BIG problems need small solutions

Effective and successful human societies are based on trust, cooperation and contribution. The balance between trust and cooperation is the key to unlocking our contribution. The social structure must provide sufficient protection of and benefit for the individual, to balance the necessary curtailment of individual liberty in the public space within which cooperation happens.

If I was to tell you that to fix our biggest problems we need only do three things: protect individual rights, devolve political power down to our communities and guarantee everyone the bare necessities of a productive life. What would you say?

Would you say that those three things do not address climate change, immigration, food sovereignty, trade, Middle East peace or some other issue?
Would you say that these changes are impossible, or impractical?
Would you say that changing the structure is futile or irrelevant if we don’t change ourselves first?

You’d be mistaken, if you did. We are faced with a veritable bevy of very serious and very significant problems: climate change, poverty, war, nuclear proliferation, demographics, corruption, water shortages and food insecurity, to name but a few. In seeking solutions to address these problems we are easily aware that we need big changes, but we tend to slip into looking for one or two big solutions for each problem. This is our pitfall, it leads us to see solutions in competition with each other and it does not deliver results.

Big solutions to big problems are easy to describe, to capture in a soundbite and put in a manifesto, but they are not reality. The solution to hunger in Africa is not aid, the solution to climate change is not carbon sequestration nor is it a carbon tax nor any other “magic bullet”. The big news about all of the big solutions we need is that they are made up of thousands of millions of little solutions acting in concert.

The most radical principle we must adopt if we are to solve our problems is devolution: we must empower individuals, communities and affected populations of all sizes to develop the specific solutions that befit their situations. Poverty, food supply, peace and environmental balance will not be fixed from above by beneficent leaders (even if we had any). The problems are too complex and the appropriate solutions too varied by locale to be effectively articulated in a grand plan from above.

The only grand plan we need is to empower people to develop their own solutions.

Such a grand plan of devolution must build the framework that will enable a thousand million solutions. The framework requires first that we trust one another. Next we must harness the value of collective, effective and coordinated decision-making. Finally we must free ourselves to make our maximum contributions. Those are the reasons why we need a new constitution, effective democracy and universal services, and why only this approach will actually result in solutions to our big problems.

Effective and successful human societies are based on trust, cooperation and contribution. The balance between trust and cooperation is the key to unlocking our contribution. The social structure must provide sufficient protection of and benefit for the individual, to balance the necessary curtailment of individual liberty in the public space in which cooperation happens. A clearly defined set of rules that formally incorporates these protections and benefits is a necessary precursor to full-throated cooperation.

Cooperation is as simple and as complex as it looks. We cooperate personally with our family and friends, communally in our neighborhoods, regionally for our utilities, nationally for our standards and internationally for peace; and even that is only a thin slice of the total reality. The only reason to constitutionalize freedom is to enable cooperation, and that makes cooperation to constitutional corollary. We need to be able to describe and incorporate our framework for cooperation just as we describe and incorporate our freedoms and protections.

Constitutionalizing cooperation requires a rationalization of our social framework, contemporaneous with the incorporation of flexibility that acknowledges and accommodates the inevitable inaccuracy of a universal application of that rationalization. The model of multilayered representation (www.standardsoflife.org/MLR) reconciles the needs of rationalization and flexibility by providing for local variability and tempromorphism without threatening the structural integrity of the cooperation that it enables. By using anthropologia as its source, MLR’s structure is universally applicable, concurrent with its malleability to local circumstances.

Having established the basis of trust and cooperation through the instrument of a constitution, the remaining ingredient is facilitating universal contribution. Anthropology reveals a natural human inclination to make contributions, once the threats to survival have been overcome. So the first step to enabling everyone to engage in developing and enacting the many small solutions we need to our big problems, is to do what we can to annul the distractions of personal survival. This requires a social commitment by all to the provision of the bare necessities of life to all. The reorientation of our societies toward more fundamentally democratic principles must be accompanied by a revisioning of the social contract to include not only the freedom and security of members but also their basic survival needs.

Universal services are the embodiment of the social contract and are delivered to all as a right of citizenship. As the foundation stone of our society it is right and proper that our tax revenues are used first to deliver these basic services. Beyond the manifestation of principle, the delivery of universal services fosters a cornucopia of opportunity for contribution from all. The cooperation built on trust will direct contributions to develop and implement the solutions to our biggest problems at the lowest marginal cost, because the revealed market for contributions values everything, however small, but only at its marginal value-added. Every service can find its place in a marketplace relieved of the competition of survival. Transaction volumes, wealth, efficiency, resilience and innovation are all increased dramatically. So are the opportunities for unique and enhancing contributions that can improve our standard of life, open gateways to personal growth and bring fun and joy into our existences. Plainly put, there are many more activities worth doing once your food and shelter are guaranteed for life.

So I say again that there are only three things we need to change to develop the solutions to our biggest problems: adopt a constitution protecting freedom, devolve political power and deliver universal services. Three things that, for different reasons in different countries, will be strongly resisted by the rich and the powerful elites; but their resistance does not for one moment tarnish the necessity or imperative.

The scale of the challenges we face and the universal implications of failing to address those challenges points us most assuredly at the vitality and importance of coordinated, cooperative contributions to meet those challenges. The universal adoption of a universal constitution and the provision of universal services do address our problems, they are practical (if not pragmatic), they are intertwined with the opportunity for personal growth and they are absolutely, unequivocally necessary for our survival.

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