Sunday, August 28, 2011

D.C. Mediation ?

This article comes a little late in the summer of discontent in Washington. Harvard Lecturer David Hoffman's term for the malaise affecting Congress is "PTID" or Post Traumatic Impasse Disorder.

He cites to an example of two siblings fighting over an orange in Fisher & Ury's classic negotiation book, Getting to Yes. Their mother solves the problem by cutting the orange in two-- but one of them wanted only the rind to bake a cake; the other wanted only the pulp to make juice. Both could have had the functional equivalent of the whole orange if they had communicated about their interests.

Hoffman references diplomat L. Michael Hager's proposal to create a politically neutral service for legislative mediation, akin to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Precedent exists for such an agency in the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, whose success in mediating major labor conflicts, he says, suggests that its mandate could be expanded to handle legislative impasses.

Even Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, weighed in this weekend on the dysfunctional Congress from a conference in Jackson Hole saying,"“The country would be well served by a better process for making fiscal decisions.”