The Tyranny of the Circus Clowns

Our Current National Political Nightmare

Imagine yourself in one of the following scenarios:

1 – Your car has begun to show erratic and frightening symptoms of spontaneous acceleration and random braking. You drive it straight to the dealer to get the problem looked at. The service manager at the dealer informs you that they no longer employ trained mechanics. However, he goes on to reassure you that they have a team of the finest circus clowns that would be happy to make adjustments to your car’s brake system.

2 – You are the director of transportation for a major metropolitan area. The traffic in your city is a mess. Signals are poorly timed. Buses do not meet trains. Major events bring traffic to a standstill. The public is furious and is mounting a recall election to throw the mayor out of office. Under extreme pressure, you hire a prominent consulting company to help untangle the mess. However, when the consulting team shows up, there are no trained traffic engineers. There are no mathematicians. There are no computer network experts. No, the team that shows up to optimize your traffic system is a mob of giggling circus clowns.

3 – Your daughter is desperately ill. She is suffering from a complex and obscure cancer. The symptoms are confusing and erratic. They don’t fit the well-known patterns at all. She has only a month or so to live unless something dramatic is done. You rush her to one of the most famous cancer hospitals in the country. However, as you are checking her in, the patient coordinator informs you that they no longer employ any trained oncologists. They don’t have qualified surgeons either. However, they do have a team of the most entertaining circus clowns who will be happy to slice your daughter open and see what they can cobble together.

Would you put up with any of these scenarios? Of course not! The solution of complex systematic problems requires teams of highly trained, unemotional technical specialists.  You hire the best. You bring them the problem. You set the goals. You let the team come up with the best possible solution meeting as many of the goals as possible.

You certainly don’t let a team of circus clowns go wild on your daughter with a scalpel.

Now, let’s think about our country for a minute. The country we live a fantastically complex mathematical system. Nothing is simple. Taxes affect growth, which affects employment, which affects crime, which affects government costs, and also health care costs, which affect debt, which affects interest rates.  The United States is arguably the most complex system the world has ever seen.

So, what do we do?  Do we hire the same sort of team of highly trained technical experts to study the system? Do we set policy goals and let that team bring us an optimized answer? No! Of course not!  Instead, we elect a swarm of circus clowns, get them wildly drunk,  make them each drink a quart of Starbucks coffee, hand each one a set of machetes and meat cleavers, and then let them loose on the patient.

Scott Burns put out an excellent article this week on The Coming American Spring in which he forecasts a voter revolution. The article is excellent and he lays out a set of seven specific goals. I agree with all of them. We have to get the circus clowns back into their cages and figure out how we can stimulate some serious reforms.

My Plan

Clearly the current Republican versus Democrat system is completely broken. The Republicans have become the party of right-wing crackpots. The Democrats have become the party of the teachers and public employee unions. Both parties are completely in the pockets of Wall Street. Both parties are doing their best to help Big Pharma loot the national economy.

A third force is clearly needed. Traditional third-party approaches simply don’t work. We don’t need another Libertarian party. We don’t need another Marxist party. We need something different, that isn’t exactly a political party in the normal sense. The thing we need is something that has some elements of a political party and some elements of a special interest pressure group.

This thing has to become the home of the “radical moderates”.

I am not a politician. I have never run for anything in my life. In fact, I hate politics. In college, my skin crawled when I shook the hand of the student body president. Nevertheless, somebody has to do something, and no one else is stepping forward. I am willing to contribute what I can and that is a modest gathering point and a proposal for a strategy that hopefully some like-minded individuals can gather around.

In the coming weeks, I will study up on what it takes to found a non-profit organization and I will set one up. I don’t have an enormous fortune with which I can bankroll this venture. It will be modest, just a simple web site. However, it will be a start.

The Strategy

As I mentioned above,  3rd parties have never succeeded in the United States. We will have to do something different.

A – Develop a Clear Platform – the Scott Burns article is a great start. Scott may not want to have anything to do with this, but I assume he will not mind having some of his ideas borrowed. We need to take these ideas and flesh them out. The party platform should represent a series of unemotional, goal optimized, system engineering solutions to the major problems facing our country.

B – Develop a Transparent Party Governance Model – We can use Wiki and Blog technology to optimize the content of the platform. We can learn from Open Source development projects on how to most effectively allow the maximum participation while retaining consistency and coherence.

C – Focus on the Democratic and Republican Primaries. That is, we can field candidates where someone has the interest and desire. Practically speaking, however, that approach will take decades and may never work. You would have to start at the city council level and slowly develop a cadre of experienced elected public servants who moved from level to level. It would take 20-30 years to have an impact. Even worse, you might never get over the fact that many voters would be afraid to “waste” a vote on our party given that the material contest was between Republicans and Democrats.  The better approach is to focus on affecting the primaries of the main parties. In effect our party would be a countervailing force to push back against right-wing nutcase groups and the left-wing kleptocratic public unions. We would try to help moderate, sensible, politicians of both parties gain traction in their own parties primaries. Even where we did field our own candidate, we would still continue to try to influence the main two parties. Our campaign advertisement would run something like this:

“We hope you will consider our candidate Jane Smith for the XYZ office. However, if you are a committed Republican, we recommend that you support Ron Jones in the upcoming primary. If you are a committed Democrat, we recommend that you support Mary Doe in the upcoming primary.”

This kind of strategy to influence the main primaries and drag the main two parties back into the sensible center is the only strategy I can envision helping us get out of the lunatic fringe problem we are encountering in this country.


Once I have the nonprofit and its website setup, I will announce both on this blog and we can move the discussion there. In the mean time, feel free to use the comment function on this blog or send e-mail to:



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