Making government more effective in a complex civilisation
I feel that UK government is not as effective as it should be and could be. Problems with government are frequently reported, diverse in nature, and mismanagement seems to be an important factor in them. Consequently I feel that ineffective government in the UK is systemic and probably due to fundamental features of its design.
I consider the effectiveness of government to be its overriding objective. By contrast the current form of UK government prioritises mechanisms to provide accountability. My interest is to establish what the most effective form of government is, rather than propose improvements to the current form of government.
Civilisation continually increases in complexity, so government must become more sophisticated to effectively manage it. As a result government itself also becomes more complex. Eventually the complexity of civilisation and government makes them impossible to orchestrate effectively using an increasingly deep authority hierarchy. Hierarchies give influence over matters to people who cannot have a sufficient understanding of them to make skilful decisions.
I believe that the evidential failures of UK government are symptomatic of the failure to manage complexity in civilisation and government. I have identified what I feel is the best complexity management pattern and note that it is not the basis of any current form of government. Accordingly I suggest a form of government be developed that is based on that pattern.
Government should be a self-organising system of many independent specialisms conforming to rules of behaviour, rather than being orchestrated by a hierarchical system of authority. Each specialism should employ many collaborating specialists, or ideally experts. Authority should only be given to specialists and must not be organised into hierarchies. All specialists should have equal authority that is limited to their specialism. Dogma is not be allowed in government. Interdisciplinary observers and cross specialism groups help deliver the overview feature of hierarchical systems but without using hierarchical authority.
Naturally there are many details, but these main features provide the basis of a design for government that prioritises effectiveness.
This proposal might seem surprising, but below are some observations that tend endorse my views:
- An endless stream of examples of the failings of the UK government justifies the perception that it is not effective and is a result of mismanagement.
- The UK population is increasing in size, and ethnic and cultural diversity. Advances in communication and travel have increased the number of connections between its individuals and groups. The amount of regulatory control of individual, groups, businesses and other organisations is increasing. Technological progress is extending and creating moral and ethical dilemmas. Together these factors and others increase the complexity of civilisation.
- The size of the government must increase to manage increasing complexity, but a single group of people working on a complex task is less effective than multiple smaller groups working on simpler sub-tasks.
- Specialists, or ideally experts, are more effective in their specialism than generalists.
- Hierarchical authority structures concentrate authority toward the top of the structure, and increasing authority is correlated with its abuse, which apart from unfairness provides inherently suboptimal management.
- Hierarchical authority structures shift decisions from those that understand a matter well to those who cannot have the time to understand it as well.
- For a complex system like a country, self-organisation by specialisms and specialists working within a set of rules is more responsive to changing circumstances and needs than orchestration by a system of hierarchical authority.
- Independence of authority by parts of a system, such as government, reduces its complexity and the propagation of problems. That independence is not possible with coordination by hierarchical authority.
- Politicians do not achieve their positions because they are experts in anything they may be asked to deliberate on.
- Political parties tend to organise their policies around a dogma or an ideology rather than empirical observations and other research into the best understanding.
- Party political systems introduce conflict where collaboration is more useful. So even if a political party did have an optimal set of policies, another political party would claim it did not.
- Having many voters does not correct for the intractable problem that no voter can understand the complexity of modern civilisation and the issues confronting government.
- The issues confronting an entire government cannot be meaningfully summarised by any set of policies that could be communicated to an electorate.
- The desire to govern and the desire to decide on who should govern are not a sensible basis for deciding who should govern.
I have been developing a form or government from the understanding that complexity of government becomes too great for a system of hierarchical authority to orchestrate. It has many of detailed elements that need to be incorporated into an updated version of that website. I would welcome any ideas to further develop this form of government.
Events in the Eurozone have resulted in the adoption of quasi-technocracies in Italy and Greece. This is a tacit admission that their systems of government have failed to be effective. While their immediate causes are financial, I believe ultimately their problems are rooted in ineffective government due to primacy being given to universal suffrage rather than managing complexity. It is notable that their forms of government have a similar basis to the UK form of government.