Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Does anyone out there have a good explanation for the intellectual exhaustion that prevails in our national political class, Left and Right ?

Perusing the Republican National Committee website, the featured issues are tax cuts, tax reform, fiscal restraint (LOL!), expanded oil exploration and nuclear power, education accountability, faith-based initiatives, straddling the fence on immigration reform, Social Security reform and "strong" national security.

With the surprising exception of a section of "faith-based initiatives" that targets counseling prisoners, the official GOP agenda is approximately a quarter century old. Some of it, such as fiscal restraint, amounts to only a ritual nod ( or perhaps, in the case of the Bush administration, an inside joke at the expense of Bob Dole and Herbert Hoover). I liked and still admire Ronald Reagan, but he isn't on the ballot this year. Or in 2008. Guys, time to live our own history.

If the Republican vision is getting long in the tooth, then the Democratic Party has a platform ready for a decent burial. The Democratic National Committee is evidently marshalling it's forces to elect Harry Truman, as so much of their current agenda - with the glaring exception of his robust foreign and defense policies - was first said by him. I think if the Democrats used an inverse approach, they might sweep all three branches in 2008 ( Ok, ok, I'll be serious now).

The most modern aspect of the DNC website is a monomaniacal desire to sort all of us into assigned demographic P.C. castes, something that came of age in the 1970's. Not sure how they handle crossover cases - how do you count a "young" and now " disabled" "veteran" who is a "woman" and a "Native American" who is a member of a " union" as well as a " rural American" (WTF???) and a member of the "LG & T community". Jesus H. Christ - maybe she just needs some better job creation policies ? Or decent schools in her neighborhood ?

All sarcasm aside, I see a tremendous cognitive disconnect here by both parties from the emerging conditions of the globalized world and the concerns of those Americans who, while educated and intelligent, have disassociated themselves from politics in a way that bewilders blogospheric hyperpartisans. Alvin Toffler once predicted the coming of a Future Shock. Recently, John Robb linked to a futurist, William Gibson, who argued that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, the understanding of which eludes the decision makers.

As most of the "key" people in government subcabinet and cabinet positions ( and their partisan Democratic "shadows") are within a stone's throw of fifty to over seventy in the case of Donald Rumsfeld ( of whom it must be said, at least came in to office reconsidering the entire status quo), I think that's a valid argument in terms of aggregate mean perceptions.

Should the major parties fail to generate some new, creative and relevant ideas in a short time horizon - something that is not likely to happen in my view - it means that 2008 is wide open for somebody "outside" the system who can bring both vision and financial wherewithal to the table as an independent candidate. And of the two, the former is far more important because via the internet the vision will attract the financial muscle.

The bipartisan system was lucky in 1992 in that H. Ross Perot did not actually want the job of being president and had little that was substantive to say beyond reducing the budget deficit. He was a flaky, billionaire, protest candidate who was interested mainly selling an old value of republican ( small "r") civic virtue and stirring up the masses. Perot's success was but brief.

A true visionary though, one who epitomizes the spirit of the times and moves like one who is three steps ahead, will hit the system like a tsunami.
We have a tendency to think of the conservative and liberal political movements as permanent features of the political landscape, when in fact they are transient and temporary. I've come to believe that we are in a very unique time, one that offers us the opportunity to think creatively about government and civil society and how to address challenges that we face. In fact the creative thinking and acting is already going on, but it has not yet resulted in the emergence of new political movements. Complexity, social networks, 4GW, assymetric warfare,"Smart Mobs", "Army of Davids", etc. These kinds of things are all attempts to make sense of a variety of emerging social phenomena that are challenging our incumbent institutions and our ways of thinking about how these institutions should be organized and the kinds of actions they should take. We are already seeing the impact of this in business, the news media, and political activism. And in national security we've been trying to wrap our heads around a threat that still defies our categories.

And yet, while our society is changing and the kinds of threats we face are different from what we faced before, we are still dominated by two political movements whose ideas are rooted in the reality of the mid-20th century. That is not our reality. We need ideas that are relevant to our reality and new political movements to be vehicles of those ideas. And that will happen. It will take time but it will happen.

So yes, let us recognize the intellectual exhaustion of our political class, left and right. But let's not lament this, but rather celebrate it as an opportunity to think new thoughts and devote ourselves to the development of the ideas that will provide the foundation of new political movements over the next few decades.
Interesting post and I agree that both parties are quite lost. However, they might accurately reflect our society as it exists today. We have unimagineable material wealth/creature comforts for the vast majority of Americans that was unheard of a generation ago. Most people want the status quo to continue. As the perception of terrorism as a threat recedes, you can't get people excited about anything. Therefore, I don't see a third party coming soon. But I agree the current system is ripe for change. I'm curious how the red state/blue state "divide" will be a factor.

