We put a man on the moon, an incredibly difficult task, so why can’t we develop effective solutions for our perplexing national problems? The simple answer is that we applied our best scientific minds to the moon shoot, but we consistently fail to apply our best thinking to our political problems. Why is that?
The answer is hiding in plain sight: The structure and processes of our government do not allow our best collective thinking to join in the debate for solutions. The roadblock that suppresses this open and free discussion is political power, and if we want to produce the best solutions to our problems, we must start by repairing the rules (or lack thereof) under which the branches of the federal government operate; we must control the exercise of political power. The need for repair is not new; it has been present to some degree throughout our history. But the increased partisanship in Washington today has escalated the problem to crisis proportions.
As we look carefully at governments around the world, the tiny city-state of Singapore should be an embarrassment to us. Their bureaucracy is half the size of ours, proportionately, and it delivers effective social programs to its people; stating the converse, America has twice as many bureaucrats administering its programs and consistently delivers unsatisfactory program results. We must do better than this.
But here is the hard question: Are we ready to honestly address the obvious failures of our federal government? By and large, the political officials in Washington won’t help us. They will resist any reform that diminishes their position and curtails their power. We must look elsewhere for solutions.
The real issue is whether we have the will to do it. The framers of our Constitution did a remarkable job in creating a government that distributes power between the federal and state levels and among the three federal branches, but they did not foresee how our political elite would find ways to amass power by working around (or ignoring) these checks and balances. Identifying these sources of power today is not difficult; but after doing so, do we have the will to curtail them?
In short, do we have the will to make our democracy work?
We must start with fundamental reorganization and repair of our dysfunctional government in Washington.