Monday, March 07, 2005

Joe "Industrial Age" Klein

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall is wondering when and why Joe Klein started referring to Social Security as a program better suited to the 'industrial age' and private accounts as being better suited to the 'information age.'

Well, here's a passage from a September, 1995 article Klein wrote for Newsweek entitled, "Stalking the Radical Middle" in which Klein proposes a list of "four ways in which politicians can reconnect"(from Lexis-Nexis):
    Decide What Comes Next. This is the toughest to describe. It is what replaces the government we have now. "Systems of any kind tend to degrade over time," Jim Pinkerton, a former Bush domestic-policy aide, writes in a new book titled -- aptly -- "What Comes Next." Pinkerton argues that the "Bureaucratic Operating System" of the industrial age needs to be replaced. And, in fact, there are dozens of different efforts underway -- most of them small ideas, like the Coats amendment -- to chip away at the old system and attempt something more flexible. The Democratic Party, which runs the Bureaucratic Operating System, has opposed most of them. The Republican Party, skeptical about any sort of public activism, opposes them, too. Republicans and Democrats haggle endlessly over whether government should do this or that, but they spend very little time worrying about how things are done -- and how may well be the most important question of the new era. Much of the radical middle's anger is over how government operates: the bureaucratic flunky who hollers "Next" at the unemployment office, the blindly inflexible environmental inspector, the welfare caseworker more concerned with paperwork than with saving lives.

    Clinton has attempted to "reinvent" government. But that's not enough: government needs to be replaced. It needs to be privatized and voucherized. It needs to replace social-service bureaucrats, as Coats suggests, by subsidizing the inspired and the altruistic. It may also mean a more rigorous form of national service, in which young people replace existing government employees rather than "supplementing" them. The goal is to get as many people as possible actively involved in governing themselves and caring for each other, if only for brief periods of their lives.

    This is important because, at its heart, the fury of the radical middle seems to be an Information Age disorder, the product of our tendency to stew alone -- staring into computer screens at work, blobbing in front of the television at home. People tend to be less angry when they have to interact with each other. At least, that's what Frank Luntz finds in his focus groups. Last week, for example, the youngsters and oldsters were gradually embarrassed -- by the mere fact of their proximity -- into compromise. The oldsters said they'd pay more for Medicare for their grandchildren's sake; the youngsters admitted they might have to pay more to keep their grandparents healthy.
...ahhh, and here's this passage from a September 1992 Newsweek article, entitled, Conundrum in the Classroom.
    The signal apparatus of the information age is the computer network: flexible, fast, decentralized, customized. The industrial-age analog was the assembly line: centralized, standardized, inflexible. The challenge is to make schools (and other bureaucracies) less like assembly lines and more like computer networks.

No comments: