One of the major features of public discussion around the current global financial crisis is that the language of macro-economics is dominant. Different theories of macro-economics are being used to shape policy prescriptions, and these prescriptions are being shouted at policy makers. I suppose policy makers have to take Macro-economics 101 in order to be effective in their roles. Which is fine.
'If it be true that all governments rest on opinion, it is no less true that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion. The reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the number with which it is associated. When the examples which fortify opinion are ancient as well as numerous, they are known to have a double effect. In a nation of philosophers, this consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side.'
James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No 49.
Fighting against crime and corruption means to fight battles on all kinds of fronts. Institutional reform is one of them: you need to establish accountability institutions outside the executive government to reduce the abuse of executive power. But - rule by law is not rule of law. Institutional reform is only one front.
After many years abroad, I have just moved back to my hometown Torino, known for car-design, the Winter Olympic Games, and for safeguarding the self-portrait of the Leonardo da Vinci. But it's also the town of the little known engineer Leonardo Chiariglione, who invented the revolutionary standard MP3 in the framework of a not for profit project, and of Nexa, Center for Internet & Society, where the other day I witnessed a meeting to prepare an action against a draft European directive for a copyright extension.
Copyright was recognized by law 300 years ago. It enabled valuable authors to make a living on their work. Therefore it was fundamental to boost the artistic creation and the freedom of expression, because finally creators could avoid to waste most of their time to please sponsors. After a given (reasonable) period,
Debate about how the current information-abundant communication environment is impacting global politics has long entered the circles of communication practitioners and academics. However, findings remain mixed.
Internews Network and Internews Europe recently released a report entitled “The Promise of Ubiquity: Mobile as Media Platform in the Global South.” According to the release, the report was commissioned “to help the media to understand the exciting potential, the incredible challenges and the perils of refusing to change.” It’s an impressive volume, packed with multi-country stats and trends, future visions, and case studies from the Global South. These cases include use of text messaging (SMS) for a news service in Sri Lanka, election monitoring in Nigeria, crop price distribution in Indonesia, and expert health consultations for the Philippine diaspora in the Gulf region. An interesting discussion on the report here.
The global economic crisis is producing, amongst others, a divide between experts/technocrats and public opinion. This is a bill of several particulars. First, the question of language. The crisis and the possible policy responses are being discussed in a technical language so abstruse that if you don't have an MBA in finance or a PhD in Economics you are lost. It appears we have a coterie of insiders...and everybody else. This is not good, as I will soon explain.
Second, there is the question of scepticism. Public opinion is skeptical about what the experts really know about what is going on. Are these not the same experts running the global financial system and who drove it off a cliff? And why can they not agree on anything? For every expert who says countries must throw trillions at the problem is another who says do nothing, just tough it out. What are non-specialists to make of this cacophony?
A reader's response to the blog post Media Strengthening: Taking Politics Seriously - 2:
"We've come across such problems helping the government of Trinidad and Tobago build concensus for sweeping reform of public services. Under the auspices of their ministry for public administration, we've their support to build an online forum as a first step in establishing public servant-led dialogue, that we hope can grow across government then into the world of consumers.
Starting online, it will need to attract more than the 25% of citizens now online, but it is a start. Once we get it going, the challenge will be (1) to get the administration to discuss HR issues (in particular) even if they have not formulated a position beforehand. Then (2) to ensure that forum comments and questions are responded to swiftly, so that the cynical workforce does not give up on dialogue.