Category Archives: American society

Toward a republic: The reining in of democracy …

The dilemma of the masses …

I don’t see any benefit from “people politics.”  I think the notion of democracy, where each person gets a say in choosing who leads a society, has fooled people into believing that it takes the masses to get anything done.  I agree that one person can’t move the mountains necessary for creating a society, but it doesn’t take a large mass of people either.  Masses are considered by a small number of leading individuals as either a battering ram that knocks down perceived doors to power or as the sponge that absorbs the costs of building a society with the gains going to the leader of the pack.

The masses always end up with scraps that depreciate in value.  They are so busy working to pay the taxes that fund that venture capital firm called government that they make no time to participate in the management of society.

Frankly, I like it that way.  The tyranny of the masses of people who operate on their passions and misinformation frightens me.  Just listen to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal any morning and you will cringe at the misinformation that emanates from some of the callers’ mouths.  While I do not believe that citizens should be deprived of basic needs, I don’t think that the masses of citizens should be involved in policy making.  I would be dishonest by saying that the franchise of voting should be open to all.

On the contrary, it needs to be denied to most.  The best way for the individual to enjoy maximum protection is for all avenues that trespass on her liberty to be closed or severely blocked.

One example of the severity of mass ignorance is the removal trial of President Donald J. Trump occurring in Washington.  The Democrats, uncertain of a victory over Mr Trump by any of its current candidates for their party’s nomination, have created a narrative designed to enrage and engage the electorate, the narrative being that Mr Trump abused his power by withholding military funds from the nation of Ukraine and that Mr Trump’s refusal to proffer White House staff for testimony before the House during its investigation of such abuse amounted to the “crime” of obstructing Congress.

The Democrats target rich environment of voters includes those who, rather than educating themselves on how the law defines presidential power or how the law defines abuse of that power, base their preference for impeachment on their genuine dislike for the President’s personality.  The Democrats rather have an uninformed angry mob going into the voting booth this November versus an informed one.

Hence the dilemma of the masses. On the one hand, an uninformed tool easily riled by a party leadership. On the other hand, a mob that has no problem tainting a man’s legacy with charges found nowhere in the Constitution or federal statutes.

Time to rein in democracy ….

American democracy, at least on the national level, needs to be reined in.  The Democrats would not be able to create consternation in the electorate for the purpose of generating momentum to the ballot booth if the electorate were not so easily reached.  One approach would be to get rid of the popular vote and go to an enhanced republican system.  While the voter continues to vote for their state representatives and state chief executives, state legislatures would be responsible for selecting from their own bodies the representatives to Congress.  Congress would then be responsible for selecting the president and vice-president from its chambers.

The biggest benefit from an improved republic would be that in one fell swoop, voters could punish state representatives that selected the congressmen that voted for an ineffective or criminal president.  Washington would stay on edge.  To ensure that the needs of citizens are addressed first, Washington might stay focused on domestic issues versus adventurous campaigns abroad.  The Executive and the Congress may find themselves in greater coordination on policy knowing that ineffective policy behavior by one branch of government severely impacts the other.  Less conflict and more cooperation and communication would reduce the chances of the reckless impeachment behavior we are seeing now in Washington.

Conclusion ….

Democracy isn’t working.  Democracy, by offering a passionate, uninformed mass to weigh in on the selection of leadership, creates gamesmanship that stokes fear rather than reason.  It needs to be reined in.

Andrew Yang’s candidacy has a realistic view of America’s digital future

The eye-catcher ….

This afternoon during a town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made the argument that his fellow candidates for president were not aware that the United States is in a fourth industrial revolution.  Just what is this fourth industrial revolution that Mr. Yang is referring to?

You’re in the Matrix, baby…

In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab describes the environment spawning the revolution of technology and how it impacts work, government, and the economy:

“We have yet to grasp fully the speed and breadth of this new revolution.  Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access.  Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing, to name a few.  Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems.  On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform, and entertain ourselves.  Equally, governments and institutions are being reshaped, as are systems of education, healthcare and transportation, among many others. New ways of using technology to change behavior and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.”

We have all heard the buzz terms “automation” and “AI” bandied about.  We take for granted that advanced communications bring us closer to our global neighbors, where we once occupied local space, i.e. being at home or driving thirty minutes to work, some of us now work on a daily basis with a colleague located in Mumbai, Bonn, or London.

