Regardless of ideology, this election has been a fiasco. Even if you supported our new “Demagogue in Chief”, it’s hard to ignore that many rightfully characterized this election as a “Dumpster Fire”. The US has wasted 6.8 billion dollars merely to elect the most hated candidates in recent history. That money that could have been used to address the very issues this election was supposed to solve. The price tag hardly compares to the time and energy wasted by this election. Not just in the U.S., but worldwide. A truly global horror show.
As a consequence of this election, we have mentally and fiscally drained ourselves of the resources we could have used to save ourselves. Instead, we used it to subsidize polarizing hate and hollow words. The good news is people are stepping back and realizing that elections were not, nor ever could be, the solution. There are numerous institutional obstacles that make reform from within virtually impossible. Whether it is the archaic electoral college that produced president Trump, or rent seeking corporations, such as the Clinton Foundation’s “Pay-to-play” scheme. The system is rigged.
Third parties are not a solution either. This election was their best opportunity in over a century, yet they could not collectively exceed 5% of the vote this election. Though their paltry percentage did not alter funding or their ability to participate in debates, they are already been blamed as election spoilers, damning them for future elections.
Though there is no vast, secret conspiracy to keep the status quo afloat. The system as a whole has developed its own independent interest, dragging those involved through pure momentum.
So if change from within is no longer an option, we must adopt the strategy of an outsider. Rather than reforming from inside, we must create institutions that will compete with the old, compelling them to improve or become obsolete. By creating our own systems, there is less pressure to concede to the values of the status quo. Our politics has become impractically pragmatic. Pragmatic in the way which practitioners use “tried-and-true” methods. Impractical in the sense that they are unable to achieve the values the set to realize.
What are some feasible examples of how to create new, competing institutions? Luckily, there is no shortage of methods available. Strategies can range from simple neighborhood civic societies to full blown, alternative legal & economic systems.
One of the most exciting examples is the application of blockchain technology. Commonly known as the backbone behind Bitcoin, it derives it’s power from reducing the need for trust through decentralized software. We can use this technology to create alternatives to existing institutions whose purpose was largely to be surrogates for trust. This includes finance, legal systems, media, and industries that previously required established, “trustworthy” organizations.
Other approaches include creating non-profit or for-profit alternatives to established institutions. For instance, if an activist is tired of how education is practiced, instead of wasting time and effort fruitlessly campaigning, they could create their own education startup that aligns with their values. Or if another young turk is sick of poor food quality, they could start an educational nonprofit that monitors food conditions, much like the FDA is supposed to do. The point is that actualizing your idea is a better argument than simply talking about it. Proof of an idea is the best argument. Moreover, with less institutional barriers, you are achieving more with less resources expended.
Which brings me to the strategy I am most excited about: startup societies. Defined broadly and simply, a startup society is any new, experimental form of governance in a small geographic area. Despite little public attention, there are scores of these new experiments all over the world. Their radicalism ranges from attempts as common as government sanctioned special economic zones to eccentric plans to build city states on the high seas (Seasteading). There has even been an upcoming startup society in the wake Trump’s election: progressive liberals and tech executives have formed a growing coalition of secessionists in California.
I want to emphasis that these methods are not idle, idealistic illusions. They are concrete actions and are accessible to everyone, not limited by the impenetrable incentives of the status quo.
What is more impractical? Building the world according to our values now or arguing and competing with an entire country on the off chance that we’ll be heard?
Politics is the balance of power and elections are just a trailing indicator. The people have the ability to upset that ledger through actions as local as families and communities, or as bold as blockchain governments, competing institutions, and startup societies.
We are seeing the beginnings of a coalition of action. We have differing ideologies, strategies and focuses. But the core remains the same: prove your ideas through action, not voting alone. A coalition of action is premised on an ideology of entrepenurship and conviction, not conflict and compromise. We have seen the consequences of the old. We are now beyond elections. It’s time to build new civilizations and start up societies.