Bemeficent Society, Chpt 14

GENERAL MEETING OF THE SOCIETY

8 June 2016

Martin opened the Society’ s meeting on a guarded note.  “At our last meeting, I promised to describe the committee’s substitutes for the government branches we deleted from our consideration as unworthy of Newcapia’s system—that is to say, the executive and legislative branches of traditional democracies.  And the political committee is pleased to present these to you.

“To prevent any misunderstandings, however, let me precede these descriptions with a caveat.  Our substitutions have not been designed to replace the functions of the original branches on a one-to-one basis.  The Adminent, our version of an executive branch, purposely dilutes its authority to better serve its constituents but incurs the consequent loss of a single authoritarian figurehead.  Likewise, the Volitionment bears little resemblance to the legislature it replaces.  Nevertheless, it is our hope, you will agree that, all things considered, the tradeoffs weigh heavily in the favor of our substitutions.

INTRODUCTION TO THE ADMINENT

No question: the laissez-faire principles that power the economies of traditional democracies power Newcapia’s economy as well.  And it’s no accident.  No other economic theory parallels the natural motivations of most people.  Most, but not all I hasten to add.  There is a subset of human beings—let’s call them socially sensitive beings—who are less driven by material ambition than by the desire to lead a “good life” in which helping others plays an important, if not dominant, role.

When faced with all the varied functions an executive branch is expected to fulfill, the political committee realized—somewhat to their surprise—that these functions could best be handled by these altruistic people.  Deployed in a manner roughly analogous to the body’s immune system, they not only could administer existing law, they would be among the first to thwart any external threat to the wellbeing of the general populace.

By staffing the Adminent with these altruists, the committee felt they could best satisfy the Adminent’s obligations including:

  • To advise the Volitionment (see next chapter) of new laws designed to improve existing conditions.
  • To raise the living standard of the populace through incremental, localized improvements such as improving sanitation facilities, adding public health services, institute clean-up programs, rejuvenate public parks, improve social services for the poor and elderly, and so on.
  • To cope with natural disasters such as floods, outbreaks of disease, drought, storms, etc.
  • To help overcome shortages of food, potable water, fertilizer, etc.
  • To assist utility systems when requested

In connection with the above a cautionary note must be sounded. Social consciousness and financial prudence do not always go together hand in hand.  Needless to say, the Adminent must adhere to a fixed budget, be prevented from borrowing or incuring future obligations, stay current with creditors, and be regularly subjected to outside audit controls.

Here is how the committee pictured the Adminent would be structured starting—in accord with the committee’s habitual approach—from the bottom up:

THE AGENTS

Personnel who man the working core of the Adminent are called “agents.”  They are, as described, drawn from socially conscious people who wish to lead constructive, interesting, and purposeful careers.  Salaries are government-paid thereby promising security, and adequate—but not necessarily affluent—remuneration.  Compensation is kept uniform throughout the profession with increases above the norm only for seniority and advancement to the grade of “agent-senior” who may number no more than 10% of the members.  Agents are rewarded non-cash bonuses for extraordinary performance but these are disbursed stingily.

In general, the agent system deemphasizes competition and compulsion while encouraging individual initiative and cooperation.  (An exception occurs in sports, however, in which competition thrives.  Whatever activity an agent may be interested in, at whatever level of ability, he is likely to find a compatible group.)

Upon joining the Adminent, agents are given a choice, subject to availability, as to which division (see below) they choose to belong.  Thereafter, they are free to apply for reassignment to another division after six months.  They can, of course, at any time quit the Adminent altogether.

THE TEAMS

Agents are typically organized in teams of fifty individuals.  Team size may vary, however, depending on their specialty.

Some teams are assembled for general purpose assignments and are, therefore, comprised of individuals with a mix of practical, all-around skills.  Most teams, however, are specialized for such purposes as construction, landscaping, treating mental illness, public health work, engineering, etc

Team leaders occupy their position only one month before being replaced by the next most senior member.  Many members decline to take the job so the rotation is faster than the fifty-month cycle that would otherwise be assumed.  Indeed, it was common for a particularly popular leader to hold the position month after month thanks to the voluntary resignation of everyone else on the team.

THE DIVISIONS

Divisions are made up of forty teams, totaling approximately 2,000 people.  Each division is quartered in one of the suburban encampments scattered—more or less equidistantly—across the land in such a way that all urban neighborhoods are either subsumed within division boundaries or made wards of the nearest division. (See Chapter 7 for a discussion of neighborhoods.)  Access to division sites is open but the absence of through streets, winding routes, and numerous dead ends discourage foreign traffic.

Each division site is a largely self-contained community complete with pleasant, well-equipped housing units, abundant greenery, good schools, ample open spaces, and other amenities consistent with a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle.

