Friday, May 30, 2008

"I do believe that even the terrorist have the right to freedom of speech"

The title of this post comes from a comment on a post at Mashable on how YouTube should deal with terrorist videos. We don't want government to get involved in this. Sites like YouTube are free to implement whatever content policies they want and so it doesn't violate anyone's rights if they establish rules that restrict the kinds of content they will host, including removing videos by terrorist groups. But they need to understand how radical Islamists are using new media to attract new recruits, shape the mediaspace and generally wage a propaganda war against societies that value freedom of speech. Read the whole post.

There is truly a moral imperative (something Google claims to be guided by) to remove videos glorifying and promoting death and violence, not to mention a terms of service policy dictating that videos for shock value will not be tolerated. Google and YouTube’s inability to form cohesive and ethical corporate policy is finally coming home to roost, and it’s going to end up screwing with my free speech when Congress overwhelmingly passes a bill that undoubtedly will require some flunky on Capitol Hill (or worse, the Pentagon) to hit approve on every YouTube video I upload.

"The Citizen Generated Campaign"

Over the past few years as I have advocated for a Strategic Citizen approach to the war of ideas I have been told again and again that it'll never work. And my response was that it already was working just not in this capacity. I was surprised at how many people seem to have a mental block when it comes to strategic communication, they automatically reject the notion of a decentralized, citizen-directed campaign and apparently believe that only government can act. But in political activism, decentralized, citizen-directed campaigns flourish as people champion their ideas, candidates and causes. Here is an excellent example of a citizen-directed information operation. This kind of thing can be done to counter anti-Americanism, oppose Islamist extremism, promote our ideals, support various policies etc.

YouBama-The Citizen Generated Campaign

The goal of YouBama is to democratize the election campaign process. All content is generated by citizens and voted on by citizens.

Think about it as the unofficial presidential campaign for Barack Obama. Voters can say what they want, how they want. Then they vote on the videos so the best ones rise to the top.

This site was created by two Stanford University students. We have no connection to the official Obama campaign. We have no sponsors or group affiliations. The site was built using open source software.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Russian think tank

Is this new Russian think tank a means of projecting soft power?

A Russian foundation devoted to democracy and human rights is setting up shop in the United States.

The Moscow-based Institute of Democracy and Cooperation officially registered its New York branch on Dec. 31, several weeks after registering a branch in Paris, the chairman of the foundation said Friday.

Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer and member of the Public Chamber, said his foundation’s U.S. office would organize expert discussions about elections and human rights issues — while helping improve Western perceptions of Russia.

“The improvement of Russia’s image abroad is, of course, an important goal,” Kucherena said by telephone.

The foundation appears to be the latest attempt to influence foreign opinion about Russia through so-called “soft power” tactics. Another such project is Russia Today, a 24-hour English-language news station funded by the Kremlin.

In October, President Vladimir Putin told European leaders that he wanted to set up a think tank for freedom and democracy in Brussels or another European capital.

The goal, he said, was to counter the activity of Western nongovernmental organizations operating in Russia.

Moscow has accused Western NGOs of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and helping oust Moscow-friendly governments in Ukraine and Georgia.

But Kucherena denied that his foundation was a Kremlin project.

"Welcome to the front lines of the 21st century's information wars"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were targeted recently by cyberattacks:

Eight Internet sites operated by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were knocked out or affected in recent days by what the broadcaster calls an "unprecedented cyberattack." Welcome to the front lines of the 21st century's information wars.
The likely source of the cyberstrike is Europe's longest-ruling dictator, Belarus's Aleksander Lukashenko. The Web site of RFE/RL's Belarusan-language service on Saturday was brought down by 50,000 "fake hits" a second. The Minsk regime may have wanted to limit access to coverage of opposition protests. Saturday marked the 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl accident and the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.
In the old days, the Soviets and their satellites jammed radio broadcasts. "They did not succeed in the last century and they will not succeed now," Jeffrey Gedmin, RFE/RL president, said yesterday. The cyberattacks spread to the Iranian, Russian and other Web sites of the radios' local-language stations. By last night, the sites were back up.

More at RFE/RL

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

“The real war is the media war”

Here's a new one: the Taliban hold a press conference to announce that they are going to wage a media war:

The Taliban are preparing to launch a propaganda offensive with greater (global) outreach by arming some of its members with requisite skills to upload videos on websites such as YouTube.

