[LINK] Why the IT revolution is undermining statism
Tue, 22 Feb 2000 09:57:04 +1100
At 08:57 21/02/00 +1100, Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:
>Why the IT revolution is undermining statism Fin Review Monday 21/2/00
>The Third Way, By Mark Latham ...
By an amazing coincidence:
Occasional Paper No. 35324/334
Why the IT revolution is unpinning sadism
by Professor "third way" Klerphel
Recently the Productivity Commission produced a series of reports showing a
productive and healthy government sector in Australia. However, those
reports do not support the argument put here and so will not be discussed
There are constant reports in the media of how the public sector is not
keeping up with innovations. The unbelievable growth in share values of
multinational organizations (particularly media companies reporting
government sector failure), show the way to future prosperity. The public
sector is being left behind due to outdated requirements for public
accountability and the production of socially useful outcomes. The private
sector is showing the way, by not letting a lack of real output impede
Government can't cope with the challenge of poverty in society by funding,
in the form of taxes, from profitable companies and high net worth
individuals. The role of Government is to foster new innovative enterprises
and to provide support for older companies. Individuals who do not have the
initative to form companies cannot expect handouts from government. The
individual's role is to supply the working public capital for private
The state faces enormous challenges in dealing with competing interests from
big business, while facing dissatisfaction from the public. The Internet,
while a useful way to distribute press releases, is causing problems by
creating unrealistic expectations that ordinary citizens should have a role
in decision making.
Democracy is under threat from a system where citizens expect their elected
representatives to respond to their individual wishes. The party-based
political system, which has served politicians so well, will be destroyed if
expectations are not better managed. The economics of politics do not allow
for more than a few people to have input to policies. It is a simple matter
of efficiency that those individuals consulted should be the ones with the
highest net worth.
In general it must be accepted that politics will be a less efficient
process than industry. Politics is based on very old and respected ways of
working: hierarchies, standardization, mass production and low-risk
processes. Politicians cannot be expected to give up these cherished ways of
working for some sort of popularist, customized, individualized and
efficient net based system.
The British Third Way shows how the new rectoric of the information age can
be overlaid on the traditional political system. As the third way
terminology contains no semantic content, it can be applied to any political
point of view: from far left to far right.
If government fails to develop these rectorial skills, they will be made
obsolete by shallow vote seeking behavior by a new breed of politicians.
This "fourth way" will involve consulting people at the grass roots by use
of online tools. Expertise in mechanical communication skills, rather than
the highly developed rectorial skills will be at a premium. This could upset
the whole balance between the political and corporate processes.
We run the risk that the successful businesses of the coming century will be
small, home grown innovative companies. While such companies would greatly
improve the lot of the local community, they will not assist the political
process. Small local companies are unlikely to contribute to political
parties, nor be effective in lobbying. We must insist that our own
parliamentary offices and government agencies use imported products from
multinational companies. Local development is a concept to be discussed, not
a practice to be implemented.
We need to seek new ways to bring big business together with big government,
or risk an explosion of hyper-efficient net-based small business and small
government. Tony Blair's UK government has shown the way, by expert use of
"third way" rectoric to cover a continued right-wing Thatcher approach. This
continues the fine private enterprise example of the operators of the "dark
satanic mills", who blamed poverty and illness on their workers and then
provided a few pitiful public works to ease their guilt. The Blair
government has now brought this to the public sector with a few local
initiatives in which lack of funding is extolled as a virtue.
In Australia, the Federal Government is having some success in privatizing
the less corporately relevant aspects of education. State education by
institutions of learning such as colleges and universities provide a very
large return on investment to the community in the long term. In fact the
web and the Internet, now claimed as a corporate success, were invented and
popularized in the public university system.
However, long term funding of education is not politically beneficial. High
academic standards are seen as inflexibility and the authority of
institutionalized learning is resented. Companies which can't be bothered
funding their own long term research are unhappy funding public research
through taxes. They would prefer to import technology and workers from
overseas. This will destroy Australia's economic base. However, that will be
well after the next election and so is not politically relevant.
Classrooms and examinations are not popular with the general public.
Following the "bread and circuses" approach Australians want education of a
more casual kind. Such a system will break down, as soon as the public
realize that they will be treated by untrained doctors and their houses
constructed by unqualified builders. However, that will be well after the
The promise of lifelong learning is far more cost effective than real
learning. This removes the political contradiction of education: how most
Australians want it, but don't want to pay for it. State educationalists
have not accepted this reality, by continuing to promote institutions based
on solid discipline and objective standards.
Lifelong learning in this country needs to progress past real learning, to
its role as a political slogan. Policy makers must activate the immense
potential of learning networks and partnerships in civil society to provide
the appearance of learning, without the cost. The education sector needs to
be bribed (or starved) into joining in.
By-passing government reinforces the importance of Third Way thinking. It
avoids substantive debates with a calming fog of retoric.
Information Technology is opening up many more options for society.
Fortunately most people, including most politicians, have no understanding
of this and are instead willing to accept content free "Third Way" rectoric
instead. This allows the hard choices to be avoided, at least until after
the next election.
Just because this approach make no rational sense, does not mean it will
fail. Outsourcing of government services was unpopular and without logical
foundation. But it was implemented wholeheartedly by both Labour and
conservative governments. This bipartisan approach has allowed the failure
of outsourcing policy to have no political cost (at least until after the
This is one of the moments of history when we are experiencing a revolution.
The Internet revolution was fermented by, and is still largely run from,
non-profit universities and research organizations. We have to hope that the
general public does not realize this, nor that politicians do not have a
clue what is taking place and are in no way controlling the process.
Just as the idea of a frictionless "new economy" is allowing company CEOs to
benefit from a stock market boom with non-products and no strategies, the
"Third Way" will allow politicians to be seen to be leading, while having no
idea of what is actually going on.
Note: This article was extensively researched by pasting together old UK New
Labour media releases. ;-)
Tom Worthington FACS email@example.com Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd A.C.N. 088 714 309
http://www.tomw.net.au PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617
Visiting Fellow, Computer Science, Australian National University
Publications Director & Past President, Australian Computer Society
Net Traveller: e-Edition now at: http://www.tomw.net.au/nt/order.html