Friday, January 08, 2010

I, Cringely - Predict Me, I’m from the Government - Cringely on technology

This column is about homeland security, which is something our government isn’t very good at and I predict won’t get any better at this year because of a systemic inability to do correctly even the most basic things to protect our society, our privacy, and our way of life.

President Obama this week proposed some changes in how homeland security is managed following that Christmas Eve attempt to explode an airliner as it was landing in Detroit. These changes are minimal but I doubt they’ll even be implemented because this is a system that inevitably reverts to little fiefdoms run by idiots.

This is a great article that doesn't pull any punches. I wish there was more like this in the mainstream media.

I'm also glad that Bobo presented the case for it not being entirely a government issue. Yes, indeed, even small organizations, particularly family owned businesses can have their own little fiefdoms. BUT...

At least with small private companies a significant inefficiency in the way they operate can and often does lead to them going out of business. Private enterprise, especially at the small scale end of things can and does benefit from Darwinian principles.

I HAVE worked for government, and private industry, and for companies small, large, and in-between. Size DOES matter in an organizations ability to focus on what's important. But funding matters too. You COULD argue that to fix government's problems all you have to do is break the work up into smaller fiefdoms. But they've already done that. Each group within the federal government gets more money to spend every year than they did the year before. Performance doesn't enter into the equation. They don't even have ways to measure performance in place. Oh, they send people to ISO 9000 or CMM training on a regular basis, and they often DO try and hold vendors to these standards, but with the possible exception of government sponsored building of aircraft, tanks or ships, where mistakes can lead to death pretty quickly, there is little respect for "process" let alone "process improvement".

By the way a lot of the criticisms of government do not apply nearly so much at the local level. In these environments you often know by their first name the people responsible for your water mains, road repair, and so on. It's in large cities, county, state and especially federal system that you not only don't know who is responsible, you are in fact blocked at every attempt to find out.

Until (or if) the American people realize that the problems we see in big government are not only hard to fix, but probably impossible to fix without a radical change in the way things are done are we likely to see any improvement.

So, why Bob, do so many mainstream journalists who SHOULD be aware of these issues, always support, openly or secretly, the candidate that promise more big government solutions to things? Granted, our choices lately have been between more and WAY more, but I've yet to hear a good excuse for full speed ahead other than the hope that such growth will make the system collapse sooner so we can start over. I'm pretty sure it's not going to work out that way. But I'm at a loss as to why those who should know better vote the way they do and encourage their readers to do likewise.

In the mean time I have my "told you sos" ready for the FCCs foray into packet sniffing, government doctors making no-charge house calls and all the other pie in the sky things we have been promised. My main hope is that I die of old age before my savings account gets confiscated (formally or otherwise). I'm not too confident about that one.

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