I still remember my shock that so many famous and powerful Americans endorsed the view in the March 2013 book by Moises Naim that simply assumed that the American people were now to be Governed as if they were collectively a ship in need of steering by politicians. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/using-education-to-make-giving-more-power-to-those-who-govern-us-the-common-vision/ Silly me. Turns out there was just a delay in the people at those conferences committing the planned vision to writing. It also turns out, in a carryover from the previous post, that managing the public’s perceptions, expectations, and beliefs about the proper role of government in the 21st Century is a crucial component of the ‘emerging governance relationship.’
Nothing quite as useful as a globally connected consulting firm explicitly committing these new relationships to writing. This is from a 2009 Accenture paper called “From e-Government to e-Governance” as well a letter from their Public Service Managing Director Sean Shine, explaining the new relationship between citizens and their government “that is all about genuine engagement of people in their own governance.” So much for those of us who think we are engaged in our own governance when we pay taxes from hard-earned money or set unpopular curfews for precocious teenagers. No, ‘citizen-centric governance’ may sound good, but it assumes without consulting any of us that:
“It falls to government to balance the demand for increased choice and flexibility with fairness and the common good. Governments can achieve that balance by striving for equality of outcomes for all constituents–that is, by ensuring that everyone has the chance to experience the same social and economic conditions, or at least similar improvements in these conditions.”
Does anyone else appreciate that is where all the hyping of ICT portals and building “social networking and community sites [that] also enable citizens to participate in their governance as never before.” No incentive to infantilize a population with these aspirations for the future. Not when the entire government apparatus is to be about meeting citizen needs and guiding what “citizens expect and want from government.” Now won’t the actual Common Core implementation come in handy here? The Digital Learning emphasis? Anyone think there is a reason to sculpt a misleading but politically powerful conception of what the future might be if consultants from meetings we were not invited to state that:
“Web 2.0 technologies present governments with an unprecedented opportunity to bypass the media [not to mention parents and local school boards] and directly engage citizens in a more mature, reasoned and productive discussion about the strengths and shortcomings of government. [No danger of bias or omissions here.] In this way, public service organizations can, for the first time, play an active role in shaping citizens’ perceptions of government by providing the public with instantly accessible, intelligible information and analysis–enabling a more balanced and objective debate in which citizens are able to consider governments’ perspective.”
Now if that’s the intended propaganda to be launched at adults with taxpayer funding, we can just imagine what will make it to the still malleable minds in the classroom. Completely lost for anyone will be any perspective grounded in the history of what comparable social justice aspirations did in Europe in the 20th century. That led Friedrich Hayek to write in “The Mirage of Social Justice” that:
“the more dependent the position of the individuals or groups is seen to become on the actions of government, the more they will insist that the governments aim at some recognizable scheme of distributive justice; and the more governments try to realize some preconceived pattern of desirable distribution, the more they must subject the position of the different individuals and groups to their control. So long as the belief in ‘social justice’ governs political action, this process must progressively approach nearer and nearer to a totalitarian system.”
Now before anyone accuses me of introducing the T word without sufficiently laying a proper foundation let’s remember that Hayek was writing from personal experience of One Thing Leading to Another. Secondly, if I had a dollar for every time the books or papers I read now used phrases like “shared vision,” “collective aspirations,” “consensus essential for democracy must be built,” or “unified social purpose,” I could head to the beach for some R&R. We saw it embodied in the goals of both the Rockefeller-funded Communication for Social Change and the Club of Rome-created Structured Design Dialogue to produce common political will.
If you would like to believe I am simply collecting injudicious comments made for paying customers, Accenture’s vision fits with the 2014 book Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government written by the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States Aneesh Chopra. He points out that as a candidate Obama “had mandated that his staff insert a default paragraph about the importance of harnessing technology into every speech.” The idea laid out repeatedly is that “government could be a platform.” Government becomes “a way to engage the public and let them tell us what was important and then support them in accelerating their consensus to a common solution.”
We have open admissions of trying to manage those citizen beliefs and perspectives that go into the now to be required consensus and common solution. If the guiding hand does seem to be getting quite heavy in the direction Hayek had seen before, how is this quote for the naivete on what government is. “When the relationship is participatory, when the relationship is open, it really does foster a sense that the government is not a thing; it’s what we do together.” [Italics in original passage]
Some people have the legal power to coerce. Others generate taxes to the public sector while some live off those taxes. Those are not balanced, equal relationships even if government was not trying to rig how it is perceived in the 21st Century. All while singing the joys of the Big Data being collected on its citizens and the need to minimize any distinction between the public and private sectors. This is Chopra’s vision towards the end of the book. He makes Pollyanna seem like a sourpuss by comparison:
“Today, we need to explore new frontiers not only in terms of the problems we try to solve but in the manner in which we attempt to solve them. Collectively and creatively. Much more is possible, if the government makes the populace part of the process so the greater number of people can assemble and share their ideas and gifts for the greater good.”
Lighting dollar bills afire is one way to describe the likely consequences of that vision or an excuse for borrowing more from the Chinese. Speaking of which, the second book I mentioned enthusiastically advocates that the West adopt the Chinese vision of state-directed capitalism. Anyone think there might be a connection to the Chinese willingness to fund US deficit spending to push an ICT-centered vision for meeting citizen needs and achieving social justice for all? The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State also came out in 2014 and it’s laying out a comparable blueprint to Chopra and Accenture. If we could shift government by acclamation anymore, we would be close to a global fait accompli.
Alarmingly the book tells us that the current leadership of our primary deficit financier believes that “Western democracy is no longer efficient; that both capitalism and society need to be directed; and that getting government right is the key” to the future. Something to remember as we have trillion-dollar deficit plans in the US as far as the eye can see. It would be wrong to assume it’s just an another interest-bearing investment for the Chinese. It’s also probably good to know that Accenture has a long-term formal relationship with the World Economic Forum when we read that “the one thing that the world’s tycoons agree upon when they meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos is that the Chinese state is a paragon of efficiency–especially compared with the fevered gridlock of Washington or the panicky incompetence of Brussels.”
I think we have a Convergence of visions here around what the purpose of citizenship will be going forward globally. I think we Americans are taking too much solace in the protections of the US Constitution when it’s obviously seen as just another old document that can be bypassed now by many powerful decision-makers, here and globally.
I think we are dangerously assuming the world will continue as it has been despite so many open proclamations. If enough people had simply read what I have documented, they would immediately see how much danger we are in if we continue unaware.
It usually takes three taps for me to write about a painful topic. I listed two 2014 books here and I found the Accenture materials later. The third book is called The Double Helix: Technology and Democracy in the American Future. Unfortunately, it fits with the later books even though it came out in 1999.
Fortunately, I am aware of its aspirations for us as well and we will cover that in the next post. The non-science types like me though should appreciate that the reference to the Double Helix is all about how to force cultural change.
Wenk thinks government “serves as a steering system to set goals arrived at by consensus.”
Really starting to hate that word.