Sep 20, 2010 - Random    4 Comments

Suddenly, Everyone is an Expert

[We] find the results of last week’s primaries especially gratifying in that … the cocksure pundits of both parties, who pride themselves on their infallible ability to read the political tea leaves, were made to look a little silly. — Alan Abelson, Barron’s

Expert advice seems to have become a commodity lately. You can’t turn on the television without being bombarded by political experts from both sides of the aisle who assure the audience that the Tea Party movement is nothing more than the latest backlash du-jour and that once it’s run it’s course we’ll return to trusty two-party politics as usual.

I’m not so sure.

Now I don’t pretend to be a politico. Nor do I have any desire to become another of the countless Monday-morning, Meet-the-Press-type, QB-slash-pundit talking heads. But I can recognize a pattern when I see one.

The Tea Party movement is to government what Open Source is to software. This movement seems (to me at least) to be less about consistency in message and more about altering the ownership of the power structure. Where Open Source was a reaction to a handful of big corporations defining who could play on the playground (and what the cost of admission would be for each player), the Tea Party movement seems to be the same thing:  a reaction to a handful of big political parties spending the tax-payers’ hard-earned cash without allowing any input into who can represent the voters, or on what issues. Where as past political movements have been about educating voters to pick the “lesser of two evils” — the Contract with America comes immediately to mind — the Tea Party movement seems to be about fundamentally changing the options altogether.

Now don’t take this as my jumping ship (to abuse a metaphor) into the sea of Tea Party devotees. I’m not really one for joining groups of any kind — particularly political ones. But I have to marvel at their approach. If they’re half as successful in “open-sourcing” government as the open source pioneers were in changing the software industry, we’re in for one hell of an interesting ride.

Sure – it will be utter and hellacious chaos in the beginning. Anyone remember what it was like setting up a webserver in the late ’90’s? It was pure hell. You first had to pick an operating system, then configure BIND, set up the webserver, customize it’s configuration for your environment, pick a database (or flat-file system), then configure it and install the bindings for your Perl or PHP/FI2 install. This was all before you could begin writing the actual code for the application you were building.

Pure and utter hell, I tell you.  But we all learned how to do it.  We did all of those things, and more,  for ourselves. We didn’t rely (yet) on a 3rd party hosting provider to do them for us. We had no other choice.  So we did it. And some of us became pretty good at doing it over time.

The same could be true of government.

This, to me, is a glorious possibility.

But then again, what do I know? The experts will tell you that what I suggest would lead to nothing short of the apocalypse.  But I’m no expert. Thankfully.