Monday, May 12, 2008

We need new rulesets for a new century

One of the things that I have said many times (and will continue to say) is that we need to update classical liberal ideas for the 21st century. We are living in a time of great opportunities. As we transition from an industrial age society to the information-entrepreneurial-service-creative age (or whatever future generations end up calling it) we will require a ruleset reset, which means that we will need to reform our political institutions. We have gone through this kind of transition before when we changed from an agricultural age society to an industrial age society between the Civil War and WW1. One of the lessons to be learned is that the classical liberals of that time did not update their ideas for the industrial age, rather they continued to identify classical liberal ideas with agricultural age institutions and conceptions of government. And so the new rulesets were developed by the collectivist progressive-liberals and they established the government that would rule the 20th century. And although libertarians and conservatives eventually rose up to champion classical liberal ideas, they were never able to really change the progressive-liberal rulesets once they were established and accepted. That is why the opportunity that is before us now is so important. Since we are now in another era that requires a ruleset reset, we have the opportunity to fashion and champion an individualist, classical liberal ruleset for the information-entrepreneurial-service-creative age. But we need to recognize that this is what needs to be done and take action accordingly. The conservative movement has jumped the shark (and the libertarians never even made it to the ramp.) So we need to stop thinking about classical liberalism within the conservative framework and start imagining and inventing a conceptual framework and ultimately a social-political-cultural movement to champion a 21st century individualist-classical liberal ruleset. If we don't do this then the collectivists will and our children and grandchildren will find themselves living under their ruleset, again.

The article below is an encouraging example of the process of beginning to think about new rulesets:

Online tools under the rubric Web 2.0 are changing how information flows, with social networks letting people communicate directly with one another. This is reversing the top-down, one-way approach to communications that began with Gutenberg, challenging everything from how bosses try to manage to how consumers make or break products with instant mass feedback.

The institution that has most resisted new ways of doing things is the biggest one of all: government. This is about to change, with public-sector bureaucracies the new target for Web innovators...
...
Project Government 2.0 is based on the assumption that even governments can't fight technologies that give power to the people. "If governments are to ensure their relevance and authority, they must move quickly to meet rising expectations for openness, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency in the public sector," the project outline says.

Web 2.0 has promising implications for those who think the best government is the one that governs least, especially outside basic functions like national defense and law enforcement. Can more direct participation by citizens in assessing policies limit government ambitions to what government can actually accomplish? Would citizen taxpayers put their collective faith in most spending programs? Or is there a risk that the wisdom of crowds as reflected in Web 2.0 won't turn out to be so wise?

Democracy and governing are complex topics, but this makes it all the more important to apply technology as a solution. Government is the ultimate institution retaining the traditional top-down structure, technologically backward, with big decisions almost always made with incomplete information on what works and what doesn't work. Here's hoping that Web 2.0 can make government more effective by tapping information among officials and citizens, perhaps even finding a new consensus on where the wisdom of government begins and ends.

2 comments:

Purpleslog said...

"So we need to stop thinking about classical liberalism within the conservative framework and start imagining and inventing a conceptual framework and ultimately a social-political-cultural movement to champion a 21st century individualist-classical liberal ruleset."

This is a big job. This is an important job.

This view will need a way of rallying people to its side. Too many people associate the Classical Liberal view with greed-profit-isolationism.

I think the 21st century version will also need to be a global movement. If it is perceived to be for the US/West at the expense of the west (rightly or wrongly) it will go nowhere.

The Collectivists / Transis / Neo-Communists are strong. This contest for minds will need to be everywhere.

Let me think some more on this and then join in on the brainstorming in the coming days.

phil said...

"This view will need a way of rallying people to its side. Too many people associate the Classical Liberal view with greed-profit-isolationism."

I agree. The progressive narrative has framed individualism/classical liberalism in a way that benefits their agenda, so we need to re-frame our ideals and create our own narrative.

"I think the 21st century version will also need to be a global movement. If it is perceived to be for the US/West at the expense of the west (rightly or wrongly) it will go nowhere."

I agree. We need to be able to fashion multiple styles and genres of classical liberalism to meet the needs and interests of people around the world. We also need to think about developing international institutions based on classical liberal ideals to compete with the left's international activism. So we definitely need an international movement alongside a domestic movement.

"The Collectivists / Transis / Neo-Communists are strong. This contest for minds will need to be everywhere."

Yes, and this is why a decentralized, distributed movement is the best way forward where people are inspired the ideals and vision to act in their locality.