Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"It's a state of mind, and they don't get it"

Innovations in technology, organizational models, and logistics will at some point inevitably be applied to government, changing how government is organized, how it operates and its role within society. The big government that we got in the 20th century was the inevitable result of the application of the innovations in technology, organizational models and logistics of industrialization. This was going to happen regardless of the outcome of the ideological competition that was taking place between the Civil War and WW2. The ideological competition determined the specific form the application of these innovations would take and the rulesets that would govern them, not whether they would be applied. Today we are again in an era where a variety of innovations have been emerging that will inevitably be applied to government:

Mayor Newsom was first the raise the issue of governing in this new era. He said that the Internet and social networks, create "a connection that is more useful." But, "most politicians are not there yet. It's a state of mind, and they don't get it. It's not about old or young, it's a new kind of politics."

But the panel seemed very hopeful that a citizenry connected over the Internet could help the government function. Newsom said, "Government can't solve our problems exclusively." The panel discussed using the Web for not just fund raising but to encourage citizen involvement in thorny issues, such as health care reform.

The ideological competition is about the larger vision that guides the application of the innovations, about the various conceptions of society, government, and the citizen that are in play. Updating classical liberal ideas for the 21st century means understanding the variety of changes that are taking place and crafting a vision and conceptual framework that can appeal to people in our time, embody our aspirations, guide the application of these innovations, and inform practical governance. This is the role that the New Deal/Great Society liberalism has been playing for decades. The conservative movement was never able to replace that version of liberalism, rather it served as an opposition movement that was successful in implementing various reforms. But time has moved on and both those ideologies are outdated relics of another era: most politicians are not there yet. It's a state of mind, and they don't get it.


Purpleslog said...

This would be a good topic for a blog roundtable.

Jay@Soob said...

Both David Brin's "Earth" and Orson Scott Card's "Enders Game" took the concept of "next generation debate/dialogue" platform in interesting directions. Brin's direction (a Gaian sort) put government nearly out of the picture as the internet became a global conscience. Seems utopian, but Brin seems to recognize that ideology isn't going to force the natural behavior of human beings in the direction of embracing and exacting "equality." Brin recognizes a degree of evolution (via technology) is required for human beings to behave in such a fashion.

Card's more pragmatic vision falls closer to your own and Mayor Newsom's vision. The "nets" served a powerful source of manipulation and influence. In essence, the nets became the battleground for competing ideologies with two fictional idealogues (Demosthenes and Locke) successfully realizing hegemony purely through manipulating the planets popular mood and dominating the essence of global debate.

I very much agree that both the conservative and liberal base are hopelessly outdated. And I think America agrees as well, hence the election of a man on the basis of rhetoric rather than experience and a man whose positions regarding nearly every aspect of executive command are, at best, a haze, at worst, non-existent.

phil said...

Hey fellas,

P-That's a good idea. I think it would be fun.

J-I have not read those books, but they sound interesting. It's probably not news to you but one of the things I've found in reading around the blogosphere the past several years is how science fiction and alternative history seem to be genres that offer more than just the entertainment of a good story, but actually explore ideas and insights via fiction that people find relevant to contemporary issues. Not all genres of fiction offer this. It's new to me because I haven't been reading science fiction or alt history. I think that fiction is just as valid a medium for articulating ideas and insights as the academic paper and the essay.

I don't know which innovations will be successfully applied to government. But I like that people are self-motivated to experiment with new ideas. Our political discourse is too often the unthinking repetition of cliched slogans and concepts that have become disconnected from the realities of governing domestically and internationally. Contrast that with this panel discussion where it seems people were trying to think creatively about improving governance. Reading about these kinds of panel discussions informs my reading into the Civil War-WW2 era where we see exactly the same effort to think creatively about improving governance just with a different set of innovations.