There is a Better Way
The criticism by John Boehner and Paul Ryan of conservative groups who opposed their bipartisan budget deal should cause all Americans who want smaller government, more freedom, less control, and lower taxes to seek a better way. All of those involved are using the adversarial approach to decision-making. The foundation of this approach is the dialectic, which requires continual debate, struggle, and conflict between competing theses.
Since the outcome, under the adversarial approach, must be a specific solution, that is, a synthesis of deep-seated disagreements, it requires individuals to compromise on principles and to reject those who stand firm on their principles. Also, this synthesis results in ever-greater centralization of power and an increase in the size of the governmental bureaucracy. Most politicians, lawyers, and academics think in terms of the adversarial approach since they expect a definitive resolution of the disagreements.
Stability through Equilibrium (StE)
There is a better way; it has gone by many names but is most accurately called Stability through Equilibrium (StE). However, it does not provide a specific solution and thus requires decentralization to allow for various solutions.
The foundation of Stability through Equilibrium (StE) in decision-making is to accept and respect various convictions while those different views, about what is either legal or right, check and balance each other as they interact within a stable whole. This was the vision of America's Founders; they referred to it as checks and balances. However, "checks and balances" has come to mean only arrangements between the branches of the central government rather than being applicable to all aspects of American life as the Founders intended. The Tenth Amendment and the absence of power of constitutional review in Article 3 are illustrations of the Founders thinking in terms of StE.
The Tenth Amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, of to the people." This clearly implies the decentralization of power, which is the critical distinction between StE and the adversarial approach.
In Article Three the judicial Power is limited to case law and the administration of the judicial system. There is no mention of constitutional review, which now makes the Supreme Court so powerful, even though the Founders wanted it to be the weakest of the three branches of government. Again their vision was in keeping with the decentralization of StE -- not with the centralization that is the outcome of the adversarial approach.
However, the decentralization specified in the Constitution has been eroded greatly through being ignored or misinterpreted. Progressives have been able to centralize power and the political establishment has been able to block efforts to revive the original intent of the Founders.
StE is a means of self-regulation to maintain the internal stability of any system through coordinated responses of its parts to any internal disruptions or inputs from its external environment. It requires negative feedback, it requires thought and reason, and it requires judgments to correct imbalances between good and evil, right and wrong. It does not require any principles to be compromised. This approach is often used by those who want the best results and lowest possible costs -- and with the least conflict.
In political science, government, public affairs, international relations, law, and politics there has been very little interest in StE. The conventional wisdom in these fields is still dominated by the adversarial approach, the dialectic, and compromise. Only as homeostatic equilibrium in systems management and the stable state in physics has StE been a subject of interest. The ideas developed there could be transferred to public affairs,. (See: http://armigercc.com/stability4apr08.doc)
On the other hand, StE can be found under many names and in many forms throughout history. It has much in common with the Aristotelian Golden Mean and Chinese Yin-Yang. During the rise of the Roman Empire it was practiced in the decentralizing of behavioral matters while limiting centralization of power to matters of security, transportation, communication, and creating an environment for economic activity. The Mongols under Genghis Khan used a similar practice of decentralization of matters related to the lives of individuals once they had established security. The key distinction between StE and the adversarial approach is the use of the dialectic and comprise to centralize power through rules, regulations and law to control the behavior of individuals.
Warriors, Soldiers and Thinkers
Also the current situation in the Republican Party illustrates why those trying to balance the budget and pay off debts without raising taxes need members with three very different behaviors working together: warriors, soldiers, and thinkers. These are names that can be given to those needed in any successful political movement.
Warriors are necessary to achieve goals. Reputations are made through decisive action. Action can result in either success or failure. It should be no surprise that most myths extol the virtue of warriors. Action by warriors is bright, dramatic, chaotic, and exciting; thus warriors are the most visible, and most controversial, of the leaders of any movement. However, action by warriors alone can hinder long-term success and when carried to the extreme it leads to self-destruction. Barry Goldwater and Ted Cruz are examples of warriors abandoned by the Republican establishment. As good soldiers Ryan and Boehner are attempting to silence the warriors fighting to revive the vision of the Founders.
Most people do what they have been taught to do, or have learned from experience, or in accordance with "common sense" -- which is learning used to advance self-interests. In order words, most behaviors are practical actions based on preconceptions about what is possible. These are the actions of the soldiers of any movement, currently represented by Ryan and Boehner. They do not have the votes to achieve what the warriors seek, therefore, as pragmatists, they merely want to avoid chaos until they can get more votes. The behaviors of the soldiers in any political movement are composed of reciprocal and endless interactions to prevent chaos, to maintain relevance, and to move forward in small steps.
Successful political movements also need the anti-warriors: thinkers. Thinking starts with ideas, but thinking itself is the processing, dissecting, refining, and original application of those ideas. Thinking provides openings to creativity, yet thinkers often lack the emotion of warriors. Since 1914 the progressive movement has had many postmodernists thinkers, such as Vladimir Lenin, Herbert Marcuse, Franz Fanon, Saul Alinsky, and Stanley Fish, who have changed the values and attitudes of many of those living in the United States. The Democrat Party is now benefiting from such changes. During this time the modernists have been less successful in keeping alive the ideas that built Western Culture after 1500. However, as important as thinkers are to any political movement, thinking can produce inaction and atrophy as the result of endless thoughts and doubts. While both warriors and thinkers are essential, they do raise the danger of extremes: fill your home with valuables and you invite burglars; be arrogant over your success and your downfall is sure to follow; whoever is self-centered cannot be loved; those who strive to shape everything will fail.
Therefore, successful political movements make use of warriors, thinkers, and soldiers working within a common identity toward a common goal. Together they do all they can do, they accept what they cannot do, and they are wise enough to know the difference.
In StE there is no attempt to eliminate the extreme behaviors of either warriors or thinkers in order to make everyone behave like good soldiers; instead the aim is to achieve equilibrium -- just as the tropics must burn and the arctic must freeze in order that there may be a temperate zone. History provides many examples of warriors being successful without soldiers and thinkers, but that requires them to kill off all opposition and start with a clean slate. For Americans this is a forbidden solution.
Although any political movements needs many pragmatic soldiers, whenever the warrior is needed the thinker is also needed; whenever inaction is perceived chaos exists. The adversarial approach marginalizes both warriors and thinkers as extremists in order to reach agreement on a specific practical outcome, yet StE welcomes both as respected and essential members of the movement while its core relies on dedicated soldiers. The adversarial approach, the dialectic and compromise centralize power, while Stability through Equilibrium (StE) decentralizes power. Yes, there is a better way.
Sam C. Holliday, PhD is a retired Army Colonel and Director, Armiger Cromwell Center LLC, Atlanta, GA.