Transcript of Episode 114 – John Bunzl on his Simpol Solution

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by John Bunzl. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Today’s guest is John Bunzl. He’s the CEO of an international textile company. He’s a writer, and a founder and trustee at the International Simultaneous Policy Organization. Today, we’re going to be talking mostly about the book he co-wrote with Nick Duffel, titled The SIMPOL Solution, that’s S-I-M-P-O-L Solution: A New Way to Think about Solving the World’s Biggest Problems. Welcome, John.

John: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.

Jim: As we talk about free game, people have been telling me for a while that I should check your work out. And I did. And I’m glad that I did. This is, I think, a very important addition to the conversation we’ve been having with so many people about the need to evolve from the meta crisis that we seem to be caught in and escape the multi-polar traps and figure out how we can get on our way to what comes next. I think this is a really interesting contribution to the discussion. And I point people to your website, simple, S-I-M-P-O-L, .org, if you want to learn more.

John: Great. Well, I’m glad like what you saw, Jim. I think it is an important thing. And it’s something I’ve been developing for nearly 20 years now. So I think we’ve road-tested it enough that we need to really move it forward.

Jim: Yeah. I agree. Well, let’s start where I think your analysis begins, which is that we are what folks in the Game B community and some of the allied groups would call the meta crisis at the present time. It’s not just one or two problems, you list them off, climate change, freak weather, polluted seas, wealth inequality, religious fanaticism, mass migration, corporate powers over caching national governments, local wars, on and on, and on. There’s a very large catalog of problems we have right now, and yet underneath, a lot of them are caused by similar forces, right?

John: Yeah, that’s right. It’s part of the evolutionary process. It seems to me that we have now a global economy, but we still start with governance at the national level. And that mismatch means that all these problems are arising that are beyond the grasp of any nation state. And they’re just mounting up. And COVID is just the latest one in that long ever-lengthening list.

Jim: And then you bring up, which is something that we talk about in the show quite a bit, which is we have to really watch out for game theoretical multi-polar traps or race to the bottom dynamics. And you call out right in the beginning of your book that maybe the only way to get around these traps is somehow to trigger simultaneous implementation in all or nearly all nations that can be brought, this is your words, to implement appropriate policies simultaneously.

Jim: You also say, and I think this is something that many of us have been thinking, is that, actually one of the things that helps, but our current politics gets in way, is a multi-issue framework. Because there’s trade offs that can be made in the multi-issue high-dimensional space that are hard to make on a single dimension. Right?

John: Exactly. That seems to me, one of the main floors of the United Nations COP process on climate change, for example. Is that if you’re only talking about reducing carbon emissions, you’ve got no way to build in trade offs. And of course the big losers on that will then choose not to cooperate, or they will not cooperate terribly sufficiently.

Jim: Or they’ll hold out for huge payments which are unrealistic.

John: Yeah. There’s all sorts of possibilities for defection. Yeah.

Jim: Talk a little bit about simultaneous implementation. I think that’s one of the clever insights that you have in this work, is that, yeah, trying to get people to move one step at a time and trust everybody else. That’s a big ask.

John: Yeah, that’s right. First of all, let me say the whole idea, even when I was just listening to you introduce it now, I’m forever reminded of the fact that when we talk about all or sufficient nations implementing policy simultaneously, most people would probably think we should be in the loony bin, in a mental home or something. But that reaction is just a mark of just how far people’s consciousness, has to grow as to evolve.

John: Because when you look at the problems that you just listed, Jim, including COVID and distribution of vaccines or any of these other things, we live in a globalized world. And the idea of simultaneous implementation, when your consciousness moves up to that, what I call that world-centric global level, simultaneous implementation just becomes obvious. It’s like, “Well, of course, how else would we do it?”

John: The other thing about it, though, I think is that if you talk about simultaneous implementation about all of us doing something that we agree at the same time together, you create a new mental context, where we can actually discuss and agree what we can do to get out of the game A, game theoretical trap that we’re all caught in and move together to this game B, co-operative framework.

John: So simultaneity is absolutely vital. And actually, in a sense, it’s nothing new. If you look at an individual nation state, if a new law is passed in the U.S, let’s say by the federal government, it is implemented globally in the sense that it applies to the entire United States and not just a one part or not another. And it is implemented, it comes into force on a certain date. In other words, it comes into force simultaneously. So global and simultaneous implementation is actually as old as the hills.

Jim: Actually, there’s a very interesting political effort in the United States right now, which is attempting to use this very interesting process of simultaneity, “Let’s all hold hands until there’s enough of us holding hands. And then let’s all rush forward together.” And that’s the national popular vote initiative. Have you heard about that?

John: I haven’t actually, no. Tell me about it.

Jim: It’s really interesting. The brilliant computer scientist, who I happened to know, named John Coza, who’s actually been on our show, came up with this idea, which is to get the sovereign states in the United States to vote in what’s called a multi-state compact. Which appears to be allowed by the constitution, at least in the shadows of it.

Jim: And the compact basically says that when the total number of states that have endorsed the compact reached 270, which is a electoral college majority, then it will go into force that all the undersigned states will vote for that candidate who won the national popular vote. So it’s a way to obsolete the electoral college without getting rid of the mechanism, but it doesn’t require anybody to be a first mover. It basically says, “We’re all going to hold hands until the chain of hand holdings equals 270 electoral votes, then we will all agree to take this action.” It’s actually quite brutal.

John: Yeah. I think in a complex world, or even in a large scale network, whether it’s a country like the U.S, or whether it’s the whole world, we now need this kind of pledge process based on simultaneous implementation of whatever we agree together. It’s the only way.

Jim: Yeah. Hence the name of your organization, Simultaneous Policy Organization. It’s actually a deep insight. I think a lot of us have sort of thought about it, but you’ve called it out in a more clear way. We’re also going to talk later about new ways to use our votes, which is also clever. And then let’s dig into your fourth claim, which I think is interesting, important, and hopeful, which is that we don’t have to get to 51% of people to agree. Historically, that’s frankly seldom been the case. Frankly, the famously,[inaudible 00:08:13] the American Revolution, much smaller than a majority, probably. So talk about that a little bit, that maybe the journey getting as far as we think it might be.

John: Yeah. No, I think that’s absolutely right. I think generally speaking throughout human history, the leading edge of evolution at any stage, whether it was the enlightenment, for example, was actually catalyzed by relatively few key thinkers. I think we’re seeing the same in real-time now at the global level. And one of the beauties about Simpol is that it actually demonstrates the fact that we don’t need that many people. Because we now have, for example, 100 UK members of parliament who have signed up to Simpol through this new way of citizens using our votes.

John: That’s about, I think that’s about 15, 16% of the UK parliament. But the number of citizens who support Simpol is relatively tiny. So you have a huge leverage potential. And so it literally doesn’t take many citizens to have a dramatic effect on politics if we use the right tool.

Jim: Indeed. We’re not going to talk about the tool quite yet, that’s going to be the punchline a little later in the show, we’ll build the excitement, right? Until we come up with John and friends, very clever answer. You talk about that we have our four claims then three steps. First, we have to recognize exactly how stuck we are. We have to understand the nature and value of the cooperation imperative, and we have to evolve new ways of thinking. And seeing that enables us to take swift, appropriate, and effective cooperative global action. Talk about that framing a little bit.

