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Revelatur | Vector® Volume 2: “America – No Longer Measuring Up?”
Where are we Now, What's our Destination, and How do we get There?
As our second quarterly Revelatur | Vector report goes to print, our team is experiencing mixed emotions. We are relieved beyond measure that Democrats prevailed at the national level, and that the Presidential transition took place without a repetition of the violence that plagued the electoral ballot certification process.
We are pleased that there is an African American woman Vice-president, and that the Cabinet is diverse. And we are bursting with pride that our political forecasts have proven to be uncannily accurate.
Yet we remain deeply fearful precisely because those forecasts were so accurate. Because we also predicted: continued legislative gridlock regardless of national level election outcomes; renewed efforts at gerrymandering, voter suppression and intimidation of Democrats and progressives; and a continuing divide between fact-based and tribal approaches to civics, decision-making, and personal behavior.
Bottom line from our perspective is that our democracy dodged a bullet, but the underlying trends and dynamics that give rise to Trumpism -- particularly the right’s rock solid system of impunity -- remain as powerful constraints to societal improvement. We should fully expect Republicans to pull out all the stops to obstruct even the basic functions of government -- and to “die in place” to prevent any element of the progressive agenda from being realized. This enables them to paint Democrats as ineffective -- with the very realistic hope that undivided Democratic national control only lasts two years.
The right has learned no lessons that forces a reckoning and new direction. It will not suddenly become enamored of policy, truth, principled intercourse, or compromise. To believe so is to trade reason and facts for hope, and to reinforce the bad habits that led us to Trump.
What we must learn from the last four years is to continue to apply reason, to learn as much as we can, to take principled approaches, to react to provocation based on those things appropriately in the moment and not always after reflection, and to surround all this with a strategic approach that has been all but non-existent on the left for fifty years. And as Stacey Abrams showed us -- determined, focused action in the face of adversity and disappointment is the necessary compliment to intent and policy.
Finally, although all who participated in saving our democracy have cause to celebrate, such celebrating should be short-lived. Much, indeed most of the work, is in front of us. We at Revelatur will continue to do our part and are glad to be on the same team with you.
Our Mission: Revelatur advances democracy and human rights in the United States and globally by providing customers a unique information delivery platform of actionable knowledge and evidence-based solutions.
We focus on the levers for systemic change across the full spectrum of progressive concern -- from economic development to justice to the environment -- enabling customers to make sense of complex issues and to take meaningful actions that maximize their individual and collective impact.
To provide customer value and differential advantage in the marketplace, Revelatur employs multiple analytic and sense making* methods to define current reality, then deploys proprietary forecasting models to determine which specific actions will provide the most significant progress against the measures that matter to the majority of citizens.
We realize that Revelatur is only one piece of a powerful liberal ecosystem including current and future citizens, progressive activists, elected officials, the media, and nonprofit organizations. In concert with our colleagues we do our part in the perpetual fight for universal human dignity and a sustainable world.
Our ultimate contribution intention is an integration of critical thinking methods and knowledge enabling sense making; leading in turn to improved progressive ecosystem situational understanding, more effective actions and outcomes.
The intended contribution of this issue is improved understanding about a distinct set of numbers known as “measures.”
*Sense-making is a high-leverage organizational discipline whose output animates strategy, decision-making, Course of Action selection, resource allocation, dynamic capability management, learning, knowledge management, and value generation. Sense making is a recursive, goal-oriented activity that is optimally conceptualized systemically.
Effective sense making requires a structured framework that directs and integrates: information collection, analysis, and synthesis; knowledge generation and application; and feedback. Information flow is most effectively captured in a mission-specific sense-making model whose efficacy is measured by the concept of robustness, with its ultimate utility being determined by measures of performance and effectiveness of the organization’s value chain.
Situational Understanding is the qualitative threshold towards which sense-making is vectored –– “situational understanding” being defined as “sufficient knowledge of: the environment; timelines for decision and action; capacity for action; threats; challenges and constraints; universe of permissible actions; and system effects -- to establish at least Rough Order of Magnitude ‘a priori’ probabilities of decision and activity efficacy and/or to create exploitable differential advantage.”
Knowledge, tools and process are integrated by an extensible methodology enabling development of increasingly robust mental and computational models of the transactional environment. A robust model of the transactional environment is alternatively known as “reality.” Sense-making processes can follow many paths, yet best achieve robustness and utility along a vector of successive approximation (“method for estimating the value of an unknown quantity by repeated comparison to a sequence of known quantities”).
A broad set of models and tools can be applied in the sense-making process. Understanding which to apply when, and how, requires a trans-disciplinary ecosystem of practitioners and subject matter experts in at least the following domains:
Dynamic Capability Management
Science of Expertise
Complex Adaptive Systems
Modeling and Simulation
Bottom Line Up Front:The three key arguments we elaborate in this report are:
1. We are currently paying attention to, and acting on, the wrong measures while failing to act on the right ones, and interpreting what we do measure incorrectly. This causes us to have a distorted picture of reality. As a nation the United States is vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda commensurate with the level of distortion, and effective collective action is thereby rendered more difficult. This distortion is a major factor driving citizen pathology in matters of physical and psychological health, the economy, and social cohesion. Specific interest groups and industry sectors benefit from and perpetuate distortion. Reactively identifying and countering distortion -- while necessary and useful -- will have limited effects changing this dynamic. Our resulting individual and collective actions are ineffective at best and more often than not, counter-productive. This dynamic constitutes a vicious cycle and environmental equilibrium favorable only to a small fraction of people and detrimental to the rest of us. This equilibrium cannot be overcome with the approaches we are taking now; rather, it will require “well-structured noise” to shatter the equilibrium and establish a virtuous cycle that reverses the pathologies. In order to do this, we need to obtain national and global consensus on the measures that matter to us. Such consensus is obtainable through a proven, structured process combining participative democracy and evidence-based problem solving approaches. Citizen education underpins this entire effort and within at least the United States, in inadequate and must be substantially improved or we are doomed to false hope, frustration and accelerated deterioration in our quality of life. Although a solution is available we have an immensely long road ahead of us to get from our current state to that of a healthy democracy and polity.
2. Key measures indicate a decline for the U.S. in all categories of national health – comparative national power, internal political, social, physiological. These categories are themselves inter-connected and their mutual declines have generated vicious cycles with, again, a very small number of beneficiaries and millions of casualties domestically and globally. Thus we concur with the poll results at the beginning of this section.
3. American Exceptionalism, the American Dream and other myths are systemically connected to the vicious cycles -- they are both cause and effect, and obscure reality as well as potential solutions. They will need to be replaced or re-formulated to enable us to move forward. We posit (Part Two) a way to do so in this report.