A division head is elected to a two-year term by his team leaders.    Elections are normally informal and settled by voice vote.  Should he choose to continue living in the same division at the end of his term, a head cannot stand for reelection; he can, however, participate in the following election two-years hence.  Alternatively, heads can gain an automatic two-year extension by transferring to another division of the council’s (see below) choosing —the intent of the extension being the achievement of greater homogeneity between the various divisions.

Divisions are largely autonomous and their heads technically wield ultimate authority within them.  As a practical matter, however, they exert their authority cautiously and, in important matters, only after consultation with their team leaders.  In the last analysis, every head is conscious that he will be in office only two years—enough time to enjoy the camaraderie that accompanies worthwhile endeavors but probably not enough time to make harboring grudges worth the efffort.  In sum the position of division head is sought after more for the satisfaction it offers than for its power or remuneration—division heads earning only a modest 30% more than senior agents.

The cordiality that division heads offer their subordinates tends to extend to their peers as well.  Chief among the factors contributing to this spirit of willing cooperation among the group is the conviction they are all engaged in a common effort to advance the common good.  A second incentive is that, from a purely self-interest standpoint, a division head is likely to help out a neighbor in time of need knowing that changed circumstances might well make him the supplicant.  Working collaboratively, they improve their individual performances.  Another plus, is that equal disbursements and transparent  accounting enable the division heads to sidestep contentious money matters.

THE COUNCIL OF DIVISION HEADS

The Adminent has no single leader—no president, no premier, no prime minister, etc.  Executive authority is exercised by the Council of Division Heads (CDH) that meets monthly.  Meetings are officiated by one of the heads who is selected on a rotating basis.  Decision-making by this collegial group is, more often than not, arrived at by consensus—the necessity for a majority show of hands is seldom resorted to.

Activities of the council include:

  • Transcribing and archiving minutes of their meetings
  • On a two-thirds vote, the council can evict particularly recalcitrant peers, agents who shirk their duties, and others who enjoy the Adminent life style but dodge its responsibilities.
  • Maintaining a prioritized list of projects, but, aside from its power of persuasion, the CDH cannot require their largely autonomous divisions to enact them.
  • Providing an Operations Manual for policy making, research, and training.  Material for the manual is drawn from the experiences of division heads in the field.
  • Offering the opportunity for division heads to interact socially.
  • In case of natural disasters—floods, forest fires, outbreak of disease, etc.—the council can dictate assignments to division heads such as the transfer of specialized teams to the affected areas.  In such cases, records are kept crediting the contributing division for its contribution and debiting the recipient with its obligation to eventually balance the books.
  • In addition to these mandatory shifts of personnel, there is a constant voluntary exchange of specialized teams across borders.  Let’s say, a new virulent type of flu invokes a call for medical help from an affected division head.  In such cases, the indebted division pays for the upkeep, transport, and wages of their foreign workers.
  • Providing headquarters for an independent audit group that keeps abreast of the Adminent’s expenditures at every level and guarantees that the record-keeping is transparent.

FINANCING

As Newcapians see it, the services provided by the Adminent smooth the society’s operations much like oil lubricates the workings of a complicated piece of machinery and are just as vital.  Viewed in this light, they consider spending 8% of the budget on it well worth the cost.  The funds are deposited with the council which then disburses them equally among the division heads who, in turn, pay their personnel, cover their overhead, and decide on discretionary matters—in other words, operate as individual, small businesses.  As a non-profit body, the Adminent is not allowed to enter into any income producing venture.  If a division is reimbursed by an outside group for some service performed, the receipts are deposited in the division’s general fund.

ADVANTAGES OF THE ADMINENT

In the considered opinion of the political committee, the Adminent provides several advantages over current political systems.

  • The Adminent is free of the bad memes that proliferate in our current system
  • Thanks to the effective operations of the Adminent and the Volitionment, Newcapia’s contented, educated population largely governs itself at far less cost for the bureaucracy and law enforcement required by existing systems.
  • On account of the interaction of the division heads at their regular meetings, their practical experience is shared.  This informal feedback mechanism helps ensure continuous improvement in performance among the group as a whole.
  • The personal interaction between Adminent teams and neighborhood inhabitants helps ensure that neighborhood problems are addressed in a timely and effective matter.
  • Neighborhood residents, in appreciation for the Adminent’s help, find ways to reciprocate such as picnics, etc. thus contributing to the morale of agent’s morale.
  • Localized frictions in mixed neighborhoods are amicably and speedily addressed by on-the-spot agents
  • With only a single source of income, the Adminent has only the financial reserves it has accumulated by past savings.  Needless to add, this calls for careful prioritizing of expenditures and on-time bookkeeping.
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