Automation, as Mr. Yang reminded us today in Bedford, threatens to replace workers in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and automobile plants.  But we professionals are threatened, too.  Just yesterday my employer emailed workers sharing the news of a partnership with a tech firm that uses technology that reduces the number of documents attorneys have to review.  The upside is that attorneys may have more time to apply critical thinking skills to activities that they do best: problem solve.  The down side is that we may need fewer attorneys to do certain types of work.

Change is never a factor that should be absent from our expectations

And what of agile response as part of governance?

Not only does government face policy challenges when addressing a changing labor market, government will face challenges from digital platforms capable of providing services government currently has a monopoly on.  Again, citing Mr. Schwab:

“In summary, in a world where essential public functions, social communication and personal information migrate to digital platforms, governments—in collaboration with business and civil society—need to create the rules, checks and balances to maintain justice, competitiveness, fairness, inclusive intellectual property, safety and reliability.

Two conceptual approaches exist.  In the first, everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed.  In the second, everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden.  Government must blend these approaches.”

One recent example of the challenges government could face from competing platforms is the proposal by Facebook to introduce a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that uses an asset or a reserve currency as a back up.  In other words, the asset or reserve currency can be used to as a measure of the stablecoin’s value.  Policy makers such as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, have expressed reservations that Facebook and other digital platforms that issue a cryptocurrency could pose a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to regulate currency and promote its economy.

None of the current Democratic candidates nor the incumbent president have expressed how modern financial technology and the currencies that fintech can produce may impact the U.S. economy.  In a changing economy, could a lack of experience in this area contribute to poor policy making regarding governance in the digital 21st century?

Yang so far has the knowledge to govern in a digital 21st century America …

Changes in how Americans will work over the next twenty years and the currency that they will use for exchanging commercial value will require someone who does not make policy based on an analog view of the world.  Observers of technology and government usually lament how policy never keeps up with rapid changes in technology.  Can the United States go four more years with its government’s chief executive completely unaware of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact livelihoods?

Towards a political strategy of increasing black sovereignty …

How white capital spreads like a virus …

I don’t think that one need go through a winding, mundane academic discourse for why blacks in the American jurisdiction need to pursue sovereignty.  Everyday, American social culture tells blacks living in the American jurisdiction that we do not belong here.  Socially, blacks have been lumped into a generic “people of color” box, on the false pretense that non-whites share the negative effects of systemic racism; that we are all in the same boat sitting in steerage while whites enjoy the privilege of capital accumulation, access to credit, better jobs, and higher income.  America’s political left argues that this unequal treatment calls for public and social policy that should somehow put whites and non-whites in equal positions economically and politically.

Members of the Left that take this position lack an appreciation for how much time and man has not changed.  Europeans came to North America, the Caribbean, and South America under a charter from monarchs that, in a nutshell, required exploitation of the land and people found in these places.  Monarchs wanted to expand their national power and enrich their coffers in order to finance the competition they experienced between each other.  They borrowed gold from wealthy members of their respective societies and encouraged their surplus labor with promises of religious freedom, greater incomes, and landownership of their own, to help conquer these new worlds.  By these initiatives, western culture would spread and flourish with non-Europeans being either absorbed as best they could or eliminated.

Non-Europeans were never meant to be included in the governance of these new lands or in the distribution of natural resources i.e. land, minerals, etc., that accompanied conquest.  Blacks were brought to the western hemisphere as chattel slaves, the tools that would plant and harvest the tobacco and cotton plantations of the American south and the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

And like a virus, this occupation by capital of non-white spaces continues in the form of gentrification, where generous monetary policies by America’s central bank inflated assets already held mostly by American descendants of Europeans which provided the collateral that backed the loans that were used to buy homes under stress in black neighborhoods.  Americans of European descent no longer need to use armed force to wrest land from non-whites.  Central banks now aid Europeans with capital to spread their influence.

Reparations won’t happen …

For the past two or three years, a movement of American descendants of slaves (ADOS) has been advocating for government policy that delivers on past promises by the United States government to provide slaves with land as recompense for physical bondage.  ADOS believes that providing a direct capital infusion to descendants of black American slaves is the best approach to closing the wealth gap between whites and blacks while compensating blacks for the labor stolen from them and used to build the American economy.

Politically, ADOS doesn’t have a chance.  There is no definitive support in either chamber of Congress for any reparations initiative.  The only black American in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, has not made reparations a campaign narrative. Given his standing in the polls, he does not have the political capital to offer a policy proposal on the matter.  Without a champion in the executive or the Congress providing stewardship for policy or legislation, reparations will not happen.