Why Measures Matter: You’ve more than likely heard one or more of the following: “what gets measured gets managed/done/improved;” “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics;” “figures don’t lie but liars do figure;” “in God we trust, all others must bring data.”
The problem that the quotes all call out is insufficient context. Interpreting and understanding anything, especially numeric information/data, requires a baseline level of context about the domain to which the information applies, and the discipline not to apply data outside the domain from which it was generated without caveats and strict protocols. For instance, in the quote about God and data, W. Edwards Deming was referring strictly to the mature disciplines of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and the Continuous Improvement (CI) of business processes -- and nothing else! He also said: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” In fact, running an organization on “numbers alone” is one of the “Seven Deadly Organizational Sins” Deming identified in his work. Again, measures are specific to a domain; and can’t often be usefully applied to problem understanding outside that domain absent an objective process of translation -- such as “Translational Research” or “System Dynamics,” and/or the use of ontologies. The mainstream press and social media are not providing that service for us -- because they don’t know how.
The purpose of measures is to accurately describe the state of a system to provide sufficient situational understanding to enable effective stakeholder participation in decision-making, followed by effective practitioner action. The key question always is: which specific measures efficiently and robustly describe a system state (reality)?
A robust set of measures includes both the quantitative and qualitative -- contrary to popular thought that “only numbers matter.” For instance, there is tremendous value in this qualitative observation from the late Mother Teresa: “There is a famine in America. Not a famine of food, but of love, of truth, of life.” And, unfortunately, also in this quote: “There are 47% of the people who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims…They are people who pay no income tax…And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Who said that last one? Trump, McConnell, Graham? Ha – it was Mitt Romney – the “best” the Republican Party has to offer. You don’t think that’s a meaningful measure? It certainly is -- it’s an “indicator” in intelligence terms that enables us to develop probabilities of subsequent action on his part and that of his ecosystem; and in turn serves as a “leading indicator” in macro-economic terms, although most economists would not include it in their analyses. It tells us exactly where he and the Republican Party intended to go with future tax policy – policy that resulted in legislation ultimately passed in 2017.
Romney’s utterance -- correctly applied as an indicator -- helps answer key questions about Republican strategy, and in turn enables us to formulate a new question: if this is what the most humane Republican thinks -- what do the rest of them think? As we play out this process -- key intelligence question followed by development of indicators followed by collection of data -- we enhance our sense-making and our ability to effectively respond, and we reduce the timeline to response -- both of which are critical to winning.
The point is that utterances such as Romney’s should not serve simply as causes of outrage but should be called out actively by progressives with their full implications immediately elaborated. Only in this way can the right’s supporters be moved past simple visceral and tribal reactions (yeah – give it to those freeloaders!) to an understanding that such utterances betray a point of view that will ultimately result in policy that also negatively impacts them as well (in point of fact, Republicans constitute a majority of that 47%!). And only at that level of elaboration will Democrats be able to effectively counter deleterious policy.
Mother Teresa’s quote, uttered two generations ago, should have caused us to give serious consideration to the concept of American Exceptionalism, yet we ignored it. That she didn’t “have a dog in this fight” – in other words, she was that rare “objective observer,” should have been our first clue.
Another problem with measures is the connection between the numbers we look at and the myths, stories and outright propaganda linked to them. For instance, I was listening recently SIRIUS XM radio and was enchanted by the total absorption of the DJ in the alternative music and music scene. He spoke about it as if it were a self-contained world that one could -- and by implication should -- become totally contained within as a bulwark against the troubles of the “outside” world.
In doing so he perpetuated the American Dream axiom that America is so great because there's a job for everyone that they will love, and the economy is perfectly elastic and you just find or make your job if one doesn’t appear in the standard economy -- in this case within the alternative music world. It is evidently as simple as wishing it so. I’ve been hearing that crap since I was a toddler and I can find no experiential or empirical data to back it up.
American professional sports and entertainment industries seem to validate this axiom at first glance. An infinitesimally small number of people will ever make it big in sports or entertainment – in fact as professional endeavors they embody both the best and worst of the American Dream. But both fields are outliers in terms of jobs that people love --- 80% of Americans hate their jobs, most are underemployed, a substantially larger number are actually unemployed than indicated by the primary statistic we look at each month. That we accept the best and worst as inevitable outcomes of American Capitalism is simply Social Darwinism passing unacknowledged through society. In this blind acceptance we are unique among western Democracies -- “exceptional” in fact, just in the wrong way!
That axiom really just a myth designed to keep people on the treadmill and paying taxes and thinking we're getting somewhere. But of course upward mobility has ground to a halt and even reversed over the last two generations. We're not going to write a book about this in the report, but we're going to build the case brick by brick that this bread and circuses distraction caused by inadequate attention to the right measures -- while not the result of some Pentaverate conspiracy -- is nonetheless a systems dynamic endemic to the modern world. And spectacularly toxic in the U.S., due to our particular brand of capitalism, myths and early successes and rapid ascent to global leadership.
The myth of American Exceptionalism is interesting in that it basically constitutes its own complete lens or worldview -- linked to of course but standing also on its own in that regard. Trumpists -- particularly the poor/losers -- have to cling to exceptionalism because without it, what have they got? Without it they themselves are nothing more than losers in a non-exceptional country. This is why the Democratic narrative that things could and should be better is easily positioned as un-patriotic to them. Of course there is a racial element balled up in the Trumpist self-concept, and it may predominate in that population -- but there is also a healthy dose of self-loathing that the right’s leadership manipulates. This aspect of Trumpism and American authoritarianism has been criminally neglected in analyses and reporting.
Part One - America by the Numbers
In this section we take a look at current numbers and trends. The numbers are revealing in their own right, yet also serve as a point of departure for our exploration in Part Two of a much healthier and more effective method to measure national health. We divided the measures into three categories: the Economy; Politics; and Environment, Health and National Capacity. Interestingly, and consistent with our Revelatur systems outlook, we find that most measures could have been slotted into two categories, and some all three! We elaborate on some of the numbers in Part One; others tell their own story without our help.
So we all know that we cannot reduce individual human behavior to less than a handful of measures, yet we accept that we can measure the health of the entire country with one number: Gross Domestic Product or “GDP.” Here’s an example of the (deliberate?) confusion sewn over our numbers evident in this GDP definition in Investopedia: “Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period. As a broad measure of overall domestic production, it functions as a comprehensive scorecard of a given country's economic health.” (Investopedia) However, a “broad measure” is still just one measure, and therefore cannot “function as a comprehensive scorecard of economic health,” because a ‘scorecard’ would be composed of multiple measures as it is for a baseball player.
