System design advice for the Trump administration
As the Trump revolution gears up it is time to understand the solution to many issues facing government is as much system design as overall philosophy. Obviously fewer regulations, less government, and more individual freedom are superior. Real world results across the globe prove this beyond any doubt.
But within this framework, the design of these systems is something that needs renewed attention as it is fundamental to the results generated. First let’s think about regulation and law. The first step in analyzing a new or reviewing an established regulation is a clear definition of its goal. Why does it exist and what do we want it to accomplish? If this can’t be done then why do we have the regulation in the first place? Nothing should move forward until this is clearly defined or the regulation is tossed in the dustbin.
But here is where regulation and law often goes awry. It is the wrong path to attempt to determine exactly HOW to do this. Rather effective regulation and law should set the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable actions. That’s it. And perhaps counter-intuitively, acceptable actions should be undefined while unacceptable actions should be clearly defined.
As long as the participants stay within these boundaries they are free to do as they desire. This imbibes the regulation and the area it attempts to regulate with life, flexibility and elegance; rather than a static unbending rule which doesn’t, and in fact can’t react to a changing world.
And speaking of life, organizations of all sorts behave much like a living organism. Trump’s cabinet teams will soon be overseeing huge multi-layer organizations. Some have called them the permanent bureaucracy since administrations come and go but they remain in place.
By their very nature these organizations are resistant to change and in many cases will be actively hostile to the actions taken by their new temporary leaders. Unlike for-profit organizations which are ultimately restrained by the realities of the marketplace, the powerful non-profit organizations we call government are by their very nature not capable of self-correction.
In addition they are far too large for a single person or even a committed team to transform them from the top-down simply by strength of character. And of course there are unions and civil service rules which make them even more resistant to change. Cutting funding is always an option but it can’t be the only tool since these permanent bureaucracies will almost assuredly make the most politically painful cuts first - to the people, not their organization - to ensure no more come their way.
Obviously the best option would be to never have these bureaucracies in the first place but for those that remain the only way to truly and continuously transform these permanent bureaucracies is to change their design. Without changing their system design they will remain in place long after the Trump team has moved on.
Just like regulations, these organizational designs need to be re-built to imbibe them with life; the ability to change and react to changing circumstances. Top-down hierarchical organizations, which occur nowhere in the natural world, have shown themselves to be both unwilling and unable to change via their own efforts. This is especially true of the non-profit organizations we call government.
It is not possible to provide a single answer on how best to design these systems, that would be in direct contradiction to the functioning of these “living” systems but they must be built on a foundation which leverages two key facts. First, the unbending law of statistics proves the many will always outperform the few and thus individual freedom designs versus top-down, “we-know-best” will be superior in providing positive results.
Second, free individuals acting on local information will show far higher intelligence than a single individual(s) attempting to direct them; think of the intelligence in a school of fish or a bee hive versus the intelligence of an individual fish or bee. One is orders of magnitude more intelligent and dynamic than the other. The same is true with humans. Effective, lasting, living and adaptive systems must be built on these two foundational facts. Carpe diem President Trump. Change the system design and change the world.