Today Scotland votes for or against separating itself from the United Kingdom. It sure has had a long, good think about it, and worried a lot of people, including the Queen apparently.
From this vote to the defections to UKIP from the Tories to the fits happening within the EU to the backlash to the governments’ programs of quantitative easing (not surprisingly bitcoin emerged at the time this got seriously underway), there is a lot of evidence to suggest that government is being disrupted.
Who or what will enable it?
Recently, I wrote in a Financial Times column I had been commissioned to write on Responsible Business that there is no such thing; there are only responsible business people. That is, people have (or don’t have as the case may be) morality; it’s not something held by an inanimate entity.
I shared that I have to be honest with myself. If I really wanted to solve homelessness on Earls Court Road (which is close to where I live), I could. I could crowdsource the funds, determine the cost of homeless shelter, and put in place a workforce to re-integrate these people into society and into jobs on Earls Court Road.
This is absolutely doable.
And yet, I don’t. I have to accept that I choose not to prioritise this above all of the things I do in my life. It bothers me that there are homeless people on Earls Court Road, but not enough to solve the problem.
And then I got a direct tweet.
From Wild Blue Cohort. And it said, ‘We noticed your article in the Financial Times on solving homelessness on Earls Court Road. We agree: it’s a problem. We are an angel network set up to solve social problems in Earls Court Road. We thought we had found all the rich people to participate in Earls Court Road, but we missed you, and would like you to join the angel network.’
‘We have a lot of projects; there are a lot of challenges in Earls Court Road, and we are putting the money behind projects and project managers to solve these problems.’
I felt so great receiving this email. I think this must be what Nat Wei and David Cameron meant with the Big Society. People taking action to solve their problems locally!
On the 1st of July, I always ask my team in the office if they know what day it is. And they look at me a bit incredulously and say, ‘it is July 1st, Julie’. I tell them, ‘No today is the first day that you work for yourself this year. The first half of the year you have been working to pay for government.’ They are incredulous. They simply don’t understand what they are paying for.
What would be the trigger for a massive different set up between government and its citizens?
Let me suggest three which may either jointly or separately create a new order or alignment among citizens.
The kids in their 20’s today, of which we have many at Ariadne Capital, may be appalled that they would work for 6 months to pay for government, and they may not see a return on that investment. However, once Robert or Christine is 30 with a mortgage and family, he’ll care about this in a much greater way than he does today. Whereas tax avoidance is the game of the wealthy today, the middle and lower classes will seek more ways of bypassing the tax system because they simply don’t believe they are getting corresponding benefits.
Secondly, if you believe, as I do, that our democratically elected government is really nothing more than a proxy for how we collectively organise ourselves in a society, then technology is surely going to do this more efficiently. When the smart phone truly becomes the remote control to our lives, then everything we do, buy, enjoy will be an app on the phone. Government simply won’t fit as an app on a phone, and it won’t be used. It’ll become irrelevant.
Thirdly, ISIS will take a decade to defeat due to the failure to understand their intent and the delays in organising to defeat them. Europe will have to spend more on its defence. As it pays its NATO bill, it will simply have less money to spend on social welfare, and drastic cuts will happen.
When I speak to Corporates, I always tell them they can be reassured there is an entrepreneur working on the problem that they have been struggling with for the past quarter, but that entrepreneur has been working on it for the last 5 years. They should take great comfort in this, and allow the people who are willing to live the abnormal lives to solve the world’s problems to do what they do.
Similarly entrepreneurs are working to solve the problems of society (not just business) today. David Barrie of Wild Blue Cohort is one example. There are tens of thousands of others.
Ultimately, the way to understand what is really going on is to think in terms of power. Government as it is currently constituted has power over its citizens. All of the macro trends spinning around the world over the past 1,000 years, but speeding up due to the exponential age in which we live are about the empowerment of people. If government really wanted merely to provide defence and social benefits to its citizens as a layer and servant to the people, they would internalise the lessons of the Laffer curve, and reduce tax in order to increase tax revenue and pay for things most efficiently. They don’t! There is not a single politician who speaks publicly about returning the money of the people to the people, and who will speak out about the Laffer Curve which has been proven in most economies by academics.
The battle of the 21st century will be about how individuals become alive to the simplicity of real citizenship. The new religion is one of accountability, return on investment, radical transparency and empowerment of the individual. Never before has each country required active citizenship so much.