Life Works: Part Two – Forward Looking Civic Leadership

Mark A. Pearson

I am yielding the floor for the second week to my friend Mark A. Pearson. Now retired, for more than a quarter of a century Mark was an institutional psychologist working in 7 different institutions for the states of Alabama and Illinois. Working with a diverse set of forensic and mental health populations, he continues to search for solutions to individual and group problem. W.V.W

As we know from history republics (essentially governments of, for and by the people) at best survive only into a third century of existence, then collapse under the weight of more and more added on programs in a (misguided) effort to constantly do more and more for the people. Programmatic/governmental Apoptosis would limit maybe even reduce the likelihood of what is often perceived by historians as inevitable; that any republic, in fact, any governmental system, will end on the scrap heap of history. Planned apoptosis just might reduce the inevitability of that journey/ending.

In spite of the bureaucrat’s intentions to hold onto “the way things were” and to fight for more and more government, history also tells us that things do change. Since my Grandfather’s birth shortly before the beginning of the 20th century and on through my Grandson’s birth shortly after the beginning of the 21st century the world has changed radically. Long lived empires have fallen (the Ottoman; Japan), empires have risen and fallen (the Soviet Union; Nazi Germany), Central Europe and much of the continent of Africa has changed internal boundaries and governments numerous times, the United States has expanded and, if current administrators have their way – will be “fundamentally transformed.”

The problem is not that there is not change, the problem is that change tends to be poorly predicted, prescribed and managed; leaving it a chaotic process. Governmental apoptosis would constantly change things in predicable, prescribed and manageable ways. Problems would be identified and programs created to address them for the likely duration. Programs would not be created to be tended indefinitely. Historically, the military has been expanded in times of war and reduced in times of peace. All governmental problems can be addressed that way.

The intention here is to create a system (subject to review, of course) whereby programs – all programs – die in a prescribed, predictable fashion. Hopefully the program has “solved” whatever problem it was created to solve and resources can be moved onto other current problems (in this way money won’t be spent on eradicating small pox, but rather will be available to manage/eradicate Ebola). If the problem persists in a similar or advanced form a more up-to-date program can replace the previous, no longer useful program. Toward that end it is proposed that every law has a standard, time certain “sundown” provision. Ten years seems a reasonable time to address any identifiable problem (after all it only took the U.S. Military to mobilize, fight and win the greatest conflict of all time (WWII) a little over 4 years). Setting “sundown” dates addresses new laws, those presumably designed to address current problems.

But what do we do about “old” laws; created at some historical moment to address what was an important historical problem. The important thing is to not create a crisis, but rather a process. Thus, every law in existence can be assigned a number from one to 10 (two random number generators can be used – one to select the law as all laws are numbered and one to select the number from one to ten.) The process then is that on 1 January of the following year each and every law with a “one” becomes null and void. This allows the legislature a year to address the issues underlying one-tenth of the laws currently in effect (of course, as they research a given “problem” they may discover duplication of laws and act to “sun set” them also). On the next 1 January the laws enacted in the previous year would become effective while each law numbered “two” becomes null and void. Again, allowing the learned, deliberative legislators to deliberate on a current, better, right answer – knowing full well as the problem morphs, it will be readdressed ten years hence. Each year, in a systematic, predictable fashion one-tenth of the laws of the land – the answers to the old problems of society – are reviewed and updated. The “daughter laws” are more able to address the current state of affairs.

In addition to constantly updating the responses to the here-and-now problems of a society, Governmental Apoptosis, in effect making government more effective, Governmental Apoptosis will give politicians, legislators and leaders something (organized) to do. They say idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Under the current (non) system, when there is not a “crisis” legislators sit around idly and worry that they are – with nothing really to do – irrelevant. This leads many to search out ideas to implement that have nothing to do with the legitimate powers of government – much, if not most, of what the Federal Congress has done in the last century does not seem to be “limited and enumerated” in the U.S. Constitution (but that is for another column, another day).

Governmental Apoptosis will, then, reduce Fraud, Waste and Duplication. It will keep governmental solutions up-to-date with here-and-now problems and it will limit the damage unfettered and uncontrolled legislators can do (often called “unintended consequences”). A positive side-effect is likely that the amounts of money spent on any given problem will be markedly reduced and the workforce necessary to address a here-and-now problem will be reduced as Waste, Fraud and Duplication – especially Duplication are reduced.


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