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Ask Slashdot: Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the depends-on-the-kernel-maintainers dept.

Government 73

Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time, there's been a theory drifting around that government can be made more open and efficient via the same crowdsourcing and social-networking tools that created such successes out of Facebook, Twitter and Kickstarter. In that spirit, numerous pundits and analysts have advocated the development of 'e-government' or 'government 2.0.' But what if the idea isn't as great as it seems? That's the angle embraced by Evgeny Morozov in a recent essay for The Baffler. Structured as a lengthy takedown of open-source advocate and O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly, the piece veers off to fire a few torpedoes at the idea of making government more responsive and transparent through technology (the latter being something O'Reilly readily advocates). 'One of the main reasons why governments choose not to offload certain services to the private sector is not because they think they can do a better job at innovation or efficiency,' Morozov writes, 'but because other considerations — like fairness and equity of access — come into play.' If O'Reilly himself argues that a government should be 'stripped down to its core' into a form more transparent and collaboration-friendly, Morozov counters with the idea that the 'participation' envisioned by most government 2.0 scenarios is limited, little better in practice than the comments section at the bottom of a corporate blog posting."

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73 comments

Sure.... (1)

sudden.zero (981475) | about a year ago | (#43373029)

if you want to know more about how the government is screwing you!

Re:Sure.... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43376333)

I believe the appropriate frist post should be:

Yes. Because Hitler said so.

Re:Sure.... (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year ago | (#43377717)

I would like to clarify briefly what the original article in the Baffler was talking about. I think the slashdot article and the summary on this thread which was copied directly from it miss a few important points. The article is not about how openness, transparency and mass participation in the government are in any way undesirable or impossible, nor is it about how that cannot or should not be achieved through technology. The article does not suggest that making government more open and connected is a bad idea as the headline here suggests. The article is disputing the specific ideas of a specific individual. This is referred to in the article as 'government 2.0', and as a meme created by Tim O'Reilly. The author specifically notes that O'Reilly did not come up with the ideas of openness and connectedness of government through technology, and accuses him of hijacking these ideas for his own purposes. It is these purposes that the article attempts to argue against.

So what is the article specifically saying is a bad thing?

The fundamental problem with O’Reilly’s vision is that, on the one hand, it’s all about having the private sector build new services that were unavailable when the government ran the show. Thus, it’s all about citizen-consumers, guided by the Invisible Hand, creating new value out of thin air.

The article frequently accuses O'Reilly of 'Randian' ideology. It speaks of O'Reilly wanting to strip down and privatise government. This is the government 2.0 that is being argued against. Ideas of open government based on social fairness and strong government are not discussed or even mentioned in the article. The only thing that is mentioned is the specific idea of open government based on hardcore capitalism and tea partyish libertarianism.

I think I can claim that I agree with almost everything Evgeny Morozov wrote, and still answer that yes, I think making government more open and connected is a good idea.

Re:Sure.... (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43378183)

Ideas of open government based on social fairness and strong government are not discussed or even mentioned in the article.

I gather this is mostly a reaction piece to O'Reilly. So the author can be excused. But I must admit to being puzzled by how this was casually dropped in your post without comment or justification. First, I don't believe there is such thing as social fairness. Some people are naturally going to do better and have more advantages than others. They'll be more socially connected, more intelligent or knowledge, better genes, or just luckier. Reality is inherently unfair and I don't see society improving by trying to equalize those circumstances.

Or maybe you're speaking of social fairness of opportunity, but that's something we do now. Maybe we could implement it a little better with considerably less racial bias (though most of that bias now comes from government than from the populace).

The ease with which I was able to come up with different interpretations of "social justice" illustrates a fatal problem with it. It is inherently subjective with the meaning changing based on point of view. There will be no acceptable definition of social justice that a majority will agree to.

Similarly, strong government seems inherently at odds with open government. Openness is after all a very large constraint on government. While strongness seems to also mean very large and complex, which tends to mean opaque and closed (even if the US government were completely open, it'd still be very hard to keep track of what the things it's doing, just due to its vast size). And what do we need a "strong" government for? I don't see the role being useful anywhere.

The only thing that is mentioned is the specific idea of open government based on hardcore capitalism and tea partyish libertarianism.

Now that seems like some good ideas at last. What's wrong with private ownership of capital or the basic tenets of so-called "tea partyish libertarianism" (like fiscal responsibility, constitution-based law, and a smaller, less costly government)?

I'll briefly go over why I think those are good ideas. Private owners tend to care more about capital and try to use it better than an indifferent government which doesn't have the incentives to care. So as a society, we have better use of capital to our benefit.

While it occasionally has been pointed out that a government can do some crazy stuff with currencies, budgets, and wealth that a family or a business can't, no one has ever bothered to explain why having a near balanced budget is a worse idea (other than it has some impact on short term economic activity which is supposed to be a big deal for some reason).

Constitutional-based law? If government doesn't respect law, then why should people obey the government? It's just a good idea, if you want a society that cooperates. Finally, as I indicated early on, I think a smaller government is a good idea. Among other things, even in the absence of government openness, it is far easier to keep track of a small government than a large one. And there's far less opportunity for corruption and tyranny than in a large, strong government.

Re:Sure.... (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year ago | (#43384099)

It seems we fundamentally disagree on certain points. I understand that this is unlikely to change but here is my response nevertheless.

I used the idea of government based on social fairness and strong government merely as it was the opposite of what was discussed. It was meant as an example of something that is not mentioned or discussed in the article, there are other examples in between and in other ideological directions. I was disputing the summary here that suggests the article was expressing an opinion about whether open and connectedness in government is a bad idea. I believe TFA was not expressing such an idea. You appear to agree with me on that so we can move on. You brought up some new points to the discussion I would like to address those.

