Sunday, February 26, 2012

Precedent...It Doesn't Matter Anymore

Precedent is the quicksand of the American system and it is time to put that outdated concept to bed.

In our modern world, almost every issue has become so complex and ultimately very different from the next in terms of circumstance and context that no single legal, political or moral decision or action can rely on the thinking or actions that preceded it.

In business, the concept of zero-based planning starts with a tangible objective and does not take into consideration a predetermined budget, existing infrastructure or action-plan. One then creates a strategy and a corresponding action plan to fulfill the stated objective. This is the approach that needs to be under-taken moving forward in all areas of modern society.

For example, the most obvious area where precedent dominates is in the criminal world. Let's face it, the circumstances of any given violent crime is different than any other. Even in the simplest of crimes...say a street robbery...the intent, the motivation, the circumstances and the antagonists are very different. Therefore, why would other crimes be utilized in a trial or in a verdict? One can make the argument that perhaps in the sentencing process precedent can be utilized in terms of establishing punishment but in the facts of the case it is irrelevant.

Now, extrapolate this thought into terms of national and global politics, economics, social development, public policy etc. and why then would thinking or methodologies of the past be relevant in the 21st century? World events have to be considered in terms of modern conditions and not some by-gone era. By ignoring precedent the path can become clearer as new factors can be considered on their own merit. For example, dealing with a Muslim component in society has never been part of the American heritage so utilizing zero-based planning allows this fact to be considered whereby precedent has no relevant frame of reference.

Zero-based planning also has the primary benefit of ignoring and by-passing any existing limitations in strategic and action-plan development. An obvious area to highlight where this methodology can be extremely beneficial is in terms of governmental operations whereby political agenda and bureaucracy more often that not supersede effectiveness. By eliminating the necessity to consider political history, previous legislation and bureaucratic road blocks modern and efficient policies and programs can be developed that deliver the objective rather than be watered down to the point that they are virtually meaningless.

Precedent and current institutional conditions are too varied and bulky to the point that the limitations of previous actions prevent virtually any part of society from moving forward. Hence, the US has become stagnant and needs to free itself from it's own self-imposed shackles.

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