Author Archives: hpulrich

Biden – The Savior of Democracy?

So far, half the job done.

To complete it Biden needs a highly effective Government Performance Management System without delay.

What a world of a difference in the entire conduct of the inauguration ceremony, the decent and measured speech of Biden, the thoughtful and classy poem by Amanda Gorman, and in the deep prayers spoken at the inauguration in comparison to the swampy culture of lies and indecencies of the Trump years which increasingly threatened to devour the US.  What a relief not only in Washington, but around the world. In a time when democracy globally is under extreme strain, the health of the leading democracy in the world is of crucial importance for human freedom and dignity.

Nobody except Biden could have ousted Trump, state many voices in Washington. So, must we consider Biden the savior of US and perhaps of global democracy?

One thing is undeniable: We owe the greatest admiration and respect to Joe Biden who at 78 years takes on the gigantic challenges the US and the world are presently facing.

Yet, by ousting Trump the job of saving US democracy is only half done. Biden and his excellent team face an extremely difficult mix of policy tasks from overcoming the pandemic, getting the economy back on track, creating jobs and an economically more balanced nation with equal chances for everyone and fighting racism. Furthermore, they only have around two to three years – even less, if one takes the mid-term elections in two years into account – to unify the nation and to stabilize democracy to ensure that a populist politician like Trump will not be elected again. How can Biden achieve success in handling this wide array of extremely difficult and urgent policy tasks?

Practically all democratic leaders in the world believe that running a government optimally is a matter of personal judgement, be it their own or the advisers around them. Yet, if Biden wants to succeed, it is crucial that he and his associates do not fall into this trap. Prevailing over all these challenges in the short time available is only possible with a government system of the highest degree of effectiveness and efficiency. To get it Biden needs a government performance management system which itself operates extremely effectively.

This idea is not new. Ten years ago, the Obama administration in fact already recognized the need for government performance management to make government as effective as possible. It appeared to be a frontrunner among global governments on the matter. But a quick look shows that the approach the Obama administration pursued was inadequate. A presentation from the year 2011 by Shelley H. Metzenbaum, from the Obama administration, and A. Alfred Taubman from the Brookings Institution, lists the three “key elements” of its government performance management concept:

 a) Leaders set clear, ambitious, outcome-focused goals for a limited number of priorities,

 b) Agencies measure, analyze, and communicate performance information to drive progress on their priorities,

 c) Leaders frequently review progress on their priority goals.

These key elements appear fuzzy. What is the “limited number of priorities” supposed to be and of which benefit are “frequent” reviews of progress on priority goals? The approach to performance management by the Obama government evidently misses out completely on a systemically indispensable first step for making any system effective, the need to confirm and agree on its exact goals.

As Hélène Landemore from Yale University writes in her book “Democratic Reason”, the fundamental key to optimal policy making is optimal deliberation, the inclusion of all know-how available in society and the world on a policy problem. It is also the indispensable prerequisite for ensuring effective government performance management. The fuzziness of the approach to performance management by the Obama administration shows that the first step required in creating an effective government performance system through such public consultation is the identification of a suitable methodology.

One concrete suggestion at this point will be: For Biden and his team to ensure the success of the government in unifying US society and stabilizing US democracy and in coping with all the other difficult policy issues it is facing, they must base their approach to making government work on sound systemic thinking. The methodology requires the thorough verification of the precise goals and purposes of the democratic policy making system and of each process in the system. It then entails the exact determination of each and every factor affecting the achievement of the goals identified and ensuring that these factors are in place. If the Biden government does not work diligently through these steps in making government effective, it will not operate as effectively as it must.

While the combined experience of the Biden team is a great asset, given that many of its members were in government, when the increasing discontent with the political system allowed Trump to get into office, it also entails the risk for government to continue exactly as before. “How do we do government?” “What must we improve?” In the light of what is at stake for the Biden government and the nation, a structured independent assessment of the overall quality of the policy making process which investigates these questions appears indispensable.

In the current situation it would be a dangerous mistake for the government to believe that it will achieve the critical goal of stabilizing US democracy simply by solid and effective policy making in the wide array of areas which it is facing. Given the complexity of the tasks, chances are that government success over the next two years or so will not be far-reaching enough to convince the great majority of the citizens of the merits of a decent democratic government.

Effective systemic government performance management will highlight that the goal of stabilizing US democracy rather must be treated as a distinct policy area on its own. It will emphasize that, next to aiming to deliver on the expectations of the people in such areas as jobs, healthcare, and equal rights, the Biden government must involve the people in the process of policy making so they see how it works and can trust in it. The aim of making democracy more resilient at the same time calls for the implementation of a high quality citizenship education program which conveys to the people what a functioning democracy needs to look like, what the preconditions for effective democracy are, what the personal and professional requirements concerning its leaders must be, and, finally, how the people themselves can engage with their government in a constructive fashion to ensure that their concerns are being heard and taken into account.

Biden will be able to handle the extremely difficult combination of challenges he is facing in the narrow timeframe available only with a government of the highest degree of effectiveness and efficiency conceivable. To ensure his government operates at such level of quality he must open it for new thinking on how to run government effectively. He and his team must install an effective government performance management system without delay.

Year in, year out the same political theatre

Government and parliament in the UK are not doing their duty and consistently weaken the nation. They must be overhauled without delay.

Both government and parliament in Britain are negligent in the execution of their duties towards society. As a result, they consistently weaken the nation. Government has ignored substantial calls for a fundamental overhaul of its operations for nearly a decade. And parliament in its function as control institution over government on behalf of the people fails to ensure the effectiveness of government operations.