Thus this definition must be rejected on its face because it is internally inconsistent. In fact, if we were developing an ontology for the domain of economics we would reject this definition, because its use would distort reality and render our aggregate models less accurate and robust -- thereby limiting the value of its probability estimates and obviating the purpose of model development in the first place! We assume that Investopedia is trying to be helpful and objective here -- its business model depends on customer trust, so we can only conclude that this understanding of GDP has been widely accepted as empirical fact.
The good news? We have the world’s highest GDP. The bad news? Most of us do not benefit directly from our Number 1 GDP ranking. But the majority of Americans do suffer suboptimal if not deleterious personal and familial outcomes from our relatively low rankings in: Inter-generational Upward Mobility; Income and Wealth Inequality; Tax Inequality; Quality of Life; Happiness; and Citizen Power, Influence and Agency. And the untrammelled pursuit of world’s highest GDP has given us a society sorely in need of repair.
“Another false hope narrative exists in the gap between white and Black unemployment. It narrowed last month, as the Black unemployment rate fell to 9.9% from 10.3%. But that’s in part because the number of Black workers considered in the labor force shrunk — i.e. gave up looking for work altogether. More white workers re-entered the workforce last month. Whites were the only group to see a net rise in employment in December. Latinos fared the worst by far, with 252,000 fewer considered employed in December. There were 40,000 fewer employed Asians, and 26,000 fewer Black workers. (Axios,“The jobs report silver linings that are a mirage” January 10).
“The professional and business services sector -- think lawyers, accountants or consultants -- saw the biggest job gains last month (161,000), helping offset the nearly 500,000 jobs shed in the leisure and hospitality sector. But over 40% of the gains were in temporary help services, limited gigs that may or may not turn into longer-term work.Among other promises Trump has broken — getting Mexico to pay for a border wall, say, or his oath of office — there’s also his pledge on jobs.
Trump once vowed that he’d be the “greatest jobs president that God ever created.” Instead, with Friday’s jobs report, he’s on track to become the first president since modern employment statistics began to leave office with fewer U.S. jobs than existed when he was sworn in. Contemporary employment statistics date to 1939, which means the first president whose entire tenure can be assessed by these metrics is Harry S. Truman. He and every president since have always left the White House with more jobs on the books. That is, until now. Which makes sense — the long-term trend in employment is upward, because the U.S. population and economy generally grow over time,” (Washington Post, January 8, 2010, “December’s jobs report confirms Trump is set to be the worst jobs president on record,” Catherine Rampell).
The U.S. Underemployment Rate (total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers”) as of 3rdquarter 2020: 12.3% - U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number is provided by the U.S. Government, and notably does not include the category for Americans who feel underemployed. We don’t know that number yet, but as we pointed out, we do know that >80% of Americans consistently report that they dislike their jobs, and presumably such dislike is to some extent driven by feelings of underemployment.
“The U.S. ranks 20 of 21 OECD countries for union density and collective bargaining coverage,” (International Inequalities Institute, Working Paper 55, December 2020, David Hope and Julian Limberg). Anti-union efforts are anti-democracy as well. They are protected by the union association with socialism, and buoyed by historical problems with American unions – organized crime ties for instance. But these are all distortions. We are continually making bad and artificial tradeoffs between democracy and our form of capitalism – tradeoffs other democracies avoid through higher levels of education and superior critical reasoning skills. Collective bargaining is a focused example of participative democracy that has to fight on two fronts at once – individual businesses/employers and the government. This is insane. And another reason that we must have “collective” engagement amongst progressives and democracy advocates.
Spending measures reveal as much as tax policy if you know how to look at the numbers. The Defense Budget 2021 is $706 Billion, 15% of the total budget and fully 50% of thee discretionary budget. Republican arguments re “affordability” of non-defense policy initiatives are specious – these are conscious and continuous choices to favor DoD spending because it reliably trickles dollars back to every single Congressional district in the nation, whereas alternative spending allocations would be more need-based and geographically-concentrated. Both parties play this game and thus are complicit.
“Gun violence costs the U.S. $229B annually in first responder, legal proceedings, medical treatment, lost wages and long-term care. Six times what we spend on foreign aid,” (Mother Jones Newsletter, January 2021).
“Under Trump, the national debt increased 37%,” (The Atlantic February 2020, “The Legacy of Donald Trump,” George Packer, p. 9).
2/3 of U.S. companies pay no income tax (Mother Jones Newsletter January, 2021.)
The 2018 (passed in late 2018, took effect January, 2018) tax cut reduced the corporate tax rate to 21%, the lowest in 80 years.
“Recent years have seen a resurgence in academic research on income inequality, driven by the influential body of work by Piketty and co-authors charting the evolution of top incomes in the advanced economies over the course of the 20th century. A central finding from that literature is that while top incomes fell for several decades after the Second World War, they turned a corner and began rising, most dramatically in the Anglo–Saxon economies, from the 1980s onwards. Correlational evidence from cross-country panel studies has found that lower taxes on the rich, especially top marginal income tax rates, are strongly associated with rising top incomes over this period. Although, studies exploring the effects of individual tax reforms paint a less clear picture, with some finding persistent effects on income inequality and others only short-term effects. Proponents of tax cuts for the rich often argue for their beneficial effects on economic performance. In fact, this line of reasoning, focusing on efficiency gains and the reduction of behavioural distortions, was central to the arguments made for major tax reforms in the US. The results also show that economic performance, as measured by real GDP per capita and the unemployment rate, is not significantly affected by major tax cuts for the rich. The estimated effects for these variables are statistically indistinguishable from zero, and this finding holds in both the short and medium run. Our findings align closely with the existing correlational evidence showing that tax cuts for the rich are associated with rising top income shares. We make an important contribution to this literature, however, as our empirical strategy allows for the estimation of causal effects. This is particularly pertinent in this case, as there is a large political science literature on the power of rich voters and organised business interests to shape public policies. (International Inequalities Institute, Working Paper 55, December 2020, David Hope and Julian Limberg).
The U.S. has the lowest level of intergenerational upward mobility of all western Democracies, with the exception of the U.K..
Upward mobility is a bogus measure of national health anyway. It acts as a filter and governor on justice and equity, disguised as something positive. No family should have to “wait their turn” through some unknown number of generations before someone in their family “receives their due,” which is essentially what upward mobility means in practice. If the U.S. was a fair and equitable country with liberty and justice for all there would be no such “waiting,” and there would be no gender or race salary and net worth inequalities to begin with. Our goal should not be to “gradually assimilate” women, people of color and immigrants, it should be to institute a merit-based economy immediately.
The entire field of economics is complicit in the purposeful truth distortion effort on behalf of elites (FYI, I studied economics as an undergrad, and was top of my class in my graduate school Economics classes). The classic definition of economics as “the study of the allocation of scare resources” reveals a key foundational problem. Why is scarcity the focus vice abundance – why isn’t economics “the science of how to make the pie bigger and therefore everyone’s slice?”
