Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Coming Constitutional Crisis

No, not that constitutional crisis. I'm assuming for the moment that we will successfully overcome what the Bushistas have done to the United States. I'm talking about what happens after both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party implode.


The founding fathers were very shrewd. They wrote our Constitution for an agricultural country, that was at the dawn of its industrial age. They weren't prescient by any means, but the industrial revolution was already underway in England at the time, and like good science fiction writers of our own age, they were able to speculate on the basic outline of what life would be like in the coming centuries. In many senses they were much like us; we are also at the dawn of a new age, the information age. And like them, we can only vaguely speculate on what is to come a few hundred years from now.

Some of their ideas worked out very well. Like for example, the system of checks and balances that have served us so well (up until recently). Some of them were good ideas perhaps for the time, but since the founders didn't know all of the details of the coming industrial age, those ideas didn't work out quite as well. For example, the founding fathers saw what was happening to London, as industry was becoming concentrated there. People flocked from all over to work in the cities, because that was where the new jobs were. And where the jobs are, that's where the money is. Political power of course follows the money. The founders thus saw big cities as corrupting influences, and sought to offset that by requiring state capitols to be far from big cities. This is why New York has a state capitol in Albany, and not somewhere convenient to New York City. The ease and speed of 21st century travel have completed negated this attempt to put lawmakers far away from the big cities. And of course those once small towns are mostly much bigger themselves today anyway.

But back to the Constitutional Crisis. The information age is of course the problem. We were given by the founders a system of government meant to weather the industrial age...which it has...but it wasn't designed to handle the information age. And it is showing signs of stress. I'm going to focus on our political parties, and on how we do elections. I'll leave the rest as speculation for the reader. I'm assuming the reader has read "The Third Wave," by Alvin Toffler. He goes into great detail about how life is likely to change in the coming years.

Those familiar with American history are of course familiar with how our parties developed, and how we got saddled with a "two party" system. (Google it if you need to, or check Wikipedia). The first two major parties that formed had one major issue that separated them, and that issue was states rights. One party was essentially for, and the other against. Years passed. The industrial age ramped up and really started humming. We had a civil war. The north, and the Republicans won; states rights lost, as the secessionists were forced back into the union. This is a bit of an oversimplification, because states rights remains an issue to this day, but it is no longer the polarising issue that it once was.

Now that states rights was no longer a pressing issue, a period of relative political chaos emerged, with the two parties somewhat adrift. The country was recovering from the civil war too. But then a new polarising issue emerged...an issue completely dependant on the industrial revolution itself. As the industrial revolution was approaching its height, its zenith if you will, everything, and I do mean everything, became massified. Everything was done on a new scale, and that scale was huge. Toffler goes into detail about this. Transportation systems were no longer adequate to deal with the congestion of the ever-growing cities, hence we got mass transit. Little red schoolhouses were no longer adequate to teach the ever-increasing population, hence we got mass public education systems, and etc. But the big issue that divided the two political parties now was massified labor needed to do any work in a factory environment.

The Republicans of course represented management, while the Democrats came to represent the workers. Years passed, many strikes happened, two world wars erupted, (Hitler even commited genocide by means of his massified death factories), and finally the Cold War came and went. The capitalists won the Cold War of course, and to some extent it's fair to say that management beat labor, but that's a bit of an oversimplification. Because once again we find ourselves at the beginning of a new age, and even though the way the drones are treated by employers is still an issue, it is no longer a pressing issue. Primarily because the technological changes are putting an end to massified labor pretty much altogether.

Once again, we have two parties, but no major ideology for them to fight over. The country and parties drifted for a decade, and now things are changing once again as the information age is picking up speed. We've already seen a number of things that can clue us in on how life will be 50 or 100 years from now, when the information age is here in force. Computers. The Internet. Biotechnology. Nanotechnology. Globalisation. Again, Toffler goes into a lot of detail about this stuff.

But this time, things are different. Because there isn't one polarising issue with two opposing issues for our two parties to pick a side on. Oh they have both tried. Some of them think globalisation is the issue, with the Republicans trying to be isolationist (always a popular favorite for America), while the Democrats have tried to be globalist jet-setters. But then poll-obsession sets in, and some Republicans come out trying to be more globalist than Democrats. Some say that Fundamentalism is the polarising issue, with Repulicans generally aligning with them, and Democrats staying with more Mainline churches. But then again poll-obsession sets in, and you actually hear Democrats saying that they have to try to out-conservative the Republicans. Anyone remember Kerry when we he said he wanted the rednecks in their pickups to vote for him? Yeah, I winced too hehe.

We've heard a lot of people refer to these people as Republicrats, or DINOs and RINOs (Democrat in Name Only, Republican in Name Only)...and there is a certain truth to this, but people are missing the point. We've heard people from the progressive blogosphere screaming at Centrist Democrats, complaining that they aren't being represented. Ultra-conservative Republicans feel the same way about the Moderate Republican Party too, rest assured. People are seeing the symptons, but missing the point.

The point is that the information age is more complex than the industrial age. The industrial age took an agricultural world, and just massified it. Automated it. Did everything on a bigger scale. The information age however is both demassifying everything and connecting everything together in more complex ways, all at the same time. Like the Internet. There are millions of computers hooked together, but they are no longer massified, like an assemblyline in a factory. This process is happening all over the world, and to every formerly massified institution. Like the nation-state. Like the national political party.