“The real war is the media war,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud told Daily Times. “It is our desire to learn also how one should fight the media war.” 

Mehsud paved the way for a media counter-offensive on Friday by inviting more than 30 journalists from national and international media organisations to North and South Waziristan.
“The Taliban have not been very advanced as far as the media war is concerned. But we are making efforts to catch up with the latest methods, and we will soon be available on YouTube,” a non-Pashtun and non-combatant member of the Taliban’s media cell told Daily Times, his face covered up to evade the identifying gaze of invited lenses.

Access to the latest technology does not appear to be a problem for the Taliban; their media cell employed the latest digital video cameras and laptops to record every moment of the ‘biggest Taliban media show’. 

Senior BBC Urdu reporter Haroon Rashid commented that the media show put on by the Taliban underscored the “completer control of the militants” over Waziristan. 

The Taliban media cell has already been releasing video CDs showing horrific images, apparently with different aims. One such video, screened during an army media briefing on May 18, shows a boy as young as 10 firing shots at the head of a blindfolded man and beheading another.

“Such images leave a deep impact on viewers. It is part of Taliban psychological warfare to break down opponents psychologically,” a retired army expert on psy-ops warfare told Daily Times in Peshawar.

Via C-Square

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good stuff

A great discussion on military theory is going on over at tdaxp. An excellent example of Think Tank 2.0 in action.

In another post Dan suggests that it is time to jettison "generation" in the XGW terminology and I couldn't agree more:

The clean break of XGW from GMW has is amazing. Not only does it represent the greatest advance since the first descriptions of 5GW, it’s simply liberating to no longer carry the water for thsoe more interested in Idealism than in advancing our understanding of war.
Just as the abandonment of GMW (The Generations of Modern War) is a critical step in the evolution of XGW theory, the abandonment of “Generation” is the next step. Consider the many criticisms of “4GW” available on the web. Previously, proponents of XGW had to argue against these criticism, and assert that the critics did not really understand 4GW. Now, proponents can agree with the criticism, generalize them to criticism of GMW, and present XGW as an alternative.

One of the reasons that I stopped thinking in GW terms is that the "generation" concept never really resonated with me and where I wanted to go with my thinking. But it also seemed to me to be more of an obstacle to understanding than a help. The 5GW crew are doing some excellent thinking and I believe that devising terms that more accurately reflect their insights and where their explorations are leading will be a boon to the whole enterprise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Government as a platform

There is a lot of creative thinking going on about reorganizing government. While it takes time to gather the social momentum to overcome institutional inertia and entrenched interest groups who benefit from the current structure the process will continue as individuals seek out ways to innovate and improve government. But it won't be the standing-athwart-history-shouting-stop folks who will be coming up with new ideas and thus they will have no say in what the new rulesets will be. So if you want your ideas to be represented in the new ruleset regime then you have to embrace the changes that are taking place and abandon failed approaches to governing, e.g. standing athwart history shouting stop. The social and technological innovations of our time have an internal logic that leads towards decentralization, citizen empowerment, flatter organizational structures, and make civil society institutions the optimal means for accomplishing various ends. But people aren't thinking about these things because they buy into some classical liberal vision but because they are following that internal logic. As I've argued before, classical liberals need to get out ahead of this and associate their ideas with this since classical liberal ideas are the perfect social-political-economic philosophy for informing these social-technological innovations and providing a context for making sense of them. People are going to be looking for a larger vision of society that is consistent with the internal logic of the innovations they are participating in and we should make sure that it is there for them when they are ready for it. Here is an example of some of the thinking that is going on:

The idea is that US government web sites are so notoriously bad, they should just be torn down in favor of private sector alternatives. But this is more than just a privatization push, this is about turning the government into a data platform.

"Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that "exposes" the underlying data," says the draft version of the article (emphasis theirs). In other words, the government should become a data platform, exposing their vast amounts of data to the public -- i.e., via API -- and let the private sector mash it up to make helpful services for people.

The authors say that an open government data platform would lead "toward an ecosystem of grassroots, unplanned solutions to online civic needs." Eventually, the authors think that data mashup tools will become so commonplace and easy to use that people will no longer need third parties help them consume the information they seek. Instead, they'll be able to tap into the open government data layer and create custom applications with it on their own time. Think: Dapper for government.

That's a compelling vision of the future of open government, and one that makes a lot of sense. The idea is something like CSS -- which separates the display code of a web site from the content. A government data platform would separate the content from the task of displaying it, which the commercial and non-profit spaces are likely better suited for than the government itself.

