There is no shortage of articles which tell of representative democracy being called into question, as nations find - sometimes unexpectedly - they will not be able to accommodate the demands of their all too recent middle classes. Two recent articles from Project Syndicate focus on this, and also here. Closer to home, (here in the U.S.) some of that same sentiment can be found, and the direction this is all headed...mmm, not encouraging. While there are ways to overcome the quagmire of impossible budgets and expectations, what to do in the meantime? Therein lies the problem. While reactions to political mismanagement continue to grow, political results become more about emotion - even punishment - than about focus or determination to overcome the problems of the present.
Representative democracy could in fact still work, especially in terms of the scarce resources and product which are separate from the use of our own time (services as time use skills need direct democracy). But increasingly, policymakers and the voting public try to use representative democracy for the wrong purposes, which only creates further gridlock and makes all governments increasingly unpopular. What's more, many of the ways government integrated economic activities with their citizenry in the 20th century, are no longer workable for the needs of the 21st.
Lost amongst ongoing efforts to scale back services is the fact that changes in government function need more input from the populace, not less. How might this possibly be achieved, outside the limited purpose of voting for individual representatives? In order to be effective, voting needs to become a mechanism that signals ongoing possibilities for direct production and creation of knowledge product. Instead, voting has become a constant scramble to make certain every one gets their share of government mandated knowledge product. Special interests and policymakers have turned that product into something which no longer aligns with individual participation in economic life. Even as some speak of a future where less people are needed in the workplace, there is no escaping the fact that such a future is not realistic at all.
Governments - in their present form - came of age in times incredibly different from the present. When product was mostly something primarily associated with commodities shipped from elsewhere, government functions worked reasonably well. After all, governments were able to assist with transportation and related infrastructure needs for movable product - and if necessary, armies to protect what was transported. But today, not only has the definition of product shifted from these basic economic functions, the places such commodities come from only represent a fraction of the kinds of economic activities local economies actually need to take part in in production based terms.
Today, local economies need to be able to manage their own services for all of their citizens, instead of relying on state or national governments to help with such services for only a (fortunate) portion of local citizens. In other words, governments and local economies need to allow all of their citizens to use knowledge to help one another. This becomes all the more important, when local economies have only a limited quantity of other product separate from knowledge which they can rely upon for sustainability. When services are not generated internally in terms of both production and consumption, local economies over time also become threatened by the budget issues of larger governments. By making knowledge use primary instead of dependent on funding from governments or other forms of production, local economies can have a much greater chance at economic stability.
Even though education became a much greater part of life in the 20th century, the means for including proactive elements of education in our daily lives has yet to evolve. In fact, by turning education into a consumption good which in many cases was never intended for individual production capacity, the aggregate role of knowledge use in the citizenry which had initially seemed so promising, was slowly undermined. The education process was akin to teaching a farmer how to farm, all the while knowing he would not have his own acreage (ownership of knowledge time use hours) which was his to personally manage.
Over time, the lack of a self credentialing (entrepreneurial) capacity also created a loss of understanding how one might be able to coordinate time use with others in terms of natural limitations and scarcity. What's more, this loss was exacerbated by the growing role of finance. For those fortunate enough to gain a career (credentialed from without) the loss of time management potential was not quite so critical in that they could still pay for the time of others. But many of the "hired hands" of knowledge and skills use would never really be able to make up the difference. When they could not pay others for the jobs they didn't have time to do, often the outside jobs they needed for their personal circumstance just didn't happen.
The estates of the fortunate few (highly valued knowledge use time) literally ate the less valued time plots of the others so that they were left with one acre knowledge use plots for sustenance. As economic activities shifted from the self sufficiency of farms to the "hired hands" of the workplace, people slowly lost their means of interacting with one another in a managerial capacity for their own skills sets. As a result, knowledge use reimbursement came to resemble a limited number of large estates existing amongst mostly single acre plots.
Like the entrepreneur, the actual farmer had been responsible for maintaining resource sets so as to gain residual choices (profit) afterward. But one acre plots didn't leave much room for residuals or further choice sets. The move to defined compensation (salary or hourly by much of the populace) not only diminished individual ability to understand the power of the residual choice for further economic action, it also upset time use recognition as vital to monetary processes.
It's not about taking government functions away, as many policymakers are actively trying to do in the present. It's about transforming government functions so as to make real coordination once again the role of the citizen, who needs to be an integral part of the process of knowledge product. The hours we actually have are sacred, for they are the allotments of land we try to produce from, to gain residual choice or profit in our lives. When we tolerate tremendous holdings in knowledge estates, over time they reduce all other knowledge land holdings so that less highly valued components are relegated to the dustbins of history.
Those who would destroy government do not seek to safeguard our knowledge, they seek a world in which much of government and knowledge is deemed unnecessary: a world in which the most "valuable" knowledge can be used "efficiently" on behalf of the few. As long as we tolerate heavy credentialing (knowledge estates) the rest of us will try to scrape out a living on our single acre and hope that the powers that be will once again take full advantage of our skills expertise. But over time they will simply have less reason to do so, and we continue to lose our means to help one another when they don't.
Once there was a time it did not bother me so much that leaders of nations increasingly seemed to be stumbling around in the dark. But now it does, and world events are rapidly unfolding in circumstance where present day institutional formations simply are not equipped to cope. Leaders of nations do not even really understand yet that they need help from their own citizens, just to find a better way forward. In future posts, I will explore some of the ways knowledge use could be made primary in both a social and monetary sense. Coordination could evolve into a variety of forms, depending on the kinds of product people actually seek to bring about.