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J. P. Barlow — Internet Has Broken the Political System 773

Posted by kdawson
from the citizenry-who-knew-too-much dept.
MexiCali59 recommends an account up at Hillicon Valley on a speech by John Perry Barlow to the Personal Democracy Forum in New York. "The deluge of information available on the Web has made the country ungovernable, according to EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow. 'The political system is broken partly because of Internet,' Barlow said. 'It's made it impossible to govern anything the size of the nation-state. We're going back to the city-state. The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich.' ... Barlow said there is too much going on at every level in Washington, DC, for the government to effectively handle everything on its plate. Instead, he advocated citizens organizing around the issues most important to them. 'There is a circle of fat around the Beltway that is incredibly thick. We can no longer try to run this country from the center. We've got to run it, just like the Internet, from the edges.' Barlow also said that President Barack Obama's election, driven largely by small donations, has fundamentally changed American politics. He said a similar bottom-up structure is needed for governing as well. 'It's not the second coming, everything won't get better overnight, but that made it possible to see a future where it wasn't simply a matter of money to define who won these things. The government could finally start belonging to people eventually.'"
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J. P. Barlow — Internet Has Broken the Political System

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  • by 2names (531755) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:18PM (#32460322)
    I thought Newt Gingrich was gone?
  • by JesseL (107722) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:20PM (#32460350) Homepage Journal

    The government of the United States was never supposed to be the top heavy behemoth it is today. At the time our nation was formed, the states of our federation were intended to be much more autonomous - for exactly the reasons outlined in the article.

    Local issues and positions can't be handled fairly from a central authority. A country this big just can't be homogeneous enough for that to work.

    • by drachenstern (160456) <drachenstern@gmail.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:27PM (#32460448) Journal

      Exactly! Anybody with modpoints mod this shit up. That's exactly what Jefferson and his crew were all about! They had seen what it meant to rule an empire from a central seat, and they knew it wouldn't work.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:36PM (#32460594) Journal

        Exactly! Anybody with modpoints mod this shit up. That's exactly what Jefferson and his crew were all about! They had seen what it meant to rule an empire from a central seat, and they knew it wouldn't work.

        Exactly! This is the 10th Amendment exists. The Feds should only do what the Constitution says they can do. If we find that the Feds need to do more, amend the Constitution!

      • by Boronx (228853) <evonreisNO@SPAMmohr-engineering.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:47PM (#32460766) Homepage Journal

        That's what Jefferson and his crew were about, but they lost and the other guys won. If it wasn't clear then, it certainly was after Lincoln

        • by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:04PM (#32461060) Journal

          Exactly. It's a shame Alexander Hamilton wasn't shot 20 years earlier.

        • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:37PM (#32461592)

          That's what Jefferson and his crew were about, but they lost and the other guys won. If it wasn't clear then, it certainly was after Lincoln

          This is true, however, they've omitted a critical technicality: They forgot to rewrite history.

          As the victors, they certainly had the opportunity to go back and spin everything so that their view was the new, one-true, way. They simply forgot to do this, for whatever reason. Centuries of primary education have been teaching the freedoms promised under the Constitution, and have been referring to the Civil War as merely the 'war to free the slaves'.

          Well, the slaves are free, so can we please have our Constitution back now?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bennomatic (691188)
          So are you saying that slavery was a good idea, or are you saying that based on an oversight of our founding fathers, any actions by Lincoln should have been preceded by an appropriate constitutional amendment that would have had to be approved by the majority of the states? Or are you saying something else entirely?

          For someone like Lincoln to have stood idly by on something as important as slavery as well as secession, claiming that his hands were tied by something written 90 years earlier would have b
          • by Philip_the_physicist (1536015) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:23PM (#32466676)

            The states had the right to secede (whether they still do is an interesting but irrelevant argument), and the Confederate states did so legally. The primary reason was not slavery, but protectionist laws which benefited the industrial north but which made farming (especially of cotton, but also other products) far less profitable (incidentally harming European interests, especially the British cotton industry).

            The slavery issue was mainly raised to make Anglo-French military involvement more politically difficult (and it succeeded), but slaves in the north were not freed until later (the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to secessionist states).

            Now, you can argue that Lincoln could declare war on the CSA as with any other war, and even that the war was a good thing, but using military force to prevent a state seceding was definitely anti-Constitutional, as was arresting the Maryland state legislature so they could not secede.

        • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:18PM (#32463894) Journal
          In fact is was Jefferson himself who killed it. His idea was to limit the federal government only to actions specifically allowed in the constitution, as would seem natural from the 10th amendment. However, while he was president, an excellent opportunity came up to buy a bunch of land west of the Mississippi. Napoleon wasn't going to wait all day for his money, so Jefferson bought the land despite the fact that land purchase wasn't a power granted to the president in the constitution. His plan was to buy it, then amend the constitution retroactively, but his supporters convinced him not to, because it might look bad for the upcoming elections.

          And thus Jefferson was the first to demonstrate that in practical matters limiting the government to just the constitution isn't as easy or as good as it sounds in theory.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:31PM (#32460524)

      And what will you do when some of these localities start bringing back segregation, or other policies abhorrent to the nation as a whole? The federal government needs to be able to protect the rights of citizens across the country. That's how it got to be this way in the first place. Expecting people to uproot their lives and move to a different locality that respects them isn't a reasonable fix.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        Protecting and enforcing the values upon which the nation was founded does not require massive micro management.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:39PM (#32460628) Journal

        And what will you do when some of these localities start bringing back segregation, or other policies abhorrent to the nation as a whole? The federal government needs to be able to protect the rights of citizens across the country. That's how it got to be this way in the first place. Expecting people to uproot their lives and move to a different locality that respects them isn't a reasonable fix.

        If you find that the federal government needs more power, amend the Constitution to grant those powers. Anything else violates the 10th Amendment.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JesseL (107722) *

        Obviously the Federal government still has a role to play; with things like national defense, diplomacy, regulating interstate commerce, and protecting the constitutional rights of citizens. That stuff is spelled out in the constitution.

        • by skids (119237) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:59PM (#32460978) Homepage

          If we really limited the feds to a strict reading of the constitution, then local governments would have to form a new national organization in parallel with the federal government to do things which they individually are not powerful enough to accomplish. Like smack down multinationals when they get out of line.

          Not that redundancy in government wouldn't have its uses -- in emergency services especially -- but so much of the "shrink the feds" movement is really about promoting a divide and conquer agenda against the needs of the people. No sale.

    • by JDSalinger (911918) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:32PM (#32460530)
      I mostly agree, but local positions can vary unnacceptably. People of all sorts of dogma take over areas and try to handle their local "issues". There needs to be accounting for local variation and their needs/desires, but overarching, fair rules need to be handed down through the monolith that we call government.

      How do we make sure the monolith is moral and fair to all? We need smart people making decisions. We need as much transparency as possible. The internet helps with transparency, but the plethora of info creates a burdensomely low signal to noise ratio. There are too many charlatans and agenda-driven salesmen telling us what the news is. What is the solution? Having smart, well-informed people make the important, big decisions. How do we make that happen?
      • by Jack9 (11421) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:42PM (#32460664)

        I mostly agree, but local positions can vary unnacceptably.

        Uh, no. Unacceptably to you. Please stay out of other's ppl's way of life. What makes you think you know best for the rest of the US, and by extension, the world?

        People of all sorts of dogma take over areas and try to handle their local "issues". There needs to be accounting for local variation and their needs/desires, but overarching, fair rules need to be handed down through the monolith that we call government.

        That's an interesting opinion. Too bad it doesnt work without complete totalitarianism, even on a small scale.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:33PM (#32460548)

      Sounds exactly like "Small Government." It's not helping that this country is becoming more and more polar every day.

      I had the opportunity to meet some Europeans while traveling and they asked me what I would fix, and I want to go back to states rights.

      I explained it like this: Would you, in Sweden, approve of someone in Portugal being able to set laws that regulated what you did?

      More or less we have extreme right and extreme left coming out and people starting to side with either of them. So instead of everyone being happy we end up with two parties that absolutely hate each other.

      If hard core christian states in the south want to abolish abortion, have a 0 tolerance drug policy, etc. Let them. But there is no reason that they should be able to tell a Californian that they can't do that. Hell Colorado, Cali, and numerous other states are on the verge of all out legalizing marijuana, but it's the feds that are stepping in saying "Nope. Because we say so".

      Every state has the right to set their own drinking age, but the feds are blackmailing them into making it 21. Even so, every state has its own liquor laws. Stores in SC close at 7 pm, with only beer available at gas stations after that. Illinois, no one cares. Indiana is closed on election day and Sundays.

