On October 1, 2015, I had the opportunity to interview [LISTEN] Rich Tafel [BIO], of the Public Squared, who is a leader in evolving politics and government to create better outcomes. Rich blends an integral worldview, a career in politics, a spiritual foundation and activist's heart to help groups with differing value sets and narratives create a synthetic, more integral and evolved position. Some key take-aways from our discussion on the purpose of government and politics:
Please have a listen!
I really enjoyed this conversation and it spurred some further reflections on the purpose of the U.S. government. However, before we ascertain what purpose looks like at the level of government, it would serve us well to examine the idea of a system or organizational purpose. Organizational purposes surface in two primary ways:
The History of the National Purpose of the United States
(admittedly with a tinge of Green perspective)
At its outset, the Founding Fathers of the United States had a triple goal, an organic authentic purpose if you will,
Since the victories of capital over labor and white over Natives, the purpose of the United States hasn’t really been questioned or evolved. There were moments of course in America, during the Labor Movement, when it entered WWII, and enacted Civil Rights, when it looked within as a response to the changing world to unify, to find something resembling self-awareness or character, and respond from that place. But for the most part, the United States has been living without an organic purpose, drifting between these moments and regressing to the default setting, which can be best summarized as “to hell with everyone who isn’t a white male land / capital owner”.
This US default purpose results from purposeless culture / voters, purposeless leaders, oligarchical market structures, the structure of for-profit business (with GAAP deliberately minimizing the value of labor and environment), the consumer society, the anti-intellectual cultural imperative (to disempower the voting population by defunding public liberal arts education), and a foreign policy that can hardly be called anything other than racist resource imperialism - using threats, debts, assassinations, coups, missiles, drones and boots to secure free / cheap access to non-American and usually non-white people’s natural resources (oil, wood, beef, uranium, copper, sugar, cotton, cheap labor, etc.) for the consumption of rich white people.
Although, the United States is likely the greatest example of a country without an organic purpose, few G20 countries can claim to be much better. There are notable discussions on "country purpose" occurring, e.g. Stiglitz / France, Kelley / Israel & Colombia, and the well-being measurement discussions throughout the EU: CDI, GPI, HPI, GNH and HDI. However, for the most part these are fringe discussions with the whole of the G20 functioning from default national purposes, some version of “GDP Uber Alles”, protecting the economic interests of the elite with military strikes and the supernational financial and legal mechanisms of the IMF, World Bank, UN and OECD.
Of course, few country leaders or politicians ever speak the truth of their country's default purposes, with a few exceptions, e.g. Teddy Roosevelt’s condemnation of money in politics, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning of the military-industrial complex and Bernie Sander’s notable truth-telling on the costs of default purpose - prison-industrial complex, climate change, oligarchy, Wall St. and income inequality. It’s clear that we don’t want a world of default national purposes, that governments can and should be run as organic purpose-driven organizations that serve the will and best interests of the people.
Perhaps the route to purposeful government isn't structural, but cultural, to be led by the purpose awakening of humanity, as Rich indicated. The question then isn't what should be the purpose of government, but rather, how do we expedite the evolution of purposeful culture so that we have the possibility of electing purpose-driven politicians?