Communities and cities worldwide face a mix of problems that include climate change, high unemployment, pollution, budget shortfalls, income inequality, epidemic rates of preventable diseases, and biodiversity loss. Those communities that thrive in the 21st Century may well be the ones that innovate at the systems level in order to elevate collective wellbeing and solve local problems in light of global challenges.
The Local Economic Direct Democracy Association (LEDDA) framework, in early stage development, is intended to help communities reinvent themselves as strong, resilient, robust, and prosperous. It is based on the 2014 book Economic Direct Democracy, and is a prototype project within the larger R&D program of wellbeing centrality. Our blog articles summarize the program, and details are presented in the working paper Optimality of Social Choice Systems.
From an abstract perspective, a community or society addresses problems and makes decisions using its social choice systems, which include economic and governance systems. Our working premise is that relatively optimal social choice systems are relatively good at helping a community or society to focus on and solve problems that matter, with the result that collective wellbeing is elevated. The wellbeing centrality R&D program asks two overriding questions:
What design characteristics would relatively optimal social choice systems exhibit?
How could research and development of more optimal social choice systems best proceed?
Social choice systems include economic/financial/monetary, governance/political, and legal/justice systems. Also called decision-making systems. For brevity, referred to as economic, governance, and legal systems.
A measure of a social choice system's relative capacity to help a community or society focus on and solve problems that matter such that collective wellbeing is elevated.
The current and anticipated degree to which individuals and natural environments collectively flourish. A high degree of wellbeing implies vibrancy, resilience, sustainability, diversity, and health.
A multidisciplinary R&D program that spans the design, testing, promotion, and operation of social choice systems that place wellbeing measurement, evaluation, forecasting, and deliberation at the center of decision-making activities.
See the glossary for a more complete listing of terms and abbreviations.
In a type of jagged spiral evolution, social choice systems have been transformed many times over in human history. Feudalism gave way to mercantilism, for example, which gave way to colonial imperialism, which gave way to modern socialism and capitalism. Slavery gave way to modern capitalism. Monarchies gave way to democracies. Capitalism grew more dominant than communism. In all these cases, the complexity of social choice systems increased, and thus the new systems were able to solve a richer class of problems than the ones they replaced.
There is no reason to expect that social choice systems could or should stop evolving, as this would invite failure. The purpose of the wellbeing centrality program and the LEDDA framework is to innovate social choice systems at the design level, to discover ones that are more capable of helping communities solve problems and elevate collective wellbeing.
Notice that the definition of relative optimality has two components. The proximal one is problem-solving capacity and the distal one is elevated collective wellbeing, the result of problem solving. Thus, we can ask what types of designs make for good problem-solving systems. To answer this, it helps to look at examples in nature. Many types of natural systems, called complex adaptive systems, function as problem-solving systems. On close examination, it becomes clear that the successful ones exhibit similar (mathematical) characteristics. We can design our social choice systems to mimic the designs that nature has perfected.
How can R&D best proceed? A viable, affordable, even attractive path is engage global, test local, spread viral.
Engage global means to involve the global academic community, science and technology sector, and other segments of society in a focused effort to develop and test new system designs. This is the wellbeing centrality R&D program.
Test local means that once the groundwork is completed (including public surveys and discussions, computer simulations, and much more), new systems undergo scientific field-trials at the local (e.g., community or city) level, using volunteer participants. This approach can allow testing by relatively small teams, at relatively low cost and risk, in co-existence with existing systems, and without new legislative action.
Spread viral means that systems demonstrating clear benefits in local trials (higher incomes, more meaningful jobs, reduced crime, etc.) are likely to spread horizontally to new locations. Over time, this results in a global network of systems that cooperate in trade, education, the testing and implementation of new systems, and in other matters. The larger this network grows, the more it influences national and global societies.
The LEDDA framework is a sophisticated wellbeing-centrality project currently in early development. It is a novel local economic system that aligns motivations for economic behavior with a more realistic understanding of human nature and needs. It can be understood from different perspectives as:
A new type of local (community level) membership-based economic system that acts as an overlay to an existing economy
A system of economic democracy that uses money as a bona fide voting tool and that offers all members roughly equal influence over economic decisions
A mechanism to massively fund local schools, nonprofits, small businesses, public works, research, and other beneficial groups and endeavors
A platform to share intellectual property and increase local self-sufficiency in food, manufacturing, and other sectors
A means to achieve higher incomes, meaningful jobs, and a high degree of income equality
An economic system in which job creation and environmental protection and reclamation are highly compatible
A social welfare system that eliminates poverty
A network of transparent, globally networked economic systems that encourage fair trade, cooperation, and collaboration
A new way to understand economic systems and the role of money
In concept, a LEDDA is a (nonprofit) membership-based organization, similar to a civic club. Individuals, businesses, and nonprofits voluntarily choose to become members, at no cost. A LEDDA could form with as few as roughly one thousand interested individuals and businesses. Computer simulations based on local conditions can help inform potential members about expected benefits.
Like your job? Hate it? Too much stress in your life? Life too boring? We want to know! Please take our wellbeing surveys. Your responses help us understand current levels of wellbeing and your views on existing and desired social choice systems. This is an opportunity to tell your story. What you think and feel matters! Results will be summarized on this website and in scientific papers, media articles, and/or other venues. Please take all four surveys, and encourage others to do the same. Each survey has about 50 questions.