From that definition is set up the inevitable hierarchy, class, Social Darwinian competition thing that so marks the U.S. It appears to me that the entire field is a highly evolved apologetics for class and elite control dressed up as a science. Indeed it yet to develop a valid hypothesis for the main problem in the field -- business cycles -- despite a several hundred years of effort. Its existence as a field of study does not make anything better for the masses. Rather, improvements for the citizenry have come from education, technology, political policy, and individual/collective desire for better life.
Economics as a field of study legitimizes class distinction and tax, income and wealth inequality behind terms such as “invisible hand” and “market imperatives” as if they were handed down from God to Moses. In fact, there is more than a little religious touch to economics itself in its more teleological aspects, and in the strange mix of Republicans, prominent economists and Evangelical Christians who propel its main tenets forward.
Comparative Domestic Economic Performance:
“In 2013, economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson — no wild-eyed liberals, they — asked a very important question: Why has the U.S. economy performed better under Democratic than Republican presidents, “almost regardless of how one measures performance”?
Start with their “performed better” assertion: it’s uncontestable. While you can easily cherry-pick brief periods and economic measures that show superior economic performance under Republicans, over any lengthy comparison period (say, 25 years more), by pretty much any economic measure, Democrats have outperformed Republicans for a century. Even Tyler Cowen, director of the Koch-brothers-funded libertarian/conservative Mercatus Center, stipulates to that fact without demur.
Here’s just one bald picture of that relative performance, showing a very basic measure, GDP growth:
The difference is big. At those rates, over thirty years your $50,000 income compounds up to $105,000 under Republicans, $182,000 under Democrats — 73% higher. (And this is all before considering distribution — whether the growing prosperity is widely enjoyed, or narrowly concentrated.)
Hundreds of similar pictures are easily assembled — different time periods, different measures, aggregate and per-capita, inflation-adjusted or not — all telling the same general story. No amount of hand waving, smoke blowing, and definition quibbling will alter that reality. (If you feel you must try to debunk Blinder, Watson, and Cowen: be aware that you almost certainly don’t have an original argument. Read the paper, and follow the footnotes.
So what explains that superior performance? Blinder and Watson’s regression model basically says, “we dunno.” Their model rules out a whole slew of possibilities — only finding a significant correlation with oil price shocks (uh…okay…) and Total Factor Productivity (the black-box residual economic measure that’s left when the other growth factors economists can think of are accounted for in their models).
Standing empty-handed after all their work, Blinder and Watson punt. They attribute Democrats’ consistently superior performance to…luck. Yes, really.
On its face, the bare fact of Democrats’ consistent outperformance suggests a straightforward explanation: Democrat policies and priorities, in their myriad interacting forms, expressions, and implementations, directly cause faster growth, more progress, greater and more widespread prosperity. (Blinder and Watson pooh-pooh this idea, simply because they don’t find short-term correlation with the rather bare measure of fiscal balances.) Contrary to popular belief, the stock market and economy have performed better under Democratic presidents than it has under Republican presidents, according to data going back to 1946.
Liberum, a UK-based investment bank, pointed to historical stock market returns and annual GDP growth to make the case that a Republican president's drive to cut taxes and reduce government spending often leads to lower economic expansion and stock market returns than when a Democratic president is in office.
Since 1947, the S&P 500 has posted a total annual return of 10.8% under Democratic presidents, versus 5.6% under Republican presidents.
And if you exclude the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic, both of which happened under a Republican president, the data still points to stronger returns for Democratic presidents versus Republican presidents. This is not contested data.” (Business Insider, August 24, 2020).
The economy is a model of inter- and intra-market transactions and the interactions between economic actors and government, and conceptually mediates amongst them. Governments, markets and economies conceptually serve the people, and the people collectively constitute the organizing principle of society and nation states. This is at heart what Democracy means.
That said, a robust model of the U.S. economy would include measures of income and net worth inequality, relative tax burden, job/career satisfaction, unemployment and underemployment, inter-generational social mobility, gender and race upward mobility rates, among other factors. Some of these numbers are collected and analyzed, but the GDP and Stock Markets dominate the discussion of economic health -- conceptually crowding out the real “measures that matter” in this domain. Interestingly, we are not “Number 1” in any of these measures, and all are trending down relative to other Western Democracies. There are too many powerful individual and interest groups for whom this distortion benefits to accept that this is all accidental.
The other logical problem with GDP as a measure of measures is that while it is a type of outcome measure for the economy, the economy is not the organizing principle of society around which all else pivots. While “markets” are real, and individual economic behavior is real, “the economy” is a conceptual model. Models are robust to the degree that their components “represent” reality. But we’ve already seen that GDP distorts reality, and thus is a poor measure of reality and therefore the economy that is being modeled.
Interestingly, we don’t measure the economy/informal enterprise and/or criminal enterprises -- which globally represents more economic activity than the formal economy. Generally, the informal economy is a larger percentage of the total economy the less developed the nation and the smaller it’s formal economy. This lack of information is appalling. Among other things it means that politicians and decision makers operate at major information deficits and that the press does not report on the most and the many. In this the critique of them supporting the elite is actually correct. Systemically, this blindness in turn leads us also to ignore the pathologies experienced by people in these nations, such as tropical disease. They become ‘invisible’ and must to some degree feel the same.
The Economic Intelligence Unit, in its 2016 democratization index, downgraded the U.S. from “full” to “flawed” Democracy.
The Freedom House Global Freedom Score(access to political rights and civil liberties) of 210 Nations for the U.S. is 86, behind 25% of nations, including: Greece, Slovakia, Mauritius, Granada, Latvia, Italy, St, Kitts and Nevis, Malta, Lichtenstein, France, Chile, The Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Spain, St Lucia, Capo Verde, Palau, Micronesia, Kiribati, Taiwan, Austria, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Dominica, Germany, Cyprus, Andorra, Estonia, U.K., Iceland, Slovenia, Barbados, San Marino, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Uruguay, Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
In their work published in their book “Democracy in America,” authors Gilens and Page ran a horse race between the preferences of average voters and those of economic elites – defined as individuals at the top tenth percentile of the income distribution – to see which voters exert greater influence. They found that the effect of the average voter drops to insignificant levels, while that of economic elites remains substantial. The implication is clear: when the elites’ interests differ from those of the rest of society, it is their views that count – almost exclusively. As Gilens and Page explain, we should think of the preferences of the top 10% as a proxy for the views of the truly wealthy, say, the top 1% – the genuine elite.”
“U.S. citizens who believe it would be a good thing for the Army to rule is now 1 in six; only 38% of American, compared with 65% of Germans, for instance, rate democratic governance as a “very good” thing;” (World Values Survey).
