Summary: It becomes increasingly apparent that America needs serious reforms, stat. This post gives a brief description of the problem, but no solution. However the necessary characteristics of a solution are described, aiding the search.
Our political system has since 1976 run increasingly frantic cycles of hopes raised and crashed. The last two have been maniac. We have child-like hopes for Obama. Disappointment follows. We have child-like hopes for the Tea Party. Disappointment will follow. This results from the two-stage motor of American politics, nicely described in these articles.
- An increasingly weak public — spiritually weak, undisciplined, short-sighted, with little social cohesion. See “The Benjamin Button Election“, Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, 8 November 2010 — “Rage, powerlessness, magical thinking—why is how we think about politics increasingly mirroring the mind-set of a small child?”
- A political system almost totally controlled by the money of powerful elites. See “Money and the Midterms: Are the Parties Over? Interview with Thomas Ferguson“, New Deal 2.0, 12 November 2010 — “The political system is disintegrating, probably heading toward a real breakdown of some sort.”
A common prescription for reform calls for changing the fundamental values or attitudes of the American people. Getting them to eat differently, live in different places, adopt different transportation systems, spend/save differently, and — the capstone of all this — vote differently. However expressed, it’s so broad and ambitious so as to constitute a recipe for failure. Unless one believes in the efficacy of prayer. A more realistic plan would be …
to make one or two changes in the American people’s thinking. Doing so won our two major wars, both internal conflicts: the Revolution and the Civil War. Both were preceded by periods of intense work by small groups to change the public’s views. The goals were to get our rights as Englishmen by establishing our own nation and preventing the South from leaving the Union (which they were doing to preserve and expand slavery).
Great changes, anticipated in general terms by these movements’ leaders, flowed from achievement of these two narrow goals. It’s like cutting a diamond by finding the precise place to tap. What is the key element to change? It must have three necessary characteristics:
- Be possible to do with available resources in a reasonable time horizon (one of two generations?)
- Expand beliefs already implicit in American’s values.
- Be sufficiently attractive to a small group so that they’ll commit to its accomplishment.
Both the revolutionary and anti-slavery (culminating in the Civil war) movements had a mixture of high and low motives, also probably a necessary requirement for success.
The foundation for reform will exist when the right people (skilled, committed) find such a formula. Or our political and economic systems might decay until there is sufficient pressure to reform, probably during a crisis — so often in history the prelude for bad decisions, the opportunity for scoundrels and would-be tyrants.
What might be the magic formula? Suggestions are welcomed; please use the comment form.
Posts about solutions
There are solutions presented for every subject discussed on the FM website. Here are a sample. There are similar posts about energy (invest more!) and our wars (leave the fighting to the locals, just train and support).
(a) The financial crisis: See section 6, About Solutions, on the refernce page Financial crisis – what’s happening? how will this end? Especially see A solution to our financial crisis (first in a series).
(b) About climate change: My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009. These are repeated in other posts.
(c) More generally, about America:
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II
(d) Recommendations for the new Administration:
- What happens next? Advice for the new President, part one., 17 October 2008
- What to do? Advice for the new President, part two., 18 October 2008
(g) About America
My first recommended solution now appears on the “Smackdowns” page: The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America. The problem is us. Perhaps many things must change before a solution becomes possible. Ideas are welcomed.
Many posts discuss possible solutions. See Section 8, some solutions, ways to reform America, on the reference page America – how can we reform it?
- Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
- Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
- Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
- Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
- Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
- Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
- How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
- The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
- Question of the Day, about reforming America, 12 March 2010
- The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
- Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
Most importantly, see the conclusion (section #7) in Forecast: Death of the American Constitution.