavily invested in by the default military-industrial oligarchy that they were stuck with a significant minority of the population that refused to give up the idea that they had won something after fifty years of struggle.

The signs of 21 st century disaster

The result was that the American century came to a rather abrupt end and everything immediately began falling apart. The problem was that something had, in fact, been won with distributed, market based economic management but the capitalist oligarchy took advantage of late stage capitalist structural problems to keep all the wealth. The fact that most of the planet bought into the American model in the last decades of the 20th century meant that all post industrial states began hitting this problem in the first decades of the 21st century. Most European states, with greater intimate experience in the disastrous wars of the 20th century, had more successfully balanced capitalism and socialism preventing hyper capitalism from taking complete control everywhere. Unfortunately socialism couldn’t stand against capitalism in a mixed economy without a continuous struggle and all the controls were in the hands of the capitalist oligarchy who controlled the financial systems.

As distortions of wealth rapidly increase we are now struggling with the nearly complete loss of confidence in political representation and exhaustion with the structural failure of capitalism. General policies of lies and misdirection by the oligarchs and their political representatives have left chunks of the population confused and angry at decades of stagnant income. This opened the door to traditional fascists looking for wealth and power by promising whatever the angriest people wanted. Fascists need racism and xenophobia to incite outrage and blame and this has been provided by the rise of rejection by conservative elements of the Islamic populations in the most petrochemically exploited regions of the Middle East and North Africa. This is important only because oil is the lifeblood of the capitalist oligarchy. Add to this the rapidly escalating climate disaster (actually an incredibly complex and interrelated matrix of disasters) and we have flaming torches that can be thrown into the already smoking pile of oily rags in the basement of western civilization.

The transition to the future

The extent of the confusion is clearly worse in the US than anywhere else but this, as I have written elsewhere, is fairly unique result of the decline of United States’ imperial power at the worst possible time. This transition is the result of a major paradigm in human civilization. Big things are happening and no one really has a handle on this. With the climate time bomb already triggering sentinel explosions resulting in political instability in the Middle East and refugee migrations to Europe things are far too complex to predict.

Perhaps we in America have an opportunity to help the rest of the planet by working to understand what is happening to us. The rapid decline of the old order’s lead country is a bit ironic. The result of that ironic decline is that we are losing our leadership internationally but are leading, now, by negative example.

We went into decline forty years ago with abandonment of the middle class through consolidation of political power in one neoliberal party with two factions. The only group represented was the very wealthy. The factions paid lip service to the interests of the urban versus rural populations in order to distract from the growing distortions in wealth. Public ownership of national assets and public services were steadily reduced with the late capitalist excuse of austerity to support the flow of wealth to the oligarchic elite closely tied to international structures. That system is now failing quickly in the US and is struggling with growing distortions that result from the shift driven by technology, urban transformation, climate change, and the rise of new social structures, e.g. virtual communities, and economic systems, e.g. cryptocurrencies.

Where we are going is very different from where we are unless we fail and there is no reason to talk about that because that may well be species death. So we need to look at what is going away and then try to agree on what will replace the old systems. My feeling is that much of this is dictated by decisions that we have made over the last two hundred years but this requires conscious change and the old terms and patterns are no longer valid or meaningful. So the best we can do is look at the things that appear to be changing and explore how to pick a winner or two from the confusion.

Post political

There are a number of surveys that indicate the generation coming of age or just past that are no longer interested in national politics. They also have no confidence in the representatives of the old system as these people don’t represent them. We can all say that as there is no indication in the current corrupt congress that there is any interest in providing living wage jobs, healthcare, education, protection for our environment solutions for climate problems, or higher taxes on the wealthy to begin redistribution in the current economy. These things would make life better for almost everyone and these are what the majority of the population of the US would like to see happen. you would never know this as our “representatives” are working hard to provide exactly the opposite.

The general trend among younger citizens in the US and Europe is away from what we call democracy. Is there any wonder? Why do we waste time and money on politics and elections to be given “representatives” who have no interest in what we want?

Most of government is purely administrative providing security, safety, public health, environmental protections, and public services. That happens without politics. If everyone was guaranteed a full range of rights including food, shelter, health, education, and safety what else is needed? The only politics we see is “representatives” of the extremely wealthy or giant corporations seeking to deny goods, services, or rights to some group of citizens for purely selfish purposes. If those rights and services are guaranteed as people agree then no one should waste time trying to weasel out of providing them.

