Journal: Design Thinking for Government

Robert David STEELE Vivas
Robert David STEELE Vivas

What a great search phrase!  Thank you.

KEY POINT: Design is not just about physical structures, but about relationships as well as ideas.  Will Durant has a great deal to say about this in Philosophy and the Social Problem.

KEY POINT: Information is the means by which we harmonize understanding of the threats, sustainable consensus on how to handle the threats, and implementaition plans, programs, and budgets across the twelve core policy areas.  THIS ALLOWS both vertical and horizonal harmonization within the four levels of governments (local, state or province, national, and regional or global).

Earth is an information system within a larger Cosmic information system.  We are coming off a millenium of information pathologies.  Now is the time to pay careful attention to Ackoff and Fuller and get right things right.

To Be Considered:

1.  Origin & Responsibilities of the State

2.  Causes of Revolution

3.  Earth Science Fundamentals

4.  Government in the Information Age

5.  What Is To Be Done?

1.  Origin & Responsibilities of the State

Robert MacIver's The Modern State, remains the seminal work in this field.  Robert Steele's minor graduate study of The Origin, Nature,  and Failure of the State (Lehigh, 1975) remains a good overview that builds on MacIver.  110 pages, a chart from MacIver can be found on page 24 of the latter work.

The State evolved as a combination of taxation and specialization led to the acceptance by populations of state authority for the common good.  Earlier forms of the state included matriarchal families, tribes, secret societies, and city-states.

The three primary purposes of the state have always been Order (including the management of information essential to the furtherance of common goals); Protection; and Conservation & Development.

The concept of a state, which has always been one of limited authority based on the consent of the governed (even under dictatorships, the case can be made that the public is “accepting” of a condition that volition theory teaches us is impossible to maintain absent the acquiescence of the majority), took a grievous turn for the worst with the Treaty of Westphalia, which sanctified the concept of state sovereignty and paved the way for dictatorships able to simultaneously loot their own publics and still trade with other states acting in the name of their own largely oblivious publics.  See Philipp Allot,The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State on the first point, and Ambassador Mark Palmer, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025.  See alsoWeb of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, A Peace to End All Peace–The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle EastKilling Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II-Updated Through 2003, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq andThe Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic among many other references.

The core point here is that when one disconnects “who pays” from “who benefits” as we have in the USA since the time of Abraham Lincoln, then the public budget is applied “in our name” but not in the public interest.  This is where public intelligence and civic engagement come in.  As the world has become more complex, the public has failed to demand accountability for its tax dollars to the point that at least 50% of the tax dollar is WASTE, and at least 25% of the tax dollar is being applied both abroad and at home in a questionable manner.

This is an INFORMATION-SHARING & SENSE-MAKING challenge, nothing more. While the Administration pays lip service to “transparency,” real transparency is emerging in the public arena as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips meet RapidSMS (Short Message Service) and web-based values and cost-benefit calculators begin to come together.  Transparent participatory budgeting will restore the connection between “who pays” and “who benefits.”  Howard Zinn is correct in A Power Governments Cannot Supress–once the “collective” is conscious, there are not enough guns, jails, or even bribes for temporal leaders, that can undermine the collective's sense of good for itself as a whole.

See Graphic: Information Pathologies.

Hence, design thinking for government at this point must center on creating organizational intelligence that is matched with collective intelligence through shared information and sense-making so as to eradicate corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse.  We view this as an inevitable non-vioelnt revolution whose only intermediate obstacle is the ability of the government to close down the Internet.  Localized “bottom-up” clouds are in our view both a technical and a practical necessity to achieve resilience, one reaon we believe all hand-held devices should be like “motes” able to communicate among themselves and in the aggregate communication with adjacent localized clouds.  Top-down is history, the next big win is going to be from the bottom-up, enabling human intelligence in the aggregate.

The impeachable dereliction of duty of all Members in passing the de-regulation of US finance as proposed by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), legislation none of them had read, is but one especially blatant example of a government failure of both integrity and intelligence.  The public must begin holding its Members accountable for both, or it must dismiss all standing Members and start over, each Member being required to pledge to support both Electoral Reform and Smart Nation -Safe Nation.

It is very important to understand that the relationship between state and commerce will be vastly IMPROVED by achieving organizational and collective intelligence.  Corporations will move faster toward Getting to Zero WasteCradle to Cradle, Green to Gold, Sustainable Design, and Natural Capitalism; 50% of our tax dollar–the part that goes to waste today–will go instead into order, protection, and conservation, all completely transparent.

Capitalism has been allowed to go down a predatory immoral path, in part because states could not keep up with the agility of Multinational Corporations (MNC) as predicted by Richard Barnett in Global Reach, and in part because Western elites co-opted local elites, as discussed in Global Class War.

In essence, when the USA moved away from the concept of a Republic in which We the People are sovereign, it allowed for the emergence of what we have called the Paradigms of Failure.

Government design is about sustainable integrity at all levels, and transparent decision-support (intelligence).  It is less about money (taxation and spending) and more about culture and community.

See Graphic: 24/7 Participatory Budget-Policy.

2.  Causes of Revolution

Politicians and policy-makers today, certainly in the USA but generally elsewhere, are abysmally out of touch with reality.  They make laws and policies based on who pays THEM, not who pays for the policies (US), and on the basis of ideological fantasies that are unsupportable by facts.  I first observed this, egged on by Bruce Schmidt of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), in my paper for them,Virtual Intelligence: Conflict Avoidance and Resolution through Information Peacekeeping as follows:

The underlying threat to peace and prosperity–the cause of causes–is the ever-widening chasm between policymakers with power, and private sector experts and participants with knowledge.

Today I would add another gap, the “democracy gap,” one easily closed if the public exercises its voice.

