Let’s talk about the direction our country is going right now and a way we could legally work together to move it in the right direction that was once impossible.
The US is divided into 2 parties. That’s the way it is, and that’s the ways it has been.
Some of us want to stop illegal immigration, some of us want to help immigrant children, some of us want to prevent gun deaths, some want to prevent abortions, others want universal healthcare, and still others want smaller, less intrusive government.
So how is this going to turn out?
Most people agree that our government is headed in the wrong direction, (60 to 75%). While we do agree on that, we don’t agree on the right direction. And so many people are pushing so many different fixes, and for each an opposing force is growing, that little has been changing for years, while the world is moving faster.
It’s not one party’s fault. It’s the whole system.
Shouldn’t We the People just get together and fix it?
You’ll probably say this is a wonderful idea, but what you really think is that it’s naive, a waste of time, that it’s … impossible.
Lets summarize the objections:
- There’s no way we’re all going to agree on one thing.
- There’s no ($&#*ing) way this government is going to do anything about it.
- There’s no way everyone is going to get together.
There is a process, called deliberative discussion. A trained facilitator will gather a large group of people, and randomly distribute them among tables. The people would be diverse, and represent different views. The facilitator would lead them through a series of discussion steps where they would get to know each other, understand their differences, and the find solutions they agree to.
This really works, it does happen, but most people have never experienced it. That’s because it requires someone to organize it, planing, funding, a place, and getting people into the place at the same time. The more people you seek to gather, the harder this is.
One of the ways this is different than politics, is that the structure and rules are setup to make sure each person is heard, and each person is comfortable expressing their opinions – especially when they are different. People are encouraged to state their views, and they are also asked to explain why and everyone listens to each other.
Consider that objection – there’s no way we’re all going to agree one thing. At a small scale, deliberative discussion can overcome that, on a regular basis. It’s not impossible, there is a process.
Now, if you belong to one of the two parties, or even if you are an independent observer, it seems pretty obvious, their message is: there’s no compromise, resist, the other party is killing our country. Is that where your hearing: we’ll never be able to agree on anything?
So, if we could all, somehow be part of the deliberative process, we could find agreement on one thing. So, it’s not impossible.
But, there is something they teach in business school, that poses a problem. You can’t market to everyone. You can’t create a pitch, an offering, or a message, that will be interesting to everyone. There are too many people and too many differences. So you have to pick a target market segment, and tailor you message and your product to them. So, on Amazon we have 30,000 options for toothpaste.
So, in modern day politics it only makes sense, liberal media targets democrats, and republicans didn’t trust the liberal media so conservative media evolved to fill the need. Then there is social media, where anyone can target any subset of a target market that they can dream of.
And so, what happens is that each of us is getting a different message, with a different spin, and a different subset of the facts, and maybe even some bias that we don’t realize. And that’s how we become divided and polarized.
And perhaps you’ve heard the saying – “Divide and Concur”. But in this case, we are doing it to ourselves.
If expert facilitators can get people sitting around a table to understand each other and come to an agreement, we just need to go around the media, and social media, and the political parties and get everyone involved in a process like that.
Well, 250 year ago, that was impossible. Even 25 years ago it was. Today, we go online.
We get everyone, meaning 300 Million Americans, to submit their idea for what problem we fix first to move this country in the right direction.
That’s a lot of answers. Again, even 25 years ago, it was impossible to imagine how to process it.
Now, we can have a tournament! A multi-stage online deliberation tournament. We ask each person to consider 10 of the ideas, and vote up the best and say why. Then we have 30 Million ideas, each with 10 reasons why’s. We take those ideas and give each person 10 , with 10 reasons and ask them to consider it and vote up the most important why’s and the best idea. And we repeat that process. Just 9 or 10 times because that’s the power of instantly connecting large numbers of diverse people together over the internet. Then we are down to one problem that 2/3rds (or more I expect) of 300M people agree to fix.
So lets take a look at this.
- Everyone is heard. Do you feel heard by your federal government?
- Everyone’s voice counts equally. Do you feel like your voice counts equally in the federal government?
- It’s a two way engagement. Do you feel like the two parties are working together to find the best solutions?
- You don’t have to have a big following on twitter, you don’t have to be a great public speaker. – When were you last invited to speak on national television?
- You can do it when and where it’s convenient.
After we agree on the problem, then we follow a similar process with how to fix it. And that’s an example of structuring a conversation. If one person is talking about building a wall and another person is talking about banning assault rifles – it’s impossible to come to an agreement. It is a lot more productive to get people to agree when they first agree on the problems and then start talking about solutions. And, It’s then a lot easier to get people to agree on the solution because they can evaluate how well it addresses the problem.
2 lessons from deliberative discussion to bring up.
