When we compare the way that some companies embark on change and compare it to political practise, we see a contrast. Good businesses will paint a vision of the future, seek participation and engagement to win commitment. Politics gives us windy rhetoric, with insufficient detail and when in power does change to us, not with us. In the two party system initiatives that sound good are started and then run out of steam, are quietly dropped or have finding cut, or are reversed by the opposition when they come to power.
For holistic political economy, we do have a vision and it can be articulated succinctly;
All citizens should be able to develop to their full potential within sustainable global limits. The political system should be transformed, from a competition for control of the state, into a collaboration to achieve good governance and the economy needs to be transformed from one of maximising shareholder value (ignoring societal costs), into a joint endeavour to increase the commonwealth.
Politics does not seem to proceed from a vision or to build a permanent consensus, as we have seen it is locked into a competition with the prise of power. However we wrap that up it means the power to do things to you not with you. Because of that most political change is doomed to be contested, slow, incomplete and eventually overturned just at a time when we need a fast cycle of learning and adaption. This is a structural problem.
Change that sticks
What we need to aim at is the transformation of political economy so that when political change occurs it has the chance to stick. Unless changes are made to stick we cannot progress, we cannot build constructively, stage by stage, to go towards a vision starting from initiation and moving towards maturity.
The question is how can we bring this about? To address the problem the first thing is to make strategic choices. We already made one. The first strategic choice is the adoption of the principles of action – to anchor everything that is done in the values of hope, knowledge that make it possible and of what works and in the long term utility that comes from balancing ends and means.
The next strategic choice flows from the first and also stems from the foundations - what we know about human nature, what good looks like, change and the long term utility of power. Because current reality is so far away from what we do now, not only are we starting from scratch in building the understanding and case for action, we are also faced with the conclusion that a totally different approach towards political economy is needed.
A different approach
Without the forgoing arguments developed throughout this site all we'd have so far could be described as a hopelessly idealistic set of guiding principles. But as we have seen, the principles are
- grounded in a realistic (lowest common denominator) set of values based on non-violence and enlightened self interest
- supported by the accumulated knowledge we have of ourselves as cooperative social primates
- based on an understanding that we can behave better because our behaviour is (in part) emergent from the culture we create
- practical, if challenging, to apply because they force us to balance ends and means with a test of long term utility
When applied to all political and economic actions we really will begin to make progress. Part of the case for holistic political economy is the observation that there are perception and power gaps that prevent a realistic approach being taken shortfall gaps.
- Our perceptions of what is politically possible are distorted, deliberately in the case of propaganda and advertising. Politics lacks ambition in the face of an intellectual vacuum on the alternative.
- The growing power gap leaves most people out of the loop. All of this has damaging consequences – as I have outlined in Part 3 On Change, what stops change.
- Our views of what can be achieved against what is possible, the shortfall gap, is damaged as a result. It is surely the shortfall gap between what is the best we can do compared to where are now, that is ultimately what matters if we are to drive improvements
Our current form of limited representative democracy combined with aggressive turbo-capitalism which we have now is no longer fit for purpose; it is failing to deliver good governance, it treats us as subjects rather than citizens, consumers rather than stakeholders and encourages destructive and hyper competitive behaviour. Change will not be created by following the traditional route; that is to get active and joining or form a political party to seek power and then make change by doing it to people.
But to be clear we (citizens) will have to engage with politics but when we do it must be on different terms.
One way to create change, following the advice of Buckminster Fuller, is not to take on the existing power structure but to build the alternative (Fuller quotes). Think of it this way, instead of charging into a fight with government and big business, where the odds are with the incumbent, concentrate on just doing and building the alternative. For example when we start a business, start a coop, when we engaged in politics make it non-partizan. When enough people switch to this way of thinking other will follow, the exiting power structures will be weakened and the new ones gain in strength. I illustrated this shift in thinking in How Different Will It Be.
For holistic political economy this change means creating that different outlook, values and culture from the one we have now which supports current political economy to the new one that is the seed bed for the new political economy. It goes all the way from the individual change of mind (yes I get it) to the entire way in which politics and business are conceived, and carried out (let's do it). As we have seen in What Good Looks Like – many people already just getting on with it. They are showing the way. We do not need to be dependent on parliament as the only vehicle for change, change will come from the paradigm shift that working towards holistic political economy will bring about, it will provide the cultural support that political action grows from. When that happens parities will be competing on who is going to make the best job of the enabling legislation for the new political economy.
Step by (baby) step
In On Change – The nature of managed change I suggested a model for managed change, lets consider it a bit more - this is the diagram;
At each stage of development work will be going on in all areas of activity
- Political activity and mobilisation– spreading the word, education, learning, sharing success and learning from failure
- Ideas and policy formation - looking for the small changes that will have big consequences,
- Democratic practice– ways of increasing participation (including but not limited to sortition) and decentralising power (aka subsidiarity)
- Economic and business development- encouraging cooperatives, creating a level playing field
The two strategic choices to adopt the principles of action and use a different approach are precisely why we can only be at the initiation stage, but that is no bad thing. An initiation stage invites us to flesh out the actions we need to take to make things happen; it gives us no guarantee of success, but it does provide a place to start.
Eventually, if and when the supportive culture exists, there will be a point analogous to that reached by the labour movement in 1906. That led to the creation of the Labour Representation Committee which became the Labour Party. In this case it will need to address the question; what representation is needed in parliament to uphold and develop holistic political economy. I rather think this will be more about influencing existing parties to pass key bits of enabling legislation and ensuring cross party consensus for them rather than creating a new party per se. But all of that pre-supposes the existence of a supportive culture that has started to spread and gain some acceptance.
One more thing; the model requires that we define the measures (metrics) that will signify the end of one stage of development and the pre-conditions needed to start on the next – what do we use instead of GDP and growth, how many co-ops are there, what is the rate of formation…and so on. My straw man for this is presented in Vision, Good Characteristics, Measurement
In summary, creating change means that there must be work in all four areas of activity, applicable to the stage of development we are in.