You don't believe in social fairness? As an idea? Social fairness is a principle that many governments (including the USA) are based on. Many countries do it better than the US. Income equality for example is a very strong indicator for almost all the things that signify well-being in a society. Economists use GDP, unemployment and national debt but the reality is the strongest statistical indicator is income equality. Things that signify well-being in a society include levels of mental illness, criminality, depression, violence, job productivity, life expectancy, child mortality, obesity, addiction, literacy. Saying you don't believe in social fairness is like saying you don't believe in freedom. Sure the exact meaning can be debated and perfection is unobtainable, but as a governing principle in societies it is not only common but also fairly powerful. For a short, easy to digest explanation of the statistical significance of economic inequality I recommend watching this video [ted.com] .

The point about openness and connectedness being at odds with strong government is also a major oversimplification. Most of the services and duties that a big government performs are things that need to be done. You maintain that many if not all of these would be better off being controlled by private citizens or corporations, but all these things need to be done by someone. Say we want openness and connectedness between things like sanitation, the power grid, telecommunications, justice, police, emergency services, medical care, education etc. etc. etc. are you really willing to claim that this would be easier if each of these areas were administrated by an independent private entity answerable only to it's shareholders? A single central authority by definition is already more connected than a group of private entities. Yes openness is difficult but I maintain that it would be even more difficult if all these services were split into the feudalistic private market.

There seems to be a fantasy among small government proponents that if you take a certain responsibility away from the government it will simply not need to be dealt with anymore, as though problems like crime, illness and household waste are somehow created by the government departments that deal with them. I believe in the US the waste disposal and sanitation are already run by private companies, probably this works ok although I am sure they must be heavily subsidised and the landfill and recycling infrastructure is still government administered (correct me if any of these assumptions are wrong). Can you imagine trying to get each of the many sanitation companies to commit to an open and connected system of public oversight?

Private owners tend to care more about capital and try to use it better than an indifferent government which doesn't have the incentives to care. So as a society, we have better use of capital to our benefit.

This is kind of a myth. Yes private owners care more about capital, but that doesn't mean that they use it for the improvement of society. These ideas have been tested and they don't measure up. Look historically at any instance of a government service being privatised. For every instance where privatisation has worked there are 9 where it failed miserably. Telecommunications is a good example in many countries. Privatisation of someting that requires country wide infrastructure automatically leads to a monopoly, which, if you really believe in Smith/Keynsian economics which you appear to, is really bad. Competition is non-existent because no one has the capital to build a competing infrastructure network. This means there is no incentive for the monopolistic telecommunications provider to upgrade or maintain the network as they have no competitors threatening to do it better. It also means no price controls for the same reason. This goes for power and water and many other infrastructure heavy industries. There are some industries that can be successfully privatised but there are many that can't.

I don't have the time or patience to go into the full debate about large vs. small government here as it is a much larger debate than is appropriate on slashdot but I will finish with the following point: Which countries have the smallest governments? Somalia is one example, western sahara another. Which countries have the largest governments (per capita)? Norway, Sweden, England, USA. I recommend you go to Google public data [google.com] and compare these countries statistically. The fantasy of small government libertarianism is that if you take power away from the government that power will somehow vanish into thin air and no longer be used. The reality is if you take power away from the government it simply moves elsewhere. In the US that power is mostly going to large corporations like monsanto, haliburton, goldman sachs, etc. Are you seriously willing to publicly make the claim that it would be easier to make these companies open and connected than the government?

Re:Sure.... (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43384335)

Social fairness is a principle that many governments (including the USA) are based on.

Then what is it and where does it show up in the Constitution? The US wasn't based on income equity or that would have been specified in the Constitution. It's not based on GDP, unemployment, or national debt or that would have been specified in the Constitution. It's not based on mental illness, criminality, depression, violence, job productivity, life expectancy, child mortality, obesity, addiction, and literacy, or that would have been specified in the Constitution.

Saying you don't believe in social fairness is like saying you don't believe in freedom.

Except that freedom is a concrete, objective concept which we can express in terms of constraints on our actions. I can't go around chopping people with an ax. If government were shooting people who disagree publicly with the government, that too would be a concrete, objective constraint on my action.

Social justice is just some touchie feelie thing that means whatever you want it to mean.

The point about openness and connectedness being at odds with strong government is also a major oversimplification. Most of the services and duties that a big government performs are things that need to be done. You maintain that many if not all of these would be better off being controlled by private citizens or corporations, but all these things need to be done by someone.

Exactly, hence why "private citizens and corporations" are mentioned. Since you don't actually try to show that argument to be false, there's not much to say except that I still believe that most such functions (including most of your "social justice" functions above) would be better handed at the private level.

There seems to be a fantasy among small government proponents that if you take a certain responsibility away from the government it will simply not need to be dealt with anymore

You're the only one engaging in the fantasy. Small government proponents don't claim the problem goes away (though sometimes, like in the "war on drugs", it does) when government is removed from the equation, but rather that the problem gets handed off to the powers that are most competent and interested in handling the problem.

This is kind of a myth. Yes private owners care more about capital, but that doesn't mean that they use it for the improvement of society. These ideas have been tested and they don't measure up. Look historically at any instance of a government service being privatised.

Air travel. Telecommunications. I find it telling that I could find a positive example of privatization in one of your claimed counterexamples.

It also means no price controls for the same reason.

Even monopolies won't price things at infinity because that doesn't optimize profits.

The fantasy of small government libertarianism is that if you take power away from the government that power will somehow vanish into thin air and no longer be used.

Again, this is a fantasy you entertain not small government libertarians. The power devolves to the people. It does not vanish.

I don't have the time or patience to go into the full debate about large vs. small government here

I think that is good, for you haven't demonstrated the competence to argue your side. One doesn't magically end up with Somalia when one cuts out the voracious rent seeking and pointless, huge entitlements that overwhelm US society.

The power of the dollar vs. the power of the gun (3, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#43373051)

There are people who equate the two, and people who do not. The two camps will never agree. The problem with the first group is that they cannot allow the second to survive.