Hiding in plain sight II

Via Instapundit and Mark Steyn we find another version of the kind of war of ideas that I mentioned yesterday. The war of ideas isn't just being fought with the kinds of acts of propaganda, armed or otherwise, that we recognize and to some degree expect from an adversary. Perhaps more worrisome and certainly more significant are the efforts in which your adversary actually changes your culture, your laws, your sense of what is socially acceptable not by invading and imposing its will by force, but by becoming part of the mainstream as teachers and policy makers and journalists and lobbyists and activists, etc. When we have been told for decades that our culture, in fact our entire civilization, is essentially evil and believing otherwise is racist, imperialist, sexist, then how will people muster the will and wield the intellectual tools to defend it? Radical leftists like Bill Ayers have been successfully waging a campaign of delegitimization against the West in general and America in particular and against liberal democratic capitalism as a political-economic system. Radical Islamists are taking advantage of the situation created by this campaign to shape our culture and social norms to be in accordance with their ideology:

If recent reports of trends in religious observance prove to be correct, then in some 30 years the mosque will be able to claim that, religiously speaking, the UK is an Islamic nation, and therefore needs a share in any religious establishment to reflect this. The progress of conservative Islam in the UK has been amazing, and it has come at a time of prolonged decline in church attendance that seems likely to continue.

This progress has been enthusiastically assisted by this government in particular with its hard-line multi-cultural dogma and willingness to concede to virtually every demand made by Muslims. Perhaps most importantly the government has chosen to allow hard-liners to act as representing all Muslims, and more liberal Muslims have almost completely failed to produce any leadership voices to compete, leading many Britons to wonder if there are indeed many liberal Muslims at all, surely a mistake.

At all levels of national life Islam has gained state funding, protection from any criticism, and the insertion of advisors and experts in government departs national and local. A Muslim Home Office adviser, for example, was responsible for Baroness Scotland’s aborting of the legislation against honour killings, arguing that informal methods would be better. In the police we hear of girls under police protection having the addresses of their safe houses disclosed to their parents by Muslim officers who think they are doing their religious duty.
While men-only gentlemen’s clubs are now being dubbed unlawful, we hear of municipal swimming baths encouraging ‘Muslim women only’ sessions and in Dewsbury Hospitals staff waste time by turning beds to face Mecca five times a day — a Monty Pythonesque scenario of lunacy, but astonishingly true. Prisons are replete with imams who are keen to inculcate conservative Islam in any inmates who are deemed to be culturally ‘Muslim’: the Prison service in effect treats such prisoners as a cultural block to be preached to by imams at will. Would the Prison service send all those with ‘C of E’ on their papers to confirmation classes with the chaplain?! We could go on.

The point is that Islam is being institutionalised, incarnated, into national structures amazingly fast, at the same time as demography is showing very high birthrates.

Once again Wretchard from the Belmont Club is ahead of the pack and on track:

A division of labor has been established in which the Left provides the paralyzing injection on Western society leaving the jihadis a clear field within which to operate.

MORE: Hiding in plain sight

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hiding in plain sight

Nearly three years ago I offered a few thoughts as part of the emerging conversation on 5GW where I suggested:

In 4GW the enemy attempts to influence the media and culture to undermine a country's war effort, but maybe in 5GW the enemy seeks to become the country's media, university and grade school teachers, writers, artists, etc. They become the purveyors of culture.
5GW isn’t just about using ideas to undermine the will of a people or government to fight, but about undermining a country’s ability to defend itself intellectually, one could say that it is an existential campaign that calls into question the very legitimacy of that country’s existence. A campaign that a country may not even be conscious of.
In 4GW the enemy attempts to use the target country’s media as a vehicle to sap the people’s and political leaders’ will to fight. In 5GW the enemy actually becomes the media and the political leadership. In 4GW a terrorist organization might attack a school or a courthouse in order to show that the government can’t defend itself; in 5GW the enemy would become the teachers and judges.

[Although I used the 5GW terminology at the time I wrote these comments, I later continued to explore these ideas within other terminological frameworks]

Later I offered the idea that people who initially try terrorist tactics may find that within the West they can have more success with non-violent political and cultural tactics:

There will come a time when Islamists [or in this case Weathermen] will realize that terrorism is counterproductive in the West. That they can achieve their goals through boycotts, protests, marches, lobbying, media campaigns and electoral politics. Is that still war? There is a point where politics and war become indistinguishable.