John: A new way of thinking I think is critical. And I kind of alluded to it earlier when I mentioned about simultaneous implementation sounding incredibly farfetched to most people. And that is because our way of thinking is still very, what I call nations-centric. We see the world through national glasses. Because, after all, ever since 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia, the nation state system has been the way we do governance in the world. And we underestimate the extent to which we think in that way.

John: Our way of thinking about global problems even now is shaped through those national glasses. It is nation-centric. But of course the problems we face are world-centric. And so you can’t deal with them if your mindset is still stuck in a national frame. And so a lot of the book is devoted to trying to help us take the steps from nation-centric thinking to world-centric thinking. Because if you don’t take those steps, Jim, the rest of the book will be nonsense to you. It won’t really make sense.

Jim: Indeed. And then let’s go to the real root, which I think you call out as the prime driver of a lot of the problems that we have, and for the agent by which we are stuck in the multipolar trap. And that’s what you call destructive global competition. DGC, talk us through that a little bit and give us some examples.

John: Yeah, sure. It’s game theory. You can call it the first mover competitive disadvantage. So if you take climate change, for example, any nation that wants to reduce its emissions really significantly would have to start taxing it’s industries. That would put the cost of those industries up. And that would then make them uncompetitive with their competitors in other countries who are, perhaps, not taking the same and not implementing the same taxes.

John: And so any nation that wants to move first, would actually risk harming its economy. And that’s why, surprise, surprise, not much progress is being made on climate change. You’re getting incremental steps in reducing emissions. We all know we need not just a 10 or 20% reduction in emissions, we need 50, 60, 70, 80%. And you will only get those really big strides if we have global cooperation.

John: The disruptive competition is like a vicious circle. No nation wants to move first, and so nobody moves. And in fact, there’s a reverse process. There’s a kind of race to the bottom because in a world where capital and investment are moving globally across borders to wherever they can make highest return, nations are competing with each other to attract that investment. And the only way they can do that is by cutting corporation tax. And that’s why for example, corporation tax levels over the last 25, 30 years have steadily reduced.

John: And so there is a collective action problem globally. And so DGC, disruptive global competition, is really just the term that I give for that dynamic, it’s got really two parts to it. One is this race to the bottom or this fear of moving first, but the other is what I call, it’s almost more important, I think, is what I call regulatory chill. Okay. This is the… It’s not necessarily the regulations on emissions, for example, or on other environmental issues are racing to the bottom. They may actually be increasing, but they are increasing only incrementally because governments are chilled. They’re kind of frozen by competition.

John: And by the fear of their economists becoming uncompetitive to making only very glacially, slow, incremental steps. And so you’ve got race to the bottom with some issues, and you’ve got regulatory chill with others. But the overall result is that we’ve got the problems racing away in the fast lane, and our efforts to control them and to get on top of them are just crawling along in the slow lane. And that just… It’s not going to work, is it?

Jim: Yeah, let’s go dig into those a little bit, because regular listeners to the show know we talk fair often about the race to the bottom dynamics. The simple example is, let’s imagine five food companies all using good natural ingredients. And then one of them decides to high-fructose corn syrup for the natural sweeteners they had been using. Suddenly, their costs go down, the addictiveness of their food goes up, and they have a competitive advantage against what used to be five, let’s just imagine, nice competitors. The other four don’t respond, they’re screwed, right? Particularly in a low-margin business like the food industry and you have the classic race to the bottom.

Jim: And then the other is the crawl of regulation due to too many veto points in our governance. United States is particularly plagued by that. There’s so many ways to stop things. And all you got to do is get one of them to work. And if you’re a lobbyist or you are someone who can spend a zillion dollars on allegedly public service ads, all you have to do is find one of those veto points to protect the system from moving in ways that might be adverse to your individual parochial interest.

Jim: It goes back to Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action, which I think is the most important political science book. If you’re going to read one book, people, about political science in your life, read The Logic of Collective Action, which lays out why very intense-vested interests will so often frustrate the will of a democratic majority, because they have the concentrated interest and therefore the rationale to spend money and do work to find one of these veto points to stop regulation. Now just imagine that at a global scale. And the problem gets even worse.

John: Yeah. I have the book on my shelf right here. I think it’s not just corporate lobbyists sort of throwing a spanner in the works. What I’m trying to say with structure of global competition, Jim, is that once you let capital loose globally, which Reagan and Thatcher did with the big bang of financial market deregulation in in the eighties, once capital moves globally, regardless of what the corporate lobbyists are doing, every nation has to keep its economy internationally competitive and attractive to that free moving capital.

John: So you’ve got a double problem. You’ve got the corporate lobbyists and the special interest groups on one hand, but you’ve just got the dynamic of destructive global competition itself. The reason that I gave it that name is because unless you actually can name the problem, you can’t deal with it. If you don’t name, it’s still invisible to you. And I think when the world can actually start to see that we’re all caught in this vicious circle, which is in a sense nobody’s fault, then we can actually come together and say, “Okay, what can we do about it?” We can stop blaming and shaming each other, and instead sort of get down to some constructive work of how to get out of it.

Jim: Indeed. You make the point very clearly that globalization has essentially produced a set of games and influences of the sort, which the nation state can no longer actually manage, right? Because the capital will just move away from you. You give the example of corporate tax rates and you quote guy from Indonesia mean. He was the minister of finance saying, “Ours is 27. Singapore’s is 20. If we don’t cut ours to 20, all the companies are going to move to Singapore.” And with no higher or level coordination possible, yeah, that race to the bottom dynamic will happen at the global level, because there is no level at which that regulation can occur.

John: Not at the moment. That’s right. That’s right. And if you think about it, if you go back in history to, say the industrial revolution, all the kind of negative fall outs of industrialization, like pollution, and smoke stacks coming from the UK where it all started. But all of that occurred within the governance framework of the nation state. The nation state was already there to regulate it. But at the global level now, there is no global state. There is no global regulation. So we’ve got a real problem. Because we’ve got we’ve got the global level pollution, and resource depletion, and climate change, and all the rest of it, but we have no mechanism for dealing with that problem. And so that’s what Simpol tries to provide, at least an outline.

Jim: Okay. We’re going to go back to that higher level. Before that, let’s drill down a little bit lower level, which is essentially the nature of competition and cooperation themselves. You’ve referenced Michael Porter several times throughout the book. And he was kind of the consummate writer about the dynamics of competition in the business sense. I remember reading two of his books back in the early-eighties. I think they’re called Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage. And they were very good books. They really made very clear the nature of competition.

Jim: And competition can be a great thing. And I was thinking about, what’s a real simple example? Imagine you got three barbers in your town. Two of them do great job cutting hair. One of them is a real butcher. The competition will eventually force the butcher out of business because everybody would go to the two good barbers. And so there’s an example where competition can work very well. One could argue that the modern world we have, with all of our wonderful conveniences and such, much of it came from competition. But, you gave a really nice example, maybe you can tell the story of kids playing a game, how competition without a cooperative framework breaks down.