The real issue that we all need to participate in is the allocation of resources for new projects and critical services for the planet and necessary operational changes for our administrative units. This can now be done with education, discussion, and direct response from every citizen. We have the technology to do this. Why do we still have representatives?

Ideas on how this could work. . .

Citizens receive credit (credentialing) for certification of knowledge in administrative areas, e.g. Public Health, Energy, Zoning, and can then participate online in the deciding and approving electorate. The specific electorate is as big as the number of credentialed citizens who wish to participate. No limit on the number of credentials and committees that you can obtain and serve. All comments, question, survey responses and votes are tracked and recorded by AI. The model for this is almost all areas of social media that provide answers to questions leading to discussions. With social media having upstaged politics already in the 21st century you would think that the focus would be on how to turn this into an essential part of our new political systems.

The reality is that reactionary response of the current political creatures is using the threat of social media manipulation to force a return to extremely limited voting rights. The current US government owes its existence to voter suppression. Let’s make sure everything is done with paper and very, very slowly to make sure that voting and making your ideas felt in the public arena is as difficult as possible.

Amazingly the ability to identify people instantly through a range of biometrics is now used continuously for everything from access to secure areas to immediate structuring of ads keyed on your location and purchases in the last thirty days. We can openly track, with their permission, peoples attitudes and ideas on a growing range of issues. If we let them formally state their preferences on public issues we can confirm their identity and also check to see if it complies with AI data analysis of their opinions and attitudes. To people not familiar with the extent of commercial understanding of who you are and what you think this may seem strange and frightening. But if we could confirm and correct our official profile and allow it to be used for governmental administrative decisions we could actively include every resident in the day to day governmental process.

Post capitalist

We know that capitalism is failing if for no other reason than it is predicated on endless growth, endless resource exploitation, and endless greed. This is not viable on a single planet without destroying the planet and devastating the quality of life for every inhabitant including homo sapiens. (Yes, there are other creatures with rights oh this planet.) Capitalism must end.

It is also clear that free markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources and to set value or pricing on goods and services. We also understand that markets are free only with public regulation. The natural progress of an open market is to become closed in order to eliminate competition and allow higher profits. We also know that markets are useless in allocation of services that are essential and cannot be denied and in their provisioning hence their management by the public through our government. It appears that the list of these exceptions to markets will continue to grow as rights are expanded in open societies.

Ideas on the allocation of rights and resources

The escalation of services to the level of a right needs to be decided directly by the population as representatives are easily bought and corrupted. They should be permanent unless a drastic change requires decision on the basis of a decline of resources or an unfulfillable spike in demand. Why can’t this be done by the same online, biometric record of attitudes and ideas described above? Perhaps the key to this is knowledge of our own usage patterns. This has been suggested for improved sustainability and would work for those things that are deemed rights so not subject to market pricing, e.g. medical services, basic nutrition, educational services. How much do you and your dependents use per month and year. Are you average, above, or below? Educational services would be interesting. If you have K-12 children you are heavy users of education, if you need to retrain for a new career path you may be a heavy user for part of a year or more. Decisions on the amount of resources to allocate to these may be directly dependent on your usage. How would that be weighted?

However this is decided, and it can change in different regions at different times, the point is to divide what we have into areas for market forces to control (we already have these and know how they work with proper regulation to keep them open and free) and rights that must be actively decided by the population of each region based on the potential need for tradeoffs or changes in what is available. The failure of communism in the 20th century was the inefficiency and failure of centralized planning for very large populations. But not everything should be driven by market forces and we now have the power and the option to use both to our best advantage.

The power of AI

The difficulty of weighting different demand levels against existing, growing, or stable resources are incredibly complex. But rights are by definition not subject to market forces because they should be available to all. This is the kind of data processing and administrative management that is beyond people but not AI. We know already that we are having to deal with our inability to manage or even understand the things that our systems are able to manage. This will grow rapidly. We must be able to accept this reality and then we can make decisions that shape the big picture while we let the information processing power we have built manage these thins for us.

My point is that these things are possible or will be shortly. They will be difficult for many people to understand and accept. Pretending that this is not in our immediate future is very short sighted and creates massive problems that are already beyond our means. We need to rethink how we manage and build the management goals that we will be able to achieve rather continue to ignore or deny the future while our political and economic systems steadily degrade.



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Mike Meyer

Mike Meyer

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .