Virtual Government–Yes or Nonsense

Virtual Government--Yes or Nonsense

The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days–why not just have a virtual one–where you just “buy” the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?

The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a “rotating dial,” where you choose whatever government suites you best.

In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government’s–in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance.

However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated.

While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing–expect more for less–and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous:

– Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?

– Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?

– Will justice be doled out by vigilantes?

– Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?

While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes.

Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends…you can choose your friends, but you can’t just choose your family!

While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice–where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don’t–if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good.

For example, “Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don’t particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to.”

There is a civic commons where we must share–the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others.

In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future–and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.

Like anything that you are seriously apart of–family, religion, organizations, and work–we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away.

Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players.

If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good ‘ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.

Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.

Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hurry Up And Wait

Hurry Up And Wait

This guy from the military used to joke that they were always being told to hurry up only to find that once they got to their destination, they had to sit around and wait–he called this “Hurry up and wait!”

It’s a paradox of our times that we are constantly in a hurry to get to work, have our meetings, get our work done, get home, and a million and one other things. PTA meeting or baseball practice anyone?

From fast food to information at the speed of light, it’s like we know we are up against the clock and no matter how fast we go it’s not fast enough.

Yet, it is exactly in rushing from thing to thing and to get things done that we really miss the point–to savor every moment.

I think the saying take time to smell the roses is very important. And someday if you don’t, you will look back and wonder where did all the time go and why was it so–fast and–miserable.

The Wall Street Journal (14 March 2013) has a book review today on “The Slow Fix” by Carl Honore.

Honore says we have a “cultural addiction to speed” and he advises that we take more time to enjoy life–our work, our relationships, our interests, and I would add our spirituality.

It’s funny but in the book review, it mentions how a Viennese priest admits that he even prays to fast. And I have to chuckle at that because I too remember from my childhood, so many synagogue services, where speed praying and prayer by rote took the joy and meaning away the true connection I wanted to be building with my maker.

Even in a work setting, often everything seems like a #1 priority and there is more to do than there are hours in the day or people to do it.

While working quickly and efficiently is desirable, when people are overworked and overwhelmed that is how costly mistakes happen and people get burned out.

In all aspects of our lives, we need to make good progress, but at the same time, ensure that our lives are filled with meaning that you can only get by paying attention to each and every wonderful moment. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jayme Frye)