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:54PM (#32460884)

        Stores in SC close at 7 pm, with only beer available at gas stations after that.

        Because it's always a good idea to restrict booze sales to be only to people who are driving!

    • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:39PM (#32460626)

      Indeed. I am a diehard libertarian and therefore opposed to the notions of large (or even medium) sized government. Needless to say, I am opposed to involuntary taxes.

      Yet, when I move to a new town, I implicitly accept the taxing structure there, whether sales, property, utility, etc. These taxes support local services (fire, sewer, emergency response, police, etc.) and the argument that they "benefit all" is a strong one. At least those that disagree enough have the general freedom to leave. Local taxation, in effect, is voluntary, and grow out of initial community-driven consensus. Later arrivals either had to accept the tax structure, or find somewhere else to live. With enough choices, competition arises for the best governance model.

      Further, small town government actually makes community participation and control possible: bad city councils get ousted fairly quickly, or people just plain leave.

      The role of a federal government, representing the common interests of a federation of states is to provide scalability, efficiency, and consistency, of interactions these states require among themselves, and foreigners. It is not to be heavy handed against the citizens of those states. The police and military forces this federal government has it can direct, but ultimate control should rest with the member states. What are the feds going to do? Order Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico police to "invade" California to arrest a pot-smoking "terrorist"? When California police have a duty and obligation to defend their citizen?

      Yes, this can degrade to a full-blown civil war between states. But, I suspect a federation of a modest number of states could do well to challenge any internally directed force against them from the federal government they created in the same way that the people of a small town can reasonably overthrow their city council, whether by ballot, or force.

      The only way a federal government can subdue the individual states, therefore, is to pit them against one another. Historically, this has been done via re-distributive taxation: subsidizing federally "friendly" states with funds taxed from the "unfriendly" ones. But, if the federal government is funded voluntarily by the states, and not directly by individuals, it can be reigned in. The other downside of redistributive taxation at the state level is that it makes it harder for individuals to "vote with their feet" and move from one state to another: the "better" states will be taxed more to prop up the "worse" ones. This can't happen if support of the federation is voluntary. For an example of how this plays out study the history of provincial transfer payments in Canada.

    • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:40PM (#32460644)

      It's like when I complain about federal income taxes and people reply with: "Taxes pay for your fire and police and schools."

      Well, the funding for my local fire, police, and school district come from the local property taxes and sales taxes I pay. Both of which require a vote at a local election to increase. And I don't mind paying those taxes because at the local level I at least get the chance to vote on the issue. And usually I don't vote against reasonable increases, but at the same time when I see waste I can attend a local meeting and voice an opinion about it. (For instance, our local fire department is way over funded. There is no reason why the fire captains need a brand new $70k SUV every year while some of the breathing equipment "needs upgrading".)

      But at the federal level I pay my taxes so the money can be used to bail out whatever group has their hand out this week? The other thing I can't get over is the belief that the government always has to get bigger at all levels and when we had all this great growth in the first half of the last decade, they expanded government at all levels spending everything they took in and more. Whatever happened to establishing an emergency fund for when lean times occur? I know tax revenues are down. Guess what our revenues are down and we had to buckle down and keep expenses down, and even float on reserve cash we had for a few months. If we have to do that as a private business, what makes government any different?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        If we have to do that as a private business, what makes government any different?

        The fact that it's a government.
        See the "Paradox of Thrift" [wikipedia.org] and here generally [pkarchive.org].

        I don't agree with all the bailouts that have been done lately, but there are two points here. First, these bailouts are necessary because the markets were insufficiently regulated. They got out of control, and as a result burned not only the bad people, but the good ones too. The bailing-out of Wall Street was (at some level) necessary, even if it was horrifically poorly structured, because otherwise the further spread of the

      • by SETIGuy (33768) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:43PM (#32461680) Homepage

        But at the federal level I pay my taxes so the money can be used to bail out whatever group has their hand out this week?

        Do you even know where your federal taxes go? What fraction goes to bail out whatever group has their hand out this week? Or do you consider Social Security a handout? Please tell me. I'm all for reducing the DOD by 2/3rds, but I doubt you counted them as a handout.

    • yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

      the problem with the "destroy government" crowd is that we need strong regulations for something like the economy to work. since 1994 when the republicans took over congress, we have systematically taken away governmental regulatory powers over the economy and wall street. the result is the financial meltdown in 2008

      so obviously, we need a strong central authority to monitor and control the economy to keep it healthy. the libertarian myth of unicorns and leprechauns and a marketplace which regulates itself is factually and historically false, just study the banking panics of the 1800s and why we had the great depression in the 1930s: this what you get with a marketplace that is not regulated. the natural state of the marketplace is manipulation of the market by its largest players (corporatism) and constant bubbles and pops (greed, then fear and panic: all you need is simple human psychology for that). the libertarian myth of a level headed marketplace of equals is mythmaking, not reality

      that being said, there are plenty of areas of bloat where the government can and should be downsized. its just that i see no intelligence in the "destroy government" crowd, just a lot of people with an almost religious fanaticism to the idea of small government, ready to hack away at everything. we need intelligence on the issue: WHERE do we cut, because obviously we don't cut everything, especially with the need for the strong regulation of the economy

      to deny that is to simply stand in complete denial of what 14 years of deregulation of the economy wrought in 2008

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Mattern (191822)

        the problem with the "destroy government" crowd is that we need strong regulations for something like the economy to work. since 1994 when the republicans took over congress, we have systematically taken away governmental regulatory powers over the economy and wall street. the result is the financial meltdown in 2008.

        Try again. The financial meltdown of 2008 was caused by the subprime mortgage disaster, which was directly *encouraged* by the Federal government through Fanny Mae and the "community reinvestm

        • the idea that the government created the greed in the hearts of bankers is obviously false, but it is more disturbing that so many people like yourself think that the banks needed government encouragements to act greedily

          the community reinvestment farce is indeed a misstep by the government, and was wrong, and contributed to the 2008 meltdown, absolutely. but it is no more than propagandistic alternative reality mythmaking to believe this is the causative agent of the meltdown in 2008. do you do not see that it merely enabled simple human greed? it scares me about you and anyone else who believes this nonsense

          "If the Federal government had stayed out of it, it wouldn't have happened."

          you really believe that? you really believe a marketplace without regulation functions better?

          at best, you can say government missteps hurt, and that the government needs better policy. but please don't tell me you actually and honestly believe that no government regulation somehow results in healthier marketplaces. if you honestly believe that, i really fear for this country, that somebody can be so deluded

          please read up on economic history. please educate yourself about how the economy actually hurts. please admit to yourself that the marketplace's greatest enemies to stability and health are NATURAL enemies (manipulation by large players, simple human psychology of greed and then fear and panic). please wake up from the propaganda

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Chris Mattern (191822)

            the idea that the government created the greed in the hearts of bankers is obviously false, but it is more disturbing that so many people like yourself think that the banks needed government encouragements to act greedily

            No, we simply don't believe that it was greedy bank behavior that cause the meltdown. It was government-provided immunity. Nobody had to care about the credit quality of mortgages--they were Fannie Mae insured!

            you really believe that? you really believe a marketplace without regulation fu

          • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:37PM (#32462542) Homepage

            the community reinvestment farce is indeed a misstep by the government, and was wrong, and contributed to the 2008 meltdown, absolutely.

            Actually, the CRA had little-to-nothing to do with it. There are a lot of arguments for why it had little to do with it, too, the most important being:
            1. The institutions engaged in most of the sub-prime lending weren't CRA-regulated banks, they were mortgage brokers (DiTech, Ameriquest Mtg, Countrywide, etc) who weren't subject to the CRA.
            2. The default rates of CRA-qualified loans were comparable to the default rates of similar loans that weren't CRA-qualified.
            But hey, don't trust me on this, trust the Cleveland Federal Reserve [clevelandfed.org] (that's just the easiest to read of the many economic studies on this)

            The reason the CRA came up early had a lot to do with wanting to blame government rather than banks for the financial crisis, and a bit to do with wanting to blame poor black folks in the inner cities around the country rather than rich white folks in New York City. But the claim is basically hogwash.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jbeach (852844)
          Nonsense for many reasons.

          - Fannie Mae didn't cause the housing bubble.
          - Fannie Mae didn't cause banks to create credit default swaps
          - Fannie Mae didn't cause AIG to lie or to fail
          - Fannie Mae didn't cause bad-faith players to create packages which **they knew would fail**, and then knowingly sell these as good investments to clients, and then ***bet against these clients' interests***

          Also, while it's technically that Fannie Mae received more bailout money than any *single* bank, that's a rather
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Shakrai (717556) *

        since 1994 when the republicans took over congress, we have systematically taken away governmental regulatory powers over the economy

        Hey, who was the President from 1992 to 2000 that signed all of that into law?