While that was all theory we now find via Zenpundit and Pundita a real life example of this kind of ideological combat who just happens to be an associate of a certain presidential candidate. Meet Bill Ayers:

A Chicago native son, Ayers first went into combat with his Weatherman comrades during the “Days of Rage” in 1969, smashing storefront windows along the city’s Magnificent Mile and assaulting police officers and city officials.
Ayers’s politics have hardly changed since his Weatherman days. He still boasts about working full-time to bring down American capitalism and imperialism. This time, however, he does it from his tenured perch as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America’s future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.

Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K–12 teachers need to “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.” Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.
Ayers’s influence on what is taught in the nation’s public schools is likely to grow in the future. Last month, he was elected vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation’s largest organization of education-school professors and researchers. Ayers won the election handily, and there is no doubt that his fellow education professors knew whom they were voting for. In the short biographical statement distributed to prospective voters beforehand, Ayers listed among his scholarly books Fugitive Days, an unapologetic memoir about his ten years in the Weather Underground. The book includes dramatic accounts of how he bombed the Pentagon and other public buildings.
His works are required texts in education school courses all over the country and he’s much in demand as a lecturer in many of those schools. Plus, he’s a pioneer in the progressive education publishing industry, encouraging books by many other authors that show teachers how to bring “social justice” themes -- i.e. the evils of American racism and imperialism – into their public school classrooms.

This is exactly why I have been championing a Strategic Citizen approach. Democratic governments can't deal with this kind of ideological war, therefore it is up to citizens to organize and beat back the efforts of people like Ayers. It is also why I have been advocating for updating classical liberal ideas for the 21st century: we need to have a current and effective ideological foundation to provide a base for taking on Ayers et al.

MORE: Hiding in plain sight II

The Next Big Thing

In responding to a post by Megan McArdle, Stephen Bainbridge exhibits all that is wrong with the outdated and misguided effort to bring a European-style conservative sensibility to America:

To me, this is basically wrong headed. I can’t think of anything more contrary to the spirit of Burkean conservatism than a seach for the “next big thing.”

Why should I care about the "spirit of Burkean conservatism"? That has nothing to do with America and the spirit of the American Experiment. America is all about the "next big thing" and has been from the very beginning. When the delegates arrived in Philadelphia in 1787 they did so to create the "next big thing." The Erie Canal, the light bulb, Leaves of Grass, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Wright Brother's airplane, the abolition movement, Star Wars, the drive-thru window, Yeager breaking the sound barrier, Louis Armstrong every time he picked up his horn, and on and on. The drive to seek out the "next big thing" is as American as it gets. It is the source of our creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial society. We need more of it not less.

Indeed, I would argue that a large part of the problem with modern conservatism is that Bush and the K Street Gang were more concerned with finding something big to do than with standing athwart history shouting stop.

There it is again: standing athwart history shouting stop. I hate that phrase and I can't think of anything more wrong-headed than that idea. After the War of Independence, Americans believed they were at the leading edge of civilization, that they were creating a new form of society and government. They were not in any way "standing athwart history shouting stop." In 1782, Congress approved the design for the Great Seal of the United States that included the motto Norvus Ordo Seclorum, "New Order of the Ages," that is not the motto of a country committed to the idea of "standing athwart history shouting stop." Pioneers didn't paint "standing athwart history shouting stop" on the sides of their wagons as they headed out on the Oregon Trail. Neil Armstrong didn't say "standing athwart history shouting stop" as he placed his foot on the moon. And Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't say "I have a dream of standing athwart history shouting stop" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

"Standing athwart history shouting stop" is the antithesis of the spirit of the American Experiment. A few years ago I met a guy from England who had come to the US with his wife who had a job with the British gov't. When she was to be transferred to another country she gave up her career and they decided to stay in the US. When I asked him why he said that it was because in America you can come up with an idea and pursue it and people will celebrate it and encourage you, whereas in England and Europe "if you stick your neck out it will get cut off." He and his wife stayed here to get away from the "standing athwart history shouting stop" mentality. Promoting that mentality in today's America is a recipe for stagnation and failure in adapting to the changes that are taking place.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And a Few More

For some reason my dog loves pulling sticks out of water:

Hmm. Where do you think that goes? That's what I ask myself when I get down here. I've only been down here a handful of times since I just discovered this route. But curiosity will soon pull me up that road, maybe tomorrow?