Re:The power of the dollar vs. the power of the gu (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373283)

In a well working democracy, the power of the numbers would trample those two in the ground.

Re:The power of the dollar vs. the power of the gu (0)

Stargoat (658863) | about a year ago | (#43373365)

And that's why we have a constitutional republic.

Re:The power of the dollar vs. the power of the gu (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#43373455)

Technically yes, but we have allowed it to deteriorate into a corporate aristocracy, and completely abdicated our legal authority to it.

Re:The power of the dollar vs. the power of the gu (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#43375503)

Technically yes, but we have allowed it to deteriorate into a corporate aristocracy, and completely abdicated our legal authority to it.

Hence the power of term limits and prison terms!

You've got to be kidding me (2, Insightful)

MooseMiester (1412661) | about a year ago | (#43373093)

When has the government ever done anything "fairly" or to ensure "ease of access"?

Politicians, after all, are the easiest people in the world to bribe, it is the only job in America where bribes are legal. The result is something that pervades every aspect of government at all levels called PAY TO PLAY.

This ensures that 1) The biggest briber gets the best deal 2) Everyone else gets screwed.

Worse, governments spout all kinds of emotional propaganda to cover up the actual reality of how the system works, directing people's anger away from the real criminals onto other groups in society. Then they promise "openness" and "transparency:" while doing the exact opposite. Millions of well intentioned good people are duped by this propaganda every single day.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (0)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43373443)

Too bad all the evidences points to that not being true..

But keep living in your echo chamber of stupid.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43373583)

Too bad all the evidences points to that not being true..

Let's look at the claims in question:

Politicians, after all, are the easiest people in the world to bribe, it is the only job in America where bribes are legal.

People or businesses with interests before the government can contribute to the campaigns of legislators, the president, and a variety of political groups and PACs. Legally. So claim is TRUE.

The result is something that pervades every aspect of government at all levels called PAY TO PLAY.

Given the endless dribble of pro-IP law and bills coming out of Congress and the White House these days, I'd say there's some evidence for this position. MAYBE which might be upgraded to TRUE, if I bothered to google for it.

1) The biggest briber gets the best deal

That's going to take work to verify. Not feeling it. MAYBE.

2) Everyone else gets screwed.

Would be a consequence of point 1). MAYBE.

Worse, governments spout all kinds of emotional propaganda to cover up the actual reality of how the system works, directing people's anger away from the real criminals onto other groups in society.

Examples: the one percent, commies, gungrabbers, liberals, neocons, neolibs, tea baggers, etc. TRUE.

Then they promise "openness" and "transparency:" while doing the exact opposite.

While Obama made such a promise, his illustrious predecessor, Bush probably didn't. Insufficiently motivated to google. MAYBE FALSE.

Millions of well intentioned good people are duped by this propaganda every single day.

Bush and Obama both got elected. TRUE.

While not every claim has been demonstrated, there's enough there to indicate that your statement is FALSE.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year ago | (#43373449)

well, my take is that we need them more 'open and fair' but what we are going to get in the short term is a more technological government that is easier to crack and find hole for the hackers to get into and steal the meat of what they are doing wrong. Then the protesters on the out side and whistle blowers can post that shit all around to everyone can see it if you got a browser and an internet connection. Now this has already happened, i am waiting to see some change come from this i am very hopeful they will stop screwing around with our lives or we will rise up and scare the bejeebus out of a them with our pitch forks and Humvees marching toward them..

Re:You've got to be kidding me (2)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43373961)

The roads the government provides me are way more fair than the private toll roads built by private corporations, that require you to spend more on toll than your entire round trip gas price.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year ago | (#43374757)

Would be nice, though, if in addition to paying for the roads I didn't also have to pay for all the wars, the police state and the entitlements.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43374771)

I agree on the first two points. "Entitlements" is a scare term, though. Like "Assault rifles".

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year ago | (#43375093)

I would agree if the main "entitlement" weren't a Ponzi scheme that enables parents to enslave their children.

Re: You've got to be kidding me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43375617)

You realize, of course, that "entitlement" is supposed to mean something an individual can meet the eligibility requirements for, and thus receive the benefit, without further action by Congress. Thus hedge-fund manager "carried interest" is just as much an entitlement as food stamps. If Republicans had rich-person entitlements in the same crosshairs that they reserve for everybody-else entitlements, they'd be a lot more credible.

Re: You've got to be kidding me (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43378225)

Thus hedge-fund manager "carried interest" is just as much an entitlement as food stamps.

Nonsense. Carried interest [wikipedia.org] is part of the contract between the hedge-fund manager and their customers and hence, not an entitlement. It's also worth noting that hedge fund entitlements don't make up more than 50% of the whole federal budget, while the primary individual entitlements, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and unemployment insurance do.

Re: You've got to be kidding me (1)

nmr_andrew (1997772) | about a year ago | (#43393355)

You're about half right. Carried interest itself isn't an entitlement, it's compensation agreed upon. The special tax treatment that doesn't consider carried interest to be compensation, however, IS an entitlement, available solely to those rich and/or connected enough.

Having read that page a while ago, what bothers me even more than the special treatment of carried interest is the rationale behind it. Apparently, those who manage hedge funds are too stupid to keep track of their personal shares of the fund separately from the shares they're given as compensation and from the fund as a whole. Exactly the type I want taking care of my money.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | about a year ago | (#43376917)

You realise of course that since everyone (give or take) is simultaneously parent and child, your criticism makes no sense?

You should be a slave to future you: that way, you will exercise and invest carefully and lead a productive life. Now you wants an extra beer with that third doughnut.

And then there is the idea that this is a Ponzi scheme: if each level of the pyramid is the same size as the preceding, you have a perfectly good and stable system, not a nefarious scheme. And as the population tends to grow slowly, through children and immigration, you even get profit out of it!

I never understood what kind of person treated the government and its institution as if they were part of the last generation on Earth...