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:46PM (#32460752) Homepage

      The government of the United States was never supposed to be the top heavy behemoth it is today. At the time our nation was formed, the states of our federation were intended to be much more autonomous - for exactly the reasons outlined in the article.

      The founders tried the setup where the central government had virtually no power at all (the Articles of Confederation). That central government was so powerless that it had no armed forces to speak of (it could politely ask the states for one), no power to tax (it could politely ask the states for cash), and not much of anything by way of administrative bureaucracy. This generally didn't work because the states regularly flouted the national government and didn't care about the strongly worded letter they might get in return.

      After it became clear that the Articles of Confederation weren't working, they got together and drafted the Constitution. And precisely the arguments about strong-federal-government versus strong-states-and-localities created the beginnings of American political parties (the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists - later Democratic-Republicans). George Washington and John Adams had different views on this one than Thomas Jefferson. So no, it's not clear how "top-heavy" the US government was supposed to be, because no one ever really agreed on it.

      • by hondo77 (324058) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:47PM (#32461748) Homepage

        George Washington and John Adams had different views on this one than Thomas Jefferson. So no, it's not clear how "top-heavy" the US government was supposed to be, because no one ever really agreed on it.

        Thank you! Anybody who tells you that the founding fathers were of a like mind on anything shouldn't be listened to because they don't know what they're talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by King_TJ (85913)

      Exactly! I realize J.P. Barlow probably has a traditional liberal take on things (hence his belief that Obama's election somehow "fundamentally changed American politics"), but the Internet has done nothing but shed a little more light on the political situation. IMO, it hasn't "broken" it in any way, shape or form!

      Legislation that was once FAR too difficult for the average person to peruse is now available for download on various governmental web sites. (It's still far too wordy and obtuse, but making i

    • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@dal. n e t> on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:52PM (#32460860)

      The growth of government is directly tied to the growth of corporations. If you consider governments and corporations in the same category, here are the top 20 by revenue:

      US (Federal)
      Japan
      Germany
      France
      China
      Italy
      UK
      Brazil
      Canada
      Royal Dutch Shell
      Exxon Mobil
      Spain
      Netherlands
      Wal-Mart
      Russia
      Australia
      Saudi Arabia
      BP
      Norway
      Sweden

      Now, tell me, if BP had been at the top of this listen, what would have the outcome of this current situation have been? Or a better question: what would Nigeria be able to get BP to do about a disaster like this, given the entire budget of their government is half of BP's annual profit.

      While corporations exist in their current form, governments must always exist that are larger. Otherwise we're _really_ screwed.

      • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:08PM (#32461138)
        A disaster like this is going on daily in Nigeria. Mostly caused by Shell instead of BP. Your question, of course, answers itself. Nothing, Nada. Zilch. And that is the wet dream of the "libertarians" - unlimited power to the OWNING class, in the vague hope that they might, themselves, become part of it one day and have the license to fuck everyone over.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DigiShaman (671371)

          And that is the wet dream of the "***WILDCARD***" - unlimited power to the OWNING class, in the vague hope that they might, themselves, become part of it one day and have the license to fuck everyone over

          Fixed that for ya.

          You see, it doesn't matter if your a communist, fascists, theocratic, or libertarian. Eventually, humanity ends up getting divided into two classes anyways. The haves and have-nots. The only different between any philosophy is how quickly you get there.

          The sad cold reality is that this bre

  • Oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:20PM (#32460356) Journal

    There's too much information available to people! It makes them harder to govern! By golly, when people UNDERSTAND our Policies and can see ALL of our platform, it sure does make it hard to make them like us! When people can actually review what we've done without relying on the news centers, how do we keep up the lies? We're doing our best to keep them as uneducated as possible, by failing to properly support the school system, but they seem to be teaching themselves how politics work by discussing it with other people!

    Oh the humanity! What ever will us political figures do if we can't keep the sheep acting like sheep!

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:20PM (#32460360) Homepage

    ...politicians can no longer get away with the same bullshit they once did. Imagine if the Internet was around during Nixon's days, or World War II. Things would have been extremely different.

    Politicians have always lied...the difference is that the common person can now find proof about it in a matter of seconds with a single Google search.