The roots of a tree that has fallen over:

Stick hunting:

More Photos

This is a lake up over the mountain outside of town that I like to visit. Last summer I used to come up here every morning with a cup of coffee and think.

While walking the dog through the woods I came across this emerging fern:

Not sure what kind of flower this is:

I like the leaves in the puddle with a coating of silt and the way the green set off next to the subdued brown:


I went out walking in the woods with my dog this morning and was taking some pictures.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"The World's First Entrepreneurial Nation"

MICHAEL S. MALONE has an essay in the WSJ that really captures the spirit of entrepreneurship as a larger social phenomena that I have been trying to articulate in many of my posts. I have said again and again that we live in a time of great opportunities. That entrepreneurship is the creative force in civilization. That classical liberals need to recognize the cultural moment that is arising and to prepare to take advantage of it. Classical liberalism provides the political, legal, economic framework that is optimal for a thriving, dynamic entrepreneurial society. This is our moment and we need to creatively articulate the classical liberal worldview for our 21st century entrepreneurial age (all emphasis mine):

And the United States, once again at the vanguard, is on the verge of becoming the world's first Entrepreneurial Nation.
What Turner couldn't guess was that the unexplored prairie would become the uninvented new product, the unexploited new market and the untried new business plan.

Entrepreneurship is the never-ending frontier and the entrepreneur is the ultimate frontiersman.

The great new American frontiers proved to be those of business, science and technology.

But also the arts, film, literature, glass blowing and other successful efforts to entrepreneurialize human creativity.

Yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that the cultural underpinnings of these activities have changed in some fundamental way.

Yes, there are underlying cultural changes underway that will transform our society. We need to both encourage these changes for their own sake but also as classical liberals to see the wave that is coming and ride it to reform our existing institutions and invent new institutions.

We still have schools, but a growing number of our children are studying at home or attending private schools – and those in public schools are doing ever more amounts of their class work on the Internet.

We still have companies and corporations, but now they are virtualized, with online work teams handing off assignments to each other 24/7 around the world. Men and women go to work, but the office is increasingly likely to be in the den. In 2005, an Intel survey of its employees found that nearly 20% of its professionals had never met their boss face-to-face. Half of them never expected to. Last summer, when the Media X institute at Stanford extended that survey to IBM, Sun, HP, Microsoft and Cisco, the percentages turned out to be even greater.

Newspapers are dying, networks are dying, and if teenage boys playing GTA 4 and World of Warcraft have any say about it, so is television. More than 200 million people now belong to just two social networks: MySpace and Facebook. And there are more than 80 million videos on YouTube, all put there by the same individual initiative.

The most compelling statistic of all? Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship; 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine. Tellingly, 18 to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35 to 44-year-olds. And 70% of today's high schoolers intend to start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.

An upcoming wave of new workers in our society will never work for an established company if they can help it. To them, having a traditional job is one of the biggest career failures they can imagine.

This is the "perfect storm" of opportunities for classical liberals. The classical liberal philosophy is the philosophy of an entrepreneurial society. We need to articulate classical liberal ideas in terms relevant to our time, that will appeal to this "upcoming wave of new workers".

Much of childhood today is spent, not in organized sports or organizations, but in ad hoc teams playing online games such as Half Life, or competing in robotics tournaments, or in constructing and decorating MySpace pages. Without knowing it, we have been training a whole generation of young entrepreneurs.

And who is going to dissuade them? Mom, who is a self-employed consultant working out of the spare bedroom? Or Dad, who is at Starbuck's working on the spreadsheet of his new business plan?

In the past there have been trading states like Venice, commercial regions like the Hanseatic League, and even so-called nations of shopkeepers. But there has never been a nation in which the dominant paradigm is entrepreneurship. Not just self-employment or sole proprietorship, but serial company-building, entire careers built on perpetual change, independence and the endless pursuit of the next opportunity.
Without noticing it, we have once again discovered, and then raced off to settle, a new frontier. Not land, not innovation, but ourselves and a growing control over our own lives and careers.

Exactly. This frontier is about creativity and actualizing our potential as human beings. The American Experiment is at its core an experiment in individual self-realization. It is not about selfishness, it is about exploring the vast untapped potentials inherent in each individual.