The current system poses an existential threat to blacks …

After 500 years in the western hemisphere, if blacks are still fighting to close a capital gap that eliminates the buffer between blacks and devastating unemployment, homelessness, and bankruptcies, then it is time to shift paradigms and create a new political economy.  Civil rights violations stemming from race discrimination. Lack of jobs stemming from race discrimination. Poor education funding resulting from racial discrimination. These issues should be non-existent where blacks are not subject to policies and laws designed by whites for the benefit of whites.

It is time for blacks living in the American jurisdiction to pursue public policy and law that generates a parallel political economy where law, technology, and politics converge to provide blacks with a sovereignty that better ensures their survival.

Blacks need to re-direct political capital to local election markets

I caught the last thirty minutes of tonight’s Democratic Party debate. I was able to hear some of their discussion on foreign policy which I did not find impressive.  Overall, these candidates tried to play both sides of the fence when it came to Afghanistan, claiming on the one hand that it is time for the United States to leave the central Asian burial ground of empires while on the other hand satisfying the sentiments of war hawks by considering the deployment of a reduced force, just in case the U.S. needed to re-insert itself.  That sure doesn’t sound like commitment to the idea of departing.

Another sign of a lack of commitment on the part of Democrats was the dearth of ethnic minorities on the debate stage.  Andrew Yang, an American of Asian descent, was the only ethnic minority participating in the debate.  That Mr. Yang is still in contention is a testament to his entrepreneurial savvy and his policy focus, specifically the idea of a $1,000 a month universal basic income payment to every eligible American.

Strong messaging on specific policy measures appears to be the sustaining formula for the debate survivors as they prepare for next February’s Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.  Yang, along with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders are doing well because, in my opinion, they have developed a narrative that they can brand themselves with and sell to the public.

Someone failed to get the important point of narrative and branding across to U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who was not known for any specific policy  agenda, definitely not a black agenda or narrative of any kind.  The same can be said for U.S. Senator Cory Booker who was absent from tonight’s debate stage.  If their hope was to ride the Obama Coalition, that bus is being driven by former Vice-President Joe Biden, and right now appears not to be letting anyone else steer the wheel.

The lack of blacks on the debate stage is not surprising. As the Boomers get older, the sway of the Democratic Party on blacks is decreasing.  It is not unusual to hear younger blacks and even a few older blacks question the efficacy of the Democratic Party when it comes to a black agenda.  And while the Democratic Party harps inclusion and diversity, the reality is that younger blacks are seeing less of an economic and social space for them in American society.  This view will only become more precarious as the demographics continue to change and blacks find themselves an increasingly smaller proportion of the population.

Returns on black political capital will remain flat if the focus remains on national elections. The numbers are just not there no matter what Democratic talking heads keep saying.  More importantly, the issues that concern blacks most; unfair treatment by the criminal justice system, unemployment, gentrification, are not federal issues.  While national leaders maybe able to advocate for block grants and other large sources of capital to be directed toward the States, it is state and local politics that will determine how those funds get distributed to and throughout communities.  Ensuring that West End Atlanta gets its share of federal government funds compared to the affluent north side of turn will turn just as much on local politics as it does federal jawboning.

Blacks should start preparing to manage a future electoral clash between whites and Hispanics…

Blacks don’t have the numbers and it will get worse, unless….

Back in August I wrote the following regarding representative democracy’s failure of black people:

“Representative democracy has failed black people in America.  The representatives from the black community in Washington have been converted into agents for their respective party’s leadership, securing the votes needed so that they can pull up a chair at the trough.  Just like social media has turned subscribers to social networks into resource and product for advertisers, the electoral system has turned black voters into lumps of coal with black congressmen acting as the conveyor belt carrying the coal to the primaries and the national elections.”

In addition to this major fail of black leadership and representative democracy will be the further weakening of black political capital as a result of demographics.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the portion of the American population identifying as “black” will increase to 13.3% in 2060, barely budging from the 2014 statistic of 13%.  Meanwhile, the population identifying as “Hispanic” will see their percentage of the population increase to 25.5% in 2060 up from 13% in 2014.

The population identifying as “white” will represent 49.4% of the U.S. population in 2060, down from the 2014 figure of 68.8%.