It looks like balkanization to the untrained eye. But in fact it is different, since there is a new connectivity in place afterwards. We saw Yugoslavia, Czechoslavakia, and the Soviet Union all demassify already. Yet the new countries that emerged are more connected with each other now than before. This is a trend we will see continue to spread around the world. The concept of the nation just isn't relevant any more. This is why so many Muslims aren't integrating well into their new European homes when they immigrate. Oh yeah the religious differences cause tension, but the big problem is that it's difficult to form a close bond to an idea that is on the way out. What will information age political units look like then? When the process is complete, I'd speculate that we will have a fully interconnected globalised world; a United States of Earth. Only the component "states" will be much smaller than current nations. Indeed, nations that join such a world government will almost certainly devolve and split up...if the devolution hasn't happened already to them.

Yes, this means that the US will also split up...yet after splitting up we'll be even more connected than we are already today, inside a global political entity. But I'm jumping too far ahead. In the immediate and near future, we have to see what happens to our political parties, our elections, and our Constitution. Again globalisation is not the polarising issue. I'm guessing local/state/"national" rights will be the issue again, but I jump ahead. In the near term, we have to deal with ways of approaching the coming interconnected world. Some people react to this with happiness (think the Federation in Star Trek). Some people react to it with suspicion, fear, and a desperate need to control it (think the Dominion). And others just want to ignore it, and be left alone. We can label these 3 approaches to the coming futurism as Globalists, Totalitarians, and Anarchists. (thank you Wired magazine).

Globalists embrace the future. Totalitarians are afraid of the future, but accept the inevitablity of it's coming; they are determined to control it at any cost. Anarchists are in denial about the future, and just want it to go away, or leave them alone. These three forces are present around us today, and I know you want to pin the Totalitarianism on the Republicans, but it's not that simple. Each of the two parties has all three of these tendencies within themselves, and this is what is tearing our parties apart. The problem is not that the leftwing or rightwing blogosphere is unwilling to reach toward the Center. The problem is that the Center is a different party! People hurl the term Republicrat as an insult, but it's true.

There are now TWO Centrist parties, who have more in common with each other than with the "core" of their old identities. These Centrist parties are Globalists. They are socially moderate, fiscally moderate, and internationalists. They will eventually tear away from their Democrat and Republican parties, and merge together. Let's just think of them as a new Republicrat party.

There are two Totalitarian parties also. We are of course very familar with the Republican one, they are the Neocons. The Democrat Totalitarians are harder to point out. Many of them have already left the Democrats and joined the Republicans; some of them left for third parties. Some of them you can indentify yourself if you look hard enough. These people are afraid of the future, but resigned to it coming. They however feel the need to control it totally. They need all of the hi-tech gadgets they can get, because the citizens are dangerous. They are more afraid of the globalists outside the country than the citizenry, but you never know who you can trust. Better just monitor everybody! These people are socially conservative, but fiscally liberal, oddly enough...after all, all of that surveillance costs money! If I had to speculate, I'd say that the what is left of the Republican party after the dust settles from the Bush era scandals will remain a Neocon Totalitarian party...just much smaller than it is today.

The Anarchists are more complex. Partly because they are secretive. Partly because they are nostalgic for the good old days. Partly because they are refuseniks when it comes to the future. On the Republican side, we have the ultra-rightists crazy religious folk, like Pat Robertson. These people will end up leaving the Republican party, feeling betrayed by both it's globalist Republicrats, and by the Totalitarians who were way too interested in spending sprees and spying on people. We can call these people the Rapturists, just to make discussion easier. They are socially very conservative, and fiscally varied, but usually conservative...some are almost communist though, in the sense of rejecting capitalism. Religion is their big issue, fiscal issues are secondary. They are of course isolationist. The Democrats have their own nutjobs though. Some people mistake them for hippies. But they aren't really. These are the people who are trying to live off-grid (google it!), who aren't rejecting technology per se, but who are using it to disconnect themselves from the future society. They don't hate the Internet. But they are using the Internet with a deep sense of paranoia and distrust. And probably only when they have to. We can call these people Neohippies. They are socially liberal, fiscally liberal, isolationist of course. Many of them have left the US to live abroad, many of them have retreated to rural areas, and avoid the cities like the plague.

Where does this leave progressives? Progressives are an interesting combination of globalist and anarchist. Some are more of one than the other, it's not a monolithic party descriptor. But this is why Progressives are feeling so unrepresented today...because they aren't! The DNC is a centrist globalist party. Progressives are anarcho-globalist leftists. It's only a matter of time before they split.

This leaves us with the following parties when all of the dust finally clears: Neo-hippies, Progressives, Republicrats, Neocons, Rapturists. How these will combine with the Third parties out there already remains to be seen. But I'd predict that The Libertarians will remain virtually intact. Others are bound to merge together. We're basically looking at between 6-10 major parties for our information age political landscape.

And this is where the Constitutional Crisis comes into play. Our current system is completely unable to deal with having 10 or more parties out there. Look at how poorly it is representing the "third parties" today. The difference is of course that the number of people registered in these 10 parties will be orders of magnitude higher than anything even the Libertarians have now. We will have to ditch the Electoral system completely. (Good riddance, the founders only included it because they didn't trust the potentially uneducated farm folk). But how will we handle a "winning" party that only gets 12 percent of the vote? We had Bush 'win' with under 50 percent, and look at all the drama that caused. (Ignore any voter fraud issues for the moment when you think about it).

This is the basic problem coming. We will need to address how we handle a multi-party election when everything is set up for only 2 parties. Do we become a parliamentary democracy? Do we kludge together some stop-gap system and keep what we have? I leave the answer to someone smarter than me! hehe

1 Comments:

Blogger tewb said...

You might enjoy This
Political Cartoon

Food For The Masses, A Bone For Conservatives

5:35 PM  

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