John: Yeah, that’s right. If you think of any good sports competition right now, whether it’s football, or tennis, or whatever, you have the players who are competing, but you have the referee, and you have the linesman, and you have the pitch, which has got white lines on it and all laid out. That’s the cooperation part. And so the real aim is to have competition and cooperation in a kind of dynamic balance. What we did at the school, as I described in the book, is try and teach the kids about this reality.

John: So if you give a group of kids a football and you say, just go away and play out on the street, or out in a parking lot, or something. Let them go for 20 minutes, bring them back after 20 minutes and ask them, “What did you do? Were you competing?” And they said, “Yeah, yeah, we did that. We competed and Johnny scored and blah, blah, blah.” And then you said, “Well, hang on a minute. Before you started playing you, you had to pick teams, right? And you decided where the goal posts were going to be, and you agreed certain rules.” And they said, “Yeah, yeah.”

John: Then they start to understand that a healthy competition is also about adequate cooperation and governance. And you have to have the two in balance. And so really what we’ve got to, and now in the global economy, is we have a global competition at global level. That’s the global market economy, but you have governance which is only at the national level. So that’ not rare… It’s not difficult to see why we’re in such a mess because competition and cooperation are no longer in balance.

Jim: Yeah. In fact, myself and many of my friends argue for the concept of subsidiarity. The idea that problems should be solved at the lowest possible level at which they can be solved. Right?

John: Absolutely.

Jim: And the problem here is that this class of global destructive competition seems like it has to be solved at a higher level than the nation state and yet there is no such mechanism.

John: Precisely.

Jim: So we can honor subsidiarity by realizing that some class of problems need to be solved at that level. Yeah. Let’s now talk a little bit more detailed than we did originally about the fact that one of the things that makes this problem vexing, but also potentially more possibly to be solved using your method, is the high dimensionality of the problem, the fact that there are so many different dimensions, which have to all be solved more or less simultaneously, but for which there can be trade offs.

John: Yes. So you’re talking about all the different issues at the global level, Jim, or more about the multi-issue framework that we propose?

Jim: Yeah. It’s actually, I think, the same thing. The fact that if it’s difficult to solve one problem, because it’s a pure trade off, A loses B wins, if we have, and such things. We have many more dimensions for trade off. And talk a little bit about some of the examples of what those might be.

John: Yeah. Okay. So just to contrast it with the way we’re trying to go about solving global problems now with United Nations COP process for climate change, for example, the problem with dealing with any single issue, one issue at a time like we are now, is that you will always get some nations that win and others that lose. And the loser nations, of course, have got no incentive to cooperate. And so nothing happens.

John: But if we were to take two complimentary issues, say for example, a carbon emissions reduction policy on the one side, but on the other side, a global wealth tax or a global currency transactions tax, the proceeds you raise from the tax can then be used to pay off the big losers on the climate part of the agreement. So that’s a very crude example, but it seems to me absolutely crucial because if you don’t have that trade off, you can’t make cooperation in every nation’s interests. And that’s what we need to do. We’ve got to design cooperation in a way that makes nations wanT to act now. And to do that, you’ve got to have a multi-issue framework so that loser nations can be compensated.

John: And so I think you need to match the kind of global problems like climate change on the one side with some kind of revenue raising policy on the other. So that in a very pragmatic way, we can get everybody on board. And if you do that, if you can get those trade offs so that you make cooperation in every nation’s interests, then also enforcement and verification enforcement measures, then also becoming every nation’s interests. And those mechanisms can then also be included in the agreement itself.

Jim: Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that in a high dimensional trade-off competition, there’s a place where everybody’s a winner, right?

John: That’s absolutely right, Jim. There is no guarantee that what I’m proposing will work. All I think what I’m saying with Simpol and what we’re proposing is it gives a much better chance of cooperation working that the way we’re trying to go about it now.

Jim: Yeah. I think it also asks for some creative thinking about trade-offs that might not have been obvious. One of my favorites, and I don’t know why this hasn’t ever floated up, so floated up here, is that at least one way to think about global equity with respect to carbon emissions is to give every human on Earth, essentially a credit for an equal amount of carbon, right? If you live in Mali or you live in Texas, you all get the same amount of carbon credits. And then countries that want to burn more, have to pay the poor countries, not yet at a level where they could even if they wanted to burn that much carbon.

Jim: And of course, number comes down every year. And so there’s a transfer from the rich states to the poor states. However, one of the problems still confronting the world is that many of the poor states have very high birth rates. And now with modern medicine making penetration, now they have a ridiculous high population growth. And so perhaps there’s a big charge against that transfer for people who have any incremental children above replacement.

Jim: And so then you have those two dimensions can trade off. If the countries that are receiving the subsidies will also cut their childbirth rates down to replacement levels or below, then they’ll get even more. Or at least they won’t be surcharged back. So there’s the idea of bringing a whole new idea, which hasn’t even been thought of as part of the discussion into it, to provide another set of knobs to try to reach this equilibrium, where the people on the Western side, “We’ll do our part by paying very quite considerably for transfer of these carbon credits in the short term, but you guys got to do your share and help us bring population under control in turn.”

John: Yeah. Although we call it the Simultaneous Policy, there are no policies in it yet. Why? Because these need to be developed. And so what Simpol really is, is a mechanism for delivering simultaneous implementation. But what those policies might be, Jim, could include all sorts of ideas, such as the one you’ve just mentioned. And the whole point is to provide a space and an implementation tool, which makes it worth discussing them. We can start coming together now under that kind of Simpol umbrella and say, “Okay, look, here are the different ideas that require global and simultaneous implementation, which we can now actually discuss together, internationally, to see what we can agree and what works best.”

Jim: Yep. And we’ll get to that soon.

John: So I’m running ahead of you again? Sorry.

Jim: Well, that’s all right. That’s a good. Little foreshadowing, as we’d say, in the drama business, right? Another kind of intermediate level issue that’s worth talking about before we get to the punchline is just some vivid examples that you’ve given about how the nation state has lost control. And most obvious to us in the West, it was Greece and the currency crisis, and that crisis of, what was it? 2009, 2010. George Papandreou a very smart guy. Finally, they got a guy in there who thought he could do something. He found out he couldn’t do anything. Why don’t you tell us about that story?

John: Oh yeah. That’s in a TED Talk of George Papandreou where he describes how he took over… I think he won the election in Greece after the previous government had racked up this sort of massive, terrible, terrible debt ratio but they hadn’t told the EU precisely how bad it had become. They kind of fudge the figures. And then when Papandreou took over, he sort of had the unenviable task of going to Brussels confess that things were in a terrible state. And he expected that they could round the table in Brussels with Angela Merkel and all the other leaders that they had time to sort of think about this and discuss it.

John: But then at about 10 to midnight, somebody burst through the door and says, “Well, if we don’t have an agreement within the next five minutes, global markets are opening in Japan and the Euro’s going to be fucks. And so they kind of had to rush to this decision. The point of that story, really, is to demonstrate to readers and to people that national politicians are not in control. Global markets are in control. Destructive global competition is in control. Not Donald Trump, not angular Mackle, not George Papandreou. Again, the point of telling the story is burst this myth of the sovereign nation that we are currently suffering from in our thinking.

