© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Over this past weekend, we suggested that our readers watch a panel discussion on the economy aired on C-Span2 Book TV (http://www.booktv.org/program.aspx?ProgramId=9889&SectionName=Politics&PlayMedia=No). The panel consisted of authors and columnists not normally associated with a discussion of national economic issues, and yet we thought that what they had to say might be instructive.
After all, the folks with all the economic and financial training, and purported expertise, managed to foul it up. Why not hear the views of some folks with different perspectives? The panelists were Thomas Friedman (http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/), Barbara Ehrenreich (http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/), and Michelle Singletary (http://www.michellesingletary.com/).
Over the past couple of months while Friedman has promoted his latest work, Hot, Flat and Crowded (http://books.google.com/books?id=vQxnKb_GZvcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22hot,+flat,+and+crowded%22&ei=pgj8SMr1NJWyyQS_oKXFDQ), he has argued that although he does not advocate a Manhattan Project-type response to our current energy and climate change issues, he does feel that some government “encouragement” is needed.
During the course of the discussion on the economy, Friedman generally took the position that the private sector is better at solving problems and coming up with innovative solutions. Ehrenreich, out of concern that the audience might think that within the private sector lies the solutions to our problems, reminded us that the private sector had recently failed us, and plunged our nation into a precarious situation.
In thinking about it further after the conclusion of the program, I recognized that at least in the case of the private sector, the company dies and discontinues doing business, when it is not properly managed. In the case of government, it can make all sorts of bad decisions, adverse to the interests of its constituents, and the government will continue to roll on and collect more taxes. Consequently, there is not much incentive to change, adapt, or innovate. Only the elected leaders periodically change. The employees pretty much continue to do what they do, despite the failed policies of, and execution by, the governmental entity.
Several months ago, the local school board requested that members of the public attend the public hearing before the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to let the Commissioners know that the public desired that the full funds, requested for the upcoming school year, be included in the final approved budget. At that time, I chose to use the opportunity to make a point, not about how much money be spent, but the manner in which it be spent.
I argued on behalf of more funding for science, math, and other courses that would lead to more inventors, scientists, engineers, and people capable of inventing innovative products. I argued that this would ultimately translate to producing things again, from which jobs and tax revenue would flow. I further argued that a society, whose jobs primarily consisted of those in the areas of education, government, and healthcare, are essentially welfare societies, without an affirmative engine to drive the economy.
Yesterday, we posted an article about the techno-cultural divide in the US, which appears to be widening between the haves/educated class, and the have-nots/poorly educated class. (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/10/post-no-56-i-may-not-know-how-to-define.html.) We suggested that society come up with some innovative approaches to narrow that gap, in order to prevent the long-term, negative ramifications on society at large.
Later during the day, in thinking about my comments to the Board of Commissioners, I realized that I did not recall seeing a single, governmental official or politician participating in the blogging and social media and networking technology conference (http://2008.convergesouth.com/) which I had attended. That is not to say that they were not there; however, it sure wasn’t obvious.
There were participants and contributors from New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Charleston, SC, and the Silicon Valley. It was a major event, and yet there was no obvious governmental involvement of which I was aware. Politicians routinely show up at churches, hospitals, restaurants, schools, and such. We need government – private sector collaboration, if we are going to encourage the pursuit of science and innovation in our society, particularly amongst our youth. Just showing up at this technology conference, to acknowledge the role of, and encouragement by, government, would have been a nice start.
Perhaps if we had more accountants, business people, engineers, and scientists, and fewer lawyers as politicians, we might fare better. We had better pay more attention to science and technology. Our global competitors are making substantial strides in the world of technology, and with quite a bit of our help.
© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense