Mitch is talking about how technology can help hear our broken political system. The system works well for some of us, but not everyone else.

Is self-government even meaningful anymore? Is it really of, by, and for the people these days? There are 13 registered lobbyists per elected official. So who's buying the politicians? Companies looking to game the system rather than really competing in the markets.

Big agriculture give $60 million and gets $12 billion in subsidies every year. That's a 200:1 return. These guys are like VCs. But they're not innovating or competing.

Bad business isn't the only problem, of course. But things are really out of control. Power is supposed to be in check among the three branches as well as state and local government. The problem is that Americans are dropping out of the system. Voter turnout has been down since 1955. And it's even worse at the local level.

People are just fed up and walking away. It can't survive this way forever. It's very broken.

The role of technology comes in here--both in fixing and breaking things. Broadcast media has been part of the problem. But the Internet has the potential to turn things around. Look at the Howard Dean campaign and the community it channeled on-line.

What lessons can we learn from Open Source? Centralization is not required for large projects. The best projects are based on practices that integrate tools and principles. Wikipedia is a great example of this. It's useful and stable even though every page is editable by anyone with access. The Wikipedia's neutral point of view principle helps to make this work--and some of it is enforced in software.

Transparency: source code, bugs (bugzilla), design notes, etc. This is essential for self-government. But the final draft of the Patriot act was introduced at the time of vote. (WTF?!) There are no transcripts of lobbyist meetings with officials.

Bloggers are helping to open things up--at least the discussions. They're challenging "facts" thrown about in the press.

The political establishment of neither party is going to fix this. It's gotta come from the people--a broad section of people.

See Also: My Web 2.0 post archive for coverage of all the other sessions I attended.

Posted by jzawodn at October 07, 2004 09:17 AM

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