And why not? Each step in the development of American society has been towards an ever-greater level of independence, freedom and personal liberty. And as the rest of the world catches up to where we were, we've already moved on to the next epoch in the national story.

The American story is the story of expanding the inclusiveness of securing individual autonomy. It has been a long and hard process. But we have been struggling against the inertia of pre-modern humanity. This is the great story of America.

But liberty exacts its own demands. Entrepreneurial America is likely to become even more innovative than it is today. And that innovation is likely to spread across society, not just as products and inventions, but new ways of living and new types of organizations.

Yes. Again this is why classical liberals need to update our ideology to be in harmony with this age. This is a perfect time to champion our ideals. This is an era of institution building, of establishing rulesets, if we want those rulesets to be established upon classical ideals then we need to do what is necessary to make that happen.

The economy will be much more volatile and much more competitive. In the continuous fervor to create new institutions, it will become increasingly difficult to sustain old ones. New political parties, new social groupings, thousands of new manias and movements and millions of new companies will pop up over the next few decades. Large corporations that don't figure out how to combine permanence with perpetual change will be swept away.

The people who create new institutions are entrepreneurs. Our time offers the opportunity to create these new institutions and we need to embrace this and develop a rhetoric and reality of entrepreneurial activity that represents the spirit of the age.

This higher level of anarchy will be exciting, but it will also sometimes be very painful. Entire industries will die almost overnight, laying off thousands, while others will just as suddenly appear, hungry for employees. Continuity and predictability will become the rarest of commodities. And if the entrepreneurial personality honors smart failures, by the same token it has little pity for weakness. That fraction of Americans – 10%, 20% – who still dream of the gold watch or the 30-year pin will suffer the most . . . and unless their needs are somehow met as well, they will remain a perpetually open wound in our society.

Our challenge is recognizing the spirit of our age and developing a worldview and social-cultural-political movement that can champion our ideals in our time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A few thoughts on the entrepreneur and promoting classical liberalism

In thinking about how to shape and style a classical liberalism for the 21st century I've come to believe that the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship can play an important role. The entrepreneur is the active, creative agent in our market economy and so encouraging entrepreneurship we make our society more dynamic and resilient. By championing entrepreneurship we can also champion the political, legal, and economic institutions, ideas, and attitudes that are necessary for a thriving entrepreneurial economy, and they just so happen to be the classical liberal institutions, ideas and attitudes. Entrepreneurship can be a vehicle for transcending political divisions since there are entrepreneurs and an interest in entrepreneurship among people of all political persuasions. It can serve as a means for reaching out to immigrants and of helping immigrants feel themselves to be a part of the American Experiment. Entrepreneurship allows us to frame individualist/classical liberal ideas in forward-looking/future-oriented fashion; but it can also serve to create a sense of continuity with American history by connecting with the entrepreneurs of the past. The entrepreneur is exercising individual initiative, creativity, resourcefulness, and the good old American can-do attitude. By championing entrepreneurship we champion these characteristics and encourage people to seek entrepreneurial solutions to our problems rather than governmental solutions. This is where the Strategic Citizen idea came from: an effort to find entrepreneurial solutions to the government's strategic communication problem. (In fact one of the names I was playing with was Strategic Entrepreneur.) So as we think about crafting a 21st century individualism/liberalism, the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship should play a central role in rhetoric and symbolism as well as in action. It allows us to frame classical liberal ideas in ways outside existing political rhetoric and to connect with people who may not otherwise be open to messages from conservatives and libertarians. And it gives people a mode of action to take on their own, independent of government, thus enriching and strengthening civil society.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We need new rulesets for a new century

One of the things that I have said many times (and will continue to say) is that we need to update classical liberal ideas for the 21st century. We are living in a time of great opportunities. As we transition from an industrial age society to the information-entrepreneurial-service-creative age (or whatever future generations end up calling it) we will require a ruleset reset, which means that we will need to reform our political institutions. We have gone through this kind of transition before when we changed from an agricultural age society to an industrial age society between the Civil War and WW1. One of the lessons to be learned is that the classical liberals of that time did not update their ideas for the industrial age, rather they continued to identify classical liberal ideas with agricultural age institutions and conceptions of government. And so the new rulesets were developed by the collectivist progressive-liberals and they established the government that would rule the 20th century. And although libertarians and conservatives eventually rose up to champion classical liberal ideas, they were never able to really change the progressive-liberal rulesets once they were established and accepted. That is why the opportunity that is before us now is so important. Since we are now in another era that requires a ruleset reset, we have the opportunity to fashion and champion an individualist, classical liberal ruleset for the information-entrepreneurial-service-creative age. But we need to recognize that this is what needs to be done and take action accordingly. The conservative movement has jumped the shark (and the libertarians never even made it to the ramp.) So we need to stop thinking about classical liberalism within the conservative framework and start imagining and inventing a conceptual framework and ultimately a social-political-cultural movement to champion a 21st century individualist-classical liberal ruleset. If we don't do this then the collectivists will and our children and grandchildren will find themselves living under their ruleset, again.

