"Well, I think right now, we have got a major problem that we're just -- we're going broke. We are spending money we don't have." -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R) Texas -- January 7, 2013
"So I think that while Social Security has to be reformed and saved, the need is less immediate than with Medicare and Medicaid." -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) New York -- November 8, 2012
Over the past decade, voters have heard similar statements from both sides of the political spectrum. Whether it is the fact that government spending is out of control or that social programs need to expand to help the growing number of impoverished, generations of voters have heard the same refrain. While these statements may be soothing to some, the reality is that society has moved past these outdated political paradigms.
Society is undergoing a fundamental evolution that is changing economics and politics. Not only are standard tropes outdated but they do not solve the fundamental issues. So what are these outdated tropes?
It's About Wealth Redistribution: Growing global income inequality is increasingly becoming a concern. The widening gap between the rich and the poor is having negative long-term effects, and the current solutions are failing. While the drumbeat of "tax the rich" does partially solve the social program funding issue, it does not address the root causes of inequality.
It's About Smaller Government: The cry for smaller government has been steadily growing over several years. There is an increasing perception that individual action has been buried under procedures and bureaucracy thus creating mounting frustration and anger.
It's About The Past: Humans have a natural tendency to look to the past as a template for future events, particularly during challenging times. Prior experience has been a good predictor because predictable patterns are self reinforcing. However, due to a number of disruptive elements such as technology, such systematic predictability is disappearing.
It's About Local Effects: Individuals always like to think they are in control of their own destinies. Unfortunately, such control is illusory. The growth of technology and connectivity increasingly makes the world a smaller place.
One of the many reasons that people are being "turned off" by political discourse is due to the fact that it is failing to address the underlying root causes of individual dissatisfaction. While individuals have been buffeted by changes in technology and innovation, socio-economic frameworks have yet to adapt to these new realities.
If individuals know that the old antiquated tropes are ineffectual, then what are the new principles that should be driving socio-economic redevelopment?
Creating Individual Opportunity: Individuals are looking for the flexibility to pursue "the American Dream," without having to incur lifelong penalties. The barriers for individuals to pursue the American Dream are getting higher. Take, for instance, the increasing educational debt load that individuals must accrue to enter the workforce or the fact that wages continue to stagnate while the cost of living increases. The American Dream was built on the ability of individuals to pursue their dreams both professionally and personally. As such, it is necessary to develop a socio-economic framework that enables individuals to pursue the American Dream in a manner that is individually fulfilling while socially beneficial.
Creating More Efficient Processes To Benefit More People: There is a growing need to redevelop socio-economic frameworks in order to improve success rates and reduce costs. Whether it is the multiple bureaucratic layers that slow government processing time or the inability of the U.S. government to negotiate a fiscal solution without causing a major financial catastrophe, individuals are frustrated with the slow pace of these basic socio-economic frameworks. An increasing refrain from the public is why is it possible to order over the Internet in seconds but it takes weeks to process a basic government form? This dissonance between what individuals are experiencing personally and the socio-economic frameworks is only worsening and needs to be rectified to break the current deadlock.
Building Future Foundations: Tomorrow's society will be based more on leveraging intellect and less on physical brawn. This is already visible with the growth in Silicon Valley and the decline of manufacturing in the Rust Belt. What is needed is to build socio-economic frameworks to enable more people to take advantage of the "Intellectual Revolution." This means enabling a greater swath of the general population to take part in this "Intellectual Revolution," by providing the right tools and the right opportunities.
Consensus Buy-In Not Regulatory Brute Strength: There has been increasing dissonance between individuals and governments on a global scale. The ability of technology to offer the ability to "individualize" and "personalize" experiences is increasingly at odds with the heavy-handed and unitary approach that governments are taking. Indeed, the "one size fits all" approach that governments utilize is more harmful than helpful. Governments should be adopting the methodologies that have enabled individualized experiences to help individuals while increasing transparency and lowering costs.
From the above mentioned outline of outdated tropes and socio-economic redevelopment, it is clear that pundits and politicians who preach old antiquated tropes are living in a fantasy world. The old reality of "putting lipstick on a pig and reselling it," won't fly in today's society, who is desperately looking for new solutions to new realities. The voting populace is smarter and they know that manufactured factional fights and artificial scarcity will not address the daily hardships they face. Old debates of the past are for historians to analyze. What is needed now are new solutions that fit with the new 21st century realities.