“As restrictions and prohibitions are multiplied, the people grow poorer and poorer. When they are subjected to overmuch government, the land is thrown into confusion.”
– Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, 6th century BC
Our political and administrative elite are at loss. Every day, on national levels as well as on international levels. Old systems no longer work. Our governments are divided along class lines, and that is an understatement. Ministries are closed bastions, even to fellow ministries. Municipalities do not work well together; they would rather compete. The police are not the fire department. Dozens of supervisory and investigative authorities get in each other’s way. And, the administrative intermediate layer of quangos makes these issues more complex.
Social, economical and financial problems are so complex today that many ministries, and therefore, many officials or other external consultants, are no longer capable of finding solutions. The quest for solutions turns into a bureaucratic process, and the big picture disappears from sight. Loads of committees produce mountains of reports, and they just get pushed through. Something goes wrong: more rules. Governments are desperately trying to get the dynamics of our time, all the innovations, and all the new ways of value creation back into the old “boxes” to bring them under control. A certain amount of modesty by the establishment would be appropriate. But no, many of our administrators are just arrogant.
In the report “Guide to Owning Transparency for Federal Agencies,” one of the solutions to have a better government is called an open government:
“An open, transparent, and participatory government is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. These are the democratic principles upon which our country is built. Internet-based tools and technologies have made it easier to realize these values. Two-way, interactive Web 2.0 tools and technologies make information sharing, citizen participation, and public and private sector collaboration easier than ever before. Transparency of government practices and information, both within government agencies and between the government and its stakeholders, is the heart of open government.
Transparency is as much about open-mindedness and information sharing as it is about increased communication and information access. Citizen engagement, public-private sector partnerships, and inter-agency initiatives are all predicated upon transparency.
Transparency fosters the engagement of government employees and citizens alike, so they feel a part of the conversation, process, and decisions; and, thereby, a part of their government. This heightened sense of ownership, accountability, and trust makes government more responsive and enables agencies to more efficiently and effectively accomplish their missions: from government operations to government products.”
During my lectures, I often hear that higher-ranked officials believe that citizens are unable to take a position on issues, and have little to no knowledge of subject matters; it is necessary that the government takes the lead.
Well, if someone thinks he is a hammer, everyone around him is obviously a nail. It’s a pity that so many officials believe they have the solution, or are even the saviors. As it happens, a lot of knowledge is hidden among citizens. It is just a matter of mobilizing it. If you succeed in doing that, you will have better solutions and more public support for said solutions.