The article below is an encouraging example of the process of beginning to think about new rulesets:

Online tools under the rubric Web 2.0 are changing how information flows, with social networks letting people communicate directly with one another. This is reversing the top-down, one-way approach to communications that began with Gutenberg, challenging everything from how bosses try to manage to how consumers make or break products with instant mass feedback.

The institution that has most resisted new ways of doing things is the biggest one of all: government. This is about to change, with public-sector bureaucracies the new target for Web innovators...
Project Government 2.0 is based on the assumption that even governments can't fight technologies that give power to the people. "If governments are to ensure their relevance and authority, they must move quickly to meet rising expectations for openness, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency in the public sector," the project outline says.

Web 2.0 has promising implications for those who think the best government is the one that governs least, especially outside basic functions like national defense and law enforcement. Can more direct participation by citizens in assessing policies limit government ambitions to what government can actually accomplish? Would citizen taxpayers put their collective faith in most spending programs? Or is there a risk that the wisdom of crowds as reflected in Web 2.0 won't turn out to be so wise?

Democracy and governing are complex topics, but this makes it all the more important to apply technology as a solution. Government is the ultimate institution retaining the traditional top-down structure, technologically backward, with big decisions almost always made with incomplete information on what works and what doesn't work. Here's hoping that Web 2.0 can make government more effective by tapping information among officials and citizens, perhaps even finding a new consensus on where the wisdom of government begins and ends.

Podcast: PurpleSlog on 5GW

I just listened to Covert Radio's podcast with PurpleSlog and it was excellent, I enjoyed it very much and you should check it out. Hopefully it will serve to introduce more people to the ideas of 5GW. If there is one thing we need right now it is creative speculation as a means of generating new ideas and insights so that we can break out of old ways of thinking and better understand our world.

Addendum: Here's a transcript of this podcast courtesy of Cannoneer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More Books

The journey was tough, my friends: rain, darkness, heat waves and endless thirst. Then down into what seemed like endless passageways. I don't know how long I was down there. Too many wrong turns. An endless wandering. Then finally, I came to the door and pried it open with the last ounces of my strength -- and there it was. The great treasure whose vision had sustained me in my darkest moments: row after row of used books...

Some recent used book acquisitions:

The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought by Jerry Miller

Flying in Flanders: Belgium's balloon-busting ace recounts his 37 victories by Willy Coppens

Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925 by Philip Scranton

Modernization: The Transformation of American Life 1600-1865 by Richard Brown

Six Characters in Search of a Republic: Studies in the Political Thought of the American Colonies: Part II in Seedtime of the Republic by Clinton Rossiter (I like the Pirandello reference)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Podcast: The Entrepreneurial Mind Speaks

A podcast interview with Dr. Jeff Cornwall of The Entrepreneurial Mind.

The Market as the Ultimate Frontier

Finally, my favorite is the idea of the market as the ultimate frontier. As long as there is freedom of entry and exit, anyone can always go and start his own business and engage in new trading activities. In this sense, the market is a virtual frontier. The analogy with the American West is here present.

Indeed. And the entrepreneur is the ultimate frontiersman.


I see via Soob that Dan of tdaxp has published some of his posts as a book: Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It. I remember the original posts being very interesting reading and have added the book to my wish list. There is a lot of good writing around the blogosphere and I expect to see more bloggers taking advantage of some of the print on demand and short-run printing options that are now available.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A "peaceful struggle between two opposing forces: collectivist and anti-collectivist"

The other front in the battle of ideas:

In western democracies one could expect that the free market would be self-supporting because of its superior economic performance. However, history is full of episodes of statism: market re­forms typically meet resistance and re­main in danger of being left in­complete or even reversed. How to explain that? I would suggest that the direction of institutional change in democracies results from a constant, peaceful struggle between two opposing forces: collectivist and anti-collectivist. Any shift is triggered by a traumatic event that interacts with established beliefs.
History is open-ended, leaving no room for fatalism or passive optimism. The economic crisis is a great educator, but it is better to reform under more normal conditions. To achieve that, believers in limited government and free markets must defeat their collectivist foes in the battle of ideas. They need to appeal to reason and a sense of fairness. Collectivists should not be allowed to occupy the moral high ground. High structural unemployment, the misuse of poorly structured social transfers – all products of statist policies – are simply unjust. Free market advocates should highlight benchmarks, comparing bureaucratic burdens on business or the investment climate between countries. Statism does not need to prevail.

