Solutions are only possible outside these ossified, self-serving centralized hierarchies.
Correspondent Dan F. asked me to reprint some posts on solutions to the systemic problems I’ve outlined for years, most recently in How Much Longer Can We Get Away With It? and Checking In on the Four Intersecting Cycles. I appreciate the request, because it’s all too easy to dwell on what’s broken rather than on the difficult task of fixing what’s broken.
I’ve laid out a variety of solutions to structural problems in my many books, and I’ll attempt a brief synthesis in this post.
1. The dynamics of stagnation are built into the system. Centralized systems optimize specific solutions to a specific set of problems that prompted the development of the system.
In the U.S., the empire that resulted from the global effort to win World War II and the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union spawned centralized bureaucracies to manage the complexities and budgets of this new era.
In effect, the system was optimized to the circumstances of 1950 or perhaps 1960. Though circumstances have changed, the system remains essentially unchanged, except bureaucracies and budgets have ballooned in response to the dynamics of bureaucracies: the initial purpose erodes and is replaced with self-aggrandizement of insiders and bureaucratic bloat.
As the systems optimized for a bygone era start failing, due to the erosion of accountability and transparency as insiders mask their self-serving ineffectiveness, the organizational structure attempts to meet the challenges by doing more of what’s failing: since every layer of bureaucracy now has a constituency that will fight to the death to maintain its power, budget and perquisites, a ratchet effect is the dominant dynamic: budgets and power cannot decline due to resistance, but the path to increases in power and budget is well-greased.
Since the structures are optimized for a bygone era, the institutions are fundamentally incapable of responding effectively or reforming themselves.The universal solution to failing institutions and hierarchies is to throw more money at the failings in the doomed hope that doing more of what’s failed will magically solve the systemic problems.
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