Friday, April 13, 2007

Political Variance Control

Any human designed system of any sort will have some variability inherent to it. The design challenge is to be able to manage and shape the contours of variability in a beneficial manner. Reducing the incidents of variance or reducing symmetrical distribution of variance around a desired mean value is the most common method. This goal is not the only variability management goal possible. Another method is to establish a system that produces a guaranteed minimal acceptable outcome and allow for significant variability for upside surprises.

The Constitution is a system engineering document and parameter setter. It has been revised, it has been reinterpreted, it has evolved and grown over the past two hundred and twenty years. Yet the explicit changes made to it still seek to force a basic level of ability and competence in governance through the interplay of competing forces, mandates, checks and balances. There is a probllem. The self-correcting mechanisms of faction, of interest,of self interest and of oversight as well as the informal political elite decision framing mechanisms are breaking down. Twice in the past thirty five years the system has failed in advancing minimally qualified individuals to the Presidency, and in an era of nuclear weapons, twenty four hour wait times to put a brigade in combat on the other side of the world, an patently unqualified individual has an opportunity to do more damage to American and global interests than a similarly unqualified individual such as Warren Harding, Ulysses S. Grant, Milliard Fillmore and James Buchanan.

The Bush administration is an incompentent criminal conspiracy while the Nixon era was a moderately competent, paranoid criminal conspiracy.

The selection process of choosing reasonably qualified individuals has failed. Somehow in 1998 a significant part of the United States political-media elite decided that a do-nothing, incurious, intentionally ignorant self-enriching at the expense of others, drunken failure would be a better choice of President than people who had demonstrated expertise in the art of politics and governing, expertise in judgement and a reasonable level of self and group accomplishment from either major party. This failure was able tog gain power and then be re-elected. I would not be writing this post if George W. Bush was soundly defeated in 2004 as his 2000 election could be written off as an aberration, but the manifest failures which were evident then to anyone who has paying attention were not a sufficient disqualification in the minds of the American people raises questions about the constitutional and informal dampeners on lunacy.

I am not sure how we can build a series of informal mechanisms that reduces the probability of another incompetent being in the White House. I know that we need an active, engaged and adversarial to authority press corps so that good information is available to the public. I know that we need an opposition party that is not scared of its own shadow. I know that we need a bullshit detection mechanism built into the public discourse, and I know that we need a less disciplined party structure which most likely means a more distributed and open political money system to allow for the recreation of independent power bases.

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