Partial solutions aren’t enough to solve a crisis. The United States is suffering from a maelstrom of problems – a recession, rising debt, and a declining education system, just to name a few. We need real solutions that provide a path of prosperity for ourselves and the coming generations. Forming these solutions will require understanding the full complexity of the problems we face.
Without this understanding, an oversimplified version of an issue can cause important factors to be dismissed in order to reach a course of action prematurely. This can create faulty solutions which do not address the underlying cause, creating unintended consequences far worse than the original problem.
Unfortunately, our government is well experienced in this principle.Take, for example, an attempt to minimize corruption and the influence of lobbyists in the 1970s. In the wake of the Watergate scandal and amidst rising concerns that back room deals played too large of a roll in our government, new laws took form that required government meetings to be public information.
The basic premise of the sunshine legislation is that, in the words of federalist No. 49, 'the people are the only legitimate foundation of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter ... is derived.' Government is and should be the servant of the people, and it should be fully accountable to them for the actions which it supposedly takes on their behalf.The belief was that, by showing the public exactly which bills our representatives are lobbying for and against, it would shine more light onto governmental affairs and naturally disinfect the public disease of corruption and corporate interest. However, when looking at the political scene today, it seems that corporate influence is at an all-time high and a belief that our politicians are doing what is best for its people is at an all-time low.
With the benefit of hindsight, Fareed Zakaria paints a picture of the inadvertent consequences of these actions.
Most Americans have neither the time, the interest, nor the inclination to monitor Congress on a day-to-day basis. But lobbyists and activists do, and they can use the information and access to ensure that the groups they represent are well taken care of in the federal budget and the legal code.Before this bill, well-meaning politicians would allow themselves to take corporate contributions for political campaigns with the same underhanded promises they make today. The promise that they will try and pass favorable legislation for companies who donate to their campaigns.
Of course, in a typical political manner, what they said and what they did were not always the same. A simple “I tried to sway them, but there was nothing I could do,” would often be enough to keep the money coming in for reelection while still being able to vote based on their personal beliefs.
With the new law in effect, this has become virtually impossible. Since lobbyists can now review every vote taken, they can cut off funds for politicians who do not vote the way they were asked. It seems that the factors that contribute to an empowered voter are more than simply availability of information.
Without accounting for economic interests taking advantage of this information, the problem of corruption and accountability was underestimated and oversimplified. This partial solution brought with it consequences – forcing their fellow politicians to focus less on our needs than ever before.
This example is far from unique. Our history is littered with failed policies and half measures which cause more harm than good, with no sign of an end to the madness.
How can we create truly beneficial solutions in a complex world?
While no one can predict the future, we can avoid some of the worst mistakes by taking the time needed to properly analyze the factors surrounding the issues. These factors, when fully understood, can help us understand the most likely result of any course of action, and minimize the negative consequences associated with an inaccurate understanding of reality.
The real question is:
Do you believe our politicians today are fully analyzing the problems they are addressing, or are they inviting negative consequences by oversimplifying these issues?
Our goal at the Picket Project is to understand the difference between positive solutions and those which will cause more harm than good; to fully analyze proposed solutions in an effort to understand the costs associated with poorly understood legislation. Sometimes the challenges we face can only be solved through government action. On the other hand, there are situations in which the government can make the problem worse. We are not only working towards determining when a problem does or does not need government action, but also towards understanding what that action should be. Solutions that everyone can agree to – fully explored and understood.
As always, we look forward to hearing your opinions and we will be regularly updating our content. Start the conversations here through the comment system on the blog, our Facebook page, and Twitter using the #PicketProject hashtag!