The future of the USA - 2012-2016 (Part 4) - Five strategic proposals to modernize the US institutional system

- Excerpt GEAB N°60 (December 16, 2011) -

LEAP/E2020 is a think-tank that certainly has a good knowledge of the United States, with contributors and subscribers there... and nearly two million American readers of its GEAB public announcements, but it is a European think-tank, not American. So we hesitated long and hard before responding positively to the request of many of our US subscribers that we should make some recommendations to help the country out of the impasse in which it finds itself. We are often highly critical of the absurd and unjustified advice that US leaders and experts offer to Europeans. It is therefore important for us not to do what we criticize in others. So we decided, first, to be brief, secondly, to limit ourselves to the institutional system and, finally, we bring to mind that each political entity has its own internal logic, its specific constraints, a base of values and ideals which belong to its citizens ... and it is often unrealistic for outsiders to pretend to understand them and integrate them into advice. These limits having been set, here are some ideas that may be useful in the debate that is beginning in the United States on the institutional future of the country.

1st proposal: Make the debates and discussions on the Constitution universal
It is neither a sacred, nor a perfect text. It embodies the political ideas of the United States founders and is necessarily marked with the seal of its time: the late eighteenth century. These same "founding fathers" would certainly be the first today to advise Americans of the twenty-first century to reconsider the whole of the institutional structure they have been devised. Two hundred years is very old for a constitution and the world of 2011 has almost no relation to that of 1787. Those who sanctify the political texts in the name of tradition or respect for the "founders" are usually the biggest current beneficiaries of the system and quite simply don’t want to lose the privileges it hands out to them.

2nd proposal: Reconsider institutions’ geographic location
The geographical location of places of power and the nature of this power are always linked intimately. Contradictory to the country’s federal concept, the United States actually has a hyper-centralized structure of political power: everything happens in Washington. Here we find a trait shared by two other old Western institutional systems: the British system where everything happens in London; and the French system where everything happens in Paris. This used to reflect the state of the transport infrastructure and communications of the eighteenth and nineteenth century (horses, stagecoach, steam train, mail) and is, therefore, very poorly adapted to twenty-first century societies characterized by the Internet, planes, high speed trains and satellites.
On the other hand, hyper-centralization facilitates the capture of political power by the elite who self-renew, closed to the rest of the country, and developing incestuous relationships with the most powerful private interests because it encourages the emergence of an atmosphere of a “power bubble” cut off from the rest of the country. It is very surprising that a country as vast as the United States continues, in the twenty-first century, to see all its institutions concentrated in a city in the East of the country, thousands of kilometres from 75% of the population (West Coast , South Coast, the South of the East Coast...). The polycentrism of the federal state, that’s to say, the distribution of major government institutions in a number of the country’s major cities, would overcome this handicap and thus bring the country’s political and administrative elite closer to all of the population. Two arguments are generally used to oppose institutional polycentrism: "too high a cost" and a marked "inefficiency". They can be very easily scanned from the back of the hand: on the one hand, all large companies now operate in a network based on this polycentric model... and they are not known to look to increase operating costs; on the other hand, efficiency is a relative concept in political terms based on the relevance and success of decisions taken. Current hypercentralized systems, such as Washington, are characterized almost unanimously as now being truly incapable of taking informed decisions and successfully driving the chosen policies: there again, functioning in a network characteristic of polycentric systems, demonstrates its effectiveness in our societies on a daily basis as opposed to the pyramid functioning of centralized systems.

3rd proposal: Reduce the situations for potential decisional deadlock
It’s useful to eliminate from the system the maximum of procedures that enable small minorities to block general progress. In the case of the United States, this means reducing the discrepancy between demographic representation and States’ representation: it would be useful to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives to strengthen the people’s representation and, on the other hand, reduce the ability to lock down the Senate by States with a small population. This latter option can be done either by adding a demographic variable to the number of senators per State, or greatly reducing the qualifying majorities required for decisions, so as to limit the potential for blockage by a small minority.

4th proposal: Sharply reduce the influence of money in Federal elections
Payment of candidates’ campaign expenses by the Federal state and the introduction of selection via the requirement of a minimum number of citizens’ or elected officials’ signatures to become a candidate would prevent most of the current distortion practiced for the benefit of large corporations and the super-rich.

5th proposal: Integrate education into Federal jurisdiction
As analysed in this issue, LEAP/E2020 considers that the collapse of US educational system is at the heart of the current crisis in the country. And we think that it’s impossible for the United States to exit this crisis other than with long term weakness if the education system is not put back on its feet. Under the pretext of avoiding a "Federal grip", the current institutional situation leaves, de facto, education as no-one’s political responsibility, or rather it is left in the hands of those who make financial gains from education. This is the worst of situations as it consists of leaving the country's future in anyone’s hands. The country must slice through this: either there is in fact a Federal jurisdiction and the president and Congress become directly responsible for the success or failure of the US educational system, or he entrusts it to the States and clears the Federal level of any responsibility making each state accountable for the quality of education to its own citizens.

We hope that these ideas may be useful to some of our American subscribers.

Vendredi 20 Avril 2012
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GEAB N°90 - Contents

- Published on December 15, 2014 -

Global systemic crisis 2015 – Oil, currencies, finance, societies, the Middle East : Massive storm in the Western port!

. « Global systemic crisis: the end of the West we have known since 1945 »
. The oil crisis is systemic because it is linked to the end of the all-oil era
. The US in one hell of a state
. Europe post-Ukraine: lots of questions
. Three missions for the new Europe: resolve the Ukrainian crisis, put Euro-Russian relations back on the right path, avoid a European QE
. Middle East: traditional alliances’ big waltz
. Saudi Arabia, Iran: the allies change sides
. And Western « values » in all this
Read the public announcement

2015 – new phase of the crisis: the oil systemic crisis

. The impact of speculation
. Price War
. Systemic oil crisis and finance
. Systemic oil crisis and geopolitics

Investments, trends and recommendations

. Oil: beware!
. Energy intensive industries like airline companies
. Renewable energy: the good and the bad
. 2015: Euro & Yen rebound
. Gold: still safe

Evaluation of our anticipations for 2014
(from GEAB N° 81 in January 2014): a 69% success rate