Sometimes, life forces us to cast aside our previous conceptions to learn and progress in the face of new challenges and crises. Old ideas, beliefs, and facts have historically been thrown aside when evidence, reason, and logic have shed light on new potentials for what is and what could be. Turning our eyes to American politics today, we witness our two older generations of the political class grasping desperately to save a system that empowers the well being of the few over the many. The future is not saving capitalism as Senator Warren seeks to do. The future is a renewed sense of democracy fueling systemic alternatives in experimental and innovative ways that can be achieved proactively today instead of in response to crisis tomorrow. Core to realizing this vision of a new society is continuing to explore the framework for why a progressive approach to institutional reformation is the best path forward and to do that we have to understand what we are working towards.
Collective Vision – AlexGray.com
To begin, we must acknowledge two truths of our present state of government. Firstly, our founding document, the Constitution, was designed to keep the majority away from the levers of power. The founding fathers created a system of power that would give the impression of agency in our democratic process to the majority while in reality leaving power and decision making in the hands of wealthy, white, male landowners. Hofstra University law professor Grant Hayden said, “The history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise concerning many groups of potential voters.”  Basically, American history has been littered with people fighting for and against the concentration and entrenchment of power within U.S. democracy by diminishing the rights of others. Collectively, our access to control our national direction and, by extension, our ability to transcend our circumstances have been stifled both by original institutional design and the active efforts of agents seeking to consolidate power and wealth for themselves and the corporations that sponsor them.
The second truth is even harder to swallow. The government here in the U.S. is a direct extension of us. It is a malleable entity and the only reason it hasn’t transformed is that we have not demonstrated the proper will to manifest the transformation. Of course, numerous systemic issues help to prevent this type of change but make no mistake, anything that has been created through our legislation can be undone. Anything we can imagine can be done. The question, then, is: how? The answer is a high-temperature democracy with a radical level of participation, access, and agency in the process of every individual.
Humanizing the structure
To manifest the transformation successfully, we must first write the story. The question at the heart of the vision is not, “What is government?” Instead, “What do we want the government to be?”
As humans, we all share some specific, defining characteristics. We are all bound to our situations, yet at the same time, we continuously transcend them. Our social and cultural worlds define us, but we consistently redefine ourselves. Institutions we create add order and structure, but we are collectively and individually more than our creations. Independence and autonomy are convenient stories we tell ourselves when it suits our best interests, but the fact is that we are the product of shared experiences and connections spanning throughout all of human existence, past, present, and future
Harvard professor Roberto Unger has a profound understanding of the experience of “being.” He lectures about how being is, in essence, a state of two core contradictions: the relationship between the individual and the other and the relationship between the individual and the social and cultural world which they inhabit. Agency within the universe is developed through participation, but participation threatens us to subjugation. We can choose to develop ourselves independently, but this denies another core human desire: connection with the other. This leaves us with an impossible scenario.
The solution is deepening the access to, and connection with, one another in the very fabric of our society. While we can explore this concept more in future articles, one practical example would be to take the best aspects of military life, such as the deep-bonding of people within units, the selfless act of service, and the deepening of skills and knowledge, and create a new branch of military dedicated to social service. This program would generate more profound levels of empathy and understanding within our society while at the same time redirecting the focus of American military.
Our perpetual growth as individuals and as a collective consciousness drive us forward, knowing that our actions will never truly be enough to satisfy our desires of bigness. No degree of social protections or endowments will ever make us genuinely unafraid of the unknown. Therefore we must ask ourselves what amount of support do we create for everyone to reach the level of “enough”? At the same time, we must fully recognize and embrace that there is no scenario where endowments will become real security against challenge and change. Therefore progressive projects must be designed to have evolution, growth, and expansion within their frameworks.
Our wisest course of action would be to create a society that can maximize the potential of our exponential growth of technology through experimentation and innovation. Conflict and challenge is a precursor to change, but we want to create a society where the individual is secure enough to navigate challenges and create innovation. Paradoxically, our current social, economic, and political structure makes the price of failure when attempting to innovate incredibly steep for the individual, driving great minds away from innovation and instead towards efforts and labor that are completed begrudgingly so that survival may be sustained. The transformation must address this. Free labor is a cornerstone of the transformation, one that can only be achieved by removing the barriers towards experimenting within life.
The founding principles of the new progressive projects must center around maximizing agency and access of every individual so that every life can reach its fullest potential by transforming the world around them. These are our core objectives – every program we propose must measure against those two concepts. Imagine the unprecedented levels of growth and innovation we could achieve if the majority of the population had access to the best tools and information, rather than just a select few! By creating a level of underlying security for all people, we remove the burden of fear from our lives, while at the same time opening all of social, political, and economic life to contest and experimentation.
 Voting in early America by Ed Crews http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Spring07/elections.cfm
Ron is the Founder and Executive Director of the OurSociety Experiment. He’s passionate about shifting our social, political, and economic institutions towards a system that maximizes agency and access for every individual.