The Real Cause of America’s Political Problems

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Letter to the President

In this part of the letter, I identify the real cause of our political problems, and point to the solution- the piece that’s missing.

The cause: Lack of design.

Our political system simply wasn’t designed to produce the results we want. That’s the fundamental cause of our problems. It wasn’t designed to engage or empower voters. It wasn’t designed for transparency. It wasn’t designed for accountability.

That’s the short-version of the reason we have all these political problems. There was intention and hope. And 240 years ago it was a good design. It produced a lot of the results they wanted. But even back then, the design didn’t take into account political parties. That wasn’t too bad because political parties weren’t well established. And communication was so poor that a country “of the people” mainly meant it meddled very little in people’s lives.

America has changed

In the last 60 years, the world has changed so much that the founder’s original designs are even less effective. There were huge differences when America was founded. Todays corporations were illegal in America. Lobbying was taboo. There was no “big media” much less an internet, radio or TV. There wasn’t even reliable mail service! And political parties were in their infancy. And of course, government was much, much smaller.

No one is to blame

In almost any system, people do what they see is appropriate. In America, citizens have the ultimate power. But we can’t wield it. It’s only natural that others try. The myriad special interests fight over our power. Special interests, including the media, manipulate the people as best they can to win elections. And in the process, politicians are often corrupted.

Changing campaign finance laws might weaken them a bit, but not much. None of the proposed improvements will change this.

What’s missing: accountability.

I’ve talked with many hundreds of Americans. None had a robust definition of “accountability.”

Instead, we believe a myth that accountability happens in elections. But it doesn’t, except maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Especially in today’s elections where incumbents and money have tremendous advantage. Very little accountability is delivered in elections.

Accountability exists in a boss-employee relationship and in a teacher-student relationship. These work pretty well. In these systems there are structures in place that enable the employee or student to be accountable and the boss or teacher to hold them accountable. And it happens day to day, weekly, and month by month, not just once ever two to six years.

This is what’s missing from our system: Practical ways to deliver both sides of accountability.

I hope that hooked them. The next part will be about what happened.

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