Take a look at the following three incidents:

Already more than eight years ago by now, in 2012, at the time of the Cameron government parliament found that the strategy making process in government was, let me call it, “completely unprofessional”, and would harm the nation seriously in all kinds of policy areas including, as parliament wrote in its report, “strategic defence and security review, energy and climate change, child poverty targets and economic policy”. We can take this enumeration of examples to mean all policy making.

One has to take in practically every word of the observations by parliament to realise the severity of the warning: “We have little confidence that Government policies are informed by a clear, coherent strategic approach… there remains a critical unfulfilled role at the centre of Government in coordinating and reconciling priorities, to ensure that long-term and short-term goals are coherent across departments… Policy decisions are made for short-term reasons, little reflecting the longer-term interests of the nation.” [1] A shattering verdict on the quality of government operations and their effects on the UK.

Even if such a stark warning on substantial deficits in central policy making processes in government would have warranted an immediate major review and correction of the observed deficits, over the years nothing has happened, neither government nor parliament in its supervisory role since took the responsibility to fix the operational deficits identified at the heart of policy making. Now the Johnson government appears to function even more irrationally and erratically than the Cameron government. It, moreover, is repeatedly accused of operating in an ethically questionable way, to say the least, more sharply, in a sleazy, if not corrupt fashion.

In the year 2013, by now also already seven years ago, two UK professors, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe,  published a substantial book with the title “The Blunders of our Governments”, describing major failures by UK governments and their causes over several decades. One example is the poll tax under Margaret Thatcher.

In an article on the book with the pointed title, “Why is Britain badly governed?”, a title which in a way warrants a closer look at the operations of the British political system by itself, Igor Crewe writes in 2014: “Almost all of the blunders were gestated largely in-house, within the executive branch… Government did not engage in serious deliberation.” On the work of parliament he observes: “Parliament turned out to be an irrelevant spectator in the policy blunders we examined…On all essential points the members of the governing party in the Commons did little more than support their ministers’ legislative proposals.”

Crewe recommends as a solution “Institutional reforms should be designed to inject a larger measure of formal policy deliberation outside the executive, including pre-legislative scrutiny in Parliament and formal public consultation of organised interests and expert individuals.”

In other words, also King and Crewe in 2013 and 2014 recommended a major overhaul of processes in government, and implicitly, moreover, in parliament. Parliament, Crewe writes, was an “irrelevant spectator” in the policy blunders they examined. Guess what government and parliament did over the last seven years in terms of the requested restructuring.

Example three: Concerned about low voter turnout in recent UK elections – from a high of 83.9% in 1950 to a low of 59.4% in 2001 and around 65% in the 2010 election –  in 2014 parliament conducted an inquiry into how to improve the situation. In an evidence of exceptional frankness professors Martin J. Smith from the University of York and David Richards from Manchester University pointed out that the problem had far less to do with political apathy on the side of the voters largely assumed as a given by the authorities than with the traditional, elitist, disconnected, and unengaging style of policy making by the political system.

They suggested a fundamental approach was required to fix the problem. They wrote: “There is a need to rethink both the nature of institutions and the mechanisms of political participation,” and further, “The emphasis has to be on building structures and mechanisms capable of harnessing the energy and enterprise of the civic arena, or else the sense of drift in the public’s dislocation and alienation from traditional forms of politics will continue.”[2]

Again, an utterly sincere and urgent call for a significant overhaul of government operations was issued. Guess what happened over the last six years, since 2014. You are right, again nothing.

Interestingly, parliament in its report on voter engagement went as far as even venting the idea of a “Commission for Democracy”. If the independence of the organisation is assured, it could well provide the best way forward to ensure the highest degree of professionality and effectiveness in the political system and to ensure satisfactory involvement of the public in political processes. Yet, ever heard of the commission? Also to call on parties, as parliament did in the report, to develop plans for improved voter engagement and to suggest it was ultimately up to voters to “dictate” their preferred approach to the parties at the ballot box appears more than unrealistic, especially taking into consideration that the very problem to be addressed by the inquiry was the fact that 40% of the people did not vote. It is the government which must design effective ways and means to reach out to the people and implement them.

The failure both of government and of parliament to initiate a comprehensive review of government systems and operations on all three occasions in a timeframe of nearly a decade can only be called appalling and irresponsible. Who, in government or parliament, one wonders, does their duty to the nation?

Present government operations appear to be worse than ever before, determined by personal whims and ambitions, they involve bullying, sleaze, if not corruption (questionable consulting and purchasing contracts on health sector equipment, unlawful granting of a development permit in East London). Can Britain really afford to have governments of such quality?

In the light of the infighting and chaos we just witnessed surrounding the departure of Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings and the communications director Lee Cain, MPs are now calling for “order” in government operations. That call appears faint and fuzzy, in comparison to the rather precise demand for a fundamental overhaul of government operations issued by parliament itself already in 2012 and subsequently by others as well. What is “order” in government operations supposed to mean precisely?

What we seem to witness over the years is always the same political theatre, without any improvement in the way things work. Government conducts policy making on the hoof, according to the headlines in the newspapers, as parliament commented in 2012, without any recognisable structure, while parliament complains, without, however, ensuring any substantial and lasting improvements in the way government operates.

But then, yes, one would like to suggest, that the nation, the people, and the world finally after nearly a decade of calls for it, desperately require sincere leadership and a comprehensive systemic overhaul of government operations in Britain. At the same time, however, one wonders in how far the present government is at all interested in doing its duty and in taking the necessary steps to ensure the utmost quality of its operations. Zero chance, one might assume witnessing the erratic way in which the present government conducts its business. Does the UK, like the US, need as a first step to sound policy making a shift to a government of high integrity? Does the Johnson government fit the bill at all?

