Terraform Manifesto

By Gintas Vilkelis, Ph.D.

The Terraform Project was born from the question:

“How things should be, so as to significantly improve life’s conditions for as many people as possible?”

Its Mission Statement:

What makes countries great and prosperous is not the genetic makeup of their inhabitants (as no country is genetically superior to others). What makes a country great is the best system for all people – the system, under which people are empowered, free and able to achieve their full potential, to become the best they can be, to realise their dreams, to prosper, to develop and to make their country an amazing place for all future generations. Isn’t that what everyone wants and deserves?

The politics (and to a somewhat lesser degree economics) has drifted too far away from what would be the most sensible in the modern world:

  • Some things are archaic – they still haven’t caught up with the modern times. A good example is the modern education system, which is based on the 250-year-old Prussian model and hasn’t evolved much since then, while the realities of life have changed dramatically.
  • Some other things have moved too far in the wrong direction, depressing the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people generation after generation and are now threatening the very existence of democracy. The biggest issue is the unsustainable growth of the centralized welfare state of all forms – national and supranational (like the EU), including their hold on the outdated, and often outright disastrous and harmful centralized administration of welfare, education and health care.

All of this is causing the Western world to become increasingly inhospitable to the majority of its inhabitants.

The mission of the Terraform project is to make this planet economically and politically more habitable  for everyone.


What Are The Problems?

There are so many important things in life that are currently organized in a very substandard, outdated, and often outright harmful ways:

  • Education is the greatest equalizer of the modern age, yet the current education system is structurally flawed and heavily outdated: its output is poorly matched to the requirements of the modern economy, as it does not teach entrepreneurship and often produces people with insufficient skills to have productive professional lives. This translates into hundreds of millions of wasted, disappointing lives and a much heavier tax burden on those who did manage to get gainfully employed and have to support those who have failed to acquire the skills to make it on their own. Worse yet, the current education system is based on the archaic mid-18th century Prussian education model, which was revolutionary 12 generations ago, but now is woefully outdated. The world has moved on very far sñince then, but the education systems have moved little. There is a new education model that has been extensively tested, producing truly impressive results, but the world is moving far too slowly towards its adoption, meaning the future potential of yet another generation is in the process of being wasted away unnecessarily.
  • While the way information is produced and consumed (including learning) has made major advances in the last 100 years, it has stopped far short of what’s already technologically possible. This is more than just a major missed opportunity: it continues to adversely affect all aspects of life – from education to business decision-making, costing the world’s economy trillions of dollars each year.
  • Health care system in most countries is mismanaged in a major way, making it impersonal, disempowering, less effective and very expensive. In some countries, the state-run health care system is failing. And in other major countries (like the USA), where they are transitioning into a state-run system, they’re certainly setting themselves up to follow suit and start failing too. Furthermore, modern “mainstream” medicine tends to be too close-minded, often outright dismissing other practices that have proven to work. As a result, the patients end up being short-changed.
  • The governments in most countries have become too centralized, bureaucratic and unaccountable, and in many places it’s getting worse (in particular, both the US and the EU are rapidly moving towards becoming Soviet-style centralized super-states).

The price we pay for all of this is steep and with no end in sight. And most of this cost is borne by the ordinary citizens in terms of wasted time and resources, as well as diminished quality of lives. And in the end, it’s the quality of life that really matters, so its improvement should be the ultimate objective.

The name “Terraform” comes from a Sci-Fi term meaning:

“Transform (a planet) so as to resemble the earth, esp. so that it can support human life.”

The Terraform Project has the following objectives:

  1. To create more friendly/welcoming environment for the rapid adoption of best practices and new good ideas,
  2. To promote the adoption of already-known best practices,
  3. To stimulate the creation of new best practices and ideas.

While there is already a considerable amount of effort regarding points #2 and #3, there doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as much effective activity on point #1 – making the socio-political environment more suitable and fertile.

Most of the people with good ideas work hard trying to make their ideas fit within the existing system, because it is perceived (often rightfully so) that changing the system is just far too hard. This consequently results in the issues never really being properly resolved.

However, if the system is not compatible with the implementation of the best ideas, then in the long term the outcomes of those efforts are likely to be disappointing, falling far short of their full potential. In those cases, working towards making the system friendlier to these new good ideas is actually a more productive way of expending the effort in the long term.

There is clearly a vast popular sentiment that the system is not right, that things are not working the way they should, but there is no clear vision what should be the alternative, and there is no organizing force promoting that change.

Hence, objective #1 was born from a question:

“Given that there are so many great ideas around on how to do things better, why so few of them get actually implemented, hence the biggest problems remain far from getting solved? What stands in the way?”

Good ideas are like seeds, and the economic and political system is the soil where those seeds get planted if we want them to grow into something big.

If the soil is hostile, the seedlings will struggle to grow, and we all pay the price in terms of our lives being less fulfilling, more stressful, and for some of us – completely wasted. It’s a shame when it doesn’t have to be this way!

A “fertile ground” means countries, composed of empowered, well-informed, well-educated and motivated voting citizenry. This would be much more achievable if people had much greater powers and abilities to change the lives in their communities. This means: much more empowered local rule – the opposite of the omnipotent centralized bureaucratic government that many democratic countries and continents appear to be moving towards.

The only way to reverse this momentum is to devolve as many central governments’ powers as practical to the local level, and leave to the central governments only the powers that only national governments can do (border control, defence, foreign politics, major disasters). This means, most importantly, that most laws, regulations and taxes should be passed and levied locally – because it’s impossible to have truly democratic local governance if the local governments have to keep going cap-in-hand begging for money from the central governments’ bureaucrats. After all… human events tend to obey the golden rule: “He, who has gold, makes the rules“.

To find out more about it, I invite you to read Localism 2.0 reform proposal.