Daily GUIDE-ance:

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Obvious (partial) Solution

Without trying I could rattle (oh. hi, by the way. Listen, I hope you'll forgive me. I really hate talking politics most of the time because usually there is so little said that isn't worldclass obvious anyway, and I hate saying the obvious. There are only three reasons to do so:

  • to insult the other person's intelligence

  • because you yourself are so dim that you don't realize that the obvious is obvious

  • because you are are the kind of person who likes to point out the obvious.

So its with irritation and regret that I have to, yet again talk... not exactly politics, I hope... maybe sort of a metapoltics, that avoids the obvious and possibly cuts newer turf. Its the only way I can get these ideas out of my head: writing them down some where. So here we go. Sorry!)

Without trying I could rattle off a long list of terribly important issues being decided in the political world right now. Should I run though some of the list? Just thinking about it makes me tired. Anyhow. About anyone of these issues I could put on my 1950's radio drama voice and say : "This could be the end of freedom and life as we know it!" It might be a little over the top if I did, but I could still say it.

But it would only be a little over the top.

But, even so...

I am starting to believe that all of these issues are a waste of time.

Why? Because:

Our current crop of Washington decision-makers are not exactly America's best and brightest minds. The last crop was nothing special either. Neither was the one before that.

It's tempting to think that we were better off with inbred, hereditary dictators. (We weren't).

Our current leaders simply don't have the mental or moral equipment needed to solve the critical issues before us.

And I am starting to believe that if we want to make any progress, we'd better first look at the process by which we wound up putting all these rather drab, uninspiring people in charge. Each election, candidates are drawn from the same blah pool of politicians as the last. Each election amounts to a just another shuffling of an old worn out deck. What we need are some new cards, and maybe a new game, if we ever expect to see a better hand.

The simplest, most obvious, and most bulletproof change that I know of is putting term limits on Congress.

The 22nd amendment limits the President to just two terms of four years each. Why don't we have a similar amendment to cap the amount of time one person can spend in Congress?

Its hard to imagine why anyone (other than a member of Congress) would oppose this fairly obvious concept. It's such an obvious concept, that its pretty hard to understand how we have gone this long without implementing it.

In the 90's the Republican party achieved a majority in Congress in support of just such an amendment, but irritatingly the Democrats (and the fact that this somehow became a partisan issue is a bit pathetic, if you ask me, as well as a pretty freaking good argument in favor of the idea that I have been pushing here, which is that the system has some fundamental flaws) were able to shoot it down because the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to initiate the amendment process. Needing not just a majority but a super-majority of Congress to simultaneously agree to fire itself in order for this basic improvement to take place is such a hilariously exasperating mistake, that if there were a Darwin award for this sort of thing, this error would surely win one. It also explains why we don't have this amendment yet.

Luckily, this actually is not a requirement. It turns out that there are two ways Constitutional amendments can be proposed and going through Congress is only one of them.

It turns out that if 2/3rds of the state legislatures get together and agree, they can propose amendments to the US constitution, and if 3/4ths of them ratify the proposed amendment, it becomes constitutional law, without the US Congress ever touching it. Good thinking, Founders!

I have this impossible fantasy of somehow keeping such an amendment secret from Congress until all the necessary states have signed off on it, and then springing it on the House and Senate as done deal.

I can't think of anything one less employable than a career politician in a representative system of government. Such a creature is inherently non-representative. The phrase 'career representative' is a contradiction in terms. It might be ok for a college professor or pastor to have never held any other kind of job, but in a leader its a pretty bad idea. There is, in fact, already a lot of support for Congressional term limits and I think everybody should check it out. Consider signing this petition, for one. I did.

What I'd like to see is a Congress made of a broad range of professionals and leaders with wildly differing skill sets, experiences and perspectives. I'd like to see the best of the best of American doctors, scientists, business men, religious, social and military leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs, inventors, taking a short leave of absence from their careers (and adding one heck of a sharp line to their resume in the process) to advocate, create and lead. If America put all its best minds together, as a Congress, the potential would be wicked cool. But no one of any real caliber is likely to leave a successful career to become a career suit-pinhead. So who do we get instead? Lawyers. Not even practicing lawyers. Congress is made out of dead lawyers. Sharp term limits would go a long way towards clearing out the deadwood, making room for some new, intelligent growth.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

America is Maxed Out

I'm currently a designer but before that I was a gamer. The two skill sets are not uncomplimentary.