Clearly, this is the test:

If the Prime Minister truly wants to serve the nation and wants to create trust in his operations, he must now without delay install the fundamental review of government operations demanded  over and over from different angles since 2012. If he does not do it, he fails the nation and cannot be in office. To make the process effective, he must keep it absolutely open for public deliberation and include the widest scope of perspectives, as also King and Crewe demand for the process of policy making.

And evidently, if parliament as the supervisory institution over government acting on behalf of the people does not ensure that Boris Johnson now initiates this review and adopts its findings in the way he runs government, it lets down the nation and its people profoundly. It also does not do its duty.

Looking at the way government operates and the urgency of the matter, parliament as the supervisory body over government should probably take matters in its own hand. It should initiate a parliamentary inquiry on the subject of how to ensure optimal government operations and also on the question of how to optimise citizen involvement in political processes. Ultimately, as the control institution over government, parliament itself must have a well-grounded foundation on which to judge and ensure the soundness of government operations, a foundation which the inquiry will provide.  

One fundamental question which also needs to be clarified is, why, over the last decade or so, parliament failed to ensure that government conducts its business in an effective way serving the nation. One factor appears to be that parliament does not have a clear idea at all on how to control government operations effectively. It deeply engages in the debate on select individual policy issues, but neglects ascertaining the overall performance of government. A second reason for the ineffectiveness of its control over government is likely to be the lacking independence of parliament from government. With the majority of parliamentarians being in the same party as government, parliament is reluctant to fire a government which does not perform. Issues like these need to be addressed as well. Society needs an effective control organisation over government.

Presently the world is facing the most complex problems it has ever faced, even of an existential nature to humanity. In such a situation a democratic nation like the UK by any means requires a government which employs optimal systems and processes in the way it runs the nation. If the two key elements of the political system in the UK, government and parliament, do not do their duty and do not operate at the highest levels of performance conceivable, the nation is in serious trouble. Then it is time for society as the ultimate stakeholder and the highest sovereign in democracy to take action on its own, to form a suitable initiative, to overhaul the operations of its political system and to ensure its optimal performance on its own.  If parliament does not establish a “Commission for Democracy” the public itself must do it.

In any case, democracy cannot mean a free hand for an elected government to operate as it pleases. Being elected still entails the obligation towards the nation to ensure the optimal performance of government operations. Parliament as the control organisation over government must ensure that government employs optimal systems and processes in its policy making.


[1] House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee Strategic thinking in Government: without National Strategy, can viable Government strategy emerge? Twenty Fourth Report of Session 2010–12 Volume I: Report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence, HC 1625 Published on 24 April 2012 by authority of the House of Commons London: The Stationery Office Limited file:///D:/Documents/JOB/A%20%20%20Democracy%20Book%20%20Back%20Up%20Information/Z%20%20%20Countries/UK%20Back%20Up%20Gov%20Eff/UK%20gov%20Strategy%20Making/strategy%20making%20report%202012.pdf

[2] House of Commons, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Voter engagement in the UK, Fourth Report of Session 2014–15 Report, together with formal minutes relating to the report, Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 10 November 2014, Published Written evidence submitted by Professor Martin J. Smith and Professor David Richards, Item 39 [1](VUK 42)

The US – Renewal of Society – Renewal of Democracy

A proposal

This morning I got a phone call from a friend in Asia: Hans Peter, there is a great need for ideas on democracy in the US. What do you do about it?

Basically, I am in the process of writing a book about democracy. But work on it is not going forward as planned. It might take months or years before the book is ready for publication.

Since the US is very evidently in dire need of a renewal of society and democracy (more so than any other western nation presently), I decide to put my suggestions forward in a short statement. The call for concrete support instead of “love” texts by a black writer addressed to his white friends in the New York Times a couple of days ago provides an additional impulse.

So here my attempt for constructive support:

  1. The US evidently with the highest degree of urgency needs a democracy which serves the well-being of all people in the US.
  2. Solving highly complex problems such as “renewing democracy” requires a suitable problem-solving methodology. I suggest “Systems Thinking” as a foundation.
  3. It tells us that no system works effectively without effective control by the stakeholder, in the case of democracy, the people.
  4. The US will not get a functioning democracy serving all people without a powerful and  effective driver, a “Society for Effective Democracy”.
  5. To make sure it serves all people, each and every person interested in renewing US society must join in and support the work of this Society.
  6. Democracy is an extremely complicated system. Renewing US democracy, therefore, requires know-how of ultimate quality. The Society must collect this know-how.
  7. On the basis of this know-how, the Society must prepare optimal concepts for the renewal of the US democracy.
  8. With the right money by donors the Society can be up and running in three months’ time.
  9. It can have first major proposals on the table a year later.
  10. It can have a more comprehensive concept for a renewal of the main pillars of US democracy on the table in three years’ time.
  11. Involving the people in such a powerful and credible drive to renew US democracy will enhance confidence in society for the future and create stability.  
  12. Voting for suited politicians is a first step. Yet, individual politicians simply cannot renew democracy and society. It takes a powerful driver.
  13. It takes a Society for Effective Democracy driven and carried jointly by all decent citizens in the US.
  14. Start now.

What is the Prime Task of a Prime Minister?

An essay competition on the subject between the candidates

The British democratic policy making system is in shambles. Britain and the Tory party specifically are looking for a leader able to sort out the mess and to get the nation back on track. As an intriguing new element in the three-year spectacle, now eight or so candidates have entered the stage and are jockeying for the top job. The show could go on for ever.

