The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

4 September 2005

The War on Error

That's Doc Searls' term for the unwinding of the Gulf Coast catastrophe and the inevitable drive to avoid a repeat performance, and while I think the title is just a little too facile, he understands the dynamics as well as anyone:

With nobody but God and ourselves to blame, and with nobody but ourselves to help, we will put people first. And we will do our best to protect our civilization from acts of God for which people must be prepared.

The next hard question is, Which "we"? Our federal, state and local governments? Or ourselves? Or both, together, in some new way?

Back during the last presidential campaign, Phil Windley made a useful distinction between the politics of elections and the politics of governance. The latter, he told me, was what mattered most. In governance, he said, the distinctions between parties are, while important, also irrelevant to the most basic concerns of citizens, which are about making sure the water runs and the roads get fixed.

Phil also told me about the emerging Net-based ecosystem of governance, in which government organizations were developing fresh and highly symbiotic relationships with Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs. In fact, some NGOs were one-person operations — individuals obsessed with, say, auto safety or water quality.

When the blaming stops and the fixing truly begins, we'll need more than our government organizations to step forward. As citizens, and as groups of citizens, will need to do what government simply can't do.

Yes, we need bureaucracies. But bureaucracies can't imagine anything. Including predictable acts of God.

People, on the other hand, can.

In the War on Error, people will need to take the lead. Governments will need to follow or get out of the way.

The only problem with this scenario is that it didn't occur to enough people a week and a half ago.

Posted at 8:23 AM to Political Science Fiction