Political Cycle-Time LO9885

Tue, 10 Sep 1996 21:05:08 -0400

Replying to LO9789 --

In a message dated 96-09-07 (LO9789) Bill Hendry writes:

> On Mon, 2 Sep 1996 BrooksJeff@aol.com wrote:
> > The question I come to is: How can our political system best combine a
> > responsiveness to the electorate with the long-term, systemic thinking
> > need to best address problems of governence?
> Great question - perhaps the electorate needs to readdress this very
> issue, although with the amount of voter apathy I'm not sure we are up for
> the task. Sad that our system of governance is seen as someone else's
> problem...similar to organization and blaming thread?


Yes, I'd connect this to the "Blaming" thread. I seem to remember a
statement in "The Fifth Discipline" to the effect that whenever you see a
situation in which people in the various positions within a system are all
blaming each other you probably have a systems problem. (I spent some
time looking for the quote & couldn't find it - anyone know where it is?)
This "circular blaming" sure seems to be the case in our political system:
first, politicians are blamed for their lack of integrity, then the media
is blamed for its focus on scandal and sound-bites, then the voters are
blamed for not electing better candidates. None of the blaming results in
any constructive action, so it's no wonder that the public gets more
apathetic and cynical each year.

Bill, you suggest that the electorate "readdress" the issue of the balance
between responsiveness and long-term outlook, but I'm not sure how the
electorate could do that. If you have some specific thoughts about how,
I'd love to hear them. I have to admit that I am wary about pointing the
finger at "the electorate" - it is so often done without a systems
perspective, and therefore is simply unhelpful.

I think that addressing the issue will take some committed "change agents"
with the kind of knowledge and skills in dealing with complex systems
discussed on this board. The issues raised on the "change agent" thread
are certainly relevant to this discussion, but I would like to speak about
one aspect of change from a short-term to a long-term perspective.

To have a long-term perspective (and addressing this issue will certainly
take a long-term perspective) one must maintain that perspective over
time. This may sound like a truism, but I think it is often forgotten, or
just assumed. A long-term perspective held for just the short-term is not
effectively long-term.

Within a system (political, business, social, whatever) the long-term
perspective must be articulated and disseminated for a longer period of
time than short-term perspectives because the long-term perspective is
necessarily more complex. To act on a long-term perspective requires
holding in mind the long-term consequences and not acting on the
short-term consequences. So, in order for a long-term perspective to take
hold and predominate within a system, it's articulation and dissemination
must be able to withstand the actions of the system based on the
short-term perspective.

Now I ask, "Who in the political system is going to articulate,
disseminate, and defend the long-term perspective?" We get some of the
long-term perspective, but it's mostly from people outside the political
system, such as the media, the Concord Coalition or Ross Perot. However,
these people do not have the responsibility to pass laws based upon their
vision, so it's easy for them to preach. Within the political system, the
party out of power tends to "stand for principles" and decry political
pandering, but once in power they avoid making the difficult decisions,

The reason politicians avoid facing tough problems (acting on a long-term
perspective), as I see it, is that politicians are afraid of losing the
next election. And the reason that the long-term perspective is not
articulated by politicians is because the cycle time of elections is too
short for them to convince the electorate of the advantages of this more
complex perspective. (An aside: Fear of losing the next election is what
fuels the growth of campaign spending and of negative political
advertising, too.)

I'd refine my question to: "How can we allow politicians to articulate,
disseminate, and defend a long-term perspective without risking almost
certain defeat at the next election?"


Jeff Brooks (BrooksJeff@AOL.com)

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>