By now, however, the British public have enough of the spectacle. We need rationality to re-enter. The nation urgently needs a capable leader to clarify what happens on Brexit and to address the many other challenges the nation is facing.

To select the best candidate and to see whether the candidates understand at all what the job is about I suggest starting with an essay competition. The question to be discussed by all candidates is: What is the prime task of a Prime Minister? The candidates have half a page, at most one page to answer the question.

The plain truth is, no one can be the Prime Minister of a country, if they do not understand what the prime task of a Prime Minister is … and how to fulfil that specific task.

So the Conservative Party should really hold that essay competition. I offer to be on the panel of experts to evaluate the essays. This is no joke. A process which does not establish objectively – and transparently – whether a candidate is at all qualified for the job and who ultimately is the best candidate lets the nation down again.

Ultimately all of the UK ought to be discussing these questions: What is the prime task of a Prime Minister? And: Which qualifications does a Prime Minister actually need? If the nation does not answer these questions and does not select the best candidate accordingly, the play is set to continue.

Do I now have to glue myself to the doors of Extinction Rebellion?

I just received a mail from XR rejoicing that MPs will on Wednesday vote on the declaration of a Climate Emergency…and now another one informing me of upcoming meetings with government officials.

Hi there“, states the first mail,

This Wednesday MPs will vote on whether to declare a national climate emergency.

After months of grassroots actions across the country from school students striking to Extinction Rebellion mobilising thousands across London, politicians have now begun to react to the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis…

Again, such a vote appears to be a folly, like much of what we have seen in Brexit. On which basis are the MPs to decide?

One leading MP and former Secretary in the UK government ( I will not mention the name) confided to me in a personal conversation that he had read “a couple of books on climate change”, an that he did “not believe in it”. (It is one of the candidates who vied for the job as PM, can you believe it?). Before going into a vote on the declaration of a “Climate Emergency”, wouldn’t it make sense even for Extinction Rebellion to re-confirm what the data are and to create a “joint understanding of the problem situation” in Parliament? We cannot afford another chaotic policy making process, certainly not on an issue of existential relevance for humanity.

So here now, is my sort of protest against Extinction Rebellion, in the form of an open letter. (Unfortunately they neither reacted to my three mails sent to them nor to the two suggestions for a “constructive approach” published on this website – are they any better than the government they criticise?)

…………………………………………………………………………

Hey guys,

The key appears to be negligence. “My generation has done terrible things”, says David Attenborough. Michael Gove now admits: “We (i.e. the government including himself in the first place) “have not done nearly enough” to stop Climate Change.

You will agree, we all and our governments have been negligent by not putting effective processes in place to stopping Climate Change. Yes, you accuse the government of negligence and incompetence in dealing with Climate Change. It is clearly necessary for us to look into where the deficits are and how to fix them.

But the question I am asking me now is:

How negligent is Extinction Rebellion? How negligent are you?

Do I now have to sit down with my lonely placard opposite of the headquarters of extinction Rebellion and protest against the negligence of Extinction Rebellion, the very same negligence you accuse the government of?

Or are you going to listen and engage in a constructive discussion? Perhaps before you go into a meeting with the government officials?

Are you going to act responsibly?

Some questions:

  • Is Extinction Rebellion even less effective and efficient in their approach than the government they criticise for being negligent?
  • What is effectiveness and efficiency in policy making at all? 
  • How do we ensure the utmost degree of effectiveness and efficiency in policy making?
  • How to choose the very best problem solving approaches? 
  • Which role does analytical competency play in solving the greatest problem humanity has ever faced? 
  • Which role does know-how in problem solving methodologies play in this respect?  

You accuse the government of negligence (rightly so, in my understanding).  

  • Is Extinction Rebellion negligent as well?
  • Don’t you have to examine the foundations necessary for an effective problem solving process before you design one? 
  • Or ask people, who might have relevant know-how is such areas? (such as experts in problem-solving methodologies at universities?)

I sincerely and honestly praise you for bringing the issue of Global Warming on top of the agenda. People have complained about the protests. Yet, they clearly have been necessary, just as the protests of the young people following the example of Greta Thunberg.

But there is a difference between “raising attention to a problem” and “solving a problem”. You very effectively and with perseverance managed to raise attention to the problem of Climate Change. But is this sufficient to also solve the problem effectively?

Stopping climate change is a gigantic task, larger than anything the world has ever seen. Solving the task appears, if not impossible, so at least, close to impossible.

What we need to do now is to create “the most effective and efficient process only conceivable” to address and solve the problem.

The first step in problem solving is “the creation of a joint understanding of the problem situation” …in the beginning at least among the policy making institutions, then also in the entire population. If I am not mistaken, this is actually what Extinction Rebellion rightly suggested as the first necessary step.

So, why not follow through with this proposal and now take step two ahead of step one???? – Again, many people will not understand, why we should declare a Climate Emergency now. But we must create their understanding and support.

Yes, maybe your demand to create a Climate Emergency now serves as a further impulse for re-assessing the facts and for making people recognise and admit that Climate Change truly is a problem of “existential relevance” we are facing.

Still, in order to solve the problem we won’t get by the first necessary step: Creating a joint understanding of the problem situation.

