Unbundling politics

2016-03-27 2 min read

    Yesterday I made the case that the current political system consists of a series of product bundles and I’ve been thinking of ways unbundling would work. And what better way than to look at existing products and industries that have been unbundled.

    As numerous people have pointed out, the music industry is a clear example. Initially music was sold on CDs and there was no idea of buying solo songs. But with the launch of the iPod, iTunes, and internet proliferation it became possible to buy individual songs. Lately we’ve been back in the bundling phase with the various monthly music subscription services, such as Spotify and Apple Music.

    Music debundling was driven by technological changes. It made no sense to package individual songs for sale when they required physical packaging. But as soon as the majority of households got reasonably fast internet it became possible to start selling individual songs.

    But how does this apply to the political system? It’s not really a technology problem. We have the ability to share and disseminate information to anyone with an internet connection. We have the ability to allow everyone to vote through a smartphone. We have the ability for anyone to start a cause and share it with millions of people. Unfortunately, having the ability doesn’t mean much without follow through.

    In the case of politics there’s so much entrenchment (think recording studios) that change occurs at a glacial pace. The reason the recording studios signed with Apple was because of the rampant piracy - not due to their desire to improve the consumer experience. We need the political equivalent of piracy to spur this unbundling. Ideally it comes dressed as a white knight ready to save the system but leads to unexpected secondary effects that lead to significant changes in the system.

    My gut is that we need a few small changes that open to the door to these unintended effects. Something akin to allowing people to request or report services via an app which leads to people asking what else? That will open the door to voting for issues and politics from our phones and maybe even filing taxes.