Jim: Yep. And then you then talk about some illusions of how we can change things. And of course, the easiest attractor to those of us living in democratic countries is the electoral illusion. But that won’t work. Why not?

John: Yeah. Well, this is what a lot of people don’t understand, is how destructive global competition has an effect on politics. So people are often asked right now, Jim, how did we arrive in this terribly polarized state where you have the Trump people taking over the Capitol, and the [inaudible 00:31:26], and all this stuff. And then on the left, you’ve got all these kind of the identity politics, crowded the cancel culture. How did we get here?

John: Well, what you have to understand is that ever since Reagan facture, you’ve had capital that’s moving globally. You’ve had destructive global competition. Every nation, regardless of the party and power, having to keep each nation internationally competitive. And what that means in practice is that only competitiveness oriented, more or less neoliberal policies, business-friendly policies are allowed.

John: And so no, no government, whether you vote right, left, center, or whatever, once they get into power, they’ve got no choice but to follow that very narrow agenda. And we’ve had this now for the last 30, 40 years. And that’s why people are fed up. That’s in a sense of why Hillary Clinton wasn’t successful, because people just… It’s just more of the same old shit. It has also meant because parties on the left have had to keep the country competitive. Have therefore had to count out of business.

John: This is what happened during the Clinton years. They have been unable to really support their core support base, the white working class. Well, whether they’re white, black, or whatever, but the way the working classes who would use to see the left-wing party as their party, that party can no longer support them because of destructive global competition. And so left-wing parties have had to move to the right to become business parties. And as a result, their former sort of working class supporters have just become completely disillusioned and fed up with them. And have started voting for the right-wing populists, whether it’s the Boris Johnson and Brexit, or whether it’s Donald Trump.

John: And you’re seeing the same process happening in, in other countries as well. The fact that this is happening, [inaudible 00:33:33] across the Western world should be saying, “Hello, this is coming from a global cause.” If it wasn’t coming from destructive global competition, you wouldn’t be seeing it so uniformly across the West. And so this is another reason why we’re getting this polarization now right across the Western world. Unless our consciousness, and our thinking, and our understanding moves up to this world-centric level of understanding where you really get to understand destructive global competition and how it works, we won’t solve anything.

John: And so it really tells us that starting new political parties or trying to thinking of what if we just vote for the right party, everything will be solved, that’s just an illusion. It’s what I call pseudo democracy. It’s not real democracy anymore. Because, again, it’s another example of how global forces have sucked the validity out of the national level. And it’s now running riot at the global level uncontrolled.

Jim: Essentially, the forces of global competition have forced, whether they’re nominally left or right parties, to be neo-liberals. And so people to see what that’s doing to their community say, “Fuck all that shit. I’m going to vote for Trump. Stick a stick in the spokes of the system.”

John: Yeah. I just think a lot of it isn’t that the margin that swung over to Trump. I don’t think it’s that they necessarily think he’s a great guy, or really believe him and all the rest of it. It’s just they’re trying to put two finger… Oh, well, America usually use one finger, I think. They’re just fed up, basically.

Jim: Exactly. Of course unfortunately under the Goebbels technique, the Trumpians just repeating their lives endlessly. A surprising number of people have ended up believing them, which is kind of strange. Bu that’s a problem.

John: To be fair, you’ve also got a lot of stupidity on the left as well. In a sense, the left has got us into this situation, in the sense that the left has failed to see what I’ve described in the book. The left has failed to develop a coherent global level political framework. And in failing to develop that, in failing to develop something like Simpol, it has left the door wide open to the populace.

Jim: And now, of course, we got this crazy woke shit running around the West, right?

John: Yeah.

Jim: Facetiously, I say, I wonder if this is funded by the Koch Brothers and Peter Thiel, right? It’s taken all the energy out of real reform and activating people at kind of their lowest brainstem identity level in ways that are not systemic at all.

John: No. Well, that’s right. I think the workeism or whatever you want to call it, it is in a sense part of the post-modern level of development kind of reaching it’s kind of dying days of [inaudible 00:36:43] dying days. But it is also, I think, to some extent, a symptom of destructive global competition. In the sense that if you’re on the left and your party can’t really implement its traditional re-distributionary high environmental standard policies anymore because of the need to stay competitive, what else are you going to do? You’re going to sort of look for other ways of trying to gain some kind of power. So you’re going to look to identity politics, and cancel culture, and these kinds of diversions from what the left really should be about.

Jim: Yep. And that will produce a reaction from the other side, which it’s already doing. Right? I think there’s a fair chance the Republicans will come back if the Dems overreach on cultural frontline. And reality is a big majority, probably, for pragmatic progressive action. If you combined universal basic income with universal health care, it’s pretty big unless the United States doesn’t have universal health care for instance. And Trump’s voters are the ones that are hurt the most by it actually.

John: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, Jim, but I think what people have to understand, or people who are in that kind of moderate center position is that there is no solution to be found at the national level.

Jim: There’s no final solution. You can’t solve global warming-

John: Not in that. Well, that’s right. It depends on what the precise policy that you’re advocating. But in the general sense, the solution is not right or left, it’s actually going up to the global level, to something like Simpol. Because only at that level, can we solve destructive global competition and all the poison that is flowing down it.

Jim: Yep. Indeed. Now a couple other things you call out, oops, sound nice, won’t work, The corporate social responsibility, CSR movement. Tell us why that’s another dead end.

John: Well, it’s exactly as you described it earlier, Jim. If you’ve got the five companies producing food and one of them decides to use cheaper ingredient, you’re not going to get anywhere. And corporate social responsibility is fine as far as it goes, but as soon as you get a competitor out there who doesn’t have the same values, at the end of the day, if you don’t cut your costs in order to compete with them, you’re going to go out of business.

John: And so corporate social responsibility kind of assumes that if we can just get individual corporations to do the right thing, then everything will be okay. But that excludes the collective dynamics of competitive markets. It’s looking… I don’t know, but you know. I know about integral theory. Conscious capitalism is looking at the upper quadrants, if you like. It’s looking at the individual domain, but it ignores what happens, the corrosive effect of competition in the collective domain of anonymous global markets.

Jim: Yeah. You and I have both been corporate CEOs. We know that, yeah, maybe we can be a little better around the edges, but the truth of the matter is co-evolutionary dynamics dictate the game we have to play, right?

John: Exactly.

Jim: Corporate executives are happy to play by the rules if there are rules, but if there are no rule makers at the scale that matters, it’s dog eat dog every time.

John: Yeah. If we don’t do it, our competitors will.

Jim: And then we’ll be out of business and we won’t be able to pay our employees, right?

John: Exactly. And as a businessman… I think it’s, in a sense, no accident that I came up with the idea of Simpol, because I am a businessman. I know like you do. Jim, that we may have very honorable values as individuals, but in the collective dynamics of the market where we’ve got to keep our companies competitive with other companies who may be in other countries altogether with completely different value sets and different standards, what are you going to do? Jim, you’ve got to stay alive. So it’s this global dynamic that we are faced with.

Jim: Okay. Here’s another one that won’t work that you called out, the global justice movement, GJM. I don’t think I’ve heard it ever called that.