What would be the sensible thing to do now? ( yes, it is my opinion, but it appears to be your obligation to engage in a constructive debate on it)

  1. Meet with the government officials.
  2. Agree to put a work group together which determines the most effective and efficient way forward (open the process up to the public to be sure the path chosen for coping with the problem is the most effective process conceivable – we sort of need to find the very best path through the Himalaya to get across, it is a significant loss of energy to go into the wrong  direction first and then having to see one must return)
  3. That work group must, in my opinion, use the systemic problem solving steps I suggested on my website and in my other letters to you.
  4. As mentioned that work group would as a first step create a joint understanding of the problem situation in government and society (as XR also rightly suggested – sorry if I repeat myself – just to present the necessary sequence).
  5. The first consequence of this joint understanding might then be: The declaration of a Climate Emergency.
  6. The other consequence will probably be that the UK (re-) establishes an independent Government Department For Climate Change Policy.
  7. The new Secretary for Climate Change Policy then develops the most suitable strategy together with all parties interested and concerned (complete transparency and involvement of the public – that is what you rightly request.)
  8. Is a Citizens’ Assembly truly the most effective and efficient way for moving forward – or is it a waste of valuable time and funds, and even worse, does it put the process for addressing Climate Change into an ineffective direction, will we eventually have to turn back and select another strategy?
  9. To insist on a Citizens’ Assembly without making sure what the most effective and efficient approach might be appears not diligent and, therefore, negligent as well. (am I right or wrong – we are obliged to examine a fundamental “hypothesis” of such critical relevance – are there better processes to involve the public, is a crucial question ).
  10. And generally: Is it negligence or not to not include someone in the problem solving process who has a website called “optimizingdemocracy”, has twenty years of experience in thinking about the effectiveness and efficiency of policy making and has even studied Operational Research and Systemic Problem Solving Methodologies? (yes, I am obliged to suggest I have highly relevant qualifications – check it out, verify, you are obliged to check the veracity of this “hypothesis” as well, you ar obliged to listen (one failure of government is that it does not listen and does not examine relevant proposals on how to make government effective.)
  11. I am also trying to get the government to understand this. So far they failed.

The fundamental starting point we must agree on is this one in my opinion:

We must agree on the crucial need to find “the most effective and efficient way forward”.

 That is a question of methodology.

Do you think it would be necessary to include someone who has substantial knowledge on such issues and has spent twenty years tackling such questions in your work group and in the talks with government?

What must I do, to convince you that focusing on “maximum effectiveness and efficiency” is of decisive relevance now.

You want to declare a “Climate Emergency”. If the problem is of existential relevance for humanity then not focusing on “absolute effectiveness and efficiency” is absolutely negligent.

Do I have to glue myself now to the doors of XR to bring this message home, or are we going to talk?

In 2016 protesters suggested: “Climate change department closed by Theresa May in ‘plain stupid’ and ‘deeply worrying’ move” (The Independent). They were right. It was wrong. The fault is connected with fundamental deficits in government strategy making detected by Parliament already in 2012 (!!) and which have not been fixed by now (Another matter of substantial negligence in government – and Parliament? Of relevance for all of policy making including Climate Change – the Parliamentarians themselves mentioned it in 2012, but did not fix the problem! We must now.)

XR is going to talk with a government which appears “not capable” of effective policy making (to use a more neutral word than “stupid” – analytical competency is crucial in government – how do we make sure we have analytically competent leaders – see also the horribly chaotic Brexit process)

The crucial question is: How do we make sure the policy making process is as effective and efficient as only conceivable?

Should we include people with know-how in the creation of effective processes or not?

With kind regards, from a supporter and member of XR,

Hans Peter Ulrich

 

P.S.: Sorry the letter is a bit long. But it took you also a couple of days to get the government  to communicate.

It might, as a final point, be of interest to you that I also wrote a nine page letter and a two page letter to Theresa May on the issue, and a letter to Michael Gove. (Yes, you are right, persistence is necessary.) Both have not replied, even if the issue I discuss in the letter are of central concern, the effectiveness and efficiency in policy making. In Ireland observers  blame the tense situation there on the “complacent stupidity” of some parties involved (The Week, April 27th). In America, a public report identified a “culture of complacency” as the key reason behind the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. If we are to solve the Climate Crisis at all, we need to establish the highest analytical competency in government and we all need to act with he highest degree of diligence and commitment. Otherwise, overcoming the problem of Climate Change will not be possible.

What Extinction Rebellion should do next – a proposal

  1. The starting point: We need effective political systems to solve complex tasks.
  2. Climate Change is the largest and most complex challenge humanity has ever faced. Our efforts to stop Climate Change will have to involve all people on earth, all areas of life, and all areas of policy making. To solve the problem of Climate Change we need the most effective national and global policy making systems conceivable.
  3. The UK government system is by no means effective. It does not set its priorities right; it does not create effective strategies. Government fails in many ways (Brexit – over three years not able to present a convincing solution, Climate Change, other areas – many democratic governments suffer from such deficits in policy making which we need to fix.)
  4. Already in 2012 (!) the UK Parliament raised the issue: They said that they had “little confidence” that government policies are informed by a clear, coherent strategic approach”. In other words, they said: Government strategy making was completely faulty and ineffective (or “rubbish”, if you like!).
  5. They starkly concluded: Failing to fix the deficits in strategic thinking in government could have “catastrophic consequences”, also in Climate Change! Parliament itself failed, however, as a control institution to make sure the deficit was fixed. (Here the people/XR needs to come in: The people need to make sure that Government does its job properly and that there is an effective control system over Government.)  
  6. In its reactions to the Climate Protests the Government confirms that its strategy making is completely ineffective:
  7. Rather than engaging with the Climate Protesters the Prime Minster so far has said nothing about the protests. She rather acts as a marshal in a local run! (that appears to be blatantly wrong priority setting – considering that the world is at stake).
  8. The reactions of other high government officials to the climate protests were completely inadequate: They suggested for example that the protesters were “clowns” and protesting “against public transport”. They are protesting against the potentially threatening destruction of the planet “as we know it” (Al Gore) and of human civilisation. The first thing the want us to do is to engage in a constructive discussion on the future of the planet and on the strategy in coping with Climate Change. The protests would stop, if the government would enter into such constructive talks. 
  9. As we said we need a political system of the greatest degree of effectiveness to solve Climate Change.
  10. Extension Rebellion theoretically has two options to make sure we have such a system:

a) to set up such an effective system on its own

b) to demand and ensure that the present political system operates as effectively as it must to handle climate change.

  1. Option one is completely unrealistic and nonsensical. The UK Government System and Civil service currently employ around 450000 persons. If we declare a Climate Emergency, this means that all these 450000 persons (plus the entire population of the UK) must somehow be involved in policy making and implementation against  Climate Change. There is no use in wanting to replicate such a system.
  2. XR can only pursue option 2: It must ensure that the existing Climate Change policy making system with the (any) Prime Minister at the top works as effectively and efficiently as only possible – and is possibly restructured and enhanced to ensure that is the case.  
  3. We have zero time to lose in making sure that the Climate Policy System is effective and capable to design and implement an effective strategy against Climate Change.
  4. XR should therefore as a next step put the Prime Minister on the spot. The Prime Minister as the Head of Government is responsible for ensuring policy effectiveness.
  5. It should demand that the Prime Minister immediately names an able Secretary for Climate Change Policy (as a key contact for XR – with adequate qualifications in the structuring of complex problems).
  6. XR must then clarify together with this new Secretary for Climate Change Policy what the most suitable strategy against Climate Change is.
  7. XR must then make sure that the new Secretary for Climate Change (with  the support of the Prime Minister) implements the required strategy.
  8. There is no effective system without effective control.     
  9. XR actually must function as the control system of the people in making sure that government works effectively regarding Climate Change. XR can only then create an effective UK and global Climate Change policy, if it learns how to act effectively as a “Citizens’ Control System” over Climate Change Policy. (By protesting it takes a first step in exerting such a control function.)
  10. Protesting appears necessary to get the attention of government and of wider society. But it is by no means enough. XR must take constructive action to ensure that there is an effective climate change policy system. 
  11. XR demands a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. Also a Citizens’ Assembly, if it is effective, will have to come to the conclusion that an effective fight against Climate Change demands a highly effective policy making system. 
  12. So why not start now? Why not set up an effective process to ensure the effectiveness of national Climate Change Policy now? 
  1. My concrete proposals:
  2. Put the Prime Minister on the spot. Concentrate the protests around Downing Street.
  3. Demand that the Prime Minister establishes an effective system and process to implement an effective Climate Change Policy
  4. Concretely: Demand that the Prime Minister establishes a separate Department for Climate Change (perhaps together with Environment – if the planet is at stake “as we know it” then we need a specific department to deal with such an issue and emergency.)
  5. Demand that the government names a capable Secretary for Climate Change Policy as a main contact for XR
  6. Demand that this secretary for Climate Change works closely with XR on developing an effective UK and International Strategy to stop Climate Change.
  7. If the Prime Minister does not understand: Solicit also the support from Parliament (Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, responsible for Report on Government strategy making deficits.
  8. If that does not help: Tell the British public clearly that the Prime Minister needs to act and install an effective system to combat climate Change and restart frequent traffic disruptions in London – until the Prime Minister install a new department and secretary for Climate Change Policy.
  9. One must convey clearly to the British public and the people affected by traffic disruptions that the Prime Minister can stop the disruptions immediately by doing what is required: By installing a new Secretary for Climate Change Policy with whom XR can work together.

Hans Peter Ulrich        www.optimizingdemocracy.org        opt_democracy@btinternet.com             22 April 2019

The Climate Protests: A Constructive Way Forward

The Situation

We do not have any more time to lose.

We urgently need an effective process to get us started.

The Scope of The Task

The situation is more complex than anything the world has ever seen before.

We need something like the war effort in WWII, involving all people in society, only this time on an even far bigger scale: We must join with all other initiatives against global warming in the world.

We can only succeed, if we start now and use all resources available in our societies in the most effective and efficient manner conceivable.

The Demands on The Process for Stopping Global Warming

An effective fight against global warming will have to integrate all aspects of life on earth.

It will require substantial changes in the way we live, what we eat, which products we use, how we generate energy.

Maintaining the planet in such a way will cost each of us money.

It is likely to generate fundamental changes in economic structures. Many people might lose their jobs, other jobs will be necessary and created.

We need to pursue not only one, but two goals:

  1. To stop global warming
  2. To maintain society sound and stable, while it undergoes these changes.

There is no use in creating an effective climate policy, if it destabilises and destroys society.

We need a system capable to implement and co-ordinate all measures across all areas of society and of politics: housing, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, research, education, nutrition, international co-operation, international development, international population control and so on.

The consequence: In each country and for the world as a whole we must create the most effective systems and processes conceivable to handle the problem.

 The Necessary Problem-Solving Steps

Solving a complex problem like global warming requires the following steps:

  1. Creating a joint understanding of the problem situation. So far, too many people do not realise the dangers we are in or even deny them. We have to as soon as possible confirm the data and communicate them effectively to society.
  2. Creating a joint understanding of the goals, so everyone can pitch in.
  3. Identifying all factors which affect the goals.
  4. Designing different strategic options.
  5. Deciding on the most effective ones or on the best combination of measures and strategies.
  6. Implementing the chosen strategies or strategy packages.

We can only then generate an effective UK and global strategy to stop Climate Change, if we create the most effective systems and processes conceivable to handle each and every one of these tasks. 

Methods

All of these steps require the highest capacities in problem solving methodologies and quantitative decision-making processes. They must combine the required expert knowledge into feasible strategies.