Sometimes, after hearing the problem and many different concerns, somebody comes up with an amazing new solution that no one had thought of and very quickly everyone agrees to. It’s not just because someone came up with a new solution, it’s because they also presented with the reasons why that addressed the concerns that everyone knew of. And it’s because everyone else had been engaged in the problem, and knew all the competing concerns. That could happen here – we want that to happen here.
Sometimes, after interacting with a person from a very different culture and having a productive experience with it, people end up being more comfortable with other people from that culture.
Then there is another important phenomenon to bring up called: The Wisdom of the Crowd. There are books, and Ted talks on this, but basically, if you ask a large enough group of people to estimate something, it comes really close to the right answer.
In the classic study, from 1907, Francis Galton averaged the guesses of the weight of an ox at a county fair raffle, and found it (1797 lbs) came really close to the right answer (1798 lbs). This repeatable with many different forms, was verified yet again in this TED Talk: Lior Zoref: Mindsharing, the art of crowdsourcing everything
It means that while some people guess high, and other’s guess low, and most people don’t know much about the subject (oxen), it averages out. This is different than voting – where people get a couple choices, none ideal- that were previously decided upon. The wisdom of crowds come when people have the full range of possibilities they can think of, and they are all thinking independently – and there is a mechanism for accumulating them and finding an average. Which is a lot like the deliberation process we have just laid out.
This study “Aggregated knowledge from a small number of debates outperforms the wisdom of large crowds” had 1400 people estimate the height of the Eiffel Tower, then deliberate in groups of 5, and then estimate the height again. Their title observation is that it only took 5 groups of 5 deliberating, to come up with a better answer than the average all the initial guesses. But, involving only 25 people, does not solve the polarization problem. Where as, their study also showed that after deliberation, the crowd came to an even closer answer than before, and better than the average of all of the deliberations, and they showed that unlike the herd effect, or mobs, the people’s answer through deliberation got better rather than worse.
However, these examples involve numbers, that are easily averaged. How do we average the answers to a question like: What do we do to move this country in the right direction?
That’s where the tournament fits in again. In each round of the tournament, people are participating in the calculation of the collective average, and they are also participating in the collective learning of the issues behind why the final answer is the best answer for the whole.
So in the end, we get the best possible answer for the nation, and we will have strong support and belief in it.
Lets look at an example, but don’t let it bias what would come out of this, but lets have an example illustrate it. Let’s say people start with their ideas about immigration, education and guns, and eventually someone says if we fix the government first, that will make it easier to fix these other things, and then we get to the idea that the fist problem to fix, to move this country in the right direction, is poor leadership. And then let’s say that the solution we come up with is “term limits”.
When we do it for real, we should expect more, but this example is the kind of thing that fits. The kind of thing that lots of people could relate to and discuss. It’s not 20 pages of legalese. And this is the kind of thing that has to be a constitutional amendment.
But wait, what was that? A constitutional amendment! There’s no ($&#*ing) way this government is going to do anything about it.
Well. If this was really a discussion that included everyone, we should include our representatives too, and their families, staff, and advisers. So, if they were really ‘representative’ they would already be part of the solution. But if not, we should make it very visible that in their district, their electorate support this solution, and by how much. And if a rep still didn’t support it (like vote for the amendment for term limits), but so many of their constituents supported it, then there is the next election.
For a constitutional amendment, 2/3rd of the house and senate have to support it. And then, the majority of the legislatures of 3/4ths of the states have to ratify it. If we really have all American support for it, if we build it in to the process to keep the discussion going until we have at least 2/3 of the people in 3/4 of this states in agreement, all of this could be done in weeks, rather than decades. And then we could move on to the next most important problem.
And if you were worried about whether this was legal, there’s a clause in the first amendment: Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Do you have grievances with the government that it should be addressing?
So, we can agree on something, and we can get our government to implement it, and it’s guaranteed in the constitution. Now all we have to do is get together.
But there’s no way everyone is going to get together. Were back to that problem from business school. We can’t market to everyone. We can’t create a call to action that motivates everyone to join in. But, in this case we have to. The wisdom, or magic, or miracle needs all of us. If we just target millennials – it won’t work. If we just have people from a few cities or states, it won’t work. If we don’t all get together, we won’t come up with that answer that everyone believes in, that everyone had a voice in, that averages out to the right answer and happens quickly.
And it might not require all 300 Million of us (the U.S). We shall welcome everybody, and we need to work hard to make sure we have balanced and diverse participation. But there is a study that shows that 3.5% of the population can change the government. So things might start happening when we get to 11 Million people.
Finally, Americans love it when the underdog wins, when right goes up against the system and right prevails, and when the patriots come back from a 25 point deficit.
Well patriot, welcome to Civil Pursuit.com