John: GJM, yeah. What I mean by that is all the hundreds of thousands of NGOs out there, Friends of the Garth, Greenpeace, you name it, their whole modus operandi is, we’re the guys, corporations, and business, and politicians are the bad guys. That just isn’t going to work because it operates on the assumption that if we just shout loud enough, and if we just protest hard enough and long enough, the government will do what we want that government to do. But destructive global competition means that no government can do what the protesters want them to do. Because it will just make the economy uncompetitive, and thousands of jobs will be lost, and all the rest of it.

John: So again, the global justice movement, their approach is just simply not going to work in a globalized environment. Although they do recognize, to some extent, race to the bottom and the problem of destructive global competition, they generally tend to see it as just another global problem alongside all the others. And so it then the kind of becomes invisible. They can’t seem to see that destructive global competition is the mother of all problems that prevents solutions to any of these things, whether it’s climate change or… It’s dry it’s driving all of these problems.

John: And so unless you deal with destructive global competition, unless you prioritize that as the key issue that we have to solve, you’re not going to solve anything else. You’re not going to solve any of the other global problems that feed off of it.

Jim: Yeah. Then our perfect example was Occupy Wall Street. It happened during the Obama administration, which one would have thought would have been at least somewhat open to the ideas. Not goddam a thing happened because it couldn’t.

John: No. Exactly. Exactly. I remember actually during the occupy thing, there was a… They camped out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And I remember one of these reporters, I think, from the BBC or somebody, going around the encampment and interviewing some of the protestors or the occupiers. I think it was in about October or November. One of these protesters says, “Well, I’ll camp here until Christmas if that’s what it takes to bring down capitalism.” And I just thought, “Oh my God. You’ve just got no idea.”

John: And these people, they’re lovely people, and they’ve got good hearts and great intentions, but yet to have the thinking that the world-centric thinking required to actually develop a coherent political response, a global political response, to destructive global competition, which is the key issue that’s standing in the way of everything.

Jim: Yeah. The punches just aren’t strong enough, frankly. You can imagine in bounds fairly regularly with somebody’s harebrained scheme to save the world. And I look at it and go, “Punching near strong enough, dude. Or you’re punching at the wrong thing.”

John: And they are they’re. They’re into this blame blaming and shaming of governments and corporations, which causes very energizing and it means that they could probably raise funds and so forth, because it’s a very simple us and them, good versus evil kind of narrative. But Simpol is really saying, look, we’re all caught in this. Some of us are high up and doing quite well, others are at the bottom, but even the people at the top don’t have the power to change anything, because they’re stuck in it too.

John: And so when we stop blaming and shaming each other, and start to see that we’re all caught in this vicious circle, we can actually move to a much more productive co-operative, collaborative, positive approach to solving the problems that faces.

Jim: Yeah. There’s this ineffective feel-good stuff, which I’ve taken to call LARPing revolution, live action, role-playing. The kind of people that dress up in Star Trek costumes. Unfortunately, Occupy was that, and these clowns, and the Trumpian insurrectionary riots also fit perfectly LARPing revolution. It’s like, “Dude, have you ever read your Machia Valley or your [Mar 00:46:11] or something? Come on now, this ain’t nothing. Those I’m going to get it done. Let’s get more serious.”

Jim: So now let’s take a turn. Tell us now, finally, about what is Simpol? What is your insight on how to get out of the destructive global competitive trap, which is the generator function for an awful lot of what’s wrong with our world?

John: Yeah. Okay. Well, there are basically three aspects of Simpol. One is simultaneous implementation. If all of sufficient nations can be brought to implement solutions simultaneously, no nation need to lose out, all nations would win. So that’s the first point. Second is this other one that we talked about earlier, the multi-issue framework. With Simpol, we would be talking about two or more complimentary issues being implemented simultaneously.

John: What we’re actually talking about, Jim, is not all global problems being solved simultaneously on the same day. That would be crazy. But we’re talking about it like a series of multi-issue agreements, Simpol one, Simpol two, Simpol three apps implemented two or three apart. So the multi-issue framework means that what a nation loses on one issue, it can gain on another. And thus action becomes in everybody nation’s interest.

Jim: Well, as we pointed out before, no guarantee.

John: Yeah. There’s no guarantee. Another aspect is that Simpol would contain detailed agreed policies, not just agreements on targets. Now, this is another problem you have with the UN process, the UN COP process, is that it’s all about agreeing targets, but if no individual nation knows exactly what policies the other nations are going to implement to achieve those targets, you still maintain this state of uncertainty because no nation knows exactly what every other nation is going to do. And so all nations continue to fear for the competitiveness of their economies. And so nothing much happens. So with Simpol, we would be talking about detailed policy agreements. Every nation would know exactly what every other nation was going to implement. And it would have all been agreed in advance prior to implement.

Jim: Is that actually wise on something like climate change? Does it may well be that what’s the appropriate technology in a country like Norway with lots of fast mountain streams and a small population is not necessarily the right solution for a flat country with lots of people like China. So is getting into the implementations really right or is going to be firmly enforced commitments to reach levels of, let’s say greenhouse gas emissions.

John: Yeah. I’m glad you raised that because that’s another point. Because what we’re talking about with Simpol is not every nation doing the same thing. What we’re talking about is every nation knowing what precisely other nations are going to do so that they understand what the consequences for their competitiveness is going to be. So for example, if it was agreed that there was going to be an increase in corporation tax, we’re not talking about every nation having the same level of corporation tax, we’re talking about every nation agreeing to increase by the same proportional amount as it were.

John: So it’s a little bit like in an individual country now, you have progressive taxation where the rich pay more, the poor pay less or nothing at all. It’s the same principle, but it would be applied globally. So we’re not talking about a one size-fits-all policy, we’re talking about graduate approaches, different approaches in different countries, but the difference would be that it would be agreed and every country would know what every other country was going to be doing. Rather than just saying, oh, well we agree this target of X and nobody knows what every nation is going to actually do to achieve it. So that’s another difference.

John: So the final, and I think the most interesting aspect of Simpol, is we can use our votes in a new way to actually drive our politicians and governments towards implementing Simultaneous Policy. At the moment when our governments go off to the United Nations or to some conference, we citizens have no way of exerting any kind of electoral pressure on our politicians to make sure they do reach an agreement. And that there’s a cost if they don’t.

John: If politicians don’t come to an agreement, there is no cost for them to pay. They come back and they just say, “Well, no, we didn’t reach an agreement because it wasn’t in the national interest.” And then everyone just says, “Well, what do we do? Nothing.” With Simpol, what we are doing, when citizens sign onto Simpol, they’re basically committing to giving strong preference at all future national elections to politicians who’ve signed up to implement some poll to the probable exclusion of those that haven’t. It’s about giving preference to politicians that have signed on to implementing Simpol.

John: And that sounds kind of quite benign and weak in some senses, but it’s actually incredibly powerful because in many, many elections and in many parliamentary seats around the world, elections are being won and lost on very fine margins. And so it doesn’t take many people to say, “Well, I’m going to be voting for any of you that signs up to Simpol.” It doesn’t take many citizens to be forming that kind of voting block to make it in the vital survival interests of all politicians in that contest to sign up.”