We need to identify the very best methodologies.

We need to teach people working on Climate Change Policy Making these methods.

We need to select the most qualified people in all these methods for working on climate change policies.

Involvement of the People

All people in society and in the world need to support and co-operate on these efforts.

All people in society need to be involved and understand what is required.

We need to create a highly effective Communication Hub to ensure that is the case.

Protests generate the required attention. But they do not actually stop global warming.

We must come to the most effective concrete measures conceivable.

Everyone can participate in a practical way in stopping climate change:

  • by planting trees in our cities and all over the world,
  • by educating people about alternative ways of nutrition,
  • by doing research on new ways of generating and conserving energy,
  • by advising people on environmentally friendly living and on how to energy protect their homes,
  • by becoming a builder and helping in replacing energy inefficient windows,
  • by helping communities to build better bicycle tracks,
  • by working for a more effective development policy,
  • by advising people in Africa on birth control,
  • or by becoming an expert in solving complex policy issues through studying systemic problem solving methods.

There is an enormous amount of work which needs to be co-ordinated effectively.

A Citizens’ Assembly?

As we said: We need to create the most effective systems and processes conceivable to handle each and every one of the problem-solving tasks.

And that as soon as possible. We have no time to lose.

The question is: Which function in the problem-solving process is a Citizens’ Assembly supposed to fulfil?

Does it have the necessary capacities?

The drawback appears to be: Randomly selected people will not have the necessary methodological know-how. Citizens’ Assemblies also are usually limited in time. Effective strategy design is an ongoing task. Government still needs a highly effective process to check and implement any proposals made by the Citizens’ Assembly.

It may be a start. But it is also a waste of time. Doubling the policy making processes of government is a waste of scarce resources. We rather need to make government climate policy effective.

Proposals for Solution

  1. We install an effective permanent process for citizen involvement co-ordinating all necessary measures to stop climate change.
  2. We demand that the Prime Minister installs now without delay a new specific Secretary for Climate Change Policy in the UK government with the required know-how in methods for solving complex problems.
  3. This Secretary with our support and under the control of the people must immediately put the sketched problem-solving process into place to get us started.

For us it is important to realise:

Without adequate know-how in problem solving methodologies we cannot establish effective measures against global warming.

Best of luck and success    Hans Peter Ulrich   opt_democracy@btinternet.com         20 April 2019

Back to Basics for British Politics

The decisive question: How can Britain get a government with professional decision and strategy making capacities of the highest quality?

After the upheaval of Brexit, which divided the nation, the election greatly added to Britain’s political chaos rather than ameliorating it. For a small regional party like the Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to determine who governs Britain in such a difficult situation, can only be considered a fluke of history, not the result of purposeful and effective design of the political system. The mayhem of the election outcome seems to reflect an increasingly chaotic world in which the most varied positions and beliefs clash with each other and in which no party seems to be able to offer a convincing view suitable to generate wider consensus in society on what the best policy solutions are.

What Britain needs to do in order to sort out the political mayhem caused by Brexit and the election outcome is to go back to the basics of politics. Society needs to refocus on what it ultimately requires from its political system. Speculating on who will be governing in the future and when a new election might be necessary, does not generate a sustainable solution. It only extends the instability harming the nation. To provide stability and to unify the nation, Britain requires nothing more or less than an extremely qualified government free from any pre-conceived beliefs and dogmas, but simply bent on and fully capable of identifying and communicating the very best solutions for the nation on each and every political issue at stake.

But here is the flaw. Unless British society improves some fundamental mechanisms of the political system, it simply will not get a government of the quality it urgently needs. Already in 2012, a Parliamentary Committee came to the devastating conclusion that government practically did not possess any professional strategy making capacity whatsoever. They formulated: We have little confidence that Government policies are informed by a clear, coherent strategic approach, itself informed by a coherent assessment of the public’s aspirations and their perceptions of the national interest.” The parliamentarians emphasised that such lack of strategy making capacity in government would necessarily lead to faulty policies in all policy areas and, as a consequence, cause the greatest harm to the nation. Rather than concentrating on sound and solid policy making and on fixing this fundamental fault in the British political system, both, Cameron and May gambled, lost, and created chaos.

What the nation has to realise, is that whichever person or party governs, whether May, Johnson, or Corbyn, whether Conservatives, Labour, or any other party, does not make much of a difference for the quality of policy making at all. As Anthony King and Ivor Crew describe in a book with the title “The blunders of our governments”, the history of politics in Britain over the past decades shows that governments formed by all parties are liable to severe blunders in their policy making. This will only change, if it is ensured that the governments formed by any party or politician possess decision and strategy making capacities of the greatest degree of professionalism and effectiveness.

How can it be ensured that the country gets a government of the quality it requires?

As a first step for creating an effective government and sorting out the present chaos, the nation or parliament ideally should select a person as the leader of the government and as Prime Minister who, objectively and independently of their party affiliation, possesses the most advanced qualifications in decision and strategy making. In the present quasi stalemate in parliament this would be a non-partisan approach by all politicians serving the nation best. Unfortunately, such a proposal may sound too unconventional and may not generate much support, even if, objectively seen, it appears to make sense. Especially the leader of a government must have a comprehensive grasp of professional decision and strategy making methods in order to guide the political system in the formulation of sound and effective policies.

