By Dennis Polhill
UWSA-Colorado, Issues Chairman
for Denver Election Commission
“We must disenthrall ourselves from the past. Otherwise becomes a barrier to the future.”
– Abraham Lincoln
The American Civil War was the final desperate effort of agricultural society to survive against the onslaught of industrial society. The transition from first wave (agricultural civilization) to second wave (industrial civilization) transcended a 300 year period — roughly from 1600 to 1900 – and included social change so massive as to be beyond the human capacity to fully comprehend. Not only did this transition include the obvious Industrial Revolution and Civil War, but it included the Renaissance, the European scientific and cultural awakening and the American Revolution with its invention of democracy.
Common understanding of history gives us, at best, superficial understanding of these events: Feudalistic monarchs were rejected from France to Japan in successions of bloody civil wars. Most countries did not have the benefit of a profoundly deep intellectual and moral leader, like Thomas Jefferson. The norm after revolution was to have a decade of anarchy followed by a return to some form of authoritarian rule. Real democracy did not come to France for 100 years.
The systems of society must be compatible. To be compatible, they must be parallel. So as civilization moved to industry; all of its systems came to be factory-like. Labor was centralized; corporations became conglomerates; capital was centralized; fortunes were made for families such as Rockefeller,-Kennedy, Dupont, Carnegie, and Hughes; education become mass produced; cities grew; housing was massified; transportation was massified; the military became a machine; democracy was invented; political parties came into being; government became centralized and bureaucratic. Small farmers were dislocated. Artisans and craftsman were displaced. The farms that survived became factories. Dislocations produced disenfranchisement of group after group with the product labor riots, sabotage, violence, massacres, strikes, etc.
To say that the scale of social change associated with the transition from first wave to second wave was gigantic is an understatement.
Today upheaval, turmoil, and discontent can be witnessed at every turn. The scale of conflict appears to compound daily. Alvin Toffler defines the third wave as information civilization. Information civilization started about 1950 and its impacts have accelerated due to the introduction of the personal computer in 1980, and subsequently, Internet. Already a thousand individuals in the Denver Metro area have set up personal bulletin boards on their home computer (third generation Internet systems). It is predicted that Internet servers such as Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL will be obsolete and out of business in less than a decade. Some say that TV’s will be obsolete in five years. The transition to information civilization will be no less traumatic than to industrial society. Conceivably, the trauma will be greater because the time to adjust will be compressed. The fact that we are not more aware that we are in the midst of this giant change is simply a “forest for the trees” issue. One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain an objective perspective.
The move to information society cannot be stopped, slowed, or steered. Individuals and institutions with a vested interest in the second wave will do all in their power to resist change.
Industrial society gave both economic freedom and personal freedom to individuals. Information society will give even more economic and personal freedom to people.
Systems that were massified for industrial society now must be de-massified for information society. All of the systems that were made to look like factories must now be reshaped in order to respond to the unique needs and demands of individuals. Education, labor, capital and corporations must change. The entire thought basis upon which we have built regulation, legislation, political parties, and political processes is no longer relevant.
Attached is an article by Alvin Toffler that began to make some of this picture clear to me. This article motivated me to purchase and read all of his works. I recommend that you do the same. The third wave is the reason people are angry. The third wave is the reason UWSA exists and has clout. The third wave is the reason that the two parties are “out of it” – they have no clue and know not what to do. The third wave is why there is schizophrenia within UWSA – that is, 750 of the members clamor for a third party and 25o argue that a third party is not the solution. The solution is something bigger; something to be yet visualized and articulated.
Unfortunately, Toffler offers no specifics. The solutions are up to those who have the courage to innovate, to lead, and to implement. There is augmented risk to society in the fact that our political systems and leaders are lagging behind and are the least flexible systems of society. Instead of acknowledging that there is a problem (take taxation as an example) and leading, elected officials attack the people and/or citizen activists. This is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Such conduct only increases the prospect of irresponsible acts by extremist kooks like Timothy McViegh. Because citizens enacted term limits and other controls when legislative bodies have a conflict of interest to act, elected officials moved to restrict the right of petition. This conduct will not get society where it needs to go. There will be more, not less, democracy in the future.
Four categories of change to come to political systems are minority power, semi-direct democracy, decision division, and PI-STEMS.
Minority Power – Majority rule is obsolete. It fails to account for impacts on minorities. It fails to measure how important an issue is to voters, what trade-offs people are willing to make, and whether the minority is injured beyond repair. It is likely that various forms of proportional representation, formalized systems of conflict resolution, and mechanisms that find and capture “efficient frontiers” in public policy will be invented.
Semi-direct Democracy – The form of democracy (representative democracy) invented by the Founding Fathers was appropriate for their time. At least 90a of the people were illiterate. The masses had to spend every waking moment in productive effort just to survive. Transportation and communication systems were primitive. Direct democracy carries the weight of “tyranny of the majority” (which is obsolete). Thus, semi-direct democracy is a moderate and reasonable middle ground reform. The initiative and referendum process should not be restricted or killed. It should be reformed, modified and expanded. Why do the people not have the right by petition to propose a bill, to modify a bill, to bind the vote of their legislator, to set up public hearings, to establish a legislative committee, to make a formal expression of priorities to the legislature either for policy action or for spending? Why do not the constituents of county and special district governments in Colorado have the right of I & R? These and other semi-direct democracy tools will come. When they do, the role of elected representatives will be vastly different.
Decision Division – Decision division is the collapse of centralized decision making. As the amount of information grows and as the pace of decision making necessarily accelerates, it becomes functionally impossible for decision making to be dominated by central control. Decisions that appropriately should be decentralized, delegated, and devolved, can be, will be, and must be reassigned. The Gulf War pitted a third wave army against a second wave army with predictably one sided results. As Don Shula once said, “people who know exactly what
to do, thrive under pressure.”
PI-STEMS – PI-STEMS are “Political Information Systems.” The role of the parties will be replaced by PI-STEMS. Soon the idea of a majority party will be obsolete. The information available to voters who wish to be informed about issues and candidates is slanted and appallingly deficient. Access to, information will be facilitated by various PI-STEMS, many through Internet. Voting records, ratings, etc. will soon be readily available. Competition between the two parties will motivate them to lead in the invention of some PI-STEMS that will, in turn, diminish the relevance of both parties. Already independent candidates and splinter third parties are mounting attacks against rules and procedures t-hat discriminate against their involvement in the process.
Of course, the scope of the ideas contained herein is trivial and in a few short years will appear as primitive as the Mayflower or the vacuum tube. But it is time that the discussion be opened and quickly expanded. We are on the verge of an opening of the democratic process: a second awakening of democracy. The appropriate conduct for political leaders at all levels is to be alert to the trend, to anticipate it, and to facilitate it. The sooner we can get in tune with the future, the sooner we can begin to share in the benefits the future will bring. Our generation has a destiny to reinvent democracy.