John: And we’ve actually seen that happen in a number of cases. Between the UK, there are some parliamentary seats where the previous elections, but lost on maybe like 150 votes, right? If we get one politician to sign, maybe we get the Green party candidate to sign up. And then we inform his competitors that the Green Party candidates signed up, why put yourself at a competitive disadvantage? And then of course the Liberal Democrat candidate signs up, and then the Labor Party candidate signs up, and then the Conservative Party candidate signs up. Why? Because they’ve got no choice. And of course we never tell them how many supporters we have in their area. So we keep them guessing.

Jim: Until you have enough, then you do tell them. That would be my advice.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s right. We’ll decide when the time’s right.

Jim: When it’s three men in a bathtub, then no, you don’t talk about it. But when it’s 6 million, then, hell yes, you tell them.

John: Yeah. And it’s very powerful. This is how we’ve actually managed to get… Like I said, over a hundred MPs in the UK have signed up. They come from right across Arctic political spectrum. Most of them bring that Labor, Liberal, Democrat, but we have a few conservatives as well. And we have a growing number in the Irish parliament, in the German parliament, in the European Union parliament, and in one or two others around the world as well. So the processes is already rolling, but obviously, it can’t grow unless we have more citizens signing on to make it clear to our political representatives that they better sign up to this or they risk losing our votes to their competitors who signed up instead.

Jim: Yeah, very, very clever. As I read this thing, there were two things that jumped out at me as truly contributions. First was the focus on the destructive global competition as the generator function for much of what’s wrong with the world, not everything, but much. And the second was this clever, clever hack, particularly, as you pointed out, works best in first-past-the-post countries like the UK, Canada, U.S, where there’s pretty strong constitutional forces towards two parties. Very difficult to get a successful third party.

Jim: Canadians seem to do it. I’m not quite sure how, but in the UK, the third parties come and they go and they get squeezed down. United States, they seldom get more than a couple of percent. For the, essentially, game theory again, our good old friend and the first-past-the-post election system and plurality voting. But that gives tremendous power to something like Simpol, again, to make clear to our listeners, “The idea is we have a club, the club has decided on a bunch of policies, right? And anyone who agrees with our club, we agree that we will preferentially support them.”

Jim: And by the way, when it disagrees with our policies, we’re almost certainly not going to vote for. When the club gets big enough in a country like the United States or the UK, where there’s often a lot of close elections, even a few million people will push a whole bunch of elections one way or the other. Look at the United States, our senate is 50/50, and there’s a 10 vote margin in the house of representatives. It wouldn’t take much push in either direction to significantly change the partisan dynamics. So this is a ass big club.

John: Jim, it’s exactly right. Just to give you an example, one of our supports a few years ago, one of the elections we fought in the UK, he was sitting in one of these very marginal [inaudible 00:55:56] at the UK. And we got the first candidate to sign up. the Green Party candidate to sign up, I think. And he was delighted and he rang me up and he said, “John, this is great, because now we got them all by the balls.”

John: And it’s exactly what is so marvelous about Simpol and why I remember that particular occasion that was about years ago now, is because it just shows how, if we use the right tool, we already have the power. So many people feel completely disempowered by the political process, and white bother, and blah-blah-blah, but when they actually get to understand the Simpol tool and how powerful it is, it’s like, “Wow, this is amazing.

Jim: That what was my reaction. I go, “Shit, this thing could work.” Right? You got to get it to a critical mass. I don’t know where that, but it may only be 3, 4%, something like that. The usual rule, you think of 15%, but I suspect in a country that’s closely divided and has First-past-the-post constitutional election framework, 4, 5, 5% ought to have a hell of a lot of leverage.

John: That’s right, Jim. In a sense because of destructive global competition and the polarization that it’s created. That polarization on either side of left or right tends to be very evenly matched. Right? And so the margin of difference between the two, which Simpol can exploit, can be incredibly small, or relatively small. So that is a huge leverage potential that we have.

Jim: I’m just thinking out loud here. It just hit me as I was listening to you and thinking about this. Which is possibly a flaw, but also a way to tune it for strength. If it turns out that almost all of your votes would have gone to the Labor candidate, anyway, it doesn’t matter much. If, however, you have tuned your issue positions such that you actually have something close to a balance from the incumbent parties, the power of the stick goes way up.

John: Yes, yes, that’s right. The more tightly contested and election or parliamentary seat, the more power we have.

Jim: Per unit size.

John: Yeah. The fewer Simpol supporters it takes to swing it one way or the other, the more power we have.

Jim: But it’s also, the more balanced you are between people who would otherwise vote for either party, the more power you have, I think.

John: Well, yeah, I think so. I think I understand what you’re saying. In a sense, signing on to Simpol as like having two votes rolled into one. By signing on at any point in time, you’re getting your global vote and you’re putting pressure on your political representatives to sign up to implementing Simpol. But then when election day comes around, you get your national vote just like everybody else. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/end.

Jim: Though, of course, to give you credible, your people have to actually vote most of the time in the way that Simpol points. If it turns out that it’s just a feel good gesture and the people don’t actually turn out and vote that way, well, it’s a paper tier.

John: Absolutely. As global problems become more and more acute, look at COVID is another example, I think people are going to increasingly be voting very seriously. You’re taking their simple commitment very, very seriously, and taking their national vote perhaps a bit less serious. Because they realize that the national vote actually doesn’t count for much anymore. So I think as time goes on, Jim, this is going to become increasingly serious.

John: But let me just add another point to it. And that is from the point of view of politicians, we have some politicians who’ve signed up probably because they felt they had to in order to… They didn’t want to lose their seats. But many politicians have written to us and said, “Thank you so much for coming out with this idea because it solves our problem.” They are actually relieved that that lasts, there is a political program out there that solves the DGC dilemma, which they’re all stuck with.

John: Because, very often, it’s not that our politicians don’t want to solve climate change or some of these wealth inequality, it’s literally that destructive global competition means that they can’t. And so when something… When they learn about Simpol, they’re actually very happy to sign up. Not all of them but, but many of them are.

Jim: Frankly, between you, me and the fence post, I’ve known a fair number of electoral politicians. And with some exceptions, you guys know who you are. Most of them make the sharpest knives in the drawer. How many of them get this? This isn’t hugely hard, but it requires kind of second order thinking to be able to sort of see how the Simpol hammer works. If you found you can actually splang this to politicians and they’re flunkies.

John: What we find, actually that it’s easier to explain it to politicians than it is to citizens.

Jim: That I believe.

John: Yeah. And I think the reason this is that politicians are confronted every day with this dilemma. They’ve got climate change pressing down on them, protests from people like Extinction Rebellion and other NGOs pressuring them to take action. And yet on the other side, they’ve got to keep the economy competitive. So I think politicians actually understand the dilemma quite well, generally speaking.

John: And even those politicians on the right who, perhaps, they understand that even better in the sense that they are all about keeping the nation competitive. And of course, with Simpol, if implementation is simultaneous, every nation’s relative competitiveness stays the same, nobody loses out. And so, in a sense, Simpol has a lot to offer to the right as well as to the left.