Impact of Voter Suppression: “Stripping citizens of the ballot flipped seven Senate seats, all of them from blue to red;” (“Democracy in One Book or Less, David Litt, p. 45).
“If green card holders were their own state, they’d have more electoral votes than Ohio;” (Ibid, Litt, p. 48).
“Trump appointed 220 judges to the federal bench, including three Supreme Court justices;” (Ibid, “Legacy of Donald Trump, The Atlantic).
“Increasing the average distance to a polling place by just five blocks reduces turnout by 2 to 5%;” (Ibid, “Democracy in One Book…., p. 88).
“Trump withdrew U.S. from 13 international organizations, agreements and treaties;” (Ibid, The Atlantic).
“ExxonMobil has spent >$30M promoting climate denial despite confirming truth of human impact on climate in 1981;” (Mother Jones Newsletter January 2021).
“In Citizens United, the Supreme Court did look at 2ndorder effects ideologically without data to conclude that independent expenditures (what they technically voted to allow with their ruling) did not give rise to corruption;” (Ibid, David Litt, Democracy…. p. 202).
American Citizen Power:
Most American citizens have very little relative political power, and are reluctant to exercise that which they do have. In the past 100 years at most 72% of eligible voters voted in Presidential elections, with the average less than 60%. Even with the existential nature of the 2020 national elections, only 66% of eligible voters turned out. Numbers are lower for state and local elections. The officials they elect supposedly “represent” their collective interests, yet U.S. laws, policies and programs are far to the right politically than majority viewpoints. Don’t believe that? The following is a concise capture of rather well known information in this regard, excerpted from: “America is a Center-Left Country,” Max, August 11, 2017.
One of the biggest and most long enduring political legends of the time is the ever-present notion that the United States is a centre-right country. Time and time again we are told by figures in the media and politicians, even liberal ones, that the country leans to the right.
On election night as results came in, CNN’s John King told viewers that, “America is a centre-right country, it’s a lot more conservative, especially out in the heartland, than Democrats think.” In 2015, Politico magazine ran an article with the headline: “No, America Isn’t moving Left.”
This often repeated tale largely stems from polling data from Gallup on political identification. The current numbers reveal that 36% of Americans identify as conservatives, 34% identify as moderates, while just 25% identify as liberals. Based on that, Americans tend to be mostly conservative or moderate or a combination of both. Thus the narrative that America is a centre-right country is created.
However, that’s just what people self identify as. As anyone who has ever faced the dreaded interview question ‘tell me about yourself’ will attest to, Americans are not always best at describing themselves.
To that, it would be best to look at specific policies and issues to see if America is still a “centre-right country.”
On the issue of healthcare which has recently been one of the most important issues to the American people, the public seems to strongly back leftist positions on healthcare. A Quinnipiac poll from June found that 60% of Americans support expanding Medicare to cover every American, otherwise known as ‘Medicare for all.’ A Pew Poll from the same month found that 60% of Americans believe it is the government’s responsibility to provide healthcare to Americans.
Concerning taxes, most Americans believe in raising taxes on the rich and corporations. According to a Gallup poll from earlier this year, 63% say the rich pay too little in taxes and 67% say that corporations pay too little in taxes. Obviously if you believe that some people pay too little in taxes, you presumably think they should be paying more, i.e. tax the rich. A Vox poll from last year found that 73% of Americans favour raising taxes on the rich.
On education, Americans again seem to support leftist policies. A BankRate poll from 2016 shows that 62% of Americans support making public universities tuition free.
When it comes to the federal minimum wage, Americans strongly back increasing it. According to a YouGov poll, 66% support raising it to $10.10/hour, 59% support raising it to $12 and 48% support raising it to $15. In conclusion, raising the minimum wage is a very popular idea. When it comes to how the minimum wage should be set however, an overwhelming 63% agree that it should be tied to inflation via a University of Maryland poll.
That in addition to the 61% of Americans who support legalising marijuana, the 64% who support same-sex marriage, or the 57% who support legal abortion in most cases, and a host of other issues, America seems to be quite progressive.
“Despite the repeated claims that America is a “centre-right” country, when actually asked about the issues, Americans are actually strongly progressive for the most part. If anything, America is actually a centre-left country. In order to create real change and make progress, we as a country need to abandon this tired meme that America is a centre-right country, when on the issues, all the evidence points in the opposite direction,” (“America is a Center-Left Country,” Max, August 11, 2017).
Additionally, the national political health trends are -- in the aggregate -- negative; there are multiple vicious cycles in place accelerating negative trends and making their reversal ever more difficult; most citizens are insufficiently knowledgeable, aware, concerned and/or engaged to make a difference. Perhaps worst of all, a healthy percentage of Americans are increasingly, indeed primarily, more concerned about the health of their checkbook than the health of the nation -- and this condition is being deliberately exacerbated and exploited by the right.
“The value of a Wyoming citizen’s vote to California is 70 to 1;” (Ibid, “A Different Democracy,” p. 74).
“But the most important and worst of these numbers from the standpoint of the U.S. as a Democracy is from a meta-analysis conducted by Professors Gilens and Page that revealed that:
“Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all,”
“By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy … In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule – at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.” If the majority ‘does not rule,’ then in what sense is the U.S. a Democracy?
To carry out that test, Gilens and Page ran a horse race between the preferences of average voters and those of economic elites – defined as individuals at the top tenth percentile of the income distribution – to see which voters exert greater influence. They found that the effect of the average voter drops to insignificant levels, while that of economic elites remains substantial.”
Fortunately, the V-Dem Institute recently released (October 26, 2020) a Briefing Paper: “New Global Data on Political Parties: V-Party.” The following are the most alarming conclusions from V-Dem’s data-driven analysis:
“The Republican party has moved strongly in an illiberal direction. In this sense it is now more similar to autocratic ruling parties such as the Turkish AKP, and Fidesz in Hungary than to typical center-right governing parties in democracies such as the Conservatives in the UK or CDU in Germany.”
“The data shows that the Republican Party in 2018 was far more illiberal than almost all other governing parties in democracies. Only very few governing parties in democracies in this millennium (15%) were considered more illiberal than the Republican Party in the US.”
“In a significant shift since 2000, the GOP has taken to demonising and encouraging violence against its opponents, adopting attitudes and tactics comparable to ruling nationalist parties in Hungary, India, Poland and Turkey.The shift has both led to and been driven by the rise of Donald Trump.”
“This rise of illiberalism is not like mere disagreement about policy issues. Lacking commitment to democratic norms signals a willingness to also erode these norms once in power.” https://www.v-dem.net/media/filer_public/b6/55/b6553f85-5c5d-45ec-be63-a48a2abe3f62/briefing_paper_9.pdf
“The U.S. Electoral College has put five “losers” (received fewer popular votes than the winner of the Electoral College) into office,” (“A Different Democracy,” Taylor, Shugart, Grofman, Lijphart).
