My Life is Words
Words and ideas turn on the lights in the brain
Everyone has their own definition for a democracy. Some want unfettered freedom and others want a security blanket. The fact is that we have both. We have more freedoms than many countries in the world and we have social security blankets but not as many as other democracies in the western world.
Over the next fourteen or so months, we are going to hear wild accusations, the gnashing of teeth, and see the wringing of hands as the various candidates for president and their supporters and paid mudslingers work to attract or distract the voters regarding their man or woman. Along with all of that, the blunderbuss currently holding the office will engage in rage-tweets and run-on sentences...make that strings of words that make little to no sense as he attempts to enhance the orange glow of his ridiculousness.
There will be shouts of socialism (maybe even the term commie a time or two), fascism, racism, nationalism, nepotism, cronyism, and as the great orange stink-tank cranks up, round after round of name-calling and childish put-downs, like what we’ve grown accustomed to over the last several years.
But as a voter, all we need to do is decide whether we’re progressive, conservative, hard-right-or-left, or independent (whatever that means). To assist in making that decision, it seems to me we need to fly over our government at about 50,000 feet and develop a macro-vision of what kind of nation we want to be. The awful details that turn that vision into reality will be the job of those we elect based on their vision of government. If they can’t get it right, we kick their butts out and try again.
To explain the next visual aid below (I’m a visual guy), I need to explain where this brain-fart came from. One of my assignments (I was sort of Shanghaied into the job) was as part of a team that was trying to standardize processes around the Boeing Company. I think it might have been easier to train a hive of killer bees to dance the Mexican hat dance than get folks to standardize, but that was my assignment. The basic problem with standardization is that no one wants to do that. We are a bunch of innovative, creative, and to a large extent rebellious human beings.
Using the Boeing example to make the point, you hire a highly degreed engineer to design the next generation of space fighters because he or she is on the leading edge of knowledge, technology, and a seer when it comes to flight engineering. You sit them down, give them all the company manuals and say something like, “Go to work, but do everything according to the standards - the way it’s always been done.” After they stop crying, they are likely to hand you their resignation.
Unlike the cow chewing its cud in the field for hours on end, we humans are not like that. We want variety, change (as long as it was our idea), and the liberty to do pretty damn much anything we want. We do not like marching in formation.
Something was said in one of those discussions at Boeing by my manager, who will remain nameless because he was, hands down, the worst manager in the roughly 60 years I worked in and around aerospace. He was Trump-like before most of us had ever heard of Trump.
Our task was to standardize those critical processes inside the company to ensure a continuity of results as well as to reduce the overall cost of doing business. My boss’ statement referred to a “level” of standardization that helped achieve that consistency of purpose and cost reduction. He called that line the “critical mass” line. The idea was that the processes above that line needed to be standardized for the benefit of the employees, the customer, and the company (the Big3).
Very briefly, in the context of a company the size of Boeing, you certainly want the payroll to be “standard” across the company. You can’t have every organization deciding what day they want to call payday, and each using their own financial institution to issue paychecks, etc. It would be chaos and costly to operate that way.
So we drew a pyramid to demonstrate the idea. The line or base of the top section of the pyramid was the “critical mass” line. Above this would go those processes that had to be common and standard across the company. Things like payroll, accounting, company identification badges, etcetera.
In the section below that top level was where we still wanted a degree of standardization, but we also wanted to allow organizations the flexibility to be innovative and creative while functioning in a way that was most efficient for them. There might be “company guidelines” to help them establish processes, but they would still innovate. And, where possible, we wanted them to cooperate with other organizations to utilize the best ideas and practices and to standardize where it made sense, again for the benefit of the Big3.
And at the bottom level was where the most flexibility existed. Individuals had quite a few choices. If they like a particular type of pen, or computer mouse, or office chairs for back issues, they could make those changes, they were free to flex on many issues. There were flexible shifts where possible. I won’t list everything here, but hopefully you see what I’m talking about.
Running a country is very much like running a big company, at least in terms of organization and where to utilize top-down federal control, where to allow states and localities the freedom to innovate, and where to let the people have maximum freedom without upsetting the balance of a functioning society. Here then, is that notional pyramid applied to government.
The ‘A’ level is dominated by the federal government. A few of the functions that would seem to best be managed at the federal level for the benefit of all are shown on the left. In some cases, these may be hard-dictates and in some cases the rules may allow some wiggle room (democracy) as long as the top-most goals at a federal level are being met.
Some might call this progressive, others socialism, or who knows what, but I think few people would argue that the military and FAA and similar functions should not be left to the whim of state, county, and city politicians or turned over to for-profit enterprises. It is more a matter of common sense. Our safety and security as a nation demand these be administered at the federal level. At the bottom of this top section, you see the red CM line indicating that critical processes belong above that line. I’ve made that top section blue because it is an important value to most progressives that we do the right thing for and by all the people.
Level ‘B’ allows more democracy for states and localities to tailor processes to their needs. There may be some federal guidelines to assist in setting up these processes, but for the most part, it comes under the heading of state and local government rights.
Level ‘C’ is what I have labeled as “libertarian”. This is where, like the the company employee choosing their computer mouse, individuals make their decisions based on what is right for them. Things like where to work, where to live, what religion if any they want to follow, who to choose for a family doctor, whether or not to vote and who to vote for, where to buy groceries and gas - it’s a long list of personal rights.
This, I hope, is an easier way to look at the big picture of government. Naturally, there will be arguments about where the lines dividing A, B, & C should go and which processes and rights belong in which section. But, again, that is one of the tasks of our elected representatives.
I believe that if you approach it with the goal of identifying those critical processes, then the ones for the states and local governments, and finally the individual, we would find that we probably agree on about 80% and we would have to arm wrestle over the other 20%.
Now, all you have to do is pick a candidate. 😁
I think and write and talk and then do it all over again.