Jim: Yeah. That’s why I suggest, I’m going to think hard about this. I might even write a simulation about that. I think if it is indeed true that balancing it partisanly is critical to maximize a force Like it may be. But now let’s move on. So we have this very clever analysis of the generator function and a club to basically leverage elected officials without having to start a party and without having to get a huge number, 4 or 5%, you got a big club, but to make this actually solve the generator function, the set of policy trade-offs have to be right. Could you talk a little bit about what you envision in terms of the policy making process? Who does it? Who organizes it? How do we know that groups working at the national level can work together with other Simpol groups across national lines? Talk about the mechanics of these policy trade-offs.

John: Yeah, I will. Before I do that, Jim, let me just give you a little bit of a sketch of the evolution of Simpol as I envisaged, or as we envisage it. So the idea, really, of course this voting mechanism that we were just talking about, obviously can only work in democratic countries. It can’t work in China or in in non-democratic countries, obviously. And so, the first question people would say, “Well, yeah, but how are you going to get non-democratic nations on board?”

John: Well, our answer to that is that we want to get the ball rolling in democratic countries first, and then, depending on whether the United Nations process has any success or not, if it continues to fail Simpol, I think, could then become, if you like, the predominant game in town when it comes to solving global problems. And then I think you will have the incentive for non-democratic countries to voluntarily join the process. Because they need, they need solutions to global problems too. So that just outlines the evolution of the buy-in to to the idea.

Jim: Actually, I thought about that. And it may actually be easier to get the authoritarian countries in. Because you only have to negotiate with a couple of dudes, right?

John: Yeah. Well, that’s absolutely right. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Jim: Yeah. You get [Xhi 01:04:21], or the hell his name is, in China. Right? And he’s a smart dude. And he says, “All right, you guys have all your Americans and Brits and French men running around figuring policy out when you got to sort of figure it out, come talk to me, let’s go cut a deal.” It may actually be surprising, because if the idea of high dimensionality allowing trade-offs that worked for everybody kind of a Nash equilibrium, then it actually may be easier to deal with the autocrats than it is with the democracies.

John: Absolutely true. Absolutely true. Now, as far as the actual development of the policies themselves are concerned, Jim. Like I said earlier, Simpol, actually at the moment, it’s an open book. We don’t have any policies. Because, obviously this is a longer term process, it would be crazy to try to define policies now when Simpol might only get implemented in 10 years time or whatever. So the policy content of Simpol remains to be determined.

John: And the process we envisaged for that sort of happens in two stages. So first of all, the first stage would only really start when we’d already got the buy-in going in a number of nations in the way I described earlier, and the process was known by the public and it was on the media radar. And at that point, you would start the first stage where in each individual country, you would have its own process where Simpol supporters would, first of all, define what are the top 10 priority issues for that country, global issues for that country. And what are the top policies to solve those issues?

John: And that process would be going on independently in other countries as well, because, of course, every nation has a different perspective on what are the most important global issues. Not at not all nations are the same, so there needs to be a process in that first stage of each nation actually defining, well, what are the top global issues for us? And what are the top 10 policy solutions for those issues? And so that’s the first stage, is a national stage.

John: And then once you’ve got enough buy-in from countries across the planet, you would then move to the global negotiation where the key issues would be sorted into Simpol one Simpol two, Simpol three, depending on what can be agreed as the most prominent issues, then pulling them together into multi-issue packages and then negotiating the details. And then you would have implementation on a certain date. So that’s very, very in brief, but is the outline.

John: Actually, I forgot to send you, Jim, a document called, what we call the information pack, which can be downloaded from our website. And that gives a sort of much more detailed outline of how that process would be organized by whom and so forth. But in brief, it’s a two-stage process. First stage, national. Second stage, global.

Jim: Yeah. Well, the things I like about this a lot is it requires no constitutional changes. You can just do it, right? At least in the United States. You point out maybe Canada has a law against it, but in the book you said that, “Yeah, Canada aren’t supposed to be able.”

John: I will say about that. Yeah, they have a law politicians signing pledges near to election time. But as you know, Simpol actually works throughout the year. It works all the time. So the fact that we’re restricted from getting pledges from politicians three months before an election doesn’t necessarily hurt hurts us. It’s not convenient that it’s not a deal breaker.

Jim: Yeah. In the United States that would be illegal. I’d violate the First Amendment. So this is really interesting because it requires no constitutional changes. It requires nobody’s agreement except the people that want to do it, which I love, right? This is classic self-organization. Now, presumably you need some form of organization or at least constitution for the Simpol movement to allow it to self-organize and become a thing. Have you guys thought a little bit into its own operating machinery, how it works?

John: Yeah. We have a founding declaration and we have… In the information pack document that I mentioned just now, Jim, then there is a full breakdown of how we’re organized in each country. So all of that is out there. It’s a bit wordy to go into it now, but yes, that is all answered, at least as we envisage it evolving. Obviously, it will be for Simpol supporters in each country to actually decide whether they agree with that vision. If they decide to do it at a slightly different way, that’s up to them.

John: So like you say, it’s a very much a bottom-up democratic process in democratic countries. And I think the point about not needing any change of constitution in any country is vital. Because, Simpol, it’s really like a citizen-driven global treaty. It’s not a world government, God forbid, or anything like that. It is a pragmatic global agreement driven by citizens driving their politicians and governments into that agreement and nothing more. And we don’t need anything more, like you said.

Jim: That’s really cool. Because, I got some of my pet reforms, don’t all of us thinkers, one of mine is liquid democracy, right? Which is essentially delegative proxy democracy. And it’s really neat. It might be the answer, but it would be essentially impossible to happen within say the constitutional framework of a country like the United States or the UK until after the revolution. One of the things I love about Simpol is that we can start doing it tomorrow afternoon.

John: Well, that’s right. And we’ve already started. We were already doing it. And it’s working.

Jim: Very cool. Though interestingly that you don’t yet have a payload, right? You have a process, but no payloads. No agreed upon issues even at the national level. From a timing perspective, frankly, for institutional wanks like us, it’s kind of cool to talk about process, but to talk to my brother about it or something, we better have some policies to lay out there. Wouldn’t we expect there to be enough action that say at one of these national levels to at least have a first draft national Simpol 1.0 that people can take a look at and say, “These people are fucking nuts,” or, “Hmm, these guys aren’t bad.”

John: Well, the first thing we really want to do, Jim, actually, is to get a really thorough university study done on mixing two policies together. Like climate agreement and the global wealth for currency transactions tax, what would the level of the tax need to be in order to reduce emissions by 70% or 80% or whatever? And then a number of scenarios about how the proceeds from the tax might be distributed between different countries. So that we get a feasibility study done, if you like, on this multi-issue simultaneously implemented approach.

John: And so one of the things I… one of our projects for this year is to get such a university study done. I think that would help to, as you say, get the practicalities to start getting the idea of what policies could actually be implemented simultaneously onto the agenda.

Jim: Yeah. I don’t know. Why not just do it? Why deal with a bunch of academics? Why not just round up 20,000 people and go to town?

John: Well, because like me, I’m just a hairy ass paper salesman, Jim. I don’t know anything about policy development. We’ve got to get some professionals into this. Because I think that to have the credibility, we really need that kind of expertise, I think, to be taken seriously.