“Of the 12 countries with popular presidential elections – only in the U.S. is it possible for the candidate with the most votes to lose out in favor of a candidate with fewer popular votes;” (Ibid, p. 262).
“In the UK, parties can spend only 25M per election;” Ibid, Litt, p. 199)
The “U.S. is only modern Democracy in which an ex-prisoner may be permanently disenfranchised;” Ibid, Litt, p. 138)
“In 2012, while 2.4% of the total population has been disenfranchised due to imprisonment, 8.3% of all African Americans had been;” Ibid, Litt, p. 139)
“In the forty years before Donald Trump was elected President, America’s population grew by 50%. But the number of Americans barred from voting because of a felony conviction grew by 500%;” (Ibid, Litt p. 43.).
The amount, prevalence and impact of so-called white collar crime as a function of capitalism has been vastly under-estimated in general and as a cause of anomie, reduced productivity, regular crime, drug use, etc.; and the fact that it is not measured in national crime statistics is more than just an oversight. These are systems effects of course, not simply linearly related to such crime.
The “U.S. Uniform Crime Reports” – our official system, does not include or even have a category for white-collar crime!
Environment, Health and National Capacity:
US. Covid-19 deaths as of January 22, 2021 – 410,000 (accumulated in 12 months), more than WWII combat deaths (accumulated over four years), which constitutes 19% of the global total compared to the U.S.’ 4% share of overall population – a 500% over-representation!
“Americans' latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults rate their mental health positively, representing a nine-point decline from 2019. “The latest weakening in positive ratings, from a Nov. 5-19 poll, are undoubtedly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to profoundly disrupt people's lives, but may also reflect views of the election and the state of race relations, both of which were on Americans' minds this year.” (Gallup, Wellbeing, December 7, 2020)
“In the early 1960s nearly two thirds of Americans trusted each other; by the 2010s two thirds did not,” (“The Upswing,” Robert D. Putnam, p. 159).
“Life Expectancy in the U.S. actually declined each year 2015-2017; and lags other developed countries. In 2017, U.S. life expectancy was 78.6 years, compared to an average of 82.3 years for comparable countries. We rank lowest of all comparable nations;” (Peterson-KFF Health Tracker, December 23, 2019).
“First-time enrollment at colleges dropped by 13% in 2020 and for Community colleges 19%, with people of color constituting over 60% of the drop.” “A poor child in the U.S. has a 10% chance of earing a degree,” (Ibid, Putnam). These are leading indicators of future problems.
“African Americans complete college at lower rates than they did in 1970;” (Ibid, Putnam, p. 208).
“2.3 million Americans lost their health insurance, accounting for up to 10,000 “excess” (Covid) deaths,” (The Atlantic, Feb. 21, 2021, “The Legacy of Donald Trump,” George Packer, p. 9).
“In 2020 U.S. alone had weathered at least 16 climate- or weather-related disasters each costing more than $1Billion;” (Science News Dec 19, 2020, p. 32).
“59% of links shared on social media are never actually clicked, meaning the headlines themselves are the main source of information transfer.” (“The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage, Jared Yates Sexton, p. 138).
Gun violence costs the U.S. $229B annually in first responder, legal proceedings, medical treatment, lost wages and long-term care. Six times what we spend on foreign aid;” (Mother Jones Newsletter January 2021.)
The number of American Facebook subscribers at the close of 2020 was 223 million (statista), 68% of the population. Interestingly, “a 1-standard deviation increase in “likes clicked” (social media) was associated with a decrease of 5% - 8% of a standard deviation in self-reported mental health;” (“The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” Shoshana Zuboff, p. 464).
Trump reversed 80 environmental rules and regulations;” (Ibid, The Atlantic).
CDC data indicates the U.S. had just 58.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in 2019, a 1% decline from the previous year and the lowest level since 1984.
Part 1 Conclusions:
· 2nd and 3d order effects – like mass incarceration reducing voter rolls due to felony convictions, are damnably difficult to reverse. The point is to fight them “up front” and based on deleterious long-term effects -- and this can only be done with data, modeling, education, and resources we are not now bringing to bear.
· “Vicious cycle of on declining economy leads to feelings of political impotence” (“Reconstructing Democracy: How Citizens Are Building from the Ground Up,” Charles Taylor, Madeleine Beaubien Taylor, and Patrizia Nanz, pp. 7-8.) Neo-liberalism and hyper-capitalism are at heart anti-community, hyper individualized philosophies whose effect – for those who don’t win the lottery – declining sense of agency. Then recently we’ve perhaps reached a tipping point or phase transition that is antithetical to Democracy – in which our institutions cannot withstand the combined assault even as Republicans – not so much a party any more as a combined religion, ideology and movement combining neo-liberalism, hyper-capitalism, racism/caste with resentment and eschatological themes whose strategic objectives only favor its elites, and only then for a short while longer before we turn into a banana republic and kill the goose the lays the golden eggs. It is this aspect I believe that causes progressives to characterize Republicans as a cult – but the movement is too big, powerful and influential for such a characterization.
The good news in all this “declinism” for MAGA folks? We do lead the world in: abuse of legal and illegal substances; incarceration rates; defense spending, debt, obesity and crime rates!
American Exceptionalism is rapidly shifting from a positive characterization to negative domestically -- amongst those paying attention -- and towards some combination of pity and schadenfreude amongst our Democratic allies.
In the U.S., Republicans are hell bent for leather to turn the country into a banana republic, and to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Of course they do not understand that the engine of growth for the U.S. has been the relative freedom of its people, the driving engine of the American Dream, and a whole series of natural advantages that we either think we deserve more than others, built ourselves, or were specifically provided to us by diving providence because of our exceptionalism.
By deliberately driving a stake through the American Dream, shutting off the engine of growth that is immigration, and reducing the commitment of average Americans to the national program, the right is increasingly throttling back that which has actually been positively exceptional about the U.S., and replacing it with the Animal Farm version. I give it two generations at this rate before total implosion, if the right doesn’t force an earlier apocalypse.
This logic distortion is undermining and steadily eroding American Democracy -- and other nations to the degree that they draw ever nearer to the American model. This combination of logic errors allows the right to describe Democracy -- as our Founders understood the term -- as “Socialism,” in a deliberative slow burn propaganda effort that would have made Hitler and Stalin applaud. Looks like Orwell was correct in his analysis; he just missed the effective date by a generation.