As a voting bloc, I expect that Hispanics will cement their position as the go-to ethnic group that sways at least the popular vote for president. The current “people of color” movement may have run its course by then depending on how much farther the interests of both groups diverge.  Assuming that blacks and Hispanics occupy in 2060 the regions of the country they mostly occupy today, there may not be a demographic clash.  Blacks still mostly occupy the south and southeastern United States while Hispanics mostly occupy Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, and New York.  Two of the states, California and Florida, because of the number of electoral votes they carry, will continue to influence the popular vote and the Electoral College vote.  Hispanics will be in a position to exercise substantial electoral clout.

This clout may come in handy on policy issues such as immigration and trade.  Blacks have expressed animosity to policy that favors immigration because they see immigrants from Latin American countries as competitive cheap labor.  Hispanics see immigration as access to better pay and living conditions while trade benefits Latino populations living on both sides of the southwestern border where there is an opportunity to access and transport more goods and services at affordable prices.

The issue for black political leaders will be how best to manage a political environment, based on a failed representative framework, within which the struggle for public capital will only intensify. One solution may be to go external and manipulate the system from the outside.

Manipulate the equation…Raise the ante….

Yvette Carnell last night described a voting strategy for getting the Democratic Party to take notice of black voters without black voters giving away all of their electoral capital.  The “down ballot” tactic allows black voters to exercise the option of skipping Democratic candidates for president, vice-president, Congress, etc., where those candidates do not offer adequate public policy in exchange for the vote.  Ms. Carnell stresses that blacks should just not show up, but should instead go to the polls and cast a vote on other issues reflected on the ballot with the goal of letting Democrats know that the voter showed up but did not see on the ballot a candidate that presented an adequate black agenda.

Another tactic I would suggest is that blacks skip the primaries and that this practice should start in 2020. Skipping the primaries raises not only uncertainty in both parties, especially the Democratic Party, but would force the parties to pay more attention to black public policy needs and start preparing substantive packages in advance of election so that packages can be put in place soon after an election.

I believe these are the sort of tactics that blacks should implement now in order to strategically position themselves as the price giver versus price takers.

Conclusion: A more active listening public administrator

There is no guarantee 40 years out that black political leaders external to the government will follow the above strategies in the face of changing demographics and political power.  Public administrators should get in the habit of being forward looking, however, as demands of the electorate in the political markets will call for changes in approach to governance.  To stay valid, public administrators have to listen to two constituencies: the elected official that oversees them, and the electorate that at least in theory oversees them both.

 

 

Diversity is a fraud.

As a black person I have grown increasingly suspect over the years of calls for diversity. It is not that I have succumbed to another race’s false sense of superiority over mine. It is because diversity is really nothing but an expression of weakness by blacks in America. It is a rallying cry for inclusion of those blacks who consider themselves the cream of the crop and deserving to be placed ahead of other blacks due to their education and their networks. Diversity is a willingness to shun the need to generate and contribute real economic value settling instead for creating arguments that have at their base the need to make white people feel guilty. Diversity is a feel good political package sold to black voters who stand as much of a chance of breaking glass ceilings as the Atlanta Falcons have at playing in the Super Bowl in next year.

As an expression of weakness, calls for diversity are calls for permission to enter a house you are otherwise unwelcome in. We’ve heard the arguments. “Inclusion is the right thing to do.” “Dr. King died because he believed we are all equal in character.” ” It is immoral to exclude people, etc. etc.” It really boils down to begging to be included, basing arguments on weak moral grounds that can fade away when tough economic times appear and animal spirits rise up to battle for scarce capital and jobs.

Diversity benefits only those who come from a certain pedigree. In the real world, diversity doesn’t get most blacks a full time job with benefits. What gets people work in the real world are skill sets that bring value to an employer’s efforts at output and a network that through his new employee an employer can tap into. This is especially important in an information driven economy where workers are no longer “nodes for manufacturing”, where the emphasis is on an employee’s manufacturing skills, but instead is a “node of information”, where the employee uses technology to gather data that helps his employer make the best resource allocations.

The flip side to this argument is that blacks may not be in the position to be “information nodes” given centuries of being locked out of certain networks. My answer is, tough. After being in North America for 400 years and 153 of those years post slavery, Black Americans have had opportune time to accumulate the educational and work experience to access information, garner the appropriate skills, and build valuable networks. Instead of diversifying ourselves into a system dominated by a racial majority and created for a racial majority, blacks need to offset the negative repercussions of the current system by supplementing the current system with a dose of increased self-reliance.