Jim: What’s his name? At Stanford who works on deliberative democracy. He might be an interesting guy to talk to. Fishkin. James Fishkin. He’s he’s an interesting guy.

John: Okay. James Fishkin. Well, this is…Actually I’m so delighted to have this interview with you, Jim, because you’ve got connections to these kinds of people. They’ve never heard of me. They’ve probably never heard of Simpol. And so we really do need connections to people like that who can open doors to the right kind of people so that we can get these studies done, so that we can actually start putting some flesh on the bones.

Jim: I agree. Me, I’m a bias-towards-action guy. I might talk to an academic for get-it-done-in-90 days or something, but man, I’m feeling like if one wasn’t completely a buffoon, you could actually make this work.

John: Well. I’m actually quite a cautious guy. I’m very enthusiastic about Simpol, just like you are, Jim, now. And it’s not that I think that it’s necessarily the best thing since sliced bread, it’s more a question of, “Have we got a better idea?” And in the 20 that I’ve been doing this, I haven’t seen a better one. And so we kind of keep going, but I think if you can help us open doors to the right people, I think we could really get this thing motoring really quickly.

Jim: And it is true. We do need to think hard about how hard will it be to get multi-dimensional trade-offs that are actually Nash equilibria. We know there’s no guarantee in a high dimensional space, but it’s certainly possible.

John: No, that’s that’s right. I think the other thing to take into account, though, is that, and this is the way cooperation works, is that the Nash equilibrium also depends on how high the water is up round their necks, right?

Jim: That’s true.

John: That’s kind of the way cooperation works. It’s when the water is right up around our necks that we think, “Shit, lots of work together.”

Jim: That’s a very good point. In rock talk, it’s either, that’s a Nash equilibrium under co-evolutionary contexts where the co-evolutionary isn’t going too well.

John: Well, you’re smarter with words than I’m.

Jim: I don’t know about that. I just got a lot of good jargon I’ve accumulated over the word.

John: That’s British understatement.

Jim: This has been great so far. So let’s go onto the next and last topic. We’re getting near our time-check here. And this is something you hit on pretty hard. Well, this is an extraordinarily clever institutional invention. And I say that honestly. I’m impressed. You also, though, make a pretty strong point, that it isn’t going to reach its potential if we don’t also elevate the perspective of the people, that we have to find a new way to think outside of our parochial thoughts. Talk about that a little bit.

John: Yeah. Well this, this is the evolution of our consciousness, our understanding, our awareness from what I call the nation-centric level to the level we need to really understand that why global cooperation is now so vital. Which is the world-centric level of consciousness. And so in integral theory, for example, or Inspiral dynamics, Jim, that might be like yellow Turk voice in integral theory, the colors are there, but it’s that world-centric level, that integral vision logic level of consciousness.

John: But it’s not that everybody needs to get up to that level, but that a critical mass of us get up to that level so that we can get this Simpol idea rolling strongly enough that people will then just join in. Because I think it’s also kind of like a learning by doing process. When people like, like I said, that guy who said, “Now we’ve got them all by the balls.” When people see how powerful the process is, they’re going to jump on and learn in the process.

John: So I think it’s the important thing right now is to get a really strong core group of second tier integral or Turk voice thinkers, whatever, meta modern, whatever you want to call it, and coalesce around this idea to really get it moving. Because maybe we can come onto the conscious evolution if we still have time, but unless we coalesce around some kind of plan like this, or something else, we are not going to make it.

Jim: Yep. And as some people realize, it’ll probably have to be a vanguard that does the work to figure out the institutional structure and maybe even the policy trade-offs. But as I like to keep pointing out, we need some Benjamin Franklins not just Thomas Jeffersons, right? That with the Bret Weinstein, by the way, talking about our failed attempt to build a political party, right? We were great thinkers. We weren’t such good communicators.

John: Jim, Bret is another person I’ve been trying to get in touch with to talk to him about this. Because as an evolution biologist, I think he would get this straight away.

Jim: Yeah. And when I was reading it, I said, I’m going to send it to him straight away. He’s a good friend. I’ll connect to you guys.

John: Oh, great. Great. I actually, I met him at the Rebel Wisdom conference last year here London. And I had a quick chat with him. I gave him my card, but I don’t think he… Well, he didn’t contact me. So I think if you can make that connection, that would be good. It’s actually the whole evolutionary context, I think, is so important, Jim, because… I think right now people are scared. They’re lost. They’re panicking in a way. Because we’re being hit by all these global problems.

John: And if people don’t understand the evolutionary context of why we are where we are and where evolution wants us to go, of course they will panic. But what we try to do with Simpol is to show that we are in a process where we’ve gone from pre-historic families, to tribes, to then middle-aged small states, to still larger nation states. Competition has driven cooperation at ever higher levels.

John: Now we are at the global level where we don’t have global cooperation, but we do have a global economy. And so that mismatch is causing all of this negative fallout, and chaos, and global threats. And so we need to see that global cooperation is where evolution wants to take us. So while we feel scared and threatened, at least we know where we’re headed, because if people don’t know where we’re headed, we really are lost.

Jim: Yup. Yeah, the argument’s pretty straight forward. I’ll just restate it for the audience. Smack me if I get it wrong. That destructive global competition is a generator function of many of problems and keeps us from being able to solve them, particularly ones at have global scale such as climate change. We have institutional gridlock every place for a whole bunch of reasons, having to do with game theory also. And that something like Simpol, which so clever about it, it doesn’t require the constitutional stuff, It doesn’t require creating a global state. Which I had very good interesting guy on the podcast the other day, Anatole Levin, who argued that only nationalism can solve climate change.

John: I know him. I know him.

Jim: Interesting. At some sense, when he’s arguing is against what you’re saying, but in another sense, he’s not.

John: No, no, no.

Jim: He’s concerned that the time it would take to build strong global institutions is way longer than we have. And so the beauty of Simpol is you can get the effect of global institutions without actually having to build any real heavy ones.

John: Exactly. And he’s actually somebody… Because I read his book, which was really good, and I contacted him and he likes the idea of Simpol. I think for exactly the reason you’re talking about, Jim, is that it’s based on nation states, it’s based on global cooperation being designed in such a way that it’s in every nation’s self-interest. And so that chimes very closely with what he is saying.

Jim: Vert good. Yeah, his episode will be coming out two days from today. Which will be about two weeks before this episode comes out, to the people that are listening. Would have been fun to go down the evolutionary consciousness road, but I think we’ve pretty much out of time. I’m an old dude. I get tarred after awhile. So I found about 90 minutes is about as much time as I can give my full Jim Rutt Show push. So if you have any final thoughts, let’s hear them and then we’ll wrap her up.

John: Well, no, Jim, I’m just grateful for you. I’m just delighted that you liked the idea. If there’s any help you can give us probably by putting us in touch with the right people, that would be wonderful. The only other thing to say of course is please sign onto Simpol, it just takes a couple of minutes, at Thanks.

Jim: And as always, there’ll be links to that and everything else we referenced at the episode page at

Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting. Music by Tom Muller at