Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Ask Slashdot: Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea? 73

Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time, there's been a theory drifting around that government can be made more open and efficient via the same crowdsourcing and social-networking tools that created such successes out of Facebook, Twitter and Kickstarter. In that spirit, numerous pundits and analysts have advocated the development of 'e-government' or 'government 2.0.' But what if the idea isn't as great as it seems? That's the angle embraced by Evgeny Morozov in a recent essay for The Baffler. Structured as a lengthy takedown of open-source advocate and O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly, the piece veers off to fire a few torpedoes at the idea of making government more responsive and transparent through technology (the latter being something O'Reilly readily advocates). 'One of the main reasons why governments choose not to offload certain services to the private sector is not because they think they can do a better job at innovation or efficiency,' Morozov writes, 'but because other considerations — like fairness and equity of access — come into play.' If O'Reilly himself argues that a government should be 'stripped down to its core' into a form more transparent and collaboration-friendly, Morozov counters with the idea that the 'participation' envisioned by most government 2.0 scenarios is limited, little better in practice than the comments section at the bottom of a corporate blog posting."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

Comments Filter:
  • if you want to know more about how the government is screwing you!
    • I believe the appropriate frist post should be:

      Yes. Because Hitler said so.

    • I would like to clarify briefly what the original article in the Baffler was talking about. I think the slashdot article and the summary on this thread which was copied directly from it miss a few important points. The article is not about how openness, transparency and mass participation in the government are in any way undesirable or impossible, nor is it about how that cannot or should not be achieved through technology. The article does not suggest that making government more open and connected is a bad
      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        Ideas of open government based on social fairness and strong government are not discussed or even mentioned in the article.

        I gather this is mostly a reaction piece to O'Reilly. So the author can be excused. But I must admit to being puzzled by how this was casually dropped in your post without comment or justification. First, I don't believe there is such thing as social fairness. Some people are naturally going to do better and have more advantages than others. They'll be more socially connected, more intelligent or knowledge, better genes, or just luckier. Reality is inherently unfair and I don't see society improving by tryi

        • It seems we fundamentally disagree on certain points. I understand that this is unlikely to change but here is my response nevertheless.

          I used the idea of government based on social fairness and strong government merely as it was the opposite of what was discussed. It was meant as an example of something that is not mentioned or discussed in the article, there are other examples in between and in other ideological directions. I was disputing the summary here that suggests the article was expressing an op
          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            Social fairness is a principle that many governments (including the USA) are based on.

            Then what is it and where does it show up in the Constitution? The US wasn't based on income equity or that would have been specified in the Constitution. It's not based on GDP, unemployment, or national debt or that would have been specified in the Constitution. It's not based on mental illness, criminality, depression, violence, job productivity, life expectancy, child mortality, obesity, addiction, and literacy, or that would have been specified in the Constitution.

            Saying you don't believe in social fairness is like saying you don't believe in freedom.

            Except that freedom is a concrete, obje

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:20PM (#43373051)

    There are people who equate the two, and people who do not. The two camps will never agree. The problem with the first group is that they cannot allow the second to survive.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In a well working democracy, the power of the numbers would trample those two in the ground.

      • And that's why we have a constitutional republic.

        • Technically yes, but we have allowed it to deteriorate into a corporate aristocracy, and completely abdicated our legal authority to it.

          • by slick7 ( 1703596 )

            Technically yes, but we have allowed it to deteriorate into a corporate aristocracy, and completely abdicated our legal authority to it.

            Hence the power of term limits and prison terms!

  • When has the government ever done anything "fairly" or to ensure "ease of access"?

    Politicians, after all, are the easiest people in the world to bribe, it is the only job in America where bribes are legal. The result is something that pervades every aspect of government at all levels called PAY TO PLAY.

    This ensures that 1) The biggest briber gets the best deal 2) Everyone else gets screwed.

    Worse, governments spout all kinds of emotional propaganda to cover up the actual reality of how the system w
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Too bad all the evidences points to that not being true..

      But keep living in your echo chamber of stupid.

      • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @06:14PM (#43373583)

        Too bad all the evidences points to that not being true..

        Let's look at the claims in question:

        Politicians, after all, are the easiest people in the world to bribe, it is the only job in America where bribes are legal.

        People or businesses with interests before the government can contribute to the campaigns of legislators, the president, and a variety of political groups and PACs. Legally. So claim is TRUE.

        The result is something that pervades every aspect of government at all levels called PAY TO PLAY.

        Given the endless dribble of pro-IP law and bills coming out of Congress and the White House these days, I'd say there's some evidence for this position. MAYBE which might be upgraded to TRUE, if I bothered to google for it.

        1) The biggest briber gets the best deal

        That's going to take work to verify. Not feeling it. MAYBE.

        2) Everyone else gets screwed.

        Would be a consequence of point 1). MAYBE.

        Worse, governments spout all kinds of emotional propaganda to cover up the actual reality of how the system works, directing people's anger away from the real criminals onto other groups in society.

        Examples: the one percent, commies, gungrabbers, liberals, neocons, neolibs, tea baggers, etc. TRUE.

        Then they promise "openness" and "transparency:" while doing the exact opposite.

        While Obama made such a promise, his illustrious predecessor, Bush probably didn't. Insufficiently motivated to google. MAYBE FALSE.

        Millions of well intentioned good people are duped by this propaganda every single day.

        Bush and Obama both got elected. TRUE.

        While not every claim has been demonstrated, there's enough there to indicate that your statement is FALSE.

    • well, my take is that we need them more 'open and fair' but what we are going to get in the short term is a more technological government that is easier to crack and find hole for the hackers to get into and steal the meat of what they are doing wrong. Then the protesters on the out side and whistle blowers can post that shit all around to everyone can see it if you got a browser and an internet connection. Now this has already happened, i am waiting to see some change come from this i am very hopeful they
    • The roads the government provides me are way more fair than the private toll roads built by private corporations, that require you to spend more on toll than your entire round trip gas price.
      • Would be nice, though, if in addition to paying for the roads I didn't also have to pay for all the wars, the police state and the entitlements.

        • I agree on the first two points. "Entitlements" is a scare term, though. Like "Assault rifles".
          • I would agree if the main "entitlement" weren't a Ponzi scheme that enables parents to enslave their children.

            • You realise of course that since everyone (give or take) is simultaneously parent and child, your criticism makes no sense?

              You should be a slave to future you: that way, you will exercise and invest carefully and lead a productive life. Now you wants an extra beer with that third doughnut.

              And then there is the idea that this is a Ponzi scheme: if each level of the pyramid is the same size as the preceding, you have a perfectly good and stable system, not a nefarious scheme. And as the population tends to g

              • I never understood what kind of person treated the government and its institution as if they were part of the last generation on Earth...

                They're called "baby boomers." Looted the empire, spent all the money, racked up the debts, shipped the jobs overseas and want their kids to pay them social security off their barista jobs.

            • I would possibly agree if you were able to make a specific point and I understood what it was.
      • Clint you are probably young, enthusiastic, and a bit naive.

        There's no such thing as a road built by the government, or a private toll road built by a private corporation.

        Here's how roads get built:

        The government has to allocates funds to build a road. This is decided through a process of exchanging favors. It goes like this: First, someone in your district gives you a bribe, er contribution, er promise to deliver votes in return for a juicy, high margin road building contract. In the case of
        • Is 39 young?

          "The road is built, at the highest possible cost to you, the taxpayer, at the lowest quality. It isn't a road at all."

          Except here in northern virginia, the main privately-created road, the Dulles Toll Road, had fewer lanes -- and they are narrower -- and costs $2.50 each direction. For me to take it to my job would double my total commuting costs (I've done the math).

          So the quality of the road is lower than the government-funded roads I take -- 495, 66 -- and cost to me is higher. And the

          • Thanks for engaging. Lots of smart folks here, that's why I participate.