  • I can generate barely-comprehensible political rants too:

    porfnig ab kernck

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      porfnig ab kernck

      No glot! Clom Fliday!

    • Indeed. The whole notion is moronic, because while indeed there is far more information out there, or rather, much faster access to information, there are also much better tools for determining useful, valid and applicable information than there ever was before. Imagine how hard it must have been a hundred years ago, when every major capital in the world was stuffed full of archives, in some places like London and the Vatican going back many centuries. No matter how good the system of organization, getti

  • Organizing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    he advocated citizens organizing around the issues most important to them

    How is that different from what is happening now?

    Our elected officials typically understand very little of what they legislate, and often little of the bills they themselves propose. "The shoulder thing that goes up", "tubes", the Patriot act, net neutrality, the bailout. In practice citizens ogranize themselves into some type of lobbying effort to spoon feed their wants and needs to politicians.

    Sometimes that organization is in the form of a corporation. Sometimes it is a PAC. Sometimes it is a group of in

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/04/23/obama-still-lying-shamelessly-about-how-important-small-donors-were-to-his-campaign/

    "In the general election, Obama got about 34 percent of his individual donations from small donors, people who gave $200 or less, according to a report from the Campaign Finance Institute. Another 23 percent of donations came from people who gave between $201 and $999, and another 42 percent from people who gave $1,000 or more."

  • by masterwit (1800118) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:27PM (#32460450) Journal

    The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich.

    Your right, we should tax the information-rich individuals and make them give some of their information away...they do not deserve that much information! (Greedy bastards)

    there is too much going on at every level in Washington, D.C., for the government to effectively handle everything on its plate.

    Oh he is soooo right! I mean, the government was working perfectly before the internet. Wow, glad I've been shown the light!

    The former Grateful Dead songwriter said those disppointed in Obama are disregarding the extent to which the political system is broken.

    Well that's OK, because Obama said he was going to help fix it! :)

    "There is a circle of fat around the Beltway that is incredibly thick" Barlow said. "We can no longer try to run this country from the center. We've got to run it, just like the Internet, from the edges."

    Wow, that is an even better analogy than the internet being a "series of tubes"!

    I lost some brain cells beating my head against the desk after reading this "quality" piece, but I do not blame the author as much as I do the speaker. In my opinion, perhaps Washington should stop "clogging the internet tubes" as they would put it...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The thing that Barlow fails to understand is that the country was never well run from the center, even before the Internet. Most of the problems in this country are a result of attempting to run nationally things that are best run locally.
  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:32PM (#32460546) Journal

    Barlow also said that President Barack Obama's election, driven largely by small donations

    Obama's election wasn't driven by "small donations". It was driven by the fact that the country was sick of GWB and the GOP. Any Democrat not named Jane Fonda would have won in 2008. Obama's fund-raising achievements were very impressive but I wouldn't credit them with securing his victory.

    Timing is everything in politics. If John McCain had beaten Bush in 2000 he would have gone on to be President (and the last eight years would have been very different, but that's another discussion). If Obama had run in 2004 he would have gotten creamed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2obvious4u (871996)

      Obama's election wasn't driven by "small donations". It was driven by the fact that the country was sick of GWB and the GOP.

      He had to get passed Hillary first, no easy task. If it wasn't for the small donations he wouldn't have gotten to run against the GOP fueled by anti GWB angst.

  • by Protoslo (752870) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:34PM (#32460556)
    This quote seems like a much more cogent encapsulation:

    To summarize, the Internet is the solution. The internet is the problem. We're connected, but not engaged. We're "networked" but not mobilized. We're Friends and Followers, but not active and acting.

    We've come so far, we have so far to go.

    The internet has allowed people to become much more informed than they once were, but it also lends itself to pointless bloviating on /. that ultimately accomplishes no political change. Like this.

  • by coolmoose25 (1057210) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:35PM (#32460572)
    Here is another of his quotes from TFA:

    "Google’s capacity to control human thought makes the Catholic church jealous, I bet," Barlow said. "They wish they’d thought of it."

    I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how exactly Google is controlling my thoughts. Sure, I use google, and gmail, and I have a Droid... how does that equate to controlling my thoughts? Maybe they have unique access to my thoughts, as written down, but that is a far different thing than control.

    File this one under Rant/Drug Induced/EFF Nonsense

  • That's the problem! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:41PM (#32460652) Homepage

    The problem is that we ever tried to manage the country centrally in the first place.