The weak point of a democracy like ours -- a system that encourages two parties -- is that it is dependent on the minority party. For all the talk of the governing party framing issues, it is the opposition's choices of where and how to engage which shape the politics. In the 90s, we had an opposition party that chose wisely on trade and poorly on how to deal with a President's moral problems.

Now, we face something much worse: an opposition party that chooses poorly on economics and suicidally on foreign policy.

The opposition's failure to engage in a serious manner means the governing party doesn't have to, either. Hence the malaise.
A visionary could organize around something like:



à Future Oriented

Security à from bad guys: transnational, national and local

Liberty à free to organize and associate etc as one wants (includes religion, contracts, etc)

Opportunity àall humans should have lots of opportunities to achieve there potential (opportunity creating stuff = good stuff)

Enrichment à of wealth, knowledge, experience etc, for all members of ones community (local, national, global). All humans should be uplifted by the exercise of liberty and opportunity maximization.

Future Oriented à No status Quo! I want 200 year life spans, cheap limitless energy, asteroid mining, orbital communities and mars settlements – a better future of all humanity!

Note is does nothing to prescribe a government run future.

I will give a listen to any pundit with ideas for a SLOE/Future.
“Does anyone out there have a good explanation for the intellectual exhaustion that prevails in our national political class, Left and Right?”
Yes, I have an explanation; it is not exhaustion.

“We have unimagin[e]able material wealth/creature comforts for the vast majority of Americans that was unheard of a generation ago.” Barnabus

I am not sure this is true. This generation has riches that I never had, in ways I’ll never know, but their wealth seems to be tied up in their parent’s generation and that is borrowed to the max. None of my nephews or nieces has families yet and if they did both would have to work just to become middle class. Then tragedy struck, one of my nieces, at 15 years, stuck a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. My 9/11 was on April 27, 2000. Many passed it off as a mistaken long-term solution to a short-term problem, but I am not so sure. The number of her classmates that also died, in a similar manner, before they graduated, was also unheard of a generation ago. I think the world has become so complex in ways that we don’t understand that there is no clear ethical logical message being implicitly past down. Ask what America is a generation ago and I think you would get a different message than the one now. We are conforming to a global-wide complex adaptive system.

Some of the problem is the complexity of the globe. We have lost our identity as a nation-state; we have become a global-wide complex adaptive system. Both parties want the resources coming from Mexico. Both parties want the cheap goods that Asia offers. Both want the globalization sustaining oil from the Middle East, for both plastics and transportation. Both parties want to give up a piece of America to get these things, but both parties want to get elected by their bases of power and to do that under this platform takes some doing.

So they resort to ethics. One is pro-life so the other must be against life. One is against gays, so the other must be pro-gay. One is against Mexicans invading the USA, so the other must be for it. These are really bogus arguments, but no one wants to look at the real issue; both parties are the same because we are a part of a global-wide complex adaptive system and lost our nation-state status.

The pro-globalization people can’t really talk about the issue for fear of destroying our economy. If America were to sacrifice like they did in WWII, the economy would die.

The anti-globalization people are trying to kill us.

But the complexity is really not about globalization; it is about the complex adaptive system that has broken out from the old nation-state boxes.

The thing is the anti-globalization people, at least those of Islamic persuasion, are a part of the same global-wide complex adaptive system. No complex adaptive system can contain more than one set of ethics, logic, or physics that is why we have nation-states to contain them. However, until the resources have been shifted to the winning side they can both be a part of an inter-group tournament (Global Brain, Howard Bloom), and that is what’s happening.

The more nation-states we destroy, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and pretty soon Iran, the larger the complex adaptive system gets. The ethics, logic or physics that wins is determined by where the resources are shifted. To “win” globalization needs to shift more resources to people who support its ethics, logic and physics than those oppose. It is because globalization is a part of the global-wide complex adaptive system that resources are able to shift to the enemies of globalization and towards globalization at the same time.

Right now we have resources shifting all over the world. They shift from China to America, America to China, China to Iran, Iran to Afghanistan, Iran to Lebanon, Iran to Iraq, America to KSA, KSA to America, KSA to Pakistan, among others. When these resources shift and produce a winner, the rules common to the resource also wins. Iran helped set up the government of Afghanistan, and that produced a winner. Iran is helping Iraq set up its government, and that will produced a winner also. We all know where Lebanon is going and what America and Israel is going to do about it.

Sorry I didn’t mean to rant, but the problem is: at a family, city, county, state, and federal scale the USA looks like a nation-state. But when scaled to a world level, the reality of the situation becomes evident; the USA is part of a globe-wide complex adaptive system, which follows a completely different set of rules than a nation-state.
Superb comments all; I can only apologize for my lack of timely response. things will be better in a couple of weeks.
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