            I'm not a cynic, Clint, I'm a realist who has been involved in many, many business deals at the ripe old age of 57. I've worked with folks inside and outside the beltway, in public and private industry.

            Every construction deal is a different story, I don't live in Virginia so I can't speak to how that particular arrangement came about, but my experience tells me that my description of events (which was meant to be enlightening, n
      • Personally, I like the publicly built toll roads better, so yeah, I think we can agree on this point.

  • The answer is "yes"

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Is it?

      I used to think so, but now that I am in the government and see publica action I see a lot of crazy impacting the government.

      Not differents of opinion, or rational debate. People who are delusional getting people to gethers and fighitng some battle made up in their head.

      Millions and millions of dollars done for retesting, and showing people they are incorrect. Factually incorrect.

      Imagine the people who think the contrails are a chemical being spread by the government being able to force the government

  • Title isn't leading at all, just your imagination.

    Seriously though, this debate is a lot older than TFA implies.

  • Loopy logic leaps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:35PM (#43373231) Homepage

    Going from "open government" to "outsourcing" is a non sequitur meant to set up a straw man. It is outsourcing that results in private firms treating government data as proprietary, and it is this kind of outsourcing that open government initiatives seek to avoid.

    It's a long piece. Tl;dr: Think tank wonk mistakes Tim O'Reilly for a technolibertarian and turgidly tilts at windmills of his own invention.

    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:57PM (#43373435) Journal

      We already crowd source our law making process.
      The problem is that it's been crowd sourced to lobbyists and not to 'the crowd'

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Tl;dr: Think tank wonk mistakes Tim O'Reilly for a technolibertarian and turgidly tilts at windmills of his own invention.

      Thanks. That's more than I got out of it. The Baffler baffled me. I hope that most of their articles won't be that long. The rest of the internet needs words too.

    • unfortunately for your accusations, O'Reilly IS a technolibertarian, overtly supports outsourcing of critical government functions, is mostly concerned with getting government "out of the way" to allow corporate "innovation," and the responsibility part of government is of little interest to him, as Morozov's piece suggests. Read: O'Reilly's "government as platform": http://ofps.oreilly.com/titles/9780596804350/defining_government_2_0_lessons_learned_.html [oreilly.com] Harvard Law Professor Jennifer Shkabatur's "Tran
    • I find that there is a link between transparency and outsourcing. This is because your typical government is much, much less opaque than your average corporation. So you can see all the shit that goes on. The waste, the graft, the inneficiencies.

      Now these are the same in corporations. Frequently way, way worse. But you can't see them. And the sad fact is that people don't really want efficiency, and quality and all those things. They want the image thereof. Thus, as a politician, the faster method to get to

  • by Thunder6ix ( 2803395 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:40PM (#43373289)
    Didn't someone campaign in 2008 on the idea of transparency and open government? Oh yeah, he was campaigning.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      Didn't someone campaign in 2008 on the idea of transparency and open government?

      Remember kids! It's a "position" not a "promise"!

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:54PM (#43373411) Homepage Journal

    Half the content is whining about "open source" versus "free software". The author was barely in high school when all that went down. Everything else is "zomg he is just like Ayn Rand!!!11!!"

    Tim O'Reilly must have ruined his life somehow.

    • by t0rkm3 ( 666910 )

      Yeah... I think Tim kicked his dog once...

      It is rare to see such an officious, self-important and clueless article. Usually the clueless people try to retain the appearance of objectivity, and the officious and self-important try not to sound clueless.

      I'm not even sure what this guy thinks caused the internet to come in to being, or how it was possible. From his stance it seems that he thinks if Richard Stallman had been elected Dirty Dictator in Chief that we would all be driving hover cars to our communal

  • Nothing is more pointless than people are arguing over undefined buzzwords on the internet.

  • Did you delete all the good with the old skin?
  • >> Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

    If it ever happens, let me know. The only truly "open government" I've ever seen has been a township board. Even there, major decisions were as likely as to have been made out at dinner on someone's farm as in an open debate chamber. On every other level, governments have been headed down the path of beefing up specialist/executive powers at the expense of public access or power.

