Define the "rational capital" of a society as a pseudo-quantitative measure of the rational power it can harness -- through philosophers, politicians, journalists, activists, community groups, etc. -- to solve social problems. At the moment, this quantity is depressingly small. So, rather than squandering it all on 'buying' a handful of solutions today, we should be investing this rational capital, so that we might pursue grander projects tomorrow.
We need to invest in better education, and philosophical training in particular. School children should learn to distinguish valid from fallacious arguments, and reason from rhetoric. They should be encouraged to think critically about ethical issues. Intellectual curiosity must be nourished from a young age, with open discussions of all the fascinating philosophical questions that you never find in schools today.
But this only gets us so far. Philosophical education can develop the potential for rational inquiry, but it still remains to be harnessed. This will require institutional change, with all levels of government becoming more open to democratic participation. Government must be transparent, so that our representatives can be held accountable. Provision must be made for public deliberation and debate - the free exchange of reasoned arguments - and their conclusions heeded.
Ultimate success requires that we be able to reform our political culture away from empty sloganeering, towards substantive debate of reasoned arguments. As I've said before:
There are some issues that are genuinely difficult, and we can't expect any easy answers to them. But for others, it really isn't that hard to come to the truth if one is willing to think critically. Politicians and partisans defend obvious falsehoods all the time. It shouldn't happen. They ought to be exposed as either stupid or dishonest. Once we're all agreed on the easy questions, then we can concentrate on disputing the hard ones. And if we continue to hold each other up to the high standards of reasoned discourse, then perhaps some real progress might be made. So why aren't we doing this?
Perhaps people avoid rational argument because they're no good at it. Successful education should provide the required skills and overcome these fears of intellectual inadequacy. (I assume that most people are not born irretrievably stupid.)
Another problem might be apathy or lack of interest in social and political issues. This is no doubt exacerbated by feelings of political impotence and disenfranchisement. Efforts to promote deliberative democractic participation should help alleviate this side of the problem. (I assume that most people are not essentially self-centred or apathetic.)
Any other suggestions for how we ought to invest our rational capital?