Reader Henrikaavik points us to a new Estonian-built anti-corruption app that is very much what I described in my previous post. Check it out at http://www.bribespot.com/. Can it change the world? Maybe.
Probably not. Such a device is useless in areas of the world — and there are still many — where what Westerners describe as ‘corruption’ is what the local culture perceives as ‘ordinary course of business’. Westerners (‘progressives’ especially) love to preach at the benighted, be they in Turkmenistan or Texas, but don’t realize that they’re broadcasting on a frequency to which their targets are not tuned. A total waste of time and effort. And then the Preachers get frustrated because these damned rubes just Aren’t Listening, and (since they generally control their governments’ policies) they do something spasmodic, like the intervention in Libya … which I predict will end badly (not that the ‘progressives’ who got us in this mess will ever admit it, much less apologize).
Citizens are rising up against their governments in an interesting variety of ways. We’re seeing everything from armed rebellions to hunger strikes to anti-corruption apps. Prior to our last U.S. presidential election, I personally funded and published online a survey of economists on the question of tax policy. That was a job our government should have been doing. In California, citizen groups put a lot of “propositions” on the ballot every election because our government isn’t capable of making laws that satisfy the public. Everywhere we look, citizens are chipping away at the power of government. And behind much of it is the Internet.
And yet every year brings a raft of new laws and regulations that further restrict what people can do, often in ways that defy common sense. However much citizens may be chipping away at the influence of government, the power of government is unfazed, and is arguably growing. Lawmakers face ever-increasing pressure to Do Something to justify their jobs and perks, and since those jobs and perks are very sweet, they’re constantly on the prowl for things they can stick the government’s noses into.
Thus every year brings a raft of stories about government employees acting stupidly, whether it be the silly results of ‘no tolerance’ policies in schools or shutting down kids’ lemonade stands (sometimes you can’t even give it away) or fining rabbit farmers absurd amounts of money for violating laws aimed at stage magicians. The amount of paperwork necessary to start a new business that actually employs people, and the number of regulations that need to be complied with, are constantly increasing the threshold that small businesses need to climb over in order to open their doors. That doesn’t look to me as if government power is being reduced very much.
And don’t get me started on the myriad ways that government employees can come up with to waste other people’s money. Building a rail line between points A and B for an absurd amount of money when it would be cheaper to track down every person who wants to travel between those two points and buy them a Prius and ten year’s worth of gas is just the tip of the iceberg.
I’m still waiting for the Holy Grail of citizen power in the form of a website that collects all of the best expert opinions on every subject, organizes them into point-counter-point debates, and keeps a rolling citizen opinion poll on each topic. That sort of system would, in time, become the real government, with our elected officials beholden to the majority opinions as they formed online. Interestingly, the key to making that sort of system work is the design of the user interface. The Thomas Jefferson of 2012 will be a user interface designer.
And who’s going to pay for it? The government won’t do it — it would reduce the power of the people who would be responsible for setting it up, so even if they appear to be doing it, they’ll make sure it doesn’t work (and that’s on top of the normal talent government employees have for screwing up even the most simple operation). Keynesian bullshit to the contrary notwithstanding, demand doesn’t automatically create supply; somebody has to be willing to pay for it. Even Scott Adams doesn’t have that kind of money.
And then there’s the cases where the government establishes impossible standards and then socks it to businesses who can’t do the impossible, such as this case, or the plan the Obamanation has to increase by over 50% the mileage that vehicle manufacturers are required to meet.