“None of us are as smart as all of us.”Alan Watkins
Is democracy too broken to handle the world’s most wicked problems? If so, what’s the alternative? Listen as Alan Watkins shares his own vision of the future of politics and governance — a vision that is as practical as it is inspiring, and one that might be exactly what we need to help us carry our 250-year old democratic experiment into the 21st century.
In the U.S., our cynicism toward politics-as-usual seems to be at an all-time high. More and more people share the perception that our political and economic institutions are rotting from the inside out, that the people who are supposed to represent us are either bought off or are only serving their own selfish ambitions, and that we the people have very little power to make any difference.
This understandably results in a powder keg of rage, fear, and rampant distrust. And when someone like Donald Trump comes along to light the fuse, well, we’d better take cover.
At the same time, political idealism also seems to be coming back into fashion, after being mothballed in the nation’s attic for several decades. Citizens are beginning to understand that our political system is drawn and quartered by a thousand different special interest groups, making the political will required to solve our biggest problems practically impossible to find, yet piecemeal policy fixes will never bring us where we need to go.
For these people it is becoming increasingly clear that a holistic, top-down restructuring of society is the only way to ensure both the short and long-term survival of the Republic. This, of course, helps explain the enduring resonance so many people feel with the Bernie Sanders campaign.
So where does this leave us? We have our raging cynicism on one end of the spectrum, our hopeful idealism on the other, and both are playing a dangerous game of political tug-of-war over the status-quo between them.
Meanwhile our political system remains as adversarial and gridlocked as ever, our economic institutions continue to become more and more insulated from accountability even as they continue to spiral out of control, and our most wicked global problems continue to press down upon us with no solutions in sight.
Something’s got to give.
In some people’s minds, democracy is no longer capable of addressing, let alone solving, these issues.
Democratic systems by their very nature do a poor job leveraging “the wisdom of the crowd”, and instead sustain themselves by splintering the human spirit into a hundred different pieces, and then pitting those pieces against each other in a gladiatorial frenzy of media manipulation and civic nihilism.
We allow the pendulum to swing where it will, hoping that it will trace a path that, in the long run, loosely resembles the shape of our collective wisdom.
But what’s the alternative?
As Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Well, that may have been true in the 1940s, but is it still true today?
Alan Watkins doesn’t think so. He thinks there is another option, one which has only very recently made itself available.
Alan calls this new vision of governance “Crowdocracy” — an idea whose time has come.
So what is Crowdocracy? As Alan writes in his latest book, Crowdocracy: The End of Politics:
“Crowdocracy is a linguistic blend of ‘crowd’ and ‘democracy’. It builds on the philosophy of direct democracy and many recent experiments such as citizen assemblies and crowdsourcing legislation as well as many other emergent decision-making models that seek to put the power directly in the hands of the people.”
As Alan and Ken discuss, Crowocracy is based explicitly upon integral principles, particularly the idea that “everyone is right” — that no one is capable of producing 100% error, and so all of our various perspectives actually fit together in some meaningful way. As such it attempts to create a participatory system of governance that can cut through our political, cultural, and ideological differences and allow the wisdom of the crowd to have more control over how we steer our society forward, without ever succumbing to mob-rule or lowest-common-denominator policies.
It seeks, as Alan says, to shift the political landscape “from the idea of power, to the power of ideas.”
For example, a Crowdocratic approach would likely not endorse the sorts of scorched-earth, trial-by-combat contests between Donald Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters (and Hillary Clinton supporters, for that matter.) Rather it would try to identify the common wisdom shared by both groups, understanding that our cynicism and our idealism are actually two different autoimmune responses to the same societal wound, and that our priority should be healing the wound instead of picking our favorite scabs.
Throughout history our governing systems have evolved through a number of dramatic leaps forward — from anarchy to tribalism, to autocracy and fascism, to monarchy and theocracy, and finally to democracy. Each step of the way our systems were designed to respond to the needs of the era, to manage more and more complexity, and to solve problems that were intractable for previous systems of governance.
It appears that society is now poised to take yet another momentous leap.
Whether that leap will be forward or backward remains to be seen — but as the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, so to do our governing systems bend toward an increase of individual freedom, collective responsibility, and social equity. Assuming our society continues along this same path as it has for millennia, we will surely be thankful to people like Alan Watkins for helping to illuminate the way forward.
Written by Corey deVos
Image: Samsara by Michael Harris
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About Alan Watkins
Alan Watkins is recognized as an international expert on leadership and human performance. He has a broad mix of commercial, academic, scientific and technological abilities. Over the past 18 years he has been a coach to many of Europe’s top business leaders and has helped companies treble share price, enter the FTSE 100, salvage difficult turnarounds and establish market leadership in their industry.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.