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year ago | (#43379061)

I never understood what kind of person treated the government and its institution as if they were part of the last generation on Earth...

They're called "baby boomers." Looted the empire, spent all the money, racked up the debts, shipped the jobs overseas and want their kids to pay them social security off their barista jobs.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43380615)

I would possibly agree if you were able to make a specific point and I understood what it was.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

MooseMiester (1412661) | about a year ago | (#43378267)

Clint you are probably young, enthusiastic, and a bit naive.

There's no such thing as a road built by the government, or a private toll road built by a private corporation.

Here's how roads get built:

The government has to allocates funds to build a road. This is decided through a process of exchanging favors. It goes like this: First, someone in your district gives you a bribe, er contribution, er promise to deliver votes in return for a juicy, high margin road building contract. In the case of infrastructure, this almost involves the teamsters unions, who take their members dues and use them to buy politicians. This kind of back room dealing occurs for every aspect of the "planning"process, that occurs at every level for every subcontractor who will get a piece of the pie. A lot of head banging and back room deals occur here that involve what is essentially protection money.

So the politician, who is not your friend, puts together this money laundering scheme where he gets elected using the money he's extorted from all of these folks in return for the promise of a high margin contract. The government, unlike private enterprise, is far easier to milk for vast sums of money while showing little or not results - they have no profit motive and no stockholders demanding quarterly results.

Then, in the legislature, another level of deal making takes place. Politicians exchange bribes to get the road building bill through. So your road building bill gets a a few million tacked on by the guy who tortures puppies to extract organs to make cosmetics (in return for the other politician giving him a million dollars to big oil, who he is beholden to). Of course none of this bears any resemblance at all to the high sounding ideology this politician spouted when you voted for him. He lines his own pockets as much as possible, and makes sure his friends rip off as much of your tax dollars as possible, to support their lifestyles, that are far more extravagant than yours. His lifestyle demands the cash flow all of these backroom deals generate, and his is above the law of course.

Finally, we have a pork laden, bribe filled road construction bill, and it passes. Everyone who didn't get a bribe sues to try to get more money. These are usually called such innocent things as "environmental impact studies". Lies flow from the politicians, to the press, to the people.

Then, the money is doled out to all the folks who paid bribes to get the contract. It being the government, they are under no real pressure to perform (no stockholders holding them accountable). Their primary goal is to keep the government money flowing into their pockets as long as possible. So they create delays after delays, and create a myriad of rules where one worker is required to have two supervisors, a safety engineer, a sensitivity specialist, and a union rep.

The road is built, at the highest possible cost to you, the taxpayer, at the lowest quality. It isn't a road at all. It's a giant scheme to extract the most amount of money from the taxpayers, and line the pockets of all of the shady characters who put the deal together, so they can get rich while feeding you bullshit about social justice, or the evils of the other party.

A "private" road comes about because the greed of the people involved was so great, they couldn't put a deal together that anyone would sign on to it was so badly structured. So they brought in a non governmental entity, and cut a shady deal with them so there was enough scratch in the deal that everybody got a properly sized piece. These almost always result in the private investor owning the road at the end, while the government union runs it. A loose-loose deal if there every was one, except for the folks who were on the inside and raped the taxpayers to line their own pockets.

So you see, my dear Clint, the actual hard truth is that the government is the most corrupt of all of the enterprises we have, that's why they have fed you this lie about how the "evil corporations" must be punished. This is because they want all of the bribe and protection money for themselves.

This is how the real world works, my friend. You can't legislate away greed, you can only hide it by pretending to care for poor people, and painting the other guy as the devil.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43379119)

Is 39 young?

"The road is built, at the highest possible cost to you, the taxpayer, at the lowest quality. It isn't a road at all."

Except here in northern virginia, the main privately-created road, the Dulles Toll Road, had fewer lanes -- and they are narrower -- and costs $2.50 each direction. For me to take it to my job would double my total commuting costs (I've done the math).

So the quality of the road is lower than the government-funded roads I take -- 495, 66 -- and cost to me is higher. And the government-funded road IS actually a road, contrary to your "it isn't a road at all" claim. Nor is the Dulles Toll Road operated by the state, like your claim.

Actually, just this year, they opened up private lanes on 495 that run parallel to the public lanes, and are privately operated. There are fewer lanes and it costs more money (a variable amount depending on traffic demand). The state does not operate those either, private corporations run them. I take the public roads. They are better and cheaper.

So you see, my dear whoever you are, the actual hard truth doesn't always match long, cynical rants. And I say this as a cynic myself.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

MooseMiester (1412661) | about a year ago | (#43379435)

Thanks for engaging. Lots of smart folks here, that's why I participate.

I'm not a cynic, Clint, I'm a realist who has been involved in many, many business deals at the ripe old age of 57. I've worked with folks inside and outside the beltway, in public and private industry.

Every construction deal is a different story, I don't live in Virginia so I can't speak to how that particular arrangement came about, but my experience tells me that my description of events (which was meant to be enlightening, not a rant) isn't far off the truth when it comes to how things actually get done.

My goal is to educate people, not complain. Human nature is what it is.

There's a lot of well intention-ed, passionate young people who have been sold on the idea that if it has the word "government" written on it, that it is somehow far superior to any other way of getting things done, and that these people in government all have our greater interest in mind, and are high minded public servants who we should all trust to protect us from those nasty, evil corporations. The truth is that the sleaziest of people get into politics and government service Liars, greedy folks with no morals, and just plain cheats are everywhere, but when you get inside of government they are more abundant than the halls of corporate America. There's less of an incentive to produce, and more of an incentive to steal when the taxpayer's money is involved.

The attack on "evil corporations" is a smokescreen, driven by greed, by people who want more of the cash for themselves. At the end of the day, they way they actually get things done is more corrupt, more f*cked up, and more evil than people outside the system realize.

