Everyone seems to know the American experiment is failing, but what we’re not hearing is a crisp reason followed by a solution.
Allow me to propose one.
The two conflicting forces
There are two primary forces in motion within human individuals and human societies:
The Selfish Forces are given to us by evolution. They compel us to bite and claw our way ahead at the expense of others.
There are benefits to these forces—not least of which is that they propel our survival as a species. They also drive innovation, as they are heavily called upon in capitalism and free market enterprise. These are good things, and we should not discard or disparage them on account of misuse.
The Advanced Forces are given to us by our higher selves. These enable us to desire self-sustaining communities, to be kind to those not within our inner circles, and—more than anything else—put others before ourselves.
The problem with America’s democracy could not be more clear: our current government is composed of a dangerous mixture of these two elements.
- Lobbying is designed to make money. It’s a selfish force.
- Campaign contributions are designed to make money. They are selfish forces.
- Politicians leaving office and becoming lobbyists is designed to make money. It’s a selfish force.
These simply cannot mix with the advanced nature of building a government that promotes the welfare of millions or billions. This requires attributes steeped in the Advanced Forces.
- Putting the good of others above your own
- Forgoing the pleasures of the luxurious and exotic
- Quieting the inner desire to acquire and become more powerful
This doesn’t mean that those who cannot, or do not, make this choice are inferior human beings. Someone needs to invent the next generation energy capture and storage, and financial incentive should be there to attract those who are so inclined. And we should celebrate are revere these types as well.
What we must avoid is combining the two. We cannot allow the financially motivated, the power-ambitious, and the selfish to enter government due to it being equally (or even more) lucrative than the private sector. This mixture of matter and anti-matter is so obviously destructive as to be comical to anyone looking from the outside.
Yet this is precisely what we have today.
A way forward
Fixing this is conceptually quite simple: Being a politician, and being part of government in general, should have basic rules associated with it. And these rules would be understood and respected by everyone in the union.
- When you enter government, you have made a life choice. You have decided to serve humanity instead of yourself.
- Politicians are subsidized by government. They and their families will never want for food or shelter, but they will also not allowed the finest things in life. They will receive a modest home, a family vehicle, education for their children, and money for modest vacations, but little more.
- They will be prohibited from owning or participating in luxury. Fine jewelry, homes, cars, etc. will not only be technically illegal, but will simply be prohibited by the order of the servant. In short, any representative in this model would be outright shunned if they were to be seen pursuing or enjoying such things. It would be considered a betrayal of their office, and akin to a crime against humanity.
- Relatedly, and importantly, it would be considered downright treacherous to attempt to entice those of the political order with gifts or favors or any other incentives towards a particular behavior. This sort of influence would not just be seen as out of bounds, but as a malicious attack on the foundation of human decency.
In short, we must identify and extract the base human influences from our higher-order institutions, e.g., government, with money and government being the most volatile of mixtures.
Put another way, we should train ourselves to look for these combinations and react accordingly when we see them. Government, healthcare, education—these are institutions that call for the Advanced Forces, not the Selfish ones, and we must work to decouple them wherever we find them entangled.
Let’s start with government, as it’s arguably the most important and also determines how easy it is to address the others.