government as a rational tool

by wonderfullyrich on May 18, 2010

In my previous blog I talked about the effectiveness of the RILA on lobbying congress and how it illustrates the methods that FCNL and others teach about changing the face of our legal/policy reality.  Something that bothers me about this though, which I did not mention in the blog, is the fairly obvious reality that my analysis leads to.

If your Congressional staffers and there employers are effected by such cognitive bias devices as the Framing effect then is our government actually making rational, considered, and sane policy and legal choices about our lives?  Are we making similarly misguided choices in our own day to day lives and in our political existence?

If you reading history about the founding of America, you’ll realize that, like today it was politically fueled and perhaps from the perspective of the enactors at the time, equally absurd.  Much of what they created is argued about and rightfully so as we can never understand fully what all the enactors of our Constitution were thinking, but I have always gotten the sense that some of them were aiming to make a more rational government.  One that decided things based on facts and realities rather then beliefs and traditions.  It’s not the only one, as the US Constitution was modeled on others through out history.

Yet as I implied above, the one notion that we’ve only recently begun to more fully understand is that nature of human decision making.  In many respects this understanding has been most fully driven by advertisers and marketing types, as to persuade humans it’s best to understand humans, and over the decades or centuries, human psychology has exponentiation increased in our ability to pursuance others to act/believe/perceive in a certain way.  To our detriment, you can see the impact of marketing and it’s persuasion in American (and other countries now) consumeristic tendencies.  Using our cognitive biases against us marketing can change the probability of a purchase, so it has influence.  Influence is power, as the old saying goes.

In this way you can see how lobbying on the part of organizations (for a political belief, economic motive, ethic group, etc) can have a modifier effect on the outcome of policy decisions.  They change by probability and add those increments up.  You should also be able to see how time becomes a factor in this, specifically in monetary terms.  The more time you can metaphorically purchase of the decision makers (via lobbyist and marketing), the more the issue is cognitively processed the more likely it is to be acted upon.  So money equals an open ear, which equals influence, which equals power.

I don’t believe that the US system of government is rational and fair in a way that represents the people of the United States, at least insofar as I don’t believe the government is actually following the popular views.  Of course the populous is just as influenced by the same tactics as lobbying on a mass scale (hence a billion dollar presidential campaign) so can we achieve a government that is making decisions without bias?

I believe such as system is possible. Although we are irrational beings that believe we are rational, we do have the capacity to make some rational decisions.  We also have the ability to modify our environment, otherwise know as make tools.  Can you envision a set of tools (language is a tool don’t forget) which, if you begin to understand your own biases, can help you to mitigate your own irrational decisions an help you make more rational ones?  Can we devise such as system that governs us?

Yes, and the models that have shown the most promise are scientific ones.  Although irrational humans are the drivers behind science, the results of scientific discovery are a day to day practical reality. As you may already understand, science is about the immovability of the laws that govern nature itself.  Simply said, the laws don’t fluctuate, so if you test a million billion times, they should never change.  What this means is understanding based on testing is possible, and more importantly that building tools based on this immutability is possible.  Indeed our bodies, the food, the chairs, everything is hinged upon the notion that the number of atoms in a carbon molecule never just ups and changes.

So even though what we understand may change based on the way we perceive things, the things themselves a reliable enough to be trusted.  In this way we can externalize some of our decision making factors.  Conceive of thoughts that are based on tools and realities that are not biased in the same way our brains are.  They are repeatable and reliable because nature is repeatable and reliable (or we wouldn’t exist).

A question you might ask is that “We are a result of evolution, which developed an imperfect machine, but one which is capable of surviving. Why would we want to tamper with that?” In fact I don’t propose that.  I propose a notion that mimics that evolutionary capability in our laws.  Although our legal/political structure mimics this somewhat, I am suggesting we make it more efficient by making it a system based on models that have provide the most usable realities in our existence.  We use our ability to make tools, to make use more viable and cosmologically sustainable.

I don’t suggest my system is perfect, but here’s my suggestion. (Mitigated somewhat by the need to be somewhat politically feasible.)

Rather then having a political system that elects people who create laws/execute laws/judge laws, I suggest we modify this to elect people who create goals which itself creates a body which studies and try to achieve those goals. I would also include a body that assess the impact of these laws as objectively as possible.  The study and try body would be given a goal, say reduce Automotive fatalities by 50%. They would devise various methods of implementing this, test them in the working reality that we live in.  (i.e. Colorado would try one thing, California another).  The notions would be check, refined, synthesized. Then checked, refined, and synthesized until you have achieved the goal.

The assessment body would then aggregate the data and perhaps could help the goal making body find and define what areas are most worthy of resource allocation and improvement in understanding via setting a goal.

Some would argue that you can’t test a law on the public, as you are endangering peoples lives, but the reality is that government already does this.  It does not however have a dedicated system of refinement, rather it’s based on the will of the regulators, congress, judges, lobbyists and people.

Perhaps there are better implementations of a government which embodies the notion of a rational tool that has the goal of keeping humanity sustained and I challenge you to devise it.

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