No LabelsDecember 14, 2010 Leave a comment
The “No Labels” political effort feels more like the work of well resourced spin doctors than an emergent political movement that can address the paralyzing institutional polarization that might bring our country to its knees. I was struck by this quote from a New York Times story focused on Bloomberg’s role:
In fact, though, the rise of the independents represents a movement in exactly the opposite direction — away from party organizations altogether… This isn’t so much a political phenomenon as it is a cultural one. In the last decade or so, the Web has created an increasingly decentralized and customized society, in which a new generation of voters seems less aligned, generally, with large institutions. MoveOn.org and the Tea Party groups, for instance, were born as protests against the establishments of both parties, and they empowered citizens to create their own agendas, rather than relying on any elected leadership.
I’ve been talking about decentralization for a long time, the national pattern replicate itself at all levels and even relatively small local organizations tend to have the same “centralizing institutional feel” of our obsolete party structures. The cultural shift is real. We have enjoyed self-organized free association since before the times of Alexis de Toqueville – human beings are born social. The web makes is easy and cheap for us to self-organize and free associate at a global scale – it facilitates our doing what we want to do, it does not cause it.
It seems to me that part of the problem at this time of transition from one paradigm to another is that even when we are looking at decentralized ways of organizing ourselves we are doing it in order to affect centralized systems. To me, the learning edge question is how do we govern ourselves in a less institutional, more decentralized way? I am not asking “how do we form a government,” I am asking: how do we govern ourselves – how do we organize ourselves in such a way that we can actually address the currently real threats to the survival of our species?
What would a less institutional form of governance look like? Who would perform what roles? What programs would exist and how would they be run? What would a decentralized welfare system look like? Or how about a decentralized road repair system?
I am not at all a fan of dehumanizing bureaucracies, but I wonder if some bureaucratic systems are a necessary evil. What we need are vivid pictures of alternatives. Maybe we should design a set of pop up books.