Friday, July 19, 2013

Governments, Solutions and Citizen Expectations

As the Province of Alberta moves past the initial phase of shock and survival of the disastrous floods of 2013 and proceeds to recovery and rebuilding, the inevitable debates are arising as to which solutions will work best moving forward.

For people who wonder why solutions don’t manifest magically or why problems couldn’t have been prevented, whether for the flood in Alberta, the bankruptcy of Detroit, the decaying confidence of the US government at home and abroad, the struggling economy, etc., they should consider the following.

A simple, effective, proactive solution to prevent all of our problems in the future must factor in the following.

Definition and agreement upon the solution:

- Think it’s easy? Ask a bunch of kids to decide where they want to go for dinner.  Take that complexity and multiply it a bazillion-fold.

- Oftentimes, people can’t agree on the definition of the problem and so they never get to defining the solution.

- Who defines the group of people who define the problem and solution? That argument alone can take months or years to solve.

Assuming that a problem and solution have been identified, define  …

Solution cost:

- partial solution cost

- full solution cost

Risk of solution choice, accepting that cost is balanced against the risk of implementing / not implementing, return on investment, etc.:

- no solution

- a partial solution

- a full solution

Cost types including but not limited to:

- capital cost

- administrative cost

- social cost

- productivity cost

- GDP impact, nationally and internationally

- personal, national and international security cost

- individual, corporate and government privacy impact

- health of the individual and “the system”

- reputation cost

Reputation cost, many which are maddeningly difficult to measure yet impact us deeply, include but are not limited to:

– international

- national

- provincial / state

- city

- personal

- political

Voter satiation factors:

– what the voters say they want

- what the voters think they want

- what the voters actually need

Political perception:

– what the politician perceives as acceptable voter satiation levels

- what’s in it for the politician

- what’s in it for the organizations and groups that lobby governments incessantly

Then throw in ….

Climate change impact:

– regardless of whether manmade, naturally occurring or some combination

- we are spending more time arguing over the previous point than actually looking for measurable solutions that are known to be helpful

Global economic factors impact:

– too complex to understand, our economic engine has long outstripped the ability of its creator to control, direct or even predict the behavior of.  Don’t believe me?  Ask 10 economists what the key challenges of our present and future are and see how many opinions you will get.

- we are riding the wave, not controlling it, while providing a strong PR message that we are “in control”

Then sprinkle in …

Common human characteristics:

– fallibilities and frailties including fear, hesitation, greed, apathy, indifference, distrust, misdirected passion, dishonesty

- competing priorities / needs

- varying degrees of “what’s in it for me” or ‘not in my backyard”

Let’s not forget that …

The world changes incessantly:

- what we perceive the world to be today changes by the minute, and with ever-increasing speed, complexity, ferocity and impact, providing a moving target

We have multiple problems to solve, all equal in complexity and competing for the same, finite list of resources:

- in the areas of the economy, aging infrastructure, healthcare, social security, world peace, cultural differences, judicial concerns, poverty concerns, etc

It is easier to be an opposition party than the political party in power:

- they just need to spin how easy it is to fix everything, without explaining their strategic or tactical intentions or how they will pay for those intentions.  They count on the fact that citizens always ask “why” and “how do you know” of the party in power but rarely of the opposition party, with citizens easily falling susceptible to emotion-laden promises without any facts to back them up.

Then demand the solution be solved by …

Political will:

– balancing (hopefully) what the citizen needs versus what the politician desires (too often leaning towards the latter)

While still not forgetting that …

We still have to clean up the current mess, finding money that doesn’t exist for the current situation, let alone for the proposed solutions in the future:

- recognizing that the clean-up method chosen is impacted by the choices we are making for the future, making the current / future solutions somewhat linked together in a chicken and egg scenario

And expect it as soon as possible, as complete as possible, as simple as possible, as cheap as possible, as __________ as possible.

I guess it IS pretty simple, isn’t it.


And this was the simplified, 2%-of-the-problem definition.

Anyone who demands a quick, simple solution is deluded.

And any politician who makes it sound simple in a “my x steps to preventing this in the future” plan is either deluded or is assuming that you are.

I could have said “idiot” instead of “deluded” but that would be impolite and most people who are misinformed came by it honestly, through their genetics and life experiences.

If Life were as simple as “follow these x steps”, then our Life would already be problem-free.

And if the problems were “so easy” for some “experts” to have predicted in the first place when they present their master plan for the future, why didn’t they identify the problems before they manifested?  It’s like when a psychic greets you and asks “how can I help you?”.  Shouldn’t they already know? :-)

Meanwhile, the rest of us do the best we can with what we have to produce the best result possible.

And we keep an eye on what the future holds – good and bad.

Which camp are you in?

How do you know?

How do we know?

In service and servanthood,


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