    Any network or systems administrator will tell you that managing a diverse set of systems centrally is difficult. The only way you can pragmatically do that is with uniform conformity through diktat.

    Unless you want to verge into absolute dictatorship, managing many smaller systems centrally is difficult if not possible, leading to a lot of loose ends and bad ideas. The founding fathers realized this, which is part of the reason they went for "limited powers" in the Federal government. There's only so much that a single person or body of people can multitask.

    Unfortunately, we've forgotten this reality many times in the past 200 years, leading to an excess of government. "Big government" has to be small out of necessity of self-preservation, or scope creep will grow it to a colossal, unsupportable size.

    Think of government as a compute cluster, or cluster of clusters, if you will. If you send jobs off to a cluster, which then sends jobs off to a node, you're trying to balance the overall computation amongst all available systems so no one node/processor doesn't get overtly taxed. This is the opposite of a "we're here to help" federal government: all jobs go up to the process scheduler/dispatcher, and get stuck there, while the lower levels of government (state, county, local) largely ignore what are ultimately their own affairs (poverty, crime, unemployment, civil projects, etc.) because the Federal government "is here to help".

    This is why community gardens often thrive, while government food subsidy/distributions are usually failures (in terms of results as well as costs). Local problems need to be dealt with locally.

  • In other words... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wiarumas (919682) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:43PM (#32460676)
    The real power of democracy is overthrowing the veil of pretend democracy, which advocates ignorance to a sub-par governance system.
  • by thestudio_bob (894258) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:49PM (#32460806)

    The deluge of information available on the Web has made the country ungovernable...

    Corporate greed and the ease for them to "purchase" government officials, the total lack of oversight in spending and operation, ignoring the will of the people and doing whatever the f*ck the governments wants, the constant blaming the "other" party for any problems, trying to fix things and sway the people with marketing instead of any actual actions, the corruption (Sure BP is at fault for the oil spill, but wasn't our government supposed to make sure they were in compliance? Oh that's right, it's just cheaper to buy them off with hookers and cash. Gotta keep the share holders happy.), becoming so large that it's just utterly inefficient to run has made the country ungovernable...

    There, fixed that for you.

  • missing the target (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bl8n8r (649187) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:57PM (#32460924)
    the us gov. Was broken before the internet. The internet just enabled everyone to know how fricking hopeless it actually is. In all actuality, I don't think there is a country in the present with anything more than a corrupt, dysfunctional government. Think about it. It's pretty dismal all over. The world needs more functional psychopaths running it.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:02PM (#32461016)

    "The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich." You mean that the powers that be can't piss on our heads and tell us it's rain when we're no longer wearing blinders, nose in the feedbag and under sensory deprivation. We can smell it, we can taste it, we know we're getting pissed on. Maybe we wouldn't be so upset if they were doing their job of governing the country instead of focusing on keeping us baffled and confused while robbing us blind?

    The Internet is the printing press turned up to 11. We saw the kind of shitstorm that swept Europe when Guttenburg started cranking out his bibles.

  • Um, which is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:16PM (#32461252) Homepage Journal

    I saw this in TFA:

    "The political system is broken partly because of Internet," Barlow said. "It's made it impossible to govern anything the size of the nation-state. We're going back to the city-state. The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich."

    And then this:

    "Speaking at Personal Democracy Forum in New York on Thursday, Barlow said there is too much going on at every level in Washington, D.C., for the government to effectively handle everything on its plate. Instead, he advocated citizens organizing around the issues most important to them."

    Ok, so which it? Too much information, or too much government?

    I can tell you, in my opinion, if you think you have too much information about the government, you have too much government. And if the complaint really is that there is too much going on in Washington for citizens to make sense of because they can actually get information on it, there is TOO MUCH going on in Washington.

    Nice try, though.

    I also read this comment:

    "I explained it like this: Would you, in Sweden, approve of someone in Portugal being able to set laws that regulated what you did?"

    Um, that sounds EXACTLY LIKE THE EU. Except Portugal needs to get a few other nations to gang up on Sweden. Look into the feta cheese controversy in the EU. Nice. This is an argument for or against states' rights and Article Ten how?

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:18PM (#32461276)

    While I don't disagree that more local responsibility and governance would be a good trend, the idea that adding more information and more information flow efficiency makes the system inherently ungovernable is both counter-intuitive, and almost certainly wrong.