I stand by my statement that no, it's not a road. It's a vehicle to extort the maximum amount of cash from the taxpayer. The fact that a road actually gets built is almost by accident. When private enterprise builds something, it is a vehicle to extort the maximum amount of cash from the customer, in order to provide the maximum return for the stakeholders. The only difference is that the stakeholders in a corporation demand results, whereas taxpayers generally don't, they are too distracted by all of the ideological bullshit. Politicians are masters at distraction, making people angry, and creating fake enemies. This is, after all, the best way to control people, get them all angry at some group of people, and therefore justify taking away their freedom and/or enslaving them.

When you drive on a "public road" it costs more, in actuality, than the "private road" does. The difference is that you're paying for the public road in a thousand different ways, a few pennies here, a few pennies there. That's by design. If you really knew how much money had been wasted you'd be damn angry about it.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about a year ago | (#43401791)

Personally, I like the publicly built toll roads better, so yeah, I think we can agree on this point.

Re:You've got to be kidding me (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | about a year ago | (#43401893)

Except for the fact that I don't agree, yes we agree.

Yes (2)

SampleFish (2769857) | about a year ago | (#43373159)

The answer is "yes"

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373319)

But....but...it can't be! It would violate Betteridge's law! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Yes (1)

forrestt (267374) | about a year ago | (#43373367)

I'm going to make a blog post titled, "Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Bad Idea?" and we can power the world with the spinning heads of /. readers.

Re:Yes (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43373505)

Is it?

I used to think so, but now that I am in the government and see publica action I see a lot of crazy impacting the government.

Not differents of opinion, or rational debate. People who are delusional getting people to gethers and fighitng some battle made up in their head.

Millions and millions of dollars done for retesting, and showing people they are incorrect. Factually incorrect.

Imagine the people who think the contrails are a chemical being spread by the government being able to force the government o spend millions to prove they aren't doing it, then not believing it, making up some conspiracy and then demanding another independent party do another study. And never believing any study that shows them wrong.

In Portland we have a group that keeps making up conspiracy theories involving the water bureau. No evidence, just bold face and demonstrable lies.

So I don't know. Maybe the fore fathers had something with the idea that only educate people should be involved in government.

Re:Yes (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43373637)

Don't worry. We at the Slashdot community take your opinions seriously. Very. Seriously.

Re:Yes (1)

SampleFish (2769857) | about a year ago | (#43438815)

You just dis-proved your own point. You, a person working in the government, believes that your constituents are crazy when they might not be. Let's be honest, there are a bunch of wackos out there and many bunk conspiracy theories.

Unfortunately, Chemtrails are real:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/atmospheric-geoengineering-weather-manipulation-contrails-and-chemtrails [globalresearch.ca]

http://www.naturalnews.com/037451_chemtrails_conspiracy_theory_geoengineering.html [naturalnews.com]

Most of the things that you see in the sky are in fact normal jet contrails but don't act like nobody has ever sprayed a questionable substance from an airplane. It happens.

I never heard a conspiracy about the Portland water bureau. I do know of real problems with the water in Portland. There have been at least two cases in the last 3 years of the water not being safe to drink downtown. This was reportedly due to someone throwing a contaminant in to an open-air reservoir. I remember seeing signs on every bar and being told that water was not available at a restaurant. They talked quite a bit about putting lids on the open air reservoirs to avoid future contamination. Now they want to fluoridate the water and that is up for debate.

Bad water in Portland:
http://www.kgw.com/news/Boil-water-notice-issued-for-Portlands-west-side-163294096.html [kgw.com]

Before you go calling everyone crazy you should consider that there may be cause for real concern behind public outcry. It may not be rational but that is what political debate is all about. People need good information so they can make informed decisions.

How can it possibly be a bad idea? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43373167)

Title isn't leading at all, just your imagination.

Seriously though, this debate is a lot older than TFA implies.

Betteridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373183)

According to Betteridge's Law of Headlines the answer is "no".

Loopy logic leaps (4, Insightful)

Zigurd (3528) | about a year ago | (#43373231)

Going from "open government" to "outsourcing" is a non sequitur meant to set up a straw man. It is outsourcing that results in private firms treating government data as proprietary, and it is this kind of outsourcing that open government initiatives seek to avoid.

It's a long piece. Tl;dr: Think tank wonk mistakes Tim O'Reilly for a technolibertarian and turgidly tilts at windmills of his own invention.

Re:Loopy logic leaps (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year ago | (#43373435)

We already crowd source our law making process.
The problem is that it's been crowd sourced to lobbyists and not to 'the crowd'

Re:Loopy logic leaps (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43373485)

Tl;dr: Think tank wonk mistakes Tim O'Reilly for a technolibertarian and turgidly tilts at windmills of his own invention.

Thanks. That's more than I got out of it. The Baffler baffled me. I hope that most of their articles won't be that long. The rest of the internet needs words too.

Re:Loopy logic leaps (2)

F9rDT3ZE (2860845) | about a year ago | (#43373739)

unfortunately for your accusations, O'Reilly IS a technolibertarian, overtly supports outsourcing of critical government functions, is mostly concerned with getting government "out of the way" to allow corporate "innovation," and the responsibility part of government is of little interest to him, as Morozov's piece suggests. Read: O'Reilly's "government as platform": http://ofps.oreilly.com/titles/9780596804350/defining_government_2_0_lessons_learned_.html [oreilly.com] Harvard Law Professor Jennifer Shkabatur's "Transparency With(out) Accountability: Open Government in the United States": http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2028656 [ssrn.com]

Re:Loopy logic leaps (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | about a year ago | (#43376959)

I find that there is a link between transparency and outsourcing. This is because your typical government is much, much less opaque than your average corporation. So you can see all the shit that goes on. The waste, the graft, the inneficiencies.

Now these are the same in corporations. Frequently way, way worse. But you can't see them. And the sad fact is that people don't really want efficiency, and quality and all those things. They want the image thereof. Thus, as a politician, the faster method to get to that point is to outsource to a corporation which will hide the shit away.

