The recent presidential election in the United States (and Brexit in the UK and similar movements elsewhere) was a clear referendum for change. Candidate Trump ran on a platform of change and received the vote of nearly 1/3 of the eligible voters. Senator Sanders also advocated strongly for change and many of his supporters were part of Secretary Clinton’s votes, also adding up to nearly 1/3 of eligible voters. The largest section of eligible voters however chose “none of the above” by staying home, enchanted with neither the status quo nor the changes being offered. When you consider the rhetoric of the candidates and the vote (and non-vote) totals it is difficult to escape the conclusion that change was the real winner.
Oddly enough however the exact nature of the change people want and candidates offered has never been defined at even a high level. Candidates focused on policies they would enact or change but the fundamentals were not discussed. President Trump, bless his heart, has presented one view for change in the United States since being sworn in. His approach has its supporters and its detractors. But he lacks a proper mandate because we never had a chance to consider multiple change options. Instead he has encountered tough resistance at a time when the people should be most optimistic about his vision.
Whether people agree or disagree with the new administration, far more than anytime in recent history the people are united in demanding change. That makes this a truly significant moment. So it has come time now to stop complaining about “rigged systems” and a lack of voice in public policy and instead to start developing and proposing solutions and alternatives to address those issues. To make the most of this time we need a national (an international even, as the human condition is shared by us all) discussion about just what sort of change is needed and wanted by “the people.” We need to define just what we expect from government and work out different approaches that meet those expectations. This effort should be inclusive and respectful. It should seek out different voices and aim to understand and accommodate different perspectives. And it should abhor violence of any sort at all levels, realizing that only violence by the people can defeat the people’s will when united.
We should answer first whether we truly want “government of, for and by the people.” Government has always, throughout history, served first some privileged elite or another who enjoy special wealth, security, opportunity and freedom because of their birth, wealth or connections. Have we limited the options we consider in the past because government by and for the people is impossible? or too risky? always framed as an attack on those presently in power? I would assert that it is only because no sincere effort has been made and that the time is ripe for it. But others might disagree.
We should then answer just what are the basic principles for which a government should serve the people. For me these are maximizing Freedom and Opportunity for all citizens, and therefore denying the ability of some small segment of the population to leverage a special power position to achieve greater Freedom and Opportunity for themselves and their friends at the considerable expense of others. But others might disagree.
I suspect there will be much agreement on the answers to these basic questions, both from what we consider the “left” and what we consider the “right” today. Therefore they can serve as a foundation to return to whenever later discussions become more difficult and heated. Defining in more detail just what the terms mean (in my case Freedom and Opportunity) will be the first test where the need to stay calm and open-minded will be called upon.
We will then have a yardstick by which to measure our current systems, a shared vocabulary about which to talk about what is and isn’t working today. With this groundwork and knowing specifically what isn’t working, we may finally be able to come up with some astonishing new ideas for how to not only give voice to the people, but also to empower them and leverage our great diversity to solve any and all challenges we might face as a species.
In this lengthy post I chronicle my attempt at the above exercise, as an example. As a supporter of the ideal of “government of, for and by the people” coined by Abraham Lincoln, I provide a brief summary of the struggle in the United States by the people throughout the country’s history to be heard by their government. I define in a bit more detail my concept of maximizing Freedom and Opportunity for everyone. I provide a high level review of the shortcomings and flaws inherent in our current systems (both political and economic). And then taking Freedom and Opportunity as my driving force imagine what a people’s government might look like in considerable detail.
Even if you disagree with my conclusions completely (or more likely especially if you disagree with it completely) your voice and your action are needed now. Spread the call for a discussion to all your friends, and your enemies too. Broadcast it on all your social media channels and organize meetings to brainstorm on these questions, but also how best to get together a large-scale conversation. An early priority in spreading the word will be to find the people who are most capable at putting something like this together.
Don’t doubt that this is possible. Don’t believe the politicians about all that divide us. Falling prey to it serves the politicians but even more so prevents us from making real meaningful change in areas we all easily agree. Don’t doubt that you are important to success. You have a voice in this process and it all begins with you spreading the word. It fails if you don’t.