An advisory council on effective decision and strategy making processes indispensable

Independently of who is or will be nominated as the Head of Government in the future, a second step is indispensable:  Government needs a system of some kind, let us call it an “advisory council”, which supports government in making use of the very best methods in decision and strategy making, such as for example the management sciences provide them. Government needs to know about and use problem solving tools provided by Operational Research, it needs to be familiar with systemic decision and strategy making methodologies, it needs to apply methods such as the Alternative Hierarchy Process in decision making, which induces government to clearly identify, weigh and prioritize goals exactly against which to evaluate its strategic alternatives. In the decision-making process on EU-membership for example until today there exists no clear listing of the goals of the country especially in terms of international co-operation, no weighing, and no prioritisation, against which to measure the different strategic options. Such deficits in strategy making are one reason why governments cannot come up with convincing solutions suitable to generate a far-reaching consensus and why they are unable to unite society behind a proposed solution.

So far, like in most, if not all democracies, in Britain there is no institution which supervises the functioning of the political system. As a consequence, such fundamental deficits as the lack of decision and strategy making capacity in government identified by the Parliamentarians already in 2012, now five years ago, are not being fixed. The effects are constantly causing harm to society and threaten to increasingly destabilise the nation.

Only if the political elite and society as a whole ensure that government has the necessary capacities in decision and strategy making and that government actually applies these capacities to the benefit of society, will Britain get political leadership of the quality the nation urgently requires. Only then will it get a government which can provide direction to society, join it together, and lead society effectively in an extremely complex world of 7.5 billion people.

Democracy is a …religion? No, it is a mechanism which we urgently need to fix.

“Democracy is a religion that has failed the poor” states Giles Fraser in his weekly column “Loose Canon” in the British Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2015/may/08/democracy-a-religion-that-has-failed-the-poor

Now, Giles Fraser is a highly intelligent man, a theologian and doctor of philosophy whose column, even if one may not always fully agree, generally contains some stimulating thought.

But is democracy a “religion”?

Certainly, Fraser’s thoughts contain some truth. He points out how piously we pursue a process – voting – even if we may not have any idea whatsoever who to vote for or may seriously wonder which difference our vote makes at all. Giles suggests (with Banerjee) that voting may simply be an “expression of one’s citizenship”.

But then, this makes a mockery of human beings. If one believes in human beings as conscious architects of their world and lives, for them to pursue a more or less useless process which does not ensure a sound management of our nations and world is by no means adequate.

In a way Fraser’s bias as a theologian is understandable. We all look at the world from our personal angle. Changing vantage points, exchange of views is necessary to arrive at the most suited perspective. To talk about democracy as a religion in fact appears highly disconcerting and even paralysing.

If we want to make this world a better place, then we clearly need to adopt a more constructive stance, one of a kind which might come more naturally to managers or engineers: Rather than looking at democracy as a sombre force over which we have no influence, we  need to consider democracy as what it  ultimately is, as a man-made mechanism, which we need to improve, if it fails us. We, humanity constantly work on all kinds of systems, processes and mechanisms which do not fulfil our needs and expectations. Why not fix or improve the way  we practice democracy?

In which way is democracy actually failing us? Following the UK elections, many observers clearly highlight a deficit in the election process, it does not turn votes into adequate representation in parliament. Then there are the issues of devolution and “English votes for English Issues”: The structure of regional representation in the UK is unclear and needs to be overhauled. All in all, we need to check whether each element of the democratic system optimally fulfils the purpose it is meant to fulfil. Generally and perhaps most importantly, like in many democracies there is increasing disenfranchisement between the people and the political system. Democratic policy making needs to be changed in such a way in that it offer new channels for the public to engage in and to take adequate control of the management of public issues.

True citizenship and stewardship for our world means shaping the processes with which we govern it. Since we as individuals do not have any influence, we must join with other citizens to make democracy work. Forming an association called “Citizens Controlling Democracy” will be crucial to ensure that our democratic policy making processes work effectively and represent the interest of all people in society.

In a way we talk far to much, we publish hundreds of articles every week on what needs to happen in politics. If we do not take joint and constructive action to make democracy work, it never will. A machine which was considered adequate fifty years ago, may well not be adequate anymore for our world of seven billion people. It may have to be overhauled and re-engineered.

Democracy – a “mechanism which needs to be fixed”. It would greatly help, if also theologians could adopt and support this perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

“Why people keep electing idiots?” – Constructive action by citizens required

“Democracy v Psychology: why people keep electing idiots?”

The language which Dean Burnett uses in his article in the Guardian may be somewhat provocative, but it certainly gets a point across: We actually do not make sure that our politicians are qualified for the job. That makes us as citizens culprits, if things with our nations and world go wrong.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/apr/02/democracy-psychology-idiots-election

It is greatly amazing: Everybody in their professional life needs to prove they fulfil a specific set of qualification requirements, any hair stylist, any sales manager, and any doctor. Just our politicians don’t, even if the fate of our entire countries, of our entire world, to a large degree our lives and the lives of future generations depend on their professional qualification.

In democracies, it is us, the citizens, who govern. Not making sure that our politicians are qualified for the job is actually irresponsible. It will have effects on jobs, the stability of our nations, on international co-operation and peace, on how we handle the globe, even on the future of human dignity.

So we, as citizens, must make sure politicians have the required qualifications for their tasks.

What is the solution?

  1. We the citizens must take charge of our democracies.
  2. We must ensure they work properly.
  3. To do that we must establish an organisation: Citizens Controlling Democracy UK, for example.
  4. This organisation must write a precise job description for our politicians.
  5. It must identify clearly which specific qualifications are necessary to fulfil this task.
  6. It must make sure that each and every politician standing for election fulfils the specific qualifications required for their job.

Our world of seven billion people cannot afford words only, it cannot afford cynicism about democracy and the “idiocy” of our politicians only.

We must take constructive action.

So who will join Citizens Controlling Democracy UK?