Am I making too big of a deal about this? Don’t think so. Letting any distortion or untruth pass uncritically is a bad habit. But there are bigger problems stemming from this tendency. First, it opens the door to the follow-on distortion -- that since GDP is the measure of measures for economic health, and the U.S. has the world’s highest GDP, and since economics matters most -- we are Number 1, we are “exceptional,” and we do everything better than everyone else -- because GDP again is the ‘measure of measures.’ This is a logical fallacy and tautology -- but one that evidently at least 40% of Americans accept lock stock and barrel, and even the New York Times reports out uncritically.
Part 2 - The “Right” Measures: Ideality and National Objectives
We must replace misleading national myths and propaganda with the truth. And do so in a systematic and principled manner. This section lays out the pathway.
Why we need national objectives:
Let’s be clear, it’s not first even about socio-political practice and policy -- that’s looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope, or putting the cart before the horse if you will. It’s the values, vision and purpose piece that we’re getting wrong. It’s about establishing quality of life as the organizing principle and “measure of measures,” not the economy and GDP. It’s about a collective and abundant vision for the future in which everyone does better relative to a quality of life index, not better than each other within a domestic status hierarchy. It’s about striving mightily to get to the right balance of rights, responsibility and respect -- from the perspective of all citizens -- not the elite, government, press or social media.
The shift to such an outlook and approach is the long pole in the tent in the effort save and improve American Democracy and civic life. Towards that end, if we can’t get sufficient citizen engagement using participative and deliberative Democracy mechanisms -- we’ll get sucked back into the vortex of the way things are. And if we don’t change the way things are we’re going down like Greece and Rome, and generate a tsunami that brings on another Dark Age as a side effect of our collapse.
There is a continuity between advertising, propaganda, press sensationalism and focus on salacious, and fake news – in that each deliberately does not “make sense of reality,” but endeavors to distort it towards pre-determined ends (incite individual comparative deficits (I don’t measure up) or collective moral panics (my God we’ve got to do something about this!)) although it goes to great pains to obscure those ends. Thus it is a poor assumption or expectation that the press will dramatically and rapidly reform itself into fonts of information, much less knowledge or wisdom – as tied as it is economically and by DNA to advertising.
As we saw with GDP and the economy, describing “reality” usefully requires more than one measure -- but less than an infinity of them -- to describe it accurately. For instance, you. If we described you by only by your sex, race, height, weight, political affiliation, or level of education -- or any other single discrete measure, you would rightly call foul. You would argue that you are so much more than that, on the one hand, and “irreducible” on the other, right?
And you would be correct normatively. But data scientists can deduce your behavioral proclivities -- and influence your future behavior -- with knowledge of less than 100 measures, and for a broad range of your behaviors (voting, for instance) with as few as five. Even highly complex systems such as markets and societies can be modeled effectively using less than ten model types and their computational outputs. We can thus reduce all potential behavior to a range of probability using just a few measures -- and this is being done to you continuously and to the benefit of others unless you are completely off the grid. For more on this, please read “Surveillance Capitalism,” by Shoshana Zuboff.
Decision makers – certainly the American leaders we are familiar with -- lack sufficient situational awareness of their own polities -- much less those of others -- to make effective choices “for them.” They cannot possibly keep up with the complexity of the nation, much less the entire world, the needs of all their constituents and stakeholders -- any more than any one individual in any domain can. We must stop pretending they have such wisdom and capacity. Sufficient wisdom and capacity only resides in the aggregate, as we are seeing proven again and again with crowdsourcing and participative Democracy policy breakthroughs. For these reasons we seek a basket of national measures that the entire country can understand, rally around, and strive to achieve. The only candidate for such a meta-measure is what is known as an ideality.
Ideality as the Ultimate National “Measure of Measures:”
Canonically, an “ideality” is the central direction a given domain, field or pursuit moves towards based on its own internal rationality. For instance, technology moves towards cost effectiveness, the commercial sector drives to return on investment in capital, science inches towards ever more complete, robust and complimentary theories, the ideality of government is money, power, control and hierarchy, and so forth.
We know from experience that Democracy and the rule of law underpinning it are nebulous concepts absent measures of their health. Also, absent a striving for improvement towards the ideality and the engagement of the plurality in its pursuit, special interests and their useful idiots will recreate oligarchy and authoritarianism under the guise of Democracy -- which is exactly what is happening in U.S. now. Or put another way, without measures we have no way to determine either the health of Democracy within a polity -- longitudinally or comparatively. And this no objective method to evaluate progress at a systems level -- which is where the cumulative effects are felt by citizens. Absent them, you can only rail at “the system,” which is ineffectual and only minimally cathartic.
Our legal system exacerbates this problem -- it establishes laws without due consideration for long-term consequences and 2nd/3rdorder effects – and justice must consider those as well as the near term legal “merits.” Pushing injustice to the future isn’t justice.This is where the justice ideality comes in.
Based on intense systems analysis, we’ve determined that the best American ideality is likely to be once called “justice.” We categorize justice as an index of values, or a “meta-value,” and an attendant domain of action, that are most usefully defined and measured by a “meta-measure” known as an “ideality.” Our concept of justice is expansive, and, unlike capitalist economic theory, abundance- instead of scarcity-based.
To operationalize the justice ideality, we first develop a working computational model of the environment we wish to impact. Then we define optimal outcomes and objectives for each. Next we develop potential new laws and policies and simulate the outcomes of their adoption on the environment. When our model is sufficiently robust to determine that a particular law or policy has a high probability of achieving intended outcomes with acceptable 2ndand 3rdorder effects, we enact it.
Idealities are most usefully expressed as equations, with those factors we wish to maximize in the numerator, and those we wish to minimize in the denominator. The ideality we posit for justice is: in the numerator – physical safety and security, freedom, equality of opportunity, equality under the law; and in the denominator – inequalities and negative externalities. “Quality of Life,” improvements in health, joy, happiness, relative and absolute income levels, and reductions in crime, hunger and levels of inequality are all intended outcomes of (a function of in math and science terms) the pursuit of the justice ideality.
Each component of the ideality is itself an index of measures -- so an ideality is also a Meta-index.
Affordability and return on investment can also be factored into the justice ideality model, by assigning its pursuit a flat percentage of the national budget, eliminating a potential Republican line of attack. Granted, this process does not by itself solve the problem of political opposition. But its evidence-based nature will galvanize progressive energy, force Republicans to counter with absurdity and falsehoods, and most importantly, enable Democrats to dominate the narrative and maintain the strategic initiative.
Importantly, ideality is neither specifically deterministic with regards to path, outcome and/or timeline -- such are the result of systems interplay en route to it. Nor is our proposed ideality teleological. That said, this would be the proper time to point out that the ideality proposed here is a hypothesis. Modeling will likely determine that our theory is no more than about 80% right – but we’d be happy with that start!
