Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to solve problems in a democracy?


A May 27, 2011 blog entry reads: “As recovery falters, Washington offers little help,” May 27, 2011

Here we go again. Why is “Washington” (government) always the problem when things go wrong in our society, life; from deficit in education to increase in foreign aggression.

I would think that if we believe in democracy, which is government by and for the people, it is always the people’s problem - credit when things go wrong or right. If that should be the case, it is the people not the government that is causing the problem. How so? (Of course if you do not believe in democracy as a concept or think that democracy does not really work in practice, we have a whole new debate, for another day).

The problem we have as a nation - people, for a long time and particular now, is that we blame the messenger (the government) instead of ourselves for the problems we face. There are many reasons why we do so, the chief of which is that we fail to understand what democracy is all about.

Democracy is never about what government not doing anything, this and that, such as not making (debt ceiling) or enforcing laws (ethics inquiry).

Democracy is always about people doing something, here and now, such as embracing more duties (sacrifice for our children), and stopping to ask for more rights (to ingratiate our selves).


In dealing with the nation’s (people’s really) problem of the day, our democracy is not working the way it should because we fail to follow one of the very basic (scientific) principles of democratic governance by Professor Kam C. Wong:

“The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem.” (This is “scientific” because people who are not affected (impact test) and/or understand (knowledge test) has little motivation or capacity to solve a problem. (See my blog on “Arab Spring and Paternalism”).

Problem is in turn defined as: “denied expectations of every kind due to resource deprivation”. (People who have resources, chief of which are intelligence, spirituality and wisdom, rarely if ever have problems that they cannot solve.)

Resource is “anything and everything that can meet our expectations, from material, to spiritual, to thinking.”


If we apply my democratic theory: “The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem.” You will be able to solve any and ALL problems confronting us as a nation, people, and individual:

(1) ACKNOWLEDGE the problem. The first step to deal with any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. If we do not know there is a problem, we cannot begin to fix it. AAA people can tell you. To get rid of alcohol addiction, one need to acknowledge that (s)he is an alcoholic.

(1.1) The simple way to find a problem is to ask: “Is your expectation being met, on a daily basis and in small ways?” For New York is whether the sub-way is clean? For LA is whether we can negotiate the freeway short of crawling? For DC, is whether Congress people can agree to disagree? For you and me, is whether we are better off today than yesterday, this moment than last? Dream big and think small, that is the key here. That simple.

(2) UNDERSTAND the problem. To understand a problem is to analyze the problem for what it is: What is the nature, extent, and impact of a problem on our daily life? MORE SO, for what it s not? For example, we do not have a budget deficit problem, we have a consumerism and materialism issue. Or, ask the simple question: How does the happenings around us– crime, unemployment, education - deviate from our expectations of things, or affects us?

(2.1) Analyzing a problem – social or personal - is really harder than one thinks. There is a tendency for us to look at a problem as it is given to us: this is a “crime” problem or this is an “unemployment” problem, without following up with many more questions of what does “crime” and “unemployment” means to us? How do they affect us in everyday life.

(2.2) In essence, to call something a crime (as a problem) is not the same as to describe its experientially, and translated it as specific expectation denials of all kinds, shape and degrees. We might not be able to deal with crime, but we can certainly deal with aspects of and fall out from crime. For example, if you worried about theft, you can buy insurance against loss to protect yourself.

(2.3) Take murder as an example. Murder to the lawyers is a violation of rules. Murder to the doctor is a person who stops breathing. Murder to a janitor is a dirty floor. Murder to a professor is a statistic. What I am saying here is that the legal label of murder is not how we as a person/collective experience – think and feel – about it. Murdering of a father to a family means, depending on expectations, lose of kitchen help, children’s mentor, wife’s companion. We may not care or do anything about the legal problem with catching and convicting the criminal, but we certainly can do a lot in helping the kids to re-adjust or joining a church to cure our soul.

(4) OWN the problem. After we acknowledge (#1) and understand (#2) the problem we must now take control the problem by claiming it as our own. This is much easier than one think. It is easy because we can never outrun a problem by denying – delaying – or wishing it away.

(4.1) If problem is “denied expectation”, until and unless we have satisfied our expectation(s), the problem will always be there. For example, the nation has a deficit problem. What are we doing about it? For a long time, we try to borrow our way out, from the Chinese and Japanese. In essence we keep on borrowing, in hope that the deficit would somehow disappear. In so doing, we are not meeting our own expectations – pay as we spend. Instead, we try to shift our expectation – spend before we can pay, in hope that either our problem become that of government or our kids. That is to say that we hope that other people can alleviate our expectations (resource) deficits. That is fine and good, for a while, now we have a whole new problem (expectation deficit) on our hand – we have breached our responsibility (expectation of self) as parents and citizens. We have transformed a financial expectation deficit to one or moral expectation deficit; a worse problem.

(5) SOLVE the problem. There are two ways to solve a problem, or meeting expectations:

(5.1) Find resource to meet expectation. In terms of reducing deficits, and in economic terms, that means increasing productivity (working harder/smarter).

(5.2) Change expectation. Again, in terms of reducing deficit, that means changing our consumption pattern, spend less on defense (a depleting, destructive spending) and spend more on education (a renewing, constructive spending).

(6) DOING AWAY with problem. In the end, the best way to deal with any problem (expectation) is to rethink our problem (re-adjust our expectation), and make it go away. This can be achieved by learning to doing away with desire (expectations altogether – it is the lack of desire, not accumulation of wealth, that makes people happy.

(6.1) If that is the case, we should think about doing away with MBA – marketing, and live within our means. Here in the U.S., unbridled consumption is the problem, not the solution to our deficit problem.

(6.2) For some you can try Buddhism, for others you can visit a Jesuit faith. For people in dire straight, the solution might be suicide – the big escape form all wants and needs.


The scientific democratic principle I am proposing: “The person who is closest – in impact and knowledge - to a problem is the one to solve the problem” is based in part on another Chinese saying: “The person who causes the problem should be the one to solve the problem.” Or, in the U.S., we should clean up our own mess.

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