    It's true that adding more information and failing to manage that information and its use would make a mess. But along with more information, we've also added such things as - Google, to select just the information you need from the sea of information, like - Wikis, to make intranet (distributed) team cooperation much more effective, like - service-oriented architectures and workflow systems, to pool the services of multiple agencies into a more informed, coherent larger decision-support and transaction system.

    And the Internet, through social information sharing and interaction, is breaking down cultural barriers (and making ignorance or parochialism a necessarily willful and socially unacceptable state to be in.)

    I predict that the Internet, and distributed information and transaction systems, will allow for more effective governance at even larger scales than the nation-state, as well as more effective nested federal (jurisdiction-sharing) forms of governance at every level down the hierarchy.

    We just got a global nervous-system, and the beginnings of a global memory and mind. That's only likely to cause us to descend to tribalism if it provokes a fearful backlash from the willfully ignorant, or those unwilling to compromise, discuss, and share at many levels with many sizes of surrounding societies.

    If done while maintaining democracy and responsibility at all levels, this technology could lead to better governance, and governance at the global scale we clearly require to face down several serious global issues we have created for ourselves. We've got global trade and business. A counterbalancing force of effective and democratic global governance is now needed, and technologically possible.

  • by Shuh (13578) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:21PM (#32461322) Journal
    Ironic how The Peoples' Republic of America has been found "ungovernable" and surprise, surprise: the answer is governing at the STATE level! It's almost as if this guy is channelling the Founders.
  • Utter horseshit. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:39PM (#32461610) Journal

    The political system is broken because money has taken over the input to our representatives and megacorporate control of media has taken over the output to the voters.

    That is to say, it's the same problem, both ways.

    Our democracy has become overwhelmed by the concentration of wealth in a few hands, owing to vacuous sophistry that skews our economic system towards one that shovels money to those who have it and entrains the lives of those who don't.

    People who call any attempt at regulation or any braking of the egregious concentration of wealth "socialism" are buying into a psychological campaign of misinformation that is used to suck the foundation of the country out from under them.

    While it's possible to get rich and not become a plutocrat, that just takes one person out of the stream and leaves hundreds of others to let the money tell them what to do.

    If you want to fix this information economy, you need to get control of the economy first, so that the money doesn't overwhelm the information.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:37PM (#32462538)

    Mr. Barlow belongs to the "keep the people stupid" school of thought.

    I mean I am a doctor. I could complain that the "internet" is a real pain in the ass because patients come in asking lots of questions nowadays. In fact some of them come up with diseases even I have never heard of (except as a footnote in some text). I could claim that INFORMATION IS BAD and is standing in the way of my medical practice.

    Or I could make sure I was good at my job, congratulate those patients who manage to correctly self-diagnose, and educate the ones who don't. But I guess asking a politician to put some effort into his job is going over the top.

  • by wclough (819407) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:05PM (#32462990)
    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the text of Mr. Barlow's speech - but the part cited by the author doesn't inspire confidence in his insight. California's issues are a microcosm of the federal problems, exacerbated by the initiative process. The state has become governed by mass vote via initiatives. In effect, every single person has become a special interest, or at the least easily manipulated by them. That process is not dominated by the net, thought it has slightly worsened the severity of the problem. With initiatives having hamstrung the budget process, the government is unable to flex the budget to accommodate economic reality, or reduce a budget bloated with special interest projects without now cutting vital services. "The Edge" isn't the answer, it is a large part of the problem. The reason we have a representative government is that the people who created the Constitution saw that what was needed was people who could look at the overall picture and set priorities and see them through. We need to do what the founders expected of us, elect intelligent people of good conscience with the courage to set priorities and actually make decisions regardless of the consequences to their political future. This is true at both the state and federal level. Too often, we elect people based on a beauty contest, asking too few questions and demanding too few answers, and then we fail to let them do the job we elected them to do. Governance from the "Edge" would be a surrender to chaos.
  • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:22PM (#32463224)
    Where there's a will (and a control freak), there's a way. Government isn't going to give up power that easy, I would expect some dangerous new automated monitoring systems are on the horizon. Along with some interesting countermeasures. We may start looking for browsers that will automatically surf dozens of unrelated sites for every site you browse just so that the collected data will be too erroneous to properly evaluate. Of course, that itself labels you a subversive...

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