Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Our Top-Down Future

No, I'm not talking about convertibles here, but about a method of organization that is entrenched in American culture: top-down management. I can't really think of a branch of government or an economically successful organization that doesn't use a top-down form of organization, where the final word rests in a board of directors and a CEO, with the board being a kind of mirage of stockholder autonomy in a bought-and-sold-by-the-share market. Many people may own a publicly traded company, but in truth only one person really controls it.

Same with our government. In the press you see the president take the heat, World-Bank chief Wolfowitz get an ouster over bad management practices and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi getting sound bites left and right, telling conservatives "Whoa there!" but posing no solutions to our problems. All this makes our government look like a circus ruled by apes -- entertaining, but going nowhere.

So, in this system, where power is veritably concentrated and corrupted, nothing really changes except vacuous, self-serving laws. Most change that happens on a large scale is engineered by demographic shifts and market changes that are almost independent. These changes are large-scale differences in mentality, the mentality of citizen consumers.

So, lately people in my neck of the woods have been all atwitter over immigration problems, a problem so entrenched in society that our government has no real answers to. At least, answers that have any real hope of working. One side says, "Build a fence!" but fences can be climbed over and tunneled under. Another says, "Deport them all!" but splitting families of legal-born citizens from their illegal immigrant parents creates a burden of orphans and wards of the state, and they knew this when they had children here. "Penalize companies that hire them!" cries someone else, but when companies have to increase wages to attract another labor pool, this will cut into profits and thus, prices for goods and services will increase.

So, all of these top-down, federally mandated answers seem a little silly when you think about it. Though, how do we solve the cultural, societal and economic woes that are wrecking American culture without causing more damage than good? I think the answer lies in the proposed solutions. If the strategy leaves much to be desired, then the strategy is lacking. Change strategies.

Something happened last week in North Texas. A small community called Farmers Branch, very close to Dallas, approved an ordinance that would restrict illegal immigrants from renting apartment in the area. All apartment managers would have to verify that the lessors in the complex were legal citizens.

This seems fundamental enough -- community tires of negative impact of illegal immigrants and decides to prohibit them from living in some areas, thus reducing the resident population of illegal immigrants. But this doesn't keep illegals from living in rented houses, or keep them from working in the area, or keep them from having a market impact. It just says that they can't live in apartments in Farmers Branch.

This is an examptle of democracy, or the opposite of top-down managment, or even more liberally, Populism. People that voted wanted a change, they formulated a very calculated rule to have a specific impact on property owned in the area, a protracted attempt at immigration reform. It passed.

Too bad we'll probably never know whether or not it would have worked.

Too bad that today, Federal Judge Sam Lindsay overturned the ordinance, saying that immigration is a federal issue, an issue that should be solved on the Congressional level, which happens to be cluttered with top-down, power hungry sycophants.

Too bad our social experiment of democracy isn't what our democratically elected leaders want.

1 comment:

Olivia said...

I shall have to put down an opinion on this when I have eaten and slept....