Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Will IT Save Us?

Jim Voorhies is optimistic about the impact that modern communication technology can have on democratic governance:

Technology provides the means for a level of transparency and openness to the workings and deliberations in government that we have never seen. This will lead to a radical shift of how politics works (if not right away, eventually it will happen) on a national level. It has the potential to kill off much of the sordid side of politics. Neither mold nor corruption can survive the light of day. Can you visualize a budget process wiki where individual aspects of budgets are debated and analyzed? Or a site where everyone gets to vote on an issue, like closing the Guantanamo Bay prison?

Potential is all too frequently the prelude to unfulfilled hopes, and one might fear that Mr. Voorhies dreams a bit too much. Does technology create these types of possibilities? Certainly, but human nature being what it is, one can be sure that many will value the appearance of transparency more than its reality, and the fact of technology will merely force them to redouble their efforts to maintain appearances. The other danger in Mr. Voorhies' scenario is that greater transparency only will lead to paralysis on the important questions. Guantanamo Bay is easy: what will we do about problems with multi pronged and difficult aspects and solutions, such as the future of social security? Sometimes, leaders need to have the courage to get out in front of public opinion. One of the distinguishing marks of 21st century politics to date is a bipartisan lack of courage to face and lead on hard realities, and even modern technology can't impart courage.

Hat Tip: Newscoma


Blogger Jim Voorhies said...

No one should expect it to be the final answer. This isn't a game show. Just a way of increasing participation. You have to play the game to win.

Nor is, or should it be, a way to lead. But there are too many people who boomerang from agency to lobbying firm to agency to cprporation while never leaving the Beltway. I think it's time for other opinions to be voiced. Maybe you have the solution to social security that no one else has thought of, but you have no way to get it heard.

7:57 AM  
Blogger MCO said...

Of course, I have ways to get solutions heard, either individually or through membership in the types of organizations that get spoken of dismissively as "special interests." Sure, technology provides new media for individual involvement. However, by increasing the ease with which individuals can get involved, it may result in all of those individual voices drowning one another out.

I am not suggesting taht techology is a bad thing -- it may prove helpful. I am doubting that it will be the great political wonder that many imagine. Go back in the annals of history and one will find the same hopes expressed for radio and television at their advents.

8:53 PM  

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