Time to Flip Power In America Upside Down

I’m totally sick and exhausted with our federal government. Boehner’s statement yesterday on immigration, where he said “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill” was the last straw for me. Idiotic and totally broken.

I could rant for a while, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll encourage you to watch this amazing video that Jennifer Bradley just showed at the Startup Phenomenon conference. She totally nails it – people at the top, then metros, then states, and then federal government following their leads.

I just bought Jennifer’s book The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy and plan to read it this weekend.

  • Milton Friedman was for high decentralization of power. He thought a world where government is extremely close to constituents was better. America 3.0 is a book about a new way to govern within our existing system.

    Unfortunately, immigration got tied up in politics. They should just pass a short term fix letting all STEM grads and college grads stay for a period of time and worry about the rest of it later.

    As a Chicagoan, I know that local government can be far worse and heavy handed than national government.

    • Yup on all – including local government. Government simply has too much power.

    • Especially since we’re getting a good dose of the Chicago machine at the national level right now. And things are going swimmingly aren’t they?

  • Daniel Zacek

    We should add some language to the constitution that reserves for the States, and within them, the people, those powers not specifically delegated to the Federal Government.

  • Really great video. Plenty of examples were Cities and mayors are already leading the way, and orgs like National League of Cities are setting new policies. There is plenty of room to get it right before we end up in Mr Lee’s Greater Hong Kong.

    • Nice job with the Snowcrash reference.

  • There are a couple of problems that I see that make me leery of this. First, a lot of the money that the metros spend is actually being given to them by the Federal govt. which makes the cities seem more powerful than they really are. Second, shifting the burden of power to the cities flies in the face of the construction of our govt. to begin with. What I mean is this. The reason the Senate is made up of two representatives per state is to counter the undue influence that populous states would wield were we just to govern based on the number of constituents. A similar dynamic would occur were power to shift to the cities, e.g. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. would basically rule the country. The balance that occurs due to the structure of either house would be lost.

  • Brad, I have worked in this space for years and also hold your beliefs. I think I’ve figured out the key to unlock this — it requires tying device ID to social ID, and those companies (Apple, etc. and FB) helping change the laws around voting — it should be as easy to vote as it is on American Idol. Beyond that, those apps should constantly monitor elected officials and alert people about politicians who aren’t doing their jobs and then use social media pressure to correct ill behavior. Nothing will change unless Facebook pushes this with the OEMs and may take a generation change to do it — so say, post 2020.

    • HistoryInAction

      Theoretically, it could work. But people are too busy with their day to day life to provide effective oversight.

      Further, I don’t see elected officials understanding how to listen to social media. They are decent at using it as a platform to broadcast their views, but it’s the rare politician that directly uses social media. And the constituent relations software doesn’t give it the same weight as a phone call or letter, if they’ve even upgraded to take in social media input at all.

      But it’s a tricky balance for founders, who need to have laser focus on building their companies, but who also are at the bleeding edge of figuring out where (local) governments are breaking, as well as with federal policies. I envision a platform where via UP or similar, startup mentors, like a Jonathan Nelson of Hackers & Founders, and their regional champions can serve as conduits to transmit what they’re hearing from founders as ‘subject matter experts’ to local commissions/appointed officials and councils/elected officials to create a more effective governing structure.

      On the other hand, there’s no reasonable way at this point to automate these political (aka direct human interaction) relationships. So it’s a huge timesink, regardless. But right now, it’s rare for any of these sort of conversations to take place, such as Peter Corbett’s recent sit down with the DC city government re: planning, serving as infrastructure for their “creative economy.”

  • DaveJ

    See Jane Jacobs’ work for an explication of how cities are the natural economic unit.

  • A little bit of science fiction… but why doesn’t this exist yet?

    – Floating pods designed to be self sufficient in international waters.
    – Connect with other pods who share similar belief and goals.
    – Primary export is software / data / knowledge-work.
    – Government is specific to each pod-system (a suggested template is designed by the community).
    – If you don’t like your pod-mates or government, just disconnect and join another. Talk about alignment and accountability! Think about how hard it is to do this in today’s society. No wonder everyone is unhappy with their government – we’re all stuck in someone else’s system.

    Only takes 1 pod blueprint to start, but possibly a good business in making pods, handling international visas / other legal representation, providing internet access, and later ferrying goods and workers.