Part 7 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization:
Complex Dynamic Systems and Tricameral Legislatures
“We Irish think otherwise” Bishop Berkeley
Our best model of a complex dynamical system is close to home and is the Earth itself. Our planet works through a Gaian system in which difference is energized in a linkage of opposites. Like the interpenetrating boxes in the tesseract that is the logo for this column, the Earth is composed of interpenetrating and recursive domains: 1) the radiant energy plasma that surrounds us with the solar wind and the magnetic field, 2) the gaseous atmosphere that both shields and steps down that solar energy to make it available for life, 3) the liquid oceanic system that creates the hydrological cycle of weather which runs on the thermodynamic differences between deep and surface circulations, and 4) the semi-solid state of the floating crust which operates at a different rate of time than the climate and serves to accelerate the rate of the evolution of life on its continental surfaces. The plate tectonics that terrify us with earthquakes also serve to preserve the atmosphere and geomagnetism and these in turn work to protect life and allow cellular cellular membranes to form. The lithosphere is therefore part of the biosphere, as Hutton and Vernadsky both realized long ago.
Ideological thinking would argue that only one form or state of being can be right, and so it would seek to unite plasma, gas, liquid, and solid in a planetary sludge that would shut the whole system down and spell the death of Gaia. This is how Republicans and Communists think: one ideology to rule them all, or in Tolkien’s words: “One ring to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.”
The model for governance in the eighteenth century was the steam engine, with its system of heat chamber and governor, reflected in its bicameral legislature of a lower house of hot opinions and an upper house of cooler and wiser heads. The model for governance in the twenty-first century should be the planet, reflected in an executive council and a tricameral legislature of your normal hot air in the House, fluid stability in the Senate, and solid scientific facts in the Assembly. But just as the boxes jump around in the tesseract above, with the lines changing their membership in different configurations, so a recursive and Gaian system of governance would need to be a lively one in which gas, liquid, and solids interact and do not sit as fixed containers. A scientific fact is a cultural process and not an object, and just as a flame cannot exist without an atmosphere, so a scientific fact cannot exist without a theory. But to produce a theory is a long cultural and historical process.
So what would such a tricameral legislature look like? To take it from the top, let’s start with the President. Instead of the single figure of our Imperial President, there should be an Executive Council of four: a popularly elected President to chair the Council of three other members, each elected by their chamber. The President of the Assembly would be elected to the council by the Assembly, with the President of the Senate elected by the Senators, and the President of the House elected by its members. All executive decisions and signings of legislature into law would require the assent of three of the four members of the Executive Council.
Below the Executive Council would be the Senate. The Senators would be expected to review the legislative proposals initiated by the House or the Assembly. To run the business of the Senate, the House, and Assembly, there would need to be a majority leader or Speaker who was not the elected President of the chamber serving in the Executive Council. If an act had a two-thirds majority of the House or the Assembly, it could go directly to the Executive Council and bypass the Senate—this to insure that the Senate does not become an obstructionist body where all good ideas go to die. The terms of office could be six years for the Senate and Assembly and four years for the House
There would be a Supreme Court, but unlike ours which is a political body masquerading as a judicial one, this Supreme Court would truly be above politics and would be composed of judges or professors of constitutional law chosen by the Assembly and ratified by the Executive Council. A justice should serve a term of twenty years and not for life.
To enact the laws of the land there would continue to be Ministers of Departments—Defense or Foreign Affairs—and these would be appointed by a three-fourths majority vote of the Executive Council. They would serve for the term of office of the popularly elected President, or four years.
As you can see, the purpose of such a constitution is to replace ideological opinions with scientific and philosophical thought, and to eliminate our present Imperial Presidency to replace it with a less powerful and monarchical figure. The popularly elected President could still serve as Head of State and Head of the Government, although one could make a case that the President should be Head of State and the President of the Senate should be the head of government. This division between the Head of Government and the Head of State is characteristic of parliamentary democracies like Ireland or Israel, or constitutional monarchies like Britain and Canada. The wisdom of our present American constitution in making the President the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces is that it insures a civilian control of the military in order to avoid military dictatorships. Were the President of the Senate—essentially our present Vice President—to be the Commander-in-Chief or the Head of the government, it would turn the Presidency into a ceremonial office and give the real power to the President of the Senate, who would then become de facto the real presiding power of the Executive Council, whereas the popularly elected President would be merely its de jure Chair.
