Wherever decisions are made and power exercised that impact public affairs, separate sources of wise oversight should be in place. So ensure that citizens, stakeholders, journalists, experts and institutions are able to effectively observe, comment on, and act to coordinate and correct each other’s behaviors towards wiser outcomes.
Some related patterns: 17 Constraints on Concentrated Power
25 Deliberation 28 Equity 47 Integral Political Will 52 Microcosms and Populations 74 Rich Feedback Dynamics 84 Tackling Cognitive Limitations
Collective Wise Oversight of Governance – going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
One of the reasons that elites kept a good measure of control in the U.S. Constitution was their concern about mob rule. They figured popular rule was not necessarily wise rule and the elites considered themselves more wise. But there’s a dynamic tension between concentrated government that acts in the self-interest of the people and interests that are controlling it versus popular government and popular will.
True, we want knowledgeable people being able to run things as opposed to crazy mob rule and immediate gratification of the masses, which was supposedly the way the founding elites felt ordinary people thought. But that’s not necessarily the way ordinary people think, if they are given the right support. And elites, themselves, certainly have a checkered track record in governance.
This dynamic tension between elite rule and popular will has been going in politics and governance for hundreds if not thousands of years. With wise democracy structures and ideas we are trying to get beyond that dynamic tension. We are trying to empower ordinary people to be able to wisely influence what happens in governance. Ultimately it is good if people can be their own self-governance, which happens most effectively at the personal, neighborhood and local levels. But it is harder to wisely manage direct popular governance of a whole country with millions of people. That often requires some people doing governance functions for the people, which is the idea (theoretically) behind elected representatives and bureaucracies.
But if somebody else is going to be running the government day to day, you need to have some kind of oversight so they don’t go off the rails and become too centralized and oppressive or acting in their own interests rather than in the popular interest. So we want to build the confidence of the people – and the right infrastructure – to enable the population to exercise wise oversight of governance. That requires at the very least that governance is transparent. The people can watch what’s going on in government operations so that they can oversee what’s going on and redirect it as needed. We also need to increase the capacity of “we the people” – the ordinary people and their various civil society institutions – and to imbue that whole system with more collective intelligence and wisdom rather than collective stupidity and folly.
So we have to get beyond “groupthink”, “mob rule” and ignorance. We have to get beyond people not knowing what’s going on, not being aware of what’s needed, and being divided amongst themselves. This pattern description mentions “factionalism”, which refers to people not being able to get it together, fighting amongst themselves and getting nothing effective done. All this can and does happen in government without the public even being involved, but it we add in all the separate public factions, it can get even more wild.
So we are trying to say that what is needed is to actually engage the people in overseeing and directing their governance, and to help them do it wisely, which is what this pattern language is all about. I say “governance” in most cases rather than “government” because governance can include any function that shapes what people do, and government tends to be focused on the formal institutions of governance. But people can govern themselves in many ways without these institutions. That is the distinction that I make between the terms governance and government. But we want people being able to oversee government institutions when they aren’t governing themselves.