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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hacking into politics: A movement toward open source government?

I'll give fair warning, this is just the kernel of an idea that's been ruminating in the fertile but sometimes errant gray matter of my brain ...

What's been troubling me of late is the very adversarial nature of politics these days. Rather than proposing and pursuing policies that lift us up out of the morass of social problems in which we find ourselves mired, representatives of both major parties are more preoccupied with discrediting their opponents.

I think the core issue is that our political system has become hopelessly outdated. Our government is so torn apart by polarizing ideologies that it can't possibly engage in a productive conversation that charts a course forward. Whereas the technological changes transforming our economy have started to manifest themselves in the business and cultural spheres, politics lags behind.

I'm a pretty avid reader of Wired magazine, and although I don't always agree with their viewpoint, the featured articles in the April issue (Get Naked and Rule the World: Why Exposing Yourself is the Future of Business) got me thinking ... yes, a dangerous prospect.

Our current political model is informed by the ideas that arose and served an era of Industrial Capitalism. This has also been true for every other social sphere -- take a look at the way our education system turns out students like a factory produces widgets -- but gradually and unevenly things are starting to change based on a new economy.

Just like the old ecomonic model, which emphasized proprietary ownership, exclusiveness and competition, our two-party system is marked by an adversarial, winner-take-all mentality. This of course runs counter to the values of the new economy, which stresses tranparency, inclusiveness and collaboration. And I think those are the values that would best serve our democracy as they encourage a degree of involvement by the electorate that has been lacking for quite some time (if not forever).

What I'm suggesting is not a simple polling of public opinion. What's needed is an Open-Source model for politics and government. I'm certainly not able to flesh out the details in a blog post, so I'm just trying to start a conversation to see where it leads. I think initially it would have to be developed as a very local model.

Policies could be proposed and posted in a public forum, and then people can have at the details, tinkering with them until a consensus is arrived at after a set period of time. It's a model that would emphasize and value contributions from everyone willing to participate, not just those who pull the political reigns at the moment.
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