PurpleSlog on the Strategic Citizen

PurpleSlog has three posts on the strategic citizen that are worth checking out including this working definition which works for me:

Ordinary individuals and/or Super-Empowered Individuals who
successfully make use of any of the technological, socio, economic, or political domains to have a strategic impact on the world.

I think that the key to the strategic citizen idea is that we citizens no longer have to passively defer to government professionals but rather that we have the means to act on our own initiative in certain areas, such as strategic communication. In fact a decentralized, leaderless, complex self-organizing movement of citizens may prove to be far superior at waging the war of ideas than the centralized, large, unwieldy government bureaucracy that is now charged with that task.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Democracy or "Non-Tyrannical, Representative Government"

Soob has a post on a topic that I've been wanting to write about for a while now but kept putting off, although I did write about it in a couple of comments a while ago. First at Coming Anarchy:

Perhaps we should revisit the old idea of mixed government with its combination of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Obviously not every country has a monarchy and aristocracy, but I think the model could be useful in balancing the existing power structures (e.g. tribes) within a society, while incorporating democratic institutions into the mix. I don’t know if that would work. Some of the Arab sheikhdoms do have elected legislatures. But it may offer us a compromise position in which we can support both democratization and a liberalizing autocrat.

And then at Zenpundit:

The persistence of tribal/clan forms of social organization have led me to think that instead of exporting European-style parliamentary democracy with party-based proportional representation, we should be reconsidering and adapting the old idea of “mixed government” to local circumstances. Organizing government in a way that the different “orders” of society are represented, while not appropriate to American circumstances, may be a better way of establishing non-tyrannical, representative governments in places where tribes and other pre-modern social organizations predominate. For example in Iraq and Afghanistan perhaps it would have been better to have instituted a bicameral legislature in which one house was democratically elected and the other provided for equal representation of each tribe or clan. This would have allowed for both the evolution of democracy without abandoning tradition institutions and identities.

In the past I have always been someone who believed in promoting democracy. What we mean by "democracy" when we talk about promoting it is not always what we end up with when it is applied. The word democracy has become short-hand for a complex of ideas and institutions: a government of limited powers that is representative of and accountable to its people, that guarantees the rights of all its citizens etc. But when it is applied in practice it seems to get reduced just to elections. Of course this can often result in establishing a tyrannical democracy rather than a liberal democracy and I have come to see that the critics of promoting democracy when it manifests itself as just elections without the larger liberal framework are right in their criticism. That doesn't mean that the solution is some form of authoritarianism. Rather there is a way to accomplish the goals that are intended when we talk about "promoting democracy" without falling into the "just elections" trap. Let's put aside the word "democracy" and articulate the goal with different terms. I've come to use the phrase "non-tyrannical, representative government" because I think it captures what we are trying to achieve. We want the government to be non-tyrannical and we want its citizens to feel that they are represented in the government therefore endowing the government with legitimacy. This way of phrasing the goal does not specify the institutions designed to achieve it. Rather it offers a general guide and allows for institutions to be customized to the particular needs and circumstances of each society. In societies where tribes are still significant institutions, an individual may feel represented if his tribe is represented whether or not there was an election. There is no reason that can't be a legitimate form of representative government. A bicameral legislature is a useful tool for introducing democracy into a society without building the entire government around the democratic process while also preserving components of an existing social order while checking the power of that order through appropriate institutions. The goal is to build viable modern institutions that allow developing societies to evolve in their own way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, each society will develop its own unique institutions. But we do have experience to draw on; we are not starting from scratch. Though many seem infatuated with the European-style proportional representation system, it is not necessarily appropriate to the realities of the Gap. If we think in terms of "non-tyrannical, representative government" then we have a more general guide that can help Gap societies innovate culture-specific institutions.