I disagree with Dave Winer about so many things in so many ways that I’m reluctant to even mention him here, but I have to give him credit for stating an important truth about the current crisis:
Fact is the people who run this place aren’t qualified to run it. No one is. You can see that the legislators have basically no idea how the economy works, yet they make decisions that determine where trillions of dollars flow. The Secretary of the Treasury, a banker, has no idea how the legislative process works, and even harder to accept, doesn’t have a basic understanding of the Constitution, how the three branches of government work. […]
So the NY Times today says the voters rebelled because no one from Washington explained to them what was going on. Folks, that’s just the tip of the tip of the problem. They couldn’t explain it because they themselves needed to have it explained to them.
I’ve read oceans of words about the current crisis and its underlying causes, but only one sentence in one article gave me something new to think about:
House Democrats summoned to a lunchtime meeting to discuss the proposal yesterday received a glossary of financial terms, such as “credit default swap” and “illiquid assets.”
Now, if you think it is foolish that people so badly educated about the workings of modern finance are rushing to decide how much money to throw at our financial problems, I agree with you. But is it really fair to expect a congressman to understand the workings of modern finance and every other area he is responsible for in such detail that he could make an intelligent decision when called upon?
Dave Winer has rightly identified the problem, but he is no different from any other pundit in thinking that he (as opposed to the idiots in charge) understands the issues well enough to chart a course through these waters. I’d like to suggest another possibility: some processes are complex enough that nobody is able to properly control them when they go haywire, no matter how gifted, no matter how well educated, no matter how popular, no matter how well intentioned. In these cases, the mistake was not to put the wrong people in charge, but to put anyone in charge.
A man can more or less properly control the workings of a farm. A man cannot properly control the workings of a national government. Somewhere between the farm and the national government we cross a threshold beyond which our reach exceeds our grasp. I don’t know exactly where the threshold lies, but I suspect it comes far more quickly than our modern arrogance would lead us to believe.