If there is anything the left and the right can agree upon these days, it is that government isn’t working. Christopher Wilson drives this point home relentlessly in his new book, RE-IMAGINING GOVERNMENT, a broad look at all the reasons our leaders are failing us, and the institutions set up centuries ago to serve people are nowhere near performing the way they should be.
Wilson, a retired, former Senior Fellow at Canada’s University of Ottawa, which works with organizations to better understand the way governments function, opens with a stark reminder that the the U.S. government today was designed by people over two centuries ago, that many of those people were farmers, education was “rudimentary,” transportation meant walking or horseback riding and that cities were “a blight of overcrowding, poverty and sewage.” But government has been failing for some time now, at least since the latter part of the 1990s, Wilson argues. One prime reason, he suggests, is that elected representatives really only represent themselves, that they have lost the confidence of the public, and that “leader-driven democracy” runs against the tide of social and technological innovation.
Many governments around the world, Wilson notes sarcastically, are now led by “great men,” by which he means dictators or would-be dictators. This is because such people, who he labels “populists,” pose easy solutions to complex problems of immigration, global warming, and even war and peace, he writes. He is unsparing on Donald Trump, who he sees as a prime example of the “great man” theory of government. He calls Trump “the needy narcissist.” Other such populists, Wilson calls out, are Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.
“Populism is a doctrine proven to be driven by envy and a willingness to seek violence against those perceived as being different,” Wilson writes. What is needed, Wilson says, is “shared governance by citizens themselves,” utilizing the powers of the internet to connect people and organizations. He likes such concepts as Uber, Airbnb and renewable energy, because they connect people in new ways and are organized outside the realm of traditional government. Wilson’s book, although populated by some deep dives into academia, is nonetheless a good read for anyone who wants to understand what divides people politically and the unpleasant results of this division. He is promising a Part II, which will look at the government of the future.
RE-IMAGINING GOVERNMENT provides a solid view of why people have soured on their leaders and points the way toward how democracy might work better in the future.
~James Bernstein for IndieReader