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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Networked Journalism

I touched on this on the entitlements thread, but I think it deserves its own post.

From PressThink:

The Era of Networked Journalism Begins

Today marks a key moment in the evolution of the Web as a reporting medium. The first left-right-center coalition of bloggers, activists, non-profits, citizens and journalists to investigate a story of national import: Congressional earmarks and those who sponsor and benefit from them. (read the whole thing)


In the PorkBusters phenomenon, we are seeing the start of what looks to me like the real potential of the web for monitoring government.

The web is a tremendous information tool. PorkBusters is showing us how it can be used to shine light in where the governmental cockroaches live.

Most people are not criminal by nature. However, most people these days also have very weak personal ethical standards, and politicians especially so. Thus, making government as transparent as possible is the best tool we have for bolstering that flimsy ethic. For the non-criminal, just being forced to operate in the open where others can observe our actions, is enough to keep us on a fairly straight line. It might even deter a few of the criminal types.

I think this is a very big deal.

18 Comments:

Blogger Dick Fox said...

David,

I totally agree. A real indicator of the power of the new journalism is the decline of the old journalism. The NYTimes is like an old man in the last days of his life, and network TV has become infomercial central. There are examples that could go on for pages. Suffice it to say that the people are and always will be the best journalists.

Now if we could only defund schools of journalism....!

3:54 AM  
Blogger Henry Meers said...

The web is all about building reputation again. Once a few establish themselves as trustworthy, people will follow them. The net has the added feature of access to original sources as support, but that has to be vetted as well.

Although the map didn't work for my search, the idea is great, keeping mind that one man's pork is another's civic improvement. We are going to have this sort of thing as long as people ask for it. The more we cut income taxes, the more we can afford it, because individuals will have more money to be able to make better decisions.

CNBC had a piece just now about a bridge being built to go around the road atop Hoover Dam (homeland security concerns), which will make land two developers bought quite valuable as it is sold to people working in Las Vegas. Why couldn't that bridge have been built with private funds?

The developers could have raised the money privately and even built a toll bridge. That would leave the taxpayer alone and reduce the cost of construction. Is it pork? Probably? There is a solid case to be made that the "public" investment will pay for itself in taxes and growth as well.

All we can do is hope the truth will come out so people can make decisions. That doesn't really happen in the heat of political promising (see the reference to adding the minimum-wage part to the bill). At the same time, we have to realize the private sector can do just about everything better than the public sector. It usually doesn't compete with government, because politicians undertake projects the market avoided, because they were wasteful.

6:08 AM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Henry, you are getting to the point. A half a billion in earmarks, I hate to say it but big deal, so what.

I am glad of the greater visibilty of such earmarks, but that is the easy part. As you put it, one person's pork is another's civic improvement.

What I would like to see is an effort put into how the contracts are designated. Is a particular manufactured item or contractor designated? Are the earmarks just one of several to the same location year after year? It is that research which will point out the unethical from the civic improvement.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Dick Fox said...

Ed,

I don't believe that the point is whether the expenditures are pork or not, but transparency. Get the information into the hands of the voters and let them make the decision on pork v necessary civic improvement.

8:32 AM  
Blogger David Wood said...

Exactly, Dick. And eventually, why not have tracking on the net of where the appropriated money actually goes. That would be interesting indeed. That's my transparency goal. How many nephews and business partners and wives and donors wind up receiving the actual checks at the end of the process. I think that's where you'd see how much of these "civic improvements" are just cover for graft.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Henry Meers said...

One point about transparency is what the congressmen often say earmarks are, going around the bureaucracy to deliver what the local voters want. This can be a big deal in highways, for example, when the designers might come up with something really dumb in the local context.

The real pivot point remains too much money in Washington or far away from where it is to be spent, because a lot of projects wouldn't be done, if the local people had to pay for them. They would cost a lot less and even less than that done privately. It is very hard to argue against a gazillion-dollar road project that will unsnarl traffic, when the choice is spending the money or receiving nothing.

We are at the height of the "silly season", so all the stuff is being built and more promised. "Maybe next year..."

9:23 AM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Although keeping my interest in this string is of no importance, I repeat again that concentrating on a part of the Federal budget which amounts to less than 1/2 billion dollars is a misdirection of political interest.

If a substantial change back to a limited Federal government is the aim, then I suggest that a greater target should be chosen. Along the same line as the earmarks, how about a simple transfer of taxing authority back to the states and local jurisdiction of the entire Federal outlay which is classified as Federal Grants. Now this is a total that has some meat to it. 435.7 billion dollars.

an excel speadsheet:
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy06/sheets/8_1.xls

There is simply no need for the inefficiency of transfer of such funds through a number of bureacracies.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Dick Fox said...

Ed,

Your post supports David. The fact that you can make this point about transferring taxing authority back to the states and have it available to the whole country is what this Networked Journalism is all about. And you have also expressed transparency because this information is something that needs to be considered by the voters.

10:25 AM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Dick you wrote"

Ed,

Your post supports David. The fact that you can make this point about transferring taxing authority back to the states and have it available to the whole country is what this Networked Journalism is all about. And you have also expressed transparency because this information is something that needs to be considered by the voters.


This is exactly what this form of Networked Journalism is not. It in actuality, a anti-incumbent political stategy. And guess which political party benefits from the strategy. And guess what happens if that same political party gains in numbers, perhaps, higher taxes, greater redistribution, and interference with international policy.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Dick Fox said...

Ed,

I am not really wedded to a party though I do express a lot of support for Republicans. Networked Journalism holds everyone's feet to the fire. If the Democrats win elections by becoming closer to classical economics than the Republicans I will vote Democrat. If Democrats move toward less government pork and more free market policies I will vote Democrat.

2:04 PM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Dick

I am wedded to the Repubs, since there is no real alternative. The Dems certainly are not. Name me a current Dem in national power the likes of Russell Long or John Tower; supply-siders simply do not exist in the ranks. Of course, the Repubs are having trouble being true, the Rockefeller faction has never gone away, but more importantly, the strength of the party down south is deeply infested with former Dems who have never left the Big Gov idea. It takes time to undo that faction. How is it going in Florida?

I'll tell you about Colorado, and note the parallel to the national situation. The party has always been infested with enough Rinos to make it difficult. But now, this is what is happening. True fiscal supply-side Repub base has taken advantage of the state wide gerrymandered Dem win in 2004 to rebuild the party. A few of the Rinos lost in close races then, but many more have been eliminated through the primary process for this election year. The dems have been active, too. There first thing they did was just after the 2004 election, got rid of the Party head, a solid, liberal Dem, who just pulled off an amazing statewide victory. But he was not a lefty, and was not under the control of the four instate multi-millionaires that bankroll and now have bought the state Dems. The party since has been putting crazy lefties into power positions ever since.

So, as all politics are local, it will be a very interesting election cycle. The Repubs may lose here again, but are making the party more supply-side, smaller gov types.

Dick, you can not forget, the lefties are not just interested in taking over the Dem party, they want the country