There is a life cycle to designs and strategies. I'm sure that if I wanted to bother, it would be easy to find several websites with alot of boring corporate talky talk that would break "The Lifecycle of a Design" in to phases like "Concept", "Feasibility Evaluation", "Prototyping and Field testing" etc etc... any one who has ever developed a deck for MTG will recognize these phases, as will product designers... then there's finally "Combat Ready" (well, in the business world you'd call it "Production") and then "Tweaking".

There's a final phase after all these. I'd call it "Maxed Out". When your deck/strategy/design/product has been tweaked for all its worth, and can no longer be improved on, at least not without radical restructuring or starting over, its Maxed Out. A maxed out out strategy can still win games, and a maxed out design will still sell, but being maxed out is the first step towards being "Obsolete" if you have any decent competition.

America is Maxed Out.

Now get me not wrong, the Constitution is an amazing piece of work, and 200 years ago it was extremely bold, innovative and cutting edge. In terms of design, it was the new predator on the block, an awesome, out-of-the-box concept that took the world by storm and spawned imitators and rivals everywhere.

The fact that, after 200 years, it is still functional at all is a bit mindblowing. I can't think of any other design that hasn't been radically reworked in the last 2 centuries. Even the most basic technology: the wheel, the chair, metallurgy, even the way we use fire and speech- all have been hugely revamped since 1776. The fact that the Constitution is still here at all is terribly impressive. So when I say it needs a tune up, I am not saying it lightly, but it shouldn't be a shocking or terrifying or even surprising concept to anyone. It is a very old design.

How long has it been since anyone seriously thought words like: 'Bold, 'Innovative', 'Cutting Edge' or 'Out-of-the-box' applied to Washington DC? Don't laugh like that. But what about 'Moribund', 'Gridlock', 'Ponderous', 'Top heavy', 'Idiotic', 'Retarded', 'Imbecilic?' Even words like 'Corrupt', 'Injust', 'Psychotic' and 'Cruel' are frequently accurate. Most people are thrilled if Congress shows a temporary lapse in to ordinary common sense, but nobody looks to the government for leadership or wisdom these days. Among our leaders, mediocrity isn't the rule any more, incompetence has become the rule, and mediocrity is now exceptional

If that last paragraph is true (and it is so true that it has become a hackneyed cliche) don't we have to admit that America is in decline? There is an ostricheqsue instinct to avoid the obvious conclusion, but the cold facts indicate that the shark has been jumped. The design is maxed out. It is headed for obsolete. This shouldn't be a surprise.

But none of the founders ever thought the Constitution was perfect. They built in provisions for adaptation and evolution. Good thinking, founders.

With our 200 plus years of field test data, we are equipped to make some fundamental, constitutional level tweaks.

What needs to be tweaked? I'm interested in your thoughts but a few areas that seem obvious to me are these:

  • The Judicial branch has begun legislating. A check or a balance is needed here.

  • Our representative government is too frequently representing no one but itself and protecting no one's interest but it's own. We are developing a ruling class, disconnected from the ruled class.

  • There is a distinct tendency over time, in the present design, for the top levels of government to expand at the expense of the local levels. It rarely shrinks when shrinking is needed, but always grows if given half a chance. This should be addressed.

  • If there are historians 200 years from now, they are going to laugh at our national debt the same way we laugh at those hilariously backwards morons who used to think the world was flat. We simply have a massive cultural blind spot. We tend to think we are only stuck in the mud, but the numbers show that we are fully submerged. And everyone with a shovel digs down, all the while arguing about how fast we should be digging. Digging up is not even considered. If people actually understood how deep the politicians have taken us in there would be war in the streets. Some serious shoring up needs to occur here.