Earlier I described diversity as a feel good political package designed by a political party dominated by white people and sold by an educated small black elite to the masses of black voters. It is a weak package that is comprised of slight modifications to existing civil rights and labor laws with no meaningful transfer of capital involved. It is empty with the only blacks getting paid being the fraternity and sorority boys and girls who have some mid-level office driving cars that they look good in. Diversity has not translated into a political economy that takes us to a higher form of human engagement, one where the basic needs of all are truly provided for.

Diversity is a fraud.

Republics are to keep the masses at bay, not to include them…

The purpose of governance …

The purpose of taking over government is to control its spoils.  The tricky part is to keep the barbarians from knocking down the gates, an act that may result from the perception that those who have captured government will not allocate an equitable portion of goods, resources, and capital i.e the spoils, to the masses.

The governing class in a republican form of government must then find a way to maximize the prestige and power it garners from taking over government while minimizing the amount of public capital allocated to appeasing the people it rules.  Resources are finite and the governing class can’t afford to have the instrument used for the day-to-day management of the citizenry and the channeling of power and prestige to the governing few to go bankrupt.

The issue then, for those who wish to take over government, is which approach to governance will bring about maximum prestige and power at the lowest cost of paying off the barbarian.  I recommend a political market approach based on transparency.

The market approach of American democracy …

American political governance is limited by the vote buying/selling transactions of the political market.  To garner the right to govern as an elected official, you have to win the vote.  What the candidate is willing to pay for this vote depends on her view of government’s role and her ability to convince the electorate to align its perception with her view.  She will not be transparent about her personal gains from winning office, preferring to tout the benefits that she can help shuttle to Americans as her rationale for running.  She will make the mistake of painting herself as selfless or altruistic.

All market transactions, including political market transactions, are two-sided. The voter/consumer seeks some type of economic relief via a government program, or some cultural win via a statute or regulation, and the elected official is willing to sell her a program in exchange for support in the form of donations, campaign volunteer time, or a vote.  All political parties participate in these transactions.  The voter/consumer must remain aware that these offerings are not being done for altruistic reasons.  They are being done out of the elected official/producer’s self-interest in garnering the power and prestige that comes with elected office.

The benefits of elected official/producer transparency …

When sitting across from the person you are negotiating with, you want as much transparency as possible as to their interests.  Knowing the real value they place on an item they intend to buy from or sell to you helps you to better price your offer.  As an elected official/producer, being transparent with the voter/consumer has three immediate benefits.

First, if the candidate for an office is upfront about their self-interest in running, they can avoid or mitigate the consequences that come from a lack of clarity.  The voter cannot come back and claim that the then candidate now elected official was anything but honest, a virtue many Americans claim to adhere to.

Second, if the candidate is transparent as to their self-interest, she creates a channel within which she can gauge the reasonableness of the voter’s demands.  In other words, the voter has a better understanding of the value of his vote for the candidate and can adjust his demands accordingly.  There will be fewer surprises as to the cost the candidate has to pay in order to secure a continuous flow of power and prestige.  She has a better idea not only of the voter costs for garnering her power and prestige, but can now explore a wider array of options for meeting voter needs at the lowest costs possible.

Another benefit of transparency is that by establishing up front her desire to garner and maximize power and prestige, the candidate will be viewed as transparent going forward during other transactions.  This creation of “good will” can only create for the elected official more opportunities to increase the political capital necessary for deploying the cost effective programs that she can exchange in the future for more votes.

It won’t be the programs that keep the barbarians from knocking down the gates.  It will be the transparency and the perception of honesty that flows that will keep the masses at bay.

Conclusion: Republicans can be transparent without being ogres….

Strength flows from transparency.  Republicans should not be afraid to tell the electorate, “I seek the power and prestige of the office because of the benefits (emotional, psychological, financial) that will flow to me, but I acknowledge those benefits won’t flow to me unless I meet your needs.”

America is a republic and as such, its political power is held by the people and its elected representatives.  What the definition does not tell you is that both groups do not, cannot, and should not rule equally.  What too many choose to describe as “American democracy” is a system that is not based on mass rule, but based purposefully on minority rule.  Because American democracy is in fact based on minority rule (one only need look at the discarding of the popular vote after the November 2016 general election), Republicans especially should take the lead in transparency in governing.  Transparency has a chilling effect on political tension and can only serve to secure Republican political power going forward.