So you should fight for transparency -- with the explicit goal of fixing the problems you find within government. Otherwise, you are just a useful idiot helping the sell-off of critical infrastructure to for-profit entities.

An the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373271)

Is Making Government More Closed and Disconnected a Good Idea?

Transparency since 2008 (4, Informative)

Thunder6ix (2803395) | about a year ago | (#43373289)

Didn't someone campaign in 2008 on the idea of transparency and open government? Oh yeah, he was campaigning.

Re:Transparency since 2008 (1, Troll)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43373611)

Didn't someone campaign in 2008 on the idea of transparency and open government?

Remember kids! It's a "position" not a "promise"!

FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373295)

"but because other considerations — like bribes — come into play."

FTFY

Points at government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373303)

Hideki!

Baffling trainwreck of an article (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#43373411)

Half the content is whining about "open source" versus "free software". The author was barely in high school when all that went down. Everything else is "zomg he is just like Ayn Rand!!!11!!"

Tim O'Reilly must have ruined his life somehow.

Re:Baffling trainwreck of an article (1)

t0rkm3 (666910) | about a year ago | (#43375993)

Yeah... I think Tim kicked his dog once...

It is rare to see such an officious, self-important and clueless article. Usually the clueless people try to retain the appearance of objectivity, and the officious and self-important try not to sound clueless.

I'm not even sure what this guy thinks caused the internet to come in to being, or how it was possible. From his stance it seems that he thinks if Richard Stallman had been elected Dirty Dictator in Chief that we would all be driving hover cars to our communal quarters to watch the next video release from StarDate, the life of James Kirk.

The Internet is a morass of people trying to climb over each for bits of information. Like a swarm of army ants hungry for the bit of data that enriches their lives. It will absorb anything that is useful in it's path. It just so happens that 'open source' folks are more humble about their code than the closed source folks... so the open tech gets integrated more quickly. There are cases where the inverse is true... and it gets swallowed up just as efficiently. (VMWare)

Don't fight it, try to ride it. Certainly don't be a wanker. If it offends you that Tim is a great salesguy and has done a great job of making people climb over themselves to a get book published under one of his imprints... don't buy the books. There are other (often cheaper) alternatives.

Pointless (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43373431)

Nothing is more pointless than people are arguing over undefined buzzwords on the internet.

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43380059)

Actually, I thought that the article made at least one incredibly important point about how concepts are used to mediate cognition and communication. As it turns out, this is actually a very fundamental idea that the constructivists (David Ausubel, Joseph Novak, Lev Vygotsky, etc) have been talking about for decades now. Just because the discussion veers into undefined buzzwords does not mean that we should dismiss it, for the practice of mediation is used to sell you things every day of your life. Marketers are using buzzwords to redefine your own conceptions on a daily basis, and it appears that O'Reilly's talent is in internalizing the constructivist philosophy so well that he can use it as a tool for convincing people to pay him.

Since what he and other marketers are all doing is clearly explained by David Ausubel's assimilation theory of learning, the lesson that I take away from this is that Ausubel's learning theory is a functional theory for learning. The consequences of this are enormous for education, in fact, because Joseph Novak has been arguing for many years now that we should be using concept maps to teach science. Novak designed concept maps in order to visualize Ausubel's assimilation theory for learning.

I don't know if O'Reilly can actually be blamed for using these tools. The real solution is for people to learn assimilation theory -- which is actually extraordinarily simple, once you try to wrap your head around it -- and to design new science education platforms which take advantage of this learning theory which seems to accurately model how the mind actually learns new concepts.

I encourage people to go much, much deeper on this subject by exploring the many excellent books on science education by Joseph Novak (such as A Theory for Education or Assessing Science Education: A Human Constructivist View, etc). You will be rewarded with an excellent model for how new concepts are learned, and what happens in the mind as a result of this process of assimilation.

are we talking about the US government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43373461)

The more we invest, the worse it gets. If anything, let's automate some existing systems, like the VA, before wasting money on this.

What's happened to Slashdot? (2)

M4n (1472737) | about a year ago | (#43373491)

Did you delete all the good with the old skin?

If it ever happens, let me know. (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year ago | (#43373609)

>> Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

If it ever happens, let me know. The only truly "open government" I've ever seen has been a township board. Even there, major decisions were as likely as to have been made out at dinner on someone's farm as in an open debate chamber. On every other level, governments have been headed down the path of beefing up specialist/executive powers at the expense of public access or power.

crowdsourcing ancient style (1)

Dorianny (1847922) | about a year ago | (#43373681)

It seems to me the original democracy as practiced by the ancient Greeks was essentially crowdsourcing. All the man would gather in the square and all could speak and put forward their ideas which would be voted up or down by the crowd. This is simply adding the "over the internet" to a very old idea.

Go back and rerad the Federalist Papers (1)

mikefocke (64233) | about a year ago | (#43373717)

and examine the concern over the frenzy of the mob and the need to temper it as a reason for not having immediate votes by every citizen directly.

I just finished 6 hours worth of recorded lectures on the Federalists versus the anti-Federalists and the debates leading up to the writing of the constitution. Interesting how the concerns of both sides are still in play centuries later in most of the red/blue disagreements.

Re:Go back and rerad the Federalist Papers (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year ago | (#43373985)

Interesting how the concerns of both sides are still in play centuries later

Not really. There is no Human 2.0. Our ancestors weren't incompetent at life. The principles they codified into our constitution are largely valid today, and they left room to correct the parts that weren't because they understood they were fallible.

Boring (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43373801)

Here's my solution: Require all politicians, or those running for office for two years before, to wear recorders that record all audio and vidoeo in their vacinity -- video where they are looking, and audio. All of it, 100% around the clock.

Fuck these secret backroom deals once and for all. You wanna "serve the people"? Get on your god damned knees.