  • It seems to me the original democracy as practiced by the ancient Greeks was essentially crowdsourcing. All the man would gather in the square and all could speak and put forward their ideas which would be voted up or down by the crowd. This is simply adding the "over the internet" to a very old idea.
  • and examine the concern over the frenzy of the mob and the need to temper it as a reason for not having immediate votes by every citizen directly.

    I just finished 6 hours worth of recorded lectures on the Federalists versus the anti-Federalists and the debates leading up to the writing of the constitution. Interesting how the concerns of both sides are still in play centuries later in most of the red/blue disagreements.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      Interesting how the concerns of both sides are still in play centuries later

      Not really. There is no Human 2.0. Our ancestors weren't incompetent at life. The principles they codified into our constitution are largely valid today, and they left room to correct the parts that weren't because they understood they were fallible.

  • Here's my solution: Require all politicians, or those running for office for two years before, to wear recorders that record all audio and vidoeo in their vacinity -- video where they are looking, and audio. All of it, 100% around the clock.

    Fuck these secret backroom deals once and for all. You wanna "serve the people"? Get on your god damned knees.

  • 99.9% of people who work for government are robots with no useful opinion on anything.

  • I used to subscribe to the Baffler, but issues came out less and less often, then stopped completely. Now they're back. They're one of the few publications still publishing serious essays.

    That said, this essay is more about Stallman vs. O'Reilly. That's a modestly interesting subject, but has little to do with government. But what if government were "more connected"? What would it look like?

    Banks used to be very disconnected internally. You could have a checking account, a savings account, a credit car

  • Under the Obama whitehouse, open transparent government translates to a plethora of propaganda websites with no substantial information, and certainly nothing embarrassing.
  • Isn't this whole article a bit of a strawman? When discussion open government people are - in my experience at least - more commonly referring to improved representation, accountability, and a role in policy making. This article (unless I've misunderstood) is instead arguing against open-as-in-free-enterprise. Which yes, I think is a pretty daft approach to governance.

    What I would like to see (personal soapbox; feel free to skip) is an approach to voting that allows for delegation of particular 'voting powe

  • More open government is probably a good thing, more efficient government is certainly not a good thing.
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @09:09PM (#43374955) Journal

    "I do not think it means what you think it means..."

    I actually read TFA (from the Baffler) earlier this week, and (shockingly) I think a lot of the other /. commenters did not. Is "open" government good? Everybody likes "open!" But the point is that the definition of "open" is, well, open to interpretation, and may not be the interpretation you like. Saying "yes" or "no" without qualification means you don't understand the point of the debate: the definition of "open."

    In the context of the article, the author makes the case that "open" to O'Reilly means "the government opens its functionality for exploitation by industry," whether that means government databases, or the ability to provide services. But this serves the industry, not the people. Basically likening the government to say, FaceBook having an "open" API to give companies the "freedom" to interoperate with it. But that's openness and freedom for developers (industry) and not for users (citizens). And for the goal of efficiency, not morality. You, citizen, still don't get to know what's going on behind closed doors, or have more than a token influence on policy.

    It's the free/libre debate applied to government. Is the purpose of "open government" to improve efficiency by having private companies "plug-in" to the government system to provide services, or to transfer power to the citizen to enable self-governance? The article argues it's the former.

  • It quite simply boils down to whomever controls the information has the power. In my area there is a fight to get the public bus systems GPS logs. They can look over the information and play with the numbers until they are able to say things like our buses are on-time 98% of the time. But what is their definition of on time. If an independent investigator has access they might find that the buses are on time 2% of the time if you make the parameters more reasonable. If the real information in this situation
  • ... by those of us who pay the government to function in our benefit, as the founders intended, by each government funder telling government on what they are going to spend the funding each provided, on.

    This means there is no more a budgeting problem as we funders decide where the funding is going to be used. No different than the owner and paycheck signer of a company tells its employees what to do.

    Transparency comes from the government seeking funding for specific issues they want funding for. If the fund

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky