After the U.S. Constitution was created, the founders argued that they had created a “more perfect’ government. In the evolution of human systems of governance, we could call the system they developed governance 3.0. It was an advance of governance 2.0, which began in antiquity with the Greeks and Romans. Governance 1.0 could be considered that of a classical king or empire, which might be best characterized by the Babylonian Empire. Governance 0.0 is what Thomas Hobbes called “the state of nature.”
The state of nature is anarchy, the lack of any territorial rule of law. In this state, gangs, warlords, and groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, can arise and terrorize people. Property is not safe, land is not safe, people cannot grow gardens or even hang on to their spouse and children; everyone is forced to be a predator or die. In such areas, human populations are very small in numbers as there are no institutions of governance that can allow any economic or cultural institutions to develop.
The United States system is very complex compared to the state of anarchy, and emerged by going through stages of development that included Version 1.0 and 2.0, and is rooted in cultural consciousness of equal worth of all people and universal human rights that developed over more than 1,000 years in Western civilization. As a result of its freedoms, the United States system of governance allowed the rapid expansion of knowledge, which also undermined traditional cultural moorings. It also allowed for the rise of huge economic corporations and political lobbies that displaced citizen rule and cause the government to decay into a plutocracy.
Since the Civil War, not only did these developments press exceed what the U.S. Constitution was designed to rule, they have invaded the political system like viruses and have systematically taken power through laws that have eliminated many of the checks and balances on power designed to restrain them. Good computer programmers write code to advance the capability and complexity of computer systems, while constantly being vigilant to prevent new viruses from hacking these systems. An analogous task is required in the writing of the laws of governance of society. The United States has advanced to the point where it requires an evolution in its system of governance. It needs governance 4.0 for today’s complex society to become integral.
In Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0 five core principles in the founding philosophy are explained. That original system of governance has been subverted and infected with viruses, much like computer operating systems get infected, so that special interests have been increasingly able to use the government for their own benefit. The book explains some key changes that could be made to restore the U.S. system to principled governance based on five core principles:
- Checks and balances, dispersion of power
- Voluntary affiliation (the right to secede)
Administration vs. Legislation
Once a principled system of government is established, it primarily needs good administration. It needs very little new legislation, and certainly it needs no legislation that serves one group of people at the expense of another. That caused new forms of tribalism to develop in the United States.
Good new laws are those based on sound principles for the purpose of adapting to new and changed social conditions. They should reflect principles learned through collective experience and include checks on all selfish desires, special interests, and conflicts of interest. For example, when the U.S. Constitution was created, the United States had no national or international corporations. Nearly all businesses were privately owned by families. There were no laws to govern the behavior of such large economic institutions. When large corporations developed, their freedom to operate extended into areas that harmed citizens. Through the lobbying efforts of railroads, banks, and other large industries, laws were passed that gave them subsidies and protections at the expense of citizens, essentially turning them into a new form of serf. This faulty process of law creation through cronyism has been repeated in many areas, though the vehicle of political parties.
The entire history of U.S. governance has been one in which legal “worms” and “viruses” have been written to redistribute power and wealth to special interests, and to hijack the entire system to be redirected to their service rather than the service of the happiness of the citizens and the common good.
The Pursuit of Happiness: The most powerful engine of society.
Human beings have innate drives that propel them to pursue happiness, and societies grow and develop as they learn and apply principles that enable more people to freely pursue their happiness, while not violating principles that harm society or others. This is the basic premise of the U.S. Constitution, and perhaps the only premise that the various religions in the colonies could agree upon. It was explained by James Madison in Federalist 62:
A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.
Special Interests Promoted by Political Parties are Viruses
Most lobbyists and special interests, using political parties as vehicles, seek to use government to get some benefit for themselves at the expense of the whole. One ideal of a legitimate system of governance is that it treats all people equally before the law. However, most laws treat people differently, seeking to favor one group at the expense of others. This is a form of the tribalism that preexisted the ideals of the U.S. Founders. Partisan tribal legislation is the predominate form of legislation in the U.S. today. It is the open and visible manifestation of active of social viruses that operate with the blessings of the President, the Supreme Court, and the popular media. It is culturally sanctioned war by other means. This activity, now deemed formally legitimate, is increasingly viewed as illegitimate.
Good Governance is About the Principles that Operate a Social System
Any system, whether it is a social institution, the human body, a mechanical machine, an entire social system, or the entire universe, is governed by principles. When the principles that maintain a system cease to operate, the system breaks down and disintegrates. The design of any system requires knowledge of the purpose for which system is being created, and the principles necessary for the system to accomplish its objective. Governance of a system, after it has been created, requires operation according to its original design principles. For example, we call a speed control on an engine a “governor” because it maintains the operation of the engine within limits that enable it to run, without quitting if it runs too slow, or blowing up if it runs to fast.
The U.S. founders created a constitutional framework that served as a governance system, in which American self-rule would be restrained by principles, and only laws that served the well-being of the entire society would get passed. There were to be legislative processes and checks and balances that prevented individual and group (factional) cooptation of government for personal or group gain. And, through the Senate, states could provide a check on populist fads that undermined the government. However, from the day the Constitution was ratified, U.S. citizens and groups have sought to escape the bounds of these constitutional limits in order to gain advantages for themselves or social sub-groups. The 16th and 17th Amendments directly removed checks and balances and converted the republican form of governance to a more democratic one.
Governance 4.0 is required to make the dysfunctional United States system of governance functional in the 21st century. This level of governance has to understand stages of social development, levels of governance, the relationship between political, economic, and cultural spheres, and the principles that will enable a complex 21st century society to function well and with integrity.