Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Madison Would Be Amazed

My favorite political philosopher is James Madison. In addition to being a U.S. President, Madison is known as the "Father of the [U.S.] Constitution." His most famous writings are in The Federalist Papers, a series of articles written in support of the proposed constitution while it was being debated in the states.

And perhaps the greatest Federalist Papers are #10 and #51, a discussion of "factions." Factions are groups who act in their own best interest, often without regard to the interests of the community as a whole.

The basic gist is this:

- Selfish factions can destroy a community (from small communities to great nations).

- Protection from these factions comes in one of two forms.

1) Prevent the factions from meeting. Thus they cannot implement their plans. This is not a practical answer in a free society.

2) Create so many factions that no one faction can win all the time. Thus groups need to compromise in order to win, and different coalitions win each time.

In 1787, this philosophy resulted in a complex governing system in which many, many groups were represented in government.

Here are a few thoughts on the modern view of Madison's philosophy.

First, The Internet is the most democratizing power in the modern era. The two greatest democratizing forces have always been capitalism (trade) and communications. When people trade with one another, they manage to overcome their differences and learn to compromise.

Communications has been a tool that has divided the classes for all of human history. The printing press coincided with major advances in democracy. And with each new medium -- telegraph, telephone, radio, television, the Internet -- communication became easier.

The easier, cheaper, and more universal communication is, the more it supports a widening democracy. You can see, therefore, how the Internet has become the "ultimate" tool for increasing equalities among people.

And what's the connection?

It's simple, really. People want to communicate with others who have similar interests. With the internet, we can easily and quickly create communities to discuss politics, our ailments, our hobbies. No matter what groups you find yourself in, you'll find a friend on the internet.

Just look at all the "Other Links" sections on all the blogs and web sites you frequent. Even within one primary community, we have plenty of sub-communities that connect us to whole other worlds on the Internet.

So, to Madison's first option, the modern world has given a definitive answer. You can never stop people from finding other people who have the same interests. In fact, we are experiencing an explosion of tools that allow us to find each other.

But Madison's second option is even more powerful today than ever before. The communication explosion has brought out every group imaginable. In an absolute sense, there are groups communicating today on the Internet that could never have found each other ever before in human history.

The result: a massive increase in the number of groups working to be heard. At the local, national, and international level. They're organizing into small groups, coalitions of groups, and large groups. They're holding conferences, feeling their power, and finding ways to make a difference and get their share.

Do you want a good example? Look at the evolution of our own space: http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/11/explosion-of-communities.html.

And set aside some quiet time to think about this: What are your "connected" clients up to? Are they involved in a similar expansion of groups within their own business community? Are they more and more connected every week into a growing community? If so, how will this affect their business and yours?

I don't know.

But I know how you can find out:

Ask them.

Become that trusted advisor.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!