There are arguments to be made for both arrangements, and a Constitutional Convention would be likely to debate them at length. Personally, I incline toward the popularly-elected President serving as Commander-in-Chief and both Head of State and Head of Government because it allows a changing Presidency to respond to rapidly changing times. Were the President of the Senate to be the Head of Government, then he and the Senate would become a great conservative force that would block the popular will of the House and the scientific knowledge of the Assembly.
Would such a new tricameral system be perfect? Of course not. Human depravity will find some new clever and amoral David Addington or John Yoo to figure out ways to subvert justice and good government to insinuate an evil cabal into power. What a tricameral legislature does is to institute a better system of checks and balances to make it harder to have what we have now in the USA: a plutocracy run by an invisible corporate directorate of executives from oil companies and defense industries that tell every president what his foreign policy is to be and what wars will be needed to protect their interests, and a visible government that is a TV set of hired political performers owned by their sponsors, the funders and lobbies. This is our present anti-intellectual American State of Entertainment with its celebrity distractions, spectator sports, reality TV, and fake news.
William Irwin Thompson (born July, 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic, but he has also been writing and publishing poetry throughout his career and received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award in 1986. He has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. He describes his writing and speaking style as “mind-jazz on ancient texts”. He is an astute reader of science, social science, history, and literature. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association.
His book, Still Travels: Three Long Poems was published in 2009 by Wild River Books. Order a copy from Amazon.
Works by William Irwin Thompson
Memoir – Farewell Address at the Lindisfarne Fellows Conference
Memoir – Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne: 1972
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part I
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part 2: A Community in Fishcove, Long Island
Memoir – Building a Dream – Part One: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – My Dinner with Andre Gregory: Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan, 1977-1979
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Shadow Side Part Two: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Cathedral Part Three: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Conclusion: The Economic Relevance of Lindisfarne
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary: Reflections of a Homeschooling Parent
Memoir – Sex and the Commune
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary
Memoir – With Gregory Bateson’s Mind in Nature
After Heart Surgery: Hokusai’s Great Wave
A Lazy Sunday Afternoon
Nancy Grayson’s Bookstore
On Reading “The Penguin Book of English Verse”: on my iPad and Exercise Bike
Wild River Books/Poetry – Nightwatch and Dayshift: Cezanne
Anatolian Days and Nights and the Cultural Evolution of Spirituality
And the Votes are In: The American Elections of 2010
Avatar – When Technology Displaces Culture
Bedtime Story for a Civilization
The Big Picture: Reflections on Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
The Big Picture, II
Child Abuse and the Catholic Church
The Digital Economy of W. Brian Arthur
From Shamanism to Religion, Part Two
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality, Part Three
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality: Conclusion
January 1, 2011: Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
January 6, 2011 – Part Two: The Etherealization of Capitalism
Nature and Invisible Environments
Of Culture and the Nature of Extinction
On Nuclear Power
On Religion – Part One
On Religion and Nationalism: Ireland, Israel, and Palestine
On Transnational Military Interventions
A Pagan Ur-Text of the Lebor Gebála Érenn
Part 1 – The Shift from Industrial to a Planetary Civilization
Part 2 – The Shift from an Industrial to Planetary Civilization
Part 3 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The Recovery of a Cosmic Orientation
Part 4 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – The Global War for Drugs
Part 5 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The New Jerusalem
Part 6 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Catastrophes as the Spur to Institute Tricameral Legislature
Part 7 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Complex Dynamical Systems and Tricameral Legislatures
Part 8 – The Shift from a Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Israel and Palestine: Sic transit gloria mundi
Part 9 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – On Sarah Palin and the Technocratic Society
Part 10 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – On Conspiracy Narratives as Expressive of the Transition from the Nation: State to the Noetic Polity
Part 11 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Global Awareness and Personal Identity
Part 12 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Conclusion: The United Nations
Political Meditation for the Fourth of July, 2011: Can We Shift from Empire Back to Republic?
St. David’s Day, 2011, Technology and Social Change
Saint Patrick’s Day, 2010: Us and Them: Identity and the State
Some Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and an Outline for a New Civilization
Technical Hubris: and the Sinkhole of Obama’s Centrism
Television and Social Class
Thanksgiving Day, 2010: The Uses and Abuses of History
The Elections of 2010
Thoughts on My new Kindle App: on My Mac iPad