Is our republic (ie. the United States government) is too big to fail? Too big to exist? (In its current form at least).
Many Americans depend on the Feds in many many ways. This dependence has grown over time. More people depend on federal support programs than any time since the Great Depression. These programs are harder to qualify for as well.
The State does as much to promote poverty as it does to ameliorate its symptoms. It does as much to suppress our liberties as it does to “promote” them elsewhere. Granted, it does help major projects like interstates and uhh…stuff, but many of those are crumbling. There are easier more humane ways to get those things done than handing the keys to power over to the feds. I, for one, think we should find ways to supplant every support and service that the government or any corporation supplies. I think that’s what needs to happen for #OWS to keep going. I don’t think it is really that hard, it will just take time. These things will take time, but they can be done. Money is an abstract concept whereas the power of humans organizing is not.
This video talks less about “unintended consequences” and more about basic failure that can result when white man’s burden goes for the feel-good aid story and ignores the monitoring and feedback loops that are important for a project’s success.
A friend recently proposed the idea that we need a bunch of MIT experts to “fix” the planet. ‘Experts’ solving our problems would possibly be much better than what we have now, but, if unquestioned, their solutions WILL have unintended consequences. Engineers, economists, social engineers, and other really smart people caused most of the problems we faced today. Whenever a centralized bureaucracy enforces the will of the few, blinders get put on. People want to think they are right. The heaviest burden of a world ruled by the ‘experts’ will likely fall on the people and ecosystems that the experts are least familiar with; the ones that can least afford those burdens. As far as I know, China is the closest thing to technocracy in the modern world (the Soviets were another pretty reasonable example of technocracy). Here’s a list of their experts’ unintended consequences: three gorges dam, a missing generation of women from the one-child policy. There’s more, but these are pretty major examples.
I would offer the occupy movement and the general assembly as a potential alternative to this centralized technocrat model. Experts are always valued and should be, but it doesn’t seem like it’s always a good idea to just hand over the power and say “you’re the expert.” Democratic review of experts is the single most important part of peer-reviewed science, but one that is often left out of a technocratic bureaucracy, once consensus is built and injected into centralized power structures, it is no longer deemed valuable to fact-check or monitor for success. In the extremely (and sometimes painful if you’re not used to consensus building) democratic process of a GA, the expert is forced to consider other viewpoints and must convince a group of their expert opinion. In many cases, they may have to consider the problem/system from the perspective of traditionally marginalized voices, eg. those who did not receive their education from the marquee MIT name. This results in a rigorous decision making process that is subject to many forms of oversight, monitoring and revision.
That our education system teaches us facts instead of process is a huge failing in a world that is rapidly changing. The facts change. Adaptation is critical and our current systems are not built for it. Both the State and corporations suppress dissent to maintain the status quo because it’s profitable.
(And by the 1% I mean the .1%, the financial industry and true “capitalists” everywhere.)
Marxists and capitalists both operate on the myth that their group of elite is smarter than all the rest of us combined. Both groups kindly offer to take all the hard decision of governance and most types of problem solving out of our hands and put those ideas into the hands of a few well trained experts. The results? Industrial food that is poisoning our bodies, our streams and the Gulf of Mexico. Top that off with the BP-Horizon oil spill. Some other examples? Three Gorges Dam. The 2008 Bailout. Destruction of African economies in favor of “aid charity and a free market!” Another example? The great depression. Need I continue?
It takes an engineers mind to really think that for every situation there is one correct way to define the problem with one best solution. As an ecologist I’ve been growing into the idea that this type of thinking is what has caused almost every problem on the globe. “There is a problem.” “Let me solve that problem.” “Hey team of 10 really well trained people from the other side of the planet, how can we solve this problem?” It’s like physics. Every problem gets distilled down and context gets excluded. As the joke goes, every problem becomes a spherical chicken in a vacuum. In most cases I can think of where experts get involved, unexpected consequences result. Also, the motives of those creating “solutions” for “problems” should always be questioned. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, just vote for me and I’ll take care of your problem.” “Oh you have X problem? I have this product you can buy to help solve your problem.”
I think this ties into the commonly held idea (I think this is commonly held both on the left and on the right) that someone who would grasp for power is the last person you should give it to. We all like to think we’re smarter than someone else, but imagine for a moment a world where no one assumes they’re smarter than everyone else. Instead imagine everyone assumes everyone should have a say and may have some special bit of personal experience or evidence that can help the group figure out the problem at hand and a collective solution.
Many of us are slowly/abruptly coming to the conclusion that we have a major problem on our hands. Before we talk about the “one correct way to solve that problem,” we should all just agree that I’m a genius and should be elected lead expert next time we all want to solve a problem.
Just kidding! What do you think about the mess we’re in?