Re:Boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43374061)

Totally agree. The government is welcome to surveil me all it wants...if it goes first. You want to watch my web browsing? Let's see yours. You want to look at my bank accounts? Don't forget to list all of your offshore accounts and interlocking shell company details. Audio? Video? Voice and face recognition? Sure! Make sure lobbyist minions are in the recognition databases! Automated behavioral analysis? I look forward to more details about the timing of cocktail parties, contributions, and votes.

No it's a terrible idea (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#43374109)

99.9% of people who work for government are robots with no useful opinion on anything.

In a word, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43374329)

In a few more words, maybe: Recall that the USoA government was ment to be inefficient as a safeguard. Take away that safeguard and you need other safeguards. Say, making very clear what it is and also what it is not to do. This, however, almost automatically will expand over time, just like taxes. For politicians are not statesmen, and they invariably lack the spine not to meddle.

The problem with this sort of proposal is that it tends to look at technology, which isn't strange since it's usually technologists that propose it, and less at process, at the humans and their interests.

Which is ironic (showing I'm not American[tm]) since we all know the entire government and everything around it is made up of lobbyists. There's even several fields of industry entirely dependent on whole rafts of TLAgencies, making them untouchable with the merest mention of "jobs". Even if what they do is entirely unnecessairy as well as horribly inefficient --just like the government-- and overpriced.

Asking for a smaller government is akin to asking to cut into its collection of TLAgencies something fierce, and also to cut on pork barrel spending. It's not unreasonable because at least half the TLAgencies are reduntant or plain unnecessairy, and the pork barreling is similarly mostly overhead and thus always a net cost. But the whole mess has gotten so big that a bit of transparency and some technology to enable trawling through the muck isn't going to make much leeway.

And that, that is the real problem.

It's good to see the Baffler is at it again (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43374375)

I used to subscribe to the Baffler, but issues came out less and less often, then stopped completely. Now they're back. They're one of the few publications still publishing serious essays.

That said, this essay is more about Stallman vs. O'Reilly. That's a modestly interesting subject, but has little to do with government. But what if government were "more connected"? What would it look like?

Banks used to be very disconnected internally. You could have a checking account, a savings account, a credit card, and a mortgage, and the different departments of the bank didn't know about the other accounts. Today, banks consolidate your "total relationship with the bank" into one online portal, and all the accounts can interconnect.

Suppose government did that. Federal and state income taxes, property taxes, parking fines, traffic tickets, bridge tolls, child support, welfare, social security, and Medicare, all on one convenient monthly statement. That's almost a no-brainer with today's technology. Some countries do that now; Sweden, for one.

Then integrate employment - the employer side verifies that you're in the system, and takes care of taxes, immigration status, and medical insurance premiums. Less paperwork for everybody. For casual employment, a Square [squareup.com] reader and a smartphone app handles the paperwork.

That's "connected government". Is that what you want?

Re:It's good to see the Baffler is at it again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43374817)

It's always hard to see what people mean by these terms as the meanings tend to be tied to the very different political cultures of various countries. There is at least two significant factors at play in the ill soundingly formulated comparison of the summary: the actualization of the rule of law, and the stage of development and amount of resources in a particular area. Government must ensure the rule of law with legislation and regulation activity and keep up services required by law. The more developed communities with bigger resources (ecosystems) can run regulated and legislated services with private operators. This way there is no either-or, but rather a scale of various forms of government roles in activities related to the government services. Since the US politics seems to favor the creation of wedges -- at least when seen from another country -- the dream of properly "versatile" government in the US is staying ever distant.

Open Government. (1)

ttucker (2884057) | about a year ago | (#43374403)

Under the Obama whitehouse, open transparent government translates to a plethora of propaganda websites with no substantial information, and certainly nothing embarrassing.

Open doesn't mean stripped down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43374425)

open as in "we can see its processes" (transparency) is good. I have no idea why "open" = "reduced".

Or is open source = reduced source?
Open door = reduced door?

Increased representation is the key (1)

mutube (981006) | about a year ago | (#43374493)

Isn't this whole article a bit of a strawman? When discussion open government people are - in my experience at least - more commonly referring to improved representation, accountability, and a role in policy making. This article (unless I've misunderstood) is instead arguing against open-as-in-free-enterprise. Which yes, I think is a pretty daft approach to governance.

What I would like to see (personal soapbox; feel free to skip) is an approach to voting that allows for delegation of particular 'voting powers' to different individuals (e.g. a local representative, a public figure) with the option to reserve the self-same to yourself - with the associated obligation to actually vote in a given debate. Debates would still be held, televised, videoconferenced, etc. and voting on legislation would happen as it does (although more likely remotely). Yet, we get finer control of our vote on issues of particular interest. While the disinterested can still nominate someone else to vote on their behalf.

Put that online, make it all web2.0 with voting records on issues/breakdown. There you have it: Open governance (* at least more open and immune to lobbying that it currently is).

Open is probably a good thing, efficient not so mu (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#43374661)

More open government is probably a good thing, more efficient government is certainly not a good thing.

Smaller govnmt first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43374919)

Then whatever.

"That word..." (2)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year ago | (#43374955)

"I do not think it means what you think it means..."

I actually read TFA (from the Baffler) earlier this week, and (shockingly) I think a lot of the other /. commenters did not. Is "open" government good? Everybody likes "open!" But the point is that the definition of "open" is, well, open to interpretation, and may not be the interpretation you like. Saying "yes" or "no" without qualification means you don't understand the point of the debate: the definition of "open."

In the context of the article, the author makes the case that "open" to O'Reilly means "the government opens its functionality for exploitation by industry," whether that means government databases, or the ability to provide services. But this serves the industry, not the people. Basically likening the government to say, FaceBook having an "open" API to give companies the "freedom" to interoperate with it. But that's openness and freedom for developers (industry) and not for users (citizens). And for the goal of efficiency, not morality. You, citizen, still don't get to know what's going on behind closed doors, or have more than a token influence on policy.