The single most common cause for revolution is the concentration of wealth.   For the US Government to allow the criminally-founded concentration of wealth that has taken place in the USA during the past two decades is both a sign of the government's ignorance at a fundamental level about the country it is supposed to serve, and about the basics of political science, economics, and sociology, among other disciplines; and also a sign of the inattentiveness of the people in an era illusion replaced substance.

A pre-condition is not a precipitent.  All of the preconditions for revolution exist today in the USA.  What is missing is a precipitating event or disclosure so outrageous that it inspires an instant and over-whelming General Strike across the country, followed by Recall Elections on all Members, and the appointment of an entire new Congress.  A new Constititional Convetion is not beyoond the realm of possibility, nor is secession beyond the pale–Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont as well as Puerto Ric0 all have solid reasons for wanting to cut the cord, and it may be time for the South to revisit secession.  The White House is theater, Congress is corrupt, Treasury is bankrupt (and under the control of Goldman Sachs), the USA is on very thin ice as a Republic.

It is very important to observe that while the concentration of wealth is a revolutionary factor, redistributing that wealth is NOT a solution.  The key to the future is to avoid scaring the wealthy–there must be no confiscation–and engage them in funding the creation of what some call Infinite Weatlh, Revolutionary Wealth, the Wealth of Knowledge, the Wealth of Networks.

If we are to get a grip, the one person who can bring us to order is the President, but only if he breaks with his party hacks and embraces all Americans and all parties in order to put the truth on the table, honor all points of view, and take it from there.  No amount of design will overcome a plentitude of lies, fraud, waste, and abuse.

The alternative to a top-down Presidential overture is a bottom-up move of all third parties (Independents, Libertarians, Greens, Reforms, others) to come together to endorse Electoral Reform and a clean sweep of the two-party tyranny out of all national and state offices–less those who agree to sign the Electoral Reform pledge.

See: Graphic: Pre-Conditions of Revolution

See: 1976 Thesis: Theory, Risk Assessment, and Internal War: A Framework for the Observation of Revolutionary Potential

3.  Earth Science Fundamentals

Too many scholars today fail to honor the pioneering work done in the 1960's and 1970's (as well as earlier lesser-known pioneers).  The Earth is a system of systems.  Some of those systems, such as Climate Change, are beyond the current comprehension of our collective intelligence, and completely foreign to our simplistic and mostly wrong computer models.  We have not only ignored the total system impact of some of our human activities (for example, paving over the Mississippi wetlands is a major factor in leading to storms that are more severe and do more damage) but we have failed to think through the impacts of our creation of synthetics–for example, two islands of plastic rubbish in the Pacific Ocean that together are the size of the State of Texas.

The other fundamental about Earth Science is that the time scale has gone from a change taking ten thousand years to taking three years.  What this really means, apart from our having to accelerate our efforts to get a grip on all information in all languages all the time, is that we need to do Real-Time Science and Real-Time Government.  Both our science and public administration communities are so fragmented as to make it virtually certain we will not achieve this needed capability in less than 10-25 years, and only then if the “elites” or the “populists” have a massive “aha” experience.

4.  Government in the Information Age

Government as it is designed at present is a major part of the problem.  The Government is a Weberian creature, all stovepipes and cubbies for restricted information, and no overall means (nor any incentive nor any culture) of sharing information and making sense beyond the reductionist elements that our bureaucracies have created.  This is why one side of government will fund the eradication of prarie dogs and another side of government will fund the protection of prarie dogs, both on the same acreage.

The good news–and it is very good news–is that in the age of the Internet it is possible to create a World Brain or Global Brain with an embedded EarthGame that is capable of harnessing the collective intelligence of all of humanity.  Being able to leverage EVERYBODY is the only way we can crack the data entry choke point that stimies all models and efforts to do real-world real-time collection, processing, and analysis.  Unfortunately, the government has both stovepipes and secrecy.  With the $75 billion a year we spend today on secrecy, one could create ten World Brains with embedded EarthGames, provide free education to every person on the planet, and implement free cell phones and cell phone service for each of the five billion poor.

5.  What Is To Be Done?

Norman Cousins has it right in The Pathology of Power when he says that governments cannot perceive great truths, governments are limited to small and intermediate truths.  The great truth that We the People must come to grips with today is that Industrial Era governments and Industrial Era corporations DO NOT WORK–they are pathological and inherently opposed to the creation of a prosperous world at peace.

Phi Beta Iota has worked with many others to create two simple legislative proposals, one on electoral reform and one on creating a Smart Nation – Safe Nation.  We may be over-simplifying the matter, but every bit of information that we have encountered in the past four decades of government and private sector service points in the same direction: resilience in the face of complexity is a bottom-up affair; and resilience in the face of complexity demands the integration of all available information (e.g. true cost information) as well as the total integrity of all feedback loops–lies kill one's comrades.

In concluding this short response to the thoughtful question posed to this web site, we would respectfully argue that our Founding Father understood that the design of government was fundamentally about the relationship of the people to the public administrative service called the federal government, and this is why they were so firm on We the People being sovereign over the federal government to the point of being able to abolish that government.

Our first challenge is Electoral Reform.

Our second challenge is the modernization of all that we do by creating a Smart Nation – Safe Nation in which the public has access to all information in all languages all the time, and “rule by secrecy” as well as the many other information pathologies characteristic of industrial era governments are corporations are simply no longer sustainable.

That's our answer.  Obviously not worth the Nobel Peace Prize and clearly humble in comparison with the soaring rhetoric of President Barack Obama, this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, but there it is: that is how we reset the United States of America, create the World Brain with embedded EarthGame, and go on to create a prosperous world at peace.

Welcome comments and engagement in dialog!

Financial Liberty at Risk-728x90