Family is an interesting and informative exercise in people watching. In conversation the informed, ill informed, intelligent, ignorant, and indifferent all can be seen in as a microcosm of the community as a whole. Conversation for holidays that lack a lot of traditions rituals and activities lead to discussions in my family and the talk can get heated absent some ground rules.

That offers the opportunity for a game such as “Benevolent Dictator” or “Dictator for a Day,” as many of the issues of the day dominate conversation even as the taboo of talking religion and politics can be difficult and lead to trouble. That made the idea of setting out a “game” and some protocols and rules that make it possible for everyone interested to get equal hearing.

As a group, all one needs for equipment is a few pens or pencils and a pad of post it notes or paper pads. The question for everyone is choosing two or three prime topics that each player is to solve when they are the benevolent dictator for a day. When the top topics are known from the list offered by everyone, each player can offer their solution for one or more topic.

The pen and paper are the just the means to stop the conversational over runs and get the list laid out so everyone can choose their topic. It stops talking long enough for thinking and for someone to tally up the leading issues.

The next step is for everyone in turn, in a sentence or so, to lay out their “decree” for each of the topics. As its family, there aren’t any hard rules but you can modify these suggestions as you see fit. We time the discussion after each decree, not the decree offer itself. It won’t take long for one topic and a decree to really stir things up. So a time limit is what works for us.

After the two or three rounds of decrees, it comes to a vote to choose a decree most likely to succeed. More pen and paper, but the vote isn’t about a family member, its about an idea that in our case can often be offered by more than one person.

That’s just a simple way to have a little fun with the issues of the day. It involves the indifferent and informs the ill informed and ignorant. Handled with respect, and inside a protocol many otherwise difficult matters get aired and each person is heard by everyone for a few moments. It makes for a happy group eager for more next time.

Yup, oil and gasoline prices made the list. The decree most likely to succeed was to require license and registration fees of gas guzzlers to be much more expensive at an increasing rate over ten years when the license and registration fees would be equal to half the new price of the vehicle. As you can well imagine the vocal minority was pushing for the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank to get back to the business of maintaining the purchasing power of the dollar. Both are top flight ideas that are eminently sensible.

Dispensing with the world’s evil people turned up a couple of shocking ideas and the hopeless longing for human camaraderie. A winner just didn’t get picked.

The third topic was getting a public grasp back on medical costs. Note that is “a public grasp on medical costs” not a government grasp or an insurance company’s grasp on medical costs. The frustration in the family may well be a microcosm of the whole community. Many will look for someone else to pay the bill, but in my family, it’s well understood whoever sends the money, it will still be our money. Controlling costs is now the main “term of the issue.” The medical cost issue has been tabled to be picked up at the next family get together. It was suggested that everyone see a program on PBS made by a reporter who visited other countries to see how they have handled the health care issue and when I get the link, I will put up a short post. If you already know, please pass it along.

After a few hours family members departed happy and satisfied, pleased and feeling loved.

Those of us who look at energy and fuel as a main topic might come away from such a discussion appalled at the poor information in circulation, and a concern about the intent of the major media. It was offered that an article in a major newspaper is suggesting that Iowa is the leading CO2 emitter in the U.S. When in fact the state has a low percentage of coal electrical generation, nuclear stations of good repute and may well be the nation’s largest CO2 sequestration state with a rapidly increasing share of wind generation coming on line. But, some goof wrote the article and somehow a gross misrepresentation of the facts got into print. There isn’t time to chase them all down and expose them.

A little protocol, some simple rules and any group can explore the knowledge of its members and everyone comes away better informed.

With three grandmothers, four mothers and lots of kids around it was a fine day. For all my readers who are mothers I wish you a Mother’s Day that feels goods all of the coming year. I hope today’s little suggestion might give you a way to have those more intense discussions in a more enjoyable and beneficial way.


2 Comments so far

  1. Politics in America » How to Play Benevolent Dictator on May 12, 2008 6:25 AM

    […] Pol12: International Political Economy wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt … or “Dictator for a Day,” as many of the issues of the day dominate conversation even as the taboo of talking religion and politics can be difficult and l ead to trouble…. […]

  2. interesting nuclear facts on May 13, 2008 4:23 AM

    […] all can be seen in as a microcosm of the community as a whole. Conversation for holidays that lack a Scoops’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and a lot of […]

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