It's the free/libre debate applied to government. Is the purpose of "open government" to improve efficiency by having private companies "plug-in" to the government system to provide services, or to transfer power to the citizen to enable self-governance? The article argues it's the former.

Great points on many views of "open government" (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#43375347)

Yet another funny one from 1980: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Government_(Yes_Minister) [wikipedia.org]

I feel part of what is happening at the big picture level is that examples like Debian and Wikipedia and Linux and GNU are reminding us that people can govern themselves in various ways. Example:
http://linux.slashdot.org/story/08/04/14/1349202/study-reports-on-debian-governance-social-organization [slashdot.org]

We are also seeing how people can improve things by participating in a "gift economy" related to those sorts of projects and others. Government making free stuff for everyone (like public domain code from NASA or your local government staffers) is a potential big win for society, where a relatively small investment can yield big dividends by avoiding using "artificial scarcity" as a business model for important software tools or data sets.

As Lawrence Lessig writes in Code 2.0, behavior can be shaped through norms, rules, prices, and architecture. Government bureaucracies can affect all of those, but so can individuals, civic groups, and businesses. Maybe the internet is letting some of the lines blur a bit more these days?

We're also seeing that exchanging emails and IMs and twitters can replace some of the movement of monetary currency to signal "demand".

The internet has also made a lot of alternatives, if not easier, than at least "discoverable":
"The Dictionary of Alternatives: Utopianism and Organization"
http://books.google.com/books?id=IKZVKMPEQCEC [google.com]
"This dictionary provides ammunition for those who disagree with the early twentieth-first century orthodoxy that 'There is no alternative to free market liberalism and managerialism'. Using hundreds of entries and cross-references, it proves that there are many alternatives to the way that we currently organize ourselves. These alternatives could be expressed as fictional utopias, they could be excavated from the past, or they could be described in terms of the contemporary politics of anti-corporate protest, environmentalism, feminism and localism. Part reference work, part source book, and part polemic, this dictionary provides a rich understanding of the ways in which fiction, history and today's politics provide different ways of thinking about how we can and should organize for the coming century."

A Knight News Challenge on Open Government is just ending ($5 million to be given out). My wife and I put together one of the 828 entries (did not make the final cut though):
https://www.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/submission/civic-sensemaking-by-working-with-stories-using-rakontu/ [newschallenge.org]

There are many other interesting suggestions there:
https://www.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/applause-feedback/ [newschallenge.org]

The O'Reilly book on open government is online, and I put up a link to it as an "inspiration" part of that challenge:
https://www.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/inspiration/o-reilly-releases-open-government-book-for-free/ [newschallenge.org]

Anyway, as you imply, we have yet to see how all these visions of "open government" play out.

An indirectly related book:
http://www.amazon.com/Policy-Paradox-Political-Decision-Making/dp/0393976254 [amazon.com]
"Unlike most texts, which treat policy analysis and policy making as different enterprises, Policy Paradox demonstrates that "you can't take politics out of analysis." Through a uniquely rich and comprehensive model, this revised edition continues to show how real-world policy grows out of differing ideals, even definitions, of basic societal goals like security, equality, and liberty. The book also demonstrates how these ideals often conflict in policy implementation."

I guess she should add "open" to the list. :-)

Information is power (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43375889)

It quite simply boils down to whomever controls the information has the power. In my area there is a fight to get the public bus systems GPS logs. They can look over the information and play with the numbers until they are able to say things like our buses are on-time 98% of the time. But what is their definition of on time. If an independent investigator has access they might find that the buses are on time 2% of the time if you make the parameters more reasonable. If the real information in this situation gets out then managers would look bad and might have to actually do something.

But these sort of situations aren't all bad. It is possible somebody might model the transit system and find simple ways to optimize the entire thing with few and cheap changes.

Then there are the outright lies. Also in my area the government has been running a steady deficit of around $250 million per year. This year looks like an election year so suddenly they have tabled a budget with a $16 million dollar surplus. From what I can tell one of the line items must be an anticipated lottery win because there is no way that they have been able to spend money like the way they have been and hope to pull this magic out of thin air. Now if the public had the details of what went into this and past budgets line by line and item by item I suspect that their shenanigans would instantly be exposed. Personally my hope is that this lie is so obscene that the voters toss this particular batch of bums out.

But the three arguments that I hear from government people is that some data will stigmatize someone (crime stats that say what everybody already knows), that they can't have outsiders second guessing everything as nothing will happen, and the last is that if internal documents are exposed that nobody in government can be honest with their opinions. This all boils down to they don't want people using facts to counter their stupidity and they don't want embarrassing facts interfering with their keeping their jobs.

Make Government inherently Open and Transparent.. (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#43377393)

... by those of us who pay the government to function in our benefit, as the founders intended, by each government funder telling government on what they are going to spend the funding each provided, on.

This means there is no more a budgeting problem as we funders decide where the funding is going to be used. No different than the owner and paycheck signer of a company tells its employees what to do.

Transparency comes from the government seeking funding for specific issues they want funding for. If the funders don't know about it, teh government doesn't get the funding.

Of course the funders must fund that which generates benefits we all can share in, not just to the benefit of the government.

We funders have the right and duty to do this as identified in the Declaration of Independence.

The funders are of course the Taxpayers. where voting is to help decide who is best qualified to implement the directions of the funders. And voters also help to decide where funding trusted to the government to decide (taxpayers who do not want to define all or part of their fundings use) is to be used.

This country was founded to be a Republic. FDR changed that into a Democracy of which the founders were against. Obama plans to do the same as FDR by taking advantage of bad economic situation (forced - make teh sequester as bad as possible?) and he like FDR will take credit and advantage of the recovery (though it was the oil industry for FDR and Obama it will be the exporting of Liquid Natural Gas to begin in 2015). Only Obama plans to convert this country to Socialism.

And this is why the article is against crowd sourcing and transparent government.

But in this Republic... The People are the Boss of government, not the other way around..

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