The Failure of Politics in the Information Age
by William Grosso
Let's start with a simple admission: I'm against the war in Iraq. I think it's going to happen, and I think it's probably going to be a good thing, but I still think it's a bad idea (because of the 'probably' in the previous sentence).
The problem I'm running into is that I can't really explain why. There's so much information out there, and so many points of view, that to read and credibly understand it all, to truly make an informed decision, is impossibly hard. Even figuring out what should be read and understood, and what can safely be ignored as either silly or redundant, is ridiculously difficult.
Over the course of a typical week, I have maybe 2 or 3 hours to keep fully informed on world events. I don't think that's terribly different from people who lived in earlier ages had. But it's woefully inadequate in the face of the information age-- Instapundit alone produces more than 2 or 3 hours worth of reading a day (though it's a very nice site that prunes out a lot of the noise). There's more than enough stuff to read; and verifying most of it (even the "reputable sources" make many mistakes) is a gargantuan task.
This is, I think, the point of elections-- vote for someone whose judgement you trust, and then let them make the decisions. I think that was the whole point of choosing "electors" who then selected "representatives" who made decisions. You delegate the important decisions that require a lot of information and nuanced thinking to someone who's up to the task, and then you let them go do their job.
In a perverse way, representatives should be like systems administrators. You hire them, you set some goals, and then you wait and see if the mail server stays up.
But this doesn't seem to be what's happening, and it's not what's been happening for the past 20 years. That all the information about government and policy and world politics and .... is on the internet and easily available is a very good thing. But assuming that people have read and digested it all and thought through all the consequences is not. Overnight tracking polls, where I find out that uninformed people making split decisions in response to an unanticipated question now approve of policy x by a 2 to 1 margin, do not improve the quality of governance.
On the other hand, watchdogs on government are necessary. Right? DMCA, the "patriot" act II, the continued erosion of the bill of rights, these are all bad things and indicate that government cannot be trusted to simply do the right thing, and that we cannot confidently delegate the difficult decisions.
All of which is making me into a quasi-libertarian. If government is smaller, and has incredibly strict boundaries it cannot cross, then delegation begins to work again. And it's easier to make sure it doesn't transgress.
But that feels like giving up.
(as a sidenote: when people I respect for their technological edge start blending their politics into what used to be technical forums, it's not necessarily a good thing. I find Cafe Au Lait's recent political edge really jarring).
Comments on how goverment, or people's behavior, should evolve are welcome. Iraq-specific comments and flames are not.
Politics is Trumping Technology
"when people I respect for their technological edge start blending their politics into what used to be technical forums, it's not necessarily a good thing"
Neither necessary nor good
My point was simple: Cafe Au Lait is a technology forum. I go there to see what's new and important in technology, from the perspective of Elliotte Harold (whom I have tremendous respect for). I frequently go there in a work context, or when thinking about technology.
depends on where your heart is
My web site is about software, but I needed to provide examples. As a company, I should want to put on an opaque vanilla mask and engage in the standard inoffensive public relations BS, right? Something light, like a pet store or maybe a phone directory for a phony company, eh? I didn't. I went the other way. I instead engaged in provocative political BS.