How to avoid dirty quick-fixes and encourage longterm solutions in democratic elections

What is the problem?

The strategy for politicians and political parties today is to make promises of a better tomorrow if you vote for them and where tomorrow was once a metaphor for a long future, but nowadays it’s literary tomorrow.

Why is this a problem?

Personally I don’t think that the literal tomorrow is fixable, it’s way to late. Politicians arguing about how which brand of silver-tape to use to fix the leaking boat is less appealing to me when I have the strangest feeling that no one is working on a solution to avoid the giant iceberg ahead. It makes the whole process of voting a bit pointless, and people that are not engaged by old school ideology catchphrase questions less likely to vote at all.
(If you don’t consider that a problem you can stop reading now)

The solution

Instead of one we should elect three cabinets layered like this:
1. The Here and Now Cabinet.
2. The Not Yet But Soon Cabinet. Dealing with issues 4-5 year into the future
3. The Way Ahead of You Cabinet. Dealing with issues 10-15 year into the future

What would that accomplish?

For the Here and Now Cabinet the effective strategy to get elected probably remain the same. Vote for me and you will get less taxes, higher income or why not both? We still need people looking out for the quick fixes. They would however have an option to sync their message with long term goals as well.

However to get elected for the Not Yet But Soon Cabinet and would have to win the debate dealing with consequences of policies that the candidates for the Here and Now Cabinet are proposing. Their strategy would also be to co-tail and follow up on popular policies from the Way Ahead of You Cabinet.

To be elected for the Way Ahead of You Cabinet you have to debate your opponents on really big issues.

Why not just have one cabinet with minsters looking out for the different perspective?

Without prototype testing I can’t say for sure that that wouldn’t solve the problem, however I do see the risk for business as usual if the day to day work is not split into three separate entities. If you have tasks you have to solve today you are less likely to devote any time to plan tasks that have due date ten years from now.

What’s next?

Obviously there is a massive amount of details that need to be tested before rollout, and you have probably spotted problems with this model already. I don’t mean problems like it would be impossible to radically change a the parliamentary system of a country, that’s just short term thinking, but real what if problems. If you do, please post your feedback and especially if you agree that this is a problem.. And if you can think of a problem and a solution as well that would be even better. Why not do your own blogpost response? Post the link if you do.

The next step I’d like to try : Test a prototype by role-playing a mock government scenario to find problems. Would you like to join?

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  1. Posted 2010/09/01 at 18:18 | Permalink

    Interesting model. I have always felt that todays political system is inefficient and out of date. Also, the parties we have today are mostly based on ideologies formed more than 100 years ago, they also feel outdated.
    And it is very obvious that the faster media etc is causing our politicians to work more and more with short-term fixes, the system does not reward them for looking way ahead. Just look at the major infrastructure problems caused by politicians not wanting to budget for something that will not be in use until way ahead, after the current election period.
    There are different personalities that match these three levels.
    Key questions are:
    1. How to organize the communication, negotiation and power between the groups? The way ahead level would have to cope both with the results of both the previous and the current lower levels etc.
    2. What will a system look like that attracts the right kinds of politicians for the three levels?
    3. Should the levels have the same election periods? I think not. The debate must be very different, and the longer term levels might need more time.

  2. Posted 2010/09/02 at 02:55 | Permalink

    Tomas for president! I shall distribute this post around my campus.

  3. Posted 2010/09/02 at 13:04 | Permalink

    I would actually be interested if you set up a mock-up scenario of this. I can see some problems but it is a very interesting idea.

  4. Posted 2010/09/02 at 19:23 | Permalink

    Interesting. Usually it’s capitalism that’s being accused of being too short sighted… Comparing politics to how companies are run there are often different parts of the organization dealing with different timeframes. 10-15 years are probably too far off for most companies (except in some markets like medicine or larger construction projects) but the CEO, the board and middle management all operate on different time frames.

    So in a way what you have in your model is the same: execution (here and now), planning (1-5 years) and strategy (10-15 years) roughly mapped to management, CEO and board.

    One way to get closer to this would be to vote for the “managers” of politics. In a sense mayors and sheriffs (länspolismästare?) serve this purpose. They are voted on to manage the city or how to handle law and order in a region.

    The “planners” would be the current line of politicians and we would need a new institution for the strategy line. This is particularly tricky as most people have a hard time seeing the future 15 years from now. How then do you vote on someone to lead you in to it?

  5. Posted 2010/09/03 at 02:08 | Permalink

    You bring up something that has been frustrating me since I was a teenager. Even before I could vote, I thought it bizarre how so many around me only seemed to care about their personal, immediate future. To my mind, it’s the height of short-sighted stupidity to cast your vote towards effecting a slight, short-term amelioration of whatever trivial egocentrical issues affects you at the time. Oftentimes, it feels like we’re all stuck on an aimless ship with everyone preferring to argue over rum rations rather than to draw up a course. Personally, I have always made sure to vote for the political party whose primary ideological goals I perceive to lead to the brightest future for the country as well as the rest of the world. Even if my vote would lead to my personal life situation drastically worsening, it would never affect my choice. There is naturally no guarantee that the choice I make is the correct one, no matter how informed or enlightened I try to make it, but at least the decision is taken in the proper context. In other words, I do think it’s a real problem.

    I find your proposed solution intriguing, with a lot of potential. In my opinion, I’d say the Way Ahead-cabinet should be composed of experts in the field of applied sociocultural anthropology, with a host of more theoretically inclined advisors on hand. Each political party would have their Way Ahead-team present their ideal model of civilization as well as various proposed methods of achieving that state. The people would then, after being thoroughly educated in the risk-benefit analyses of the models and methods, first vote on a model (represented by a political party’s Way Ahead-team) and then on a method (represented by a political party’s Soon-team) with a reasonable risk level and acceptable potential side effects. The election of the Now-team would be last and represent the low-level implementing of the day-to-day details of the method.

    The re-elections for the Now-team could be relatively frequent, while the Soon-team should have longer between re-elections in order to allow them enough time to properly implement the method. By the same reasoning, the Way Ahead-team would have to be allowed an even more significant length of time between elections.

    The main problem then follows that for such a long-term plan to work, the Way Ahead-team would have to be allowed so much time to implement their plans that democratic influence would, by necessity, have to be proportionally lessened. My opinion is that that is one of the most difficult problems presented by implementing lasting political or ideological strategies. How do you keep a sufficiently farsighted plan from being derailed by the fickle trends of public opinion without eroding the democratic principle?

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