This election year, like any, has a large number of issues that politicians use to distinguish themselves from each other. Budget deficits, immigration, gay marriage, jobs, and corporate misdeeds are all big hits. But what is less obvious is that these issues that appear in the press in long scorecards and lists as if they are important are nothing more than pointless noise. A big bundle of issues, however eagerly they are debated, is no substitute for a genuine strategy – and the real leadership that shapes and executes that strategy. But this point is utterly lost in what pathetically passes for “debate” in our politics.
One of the big debates rolling through the gab shows right now is whether it makes sense for the US government to continue spending money on “stimulus” or if we would be better off reducing the deficit. What rarely, if ever, comes up in this debate is the plan for stimulus that we supposedly should fund. There is an assumption unsaid that spending money somehow is how we start the economy without any care as to how it can best be done. The possibility of carefully designed stimulus, targeted for greatest effect or at least a solid investment, is lost in the noize.
There are many ways we could get the economy moving, of course. The most important is to reduce the overhead per employee and make it much cheaper for employers to hire people. That would take some action on the part of government to reduce or clarify regulation and could reasonably include reductions in payroll taxes – but the main effort is going to come from the private sector. What government can provide on this issue more than anything is leadership. That is, apparently, the one thing it is completely lacking.
It’s not as though this is the only issue that is crying out for leadership and strategic focus, however. Arizona stepped into what is clearly a Federal issue by passing a draconian immigration law. Blurring the lines between state and federal has been a feature of the last few decades, possibly culminating in the “No Child Left Behind” federal takeover of education policy. The result is that it is very unclear who is in charge of what – which means that no one is in charge. Without any identifiable leadership there can be no strategic thinking.
This is the kind of situation that causes bridges to fall down, among other things.
How do we create an effective strategy? More than just leadership, it takes a firm understanding of what your goals are. We, as a people, have to be very clear as to where we are going before we can lay out the roadmap for getting there (a strategy) that is mindful of what we have to move us along that road (the logistics). The leader that will move us along that path is only one of many missing elements. What we are demanding from that leader is the entirety of our strategic plan – which is something no one person can reasonably deliver.
What we are left with are bundles of disconnected issues that make no sense on their own.
How can we get started if there is no set of goals and clear strategy plus no leadership to get the process started? This is where Connections Theory comes into play. I think that if people can first get a firm grip on how we are connected and have a deep need for some kind of strategic focus we may demand more from our leaders than we currently get. Paying attention to our connections might even identify people who are well connected and therefore natural leaders that others rely on – creating a more organic politics.
What this calls for is the meta-strategy – the strategy for making us more strategic. It’s a topic that is on my mind constantly as I watch politicians dance to the tune set up by dozens of talking heads that bob up and down to the rhythm of nooze cycles. It’s not going to get us anywhere it hasn’t already taken us over the last 20 years – and that should be obvious by now. Our government has to be more deliberate, and in a Democratic Republic that means that our politics has to be more deliberate, too.
How do we get there? You’ve read my spiel, now I’d like to know what you think.