Achieving an ideality is not a utopian fantasy, as Republicans will inevitably argue. Rather, it is the rational and explicit elucidation of mutually agreed targets in terms of outcomes, whereas what is going on now is the hidden pursuit of individual and elite agendas, and the capture of political power by those elites in furtherance of their selfish aims.
The American right has come very close to achieving its unarticulated ideality (maximum revenue, power and impunity at lowest possible risk and public exposure) leveraging a demographic minority -- a minority that paradoxically does not benefit but actually suffers from the right’s strategic successes! So don’t try to tell me that the Democratic-progressive majority cannot rally around an explicit justice ideality that clearly benefits its members. That is a defeatist point of view I will never accept.
In any event, why wouldn’t explicitly utopian objectives be any less valid than those we pursue now? What we know from research into measures in every mature domain is that you will never reach a vision you don’t have and objectives you don’t set. By not explicitly articulating what we do want in terms of outcomes and striving to achieve those, we are unconsciously helping the powerful achieve theirs at our expense. The elite in the U.S. have come very close to achieving their utopia through the systematic pursuit of their own ideality.
Going deeper: From one perspective a nation’s form of government is a proxy for an ideality -- one mediated by representatives. The problem is that the mediating agents get corrupted because they can monopolize resources through their access to power and restricted information. It can be -- and has been -- argued that government’s purpose is to mediate amongst competing idealities – but to argue so is to fundamentally misunderstand both the meaning of both “ideality” and “mediate.” Without national consensus on an articulated ideality, systems players all sub-optimize, and government gets captured by thee most mature (rational) idealities, such as those noted for business and technology.
Why would Americans so fervently believe in – and work towards - the American Dream, Exceptionalism, etc. but not an ideality? It is not because it is to complicated to understand. It is not. Middle schoolers can comprehend it. The truth is the capitalist elite pursues an ideality that is orthogonal to that of the masses and it is important to the pursuit to obscure it and keep the masses on the treadmill -- and even so we’re all in. Imagine how “all in” we’ll be when we participate fully in designing an ideality we know will benefit us!
National engagement over an ideality is also the only way to blunt the appeal of unprincipled populism -- it enables participation and so takes the wind out of the sails of populists who claim that elites are dominating politics. Playing this string out to its end poses an interesting problem for society: a highly participative, well-informed public armed with evidence-based data does not really need political parties -- indeed does not even require the meditation of “representatives” in the classic sense of the term. But we’ll defer consideration of the implications a bit later.
The other difference in a target-centric, vision and ideality-focused approach leveraging participative democracy practices is the people together decide on the future -- it is not “brought to them” unbidden by technologists and/or technocrats.
Perhaps the major societal advantage of ideality is that it allows us to get rid of ideologies -- which are nothing more than subjective, self-serving predictions of future societal states in the event that their proponents’ policies and viewpoints are enacted. Ideality, modeling and simulation provide objective proof of concept efficacy and utility and will thereby enable us to eliminate ideology and its negative societal effects.
In addition to a consensus ideality such as that we propose called “justice,” overarching national goals such as putting a man on the moon within 10 years are also critical. National goals cohere the polity in a positive vector in a way that nothing else can, re-orienting negative energy into productive pursuits. Such goals also provide a focus to many aspects of technological development, in turn enabling us to simultaneously develop controls and oversight on them vice trying to close the barn door after the horse has escaped.
Part Three – What Each of Us Needs to Know to Help Get this Done
A thorough grounding in math, statistics and measures are all required for a useful understanding and ability to participate in solutioning – of the type we outline in this report. Unfortunately only a small percentage of Americans have such a background. Participative Democracy will not get very far in this world of complex problems without that knowledge, and that knowledge is only scaled through formal education.
That said, here are the knowledge areas that must be taught to all American students, with proficiency a requirement of graduation:
· Micro and Macro Economics. Yes I trashed economics earlier, but some of its core concepts are useful. At any rate, the basics must be mastered to maintain credibility and to develop a robust ideality.
· Calculus and all its pre-requisites.
· Operational Research/Systems Analysis and/or Project Management Principles.
· Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics.
· Systems Thinking.
You must understand the basic concepts in each of these areas to be an effective voter and citizen in the modern complex world. To the degree you do not you cede the initiative to the right. For those of us past school age, reading 12 books (two per topic area) would do it, at a maximum cost of $360. Read one a month and you’re done in a year. Our school curricula must be re-conceptualized to make these studies mandatory for high school graduation.
The Founders took a negative, elitist and Hobbesian view of human nature and built that into the Constitution -- with the separation of powers and representative vice participative government. To solve our problems and achieve our ideality -- we will need to reconceive of a more positive and inclusive mental model on which to rest our form of government going forward. Changes to the Constitution are unavoidable and must not be feared but sought after.
Some good news: 36% of Americans (highest score) believe that “everyday people” are best positioned to make change today, vice government or business (smaller scores) – “Trust in Civil Society,” June 2020 Stanford Social Innovation. While we do not think the facts we laid out earlier support such optimism, it is clear that the path to national health must include a deliberate move towards participative democracy.
Citizens will be enabled in this effort by big data, modeling and simulations -- which will generate and validate the optimal indices and their components.
Progressives also need a flat out assault on the lie the republicans are “better at business” and good for the economy. This is only true for the economic elite, and even in that regard reflects not better economic stewardship but simply classic wealth re-distribution. In this case upward re-distribution or what is known as “Reverse Robin Hood.”
Concluding Thought: We remain vigilant: the right continues execution of its long-term strategy to seize complete power; Trumpism will morph but the 40% of Americans who’ve plagued our republic since day 1 are not going anywhere soon; Codiv-19 ravages and the environment is teetering on collapse. But let us seize the initiative using the thoughts, tools and approaches we’ve laid out here and that our colleagues such as Stacey Abrams are using so brilliantly.
As a Civil War analogy is unfortunately apt in so many ways, let us leave you with this vignette about General Ulysses S. Grant, which occurred during the worst (from the Union perspective) of the Battle of the Wilderness, in which a Union General officer burst into Grant’s Headquarters and exclaims: "General Grant, this is a crisis that cannot be looked upon too seriously. I know Lee's methods well by past experience; he will throw his whole army between us and the Rapidan, and cut us off completely from our communications." The general (Grant) rose to his feet, took his cigar out of his mouth, turned to the officer, and replied, with a degree of animation which he seldom manifested: "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." (Civil War Talk)
We include this story because we perceive a strong similarity between the mindset of the Union General Officer and the mainstream Democratic Party leadership.
But let us not project onto them our hopes and fears, or make them the scapegoat for the current condition of American Democracy. For our leaders are a perfect reflection of us, and cannot lead any better than we can follow.
Rather, let us take this advice from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Itis rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Abraham Lincoln Online).