*Pic: ‘Brains Trust: Hockey, Abbott, Bishop, Truss …
As an experienced complex systems consultant, I cannot help but notice that our governments appear unable to achieve the objectives that they set for themselves. It’s also clear that the approaches they use to their task are slow, expensive and ponderous; and they frequently fail because by the time that they’ve formed committees and held public hearings with teams of lawyers, everything has changed around them.
It’s therefore worth asking the question – are the systems, methods, structures and assumptions of government still relevant to our times?
A recent article in “The Conversation” ( https://theconversation.com/hidden-crisis-of-liberal-democracy-creates-climate-change-paralysis-39851 ) argues that the structures/systems/assumptions of liberal democratic government are out of date and their use is preventing us from dealing with complex problems such as climate change, population pressures and terrorism.
There were many commenters who seemed to misconstrue what the authors were saying (not that unusual when discussing change and new approaches) and I thought it interesting to prepare a list format to briefly describe the needs. It seemed worth putting that list ‘out there’ so that others could think about the issues because it certainly doesn’t appear that the government or political parties are prepared to!
My hope is that this initial list can be an ‘idea starter’ for interested readers and may stimulate new ways for us to face up to, and deal with, some of our more intractible problems. It can also form useful ‘background’ material for further articles and discussions.
THEORY: From a systems perspective, government structures/systems/assumptions are no longer relevant to our times and are causing major problems because many of our most serious needs are not being addressed. It is now becoming clear that many of the central ideas behind our approach to “democracy” are becoming untenable and are preventing us achieving genuine citizen participation and involvement.
* Huge population increases: In the 1940’s, there were around 1 billion people on the planet, there are now 7 billion
* Complexity increases: Complexity has increased exponentially (global variables and interconnections increase as a result of population and technology)
* Global interactions now the norm: Global supply chains are now vital to support global and local populations
* Population pressures: Depleting our resources (water, food, available land, metals and materials) and overwhelming countries
* Technological change: New products and abilities are disrupting social, business and government processes rendering many dysfunctional
* Rate of change: Changes to world are occurring rapidly, sometimes in weeks or less
* Information and knowledge: Information systems are rapidly changing the way people think and act
* Self education: People can inform themselves from the internet rapidly and comprehensively about most issues and do not need to rely on power groups
* Control by political parties: Parties devoted to capital, labour or the environment dominate despite only representing less than 5% of the population, structured around key ideas that become ‘dogma’ and prevent them from considering a wide array of alternatives (e.g.climate)
* Rate of decision making: Government decisions take weeks, months or years (e.g. many court cases take years to be heard)
* Belief in the power of “deeming”: Telecommunications defined as “non-essential”, climate science declared incorrect
* Information systems out of date: Government information systems are slow, unreliable and often filtered by party dogma
* Unqualified and unskilled polity: Politicians often have neither the skill nor expertise to make valid decisions in technological matters (e.g. submarines, NBN, climate change)
* Decision support systems not used:Key decisions are taken by people sitting at tables with ‘advisors’ whispering in their ears (in contrast to military and high tech business methods that use realtime situation displays)
* Control systems redundant: Huge costly and ponderous bureaucracies attempt to control fast moving situations with regulations (e.g. internet, terrorism, drug abuse) that fail to produce the desired outcomes.
* No recourse for citizens: Politicians and bureaucrats are not accountable for adverse impacts of their decisions and citizens cannot act to achieve their desired goals
Of course the complete lists are much more extensive.
Even considering only the first weakness in the list, can we really believe that a handful of political parties can represent the variety of the real world in their policies? Most don’t even have the internal expertise to genuinely consider issues such as climate, telecommunications and disruptive technologies, so how can their ‘policies’ apply to the broad array of social and business requirements in the Australian environment?
If the structures/systems/assumptions of government are not capable of meeting modern needs, why cannot we use technology to connect everyone to the decision process so that they can vote and communicate thereby rendering the idea of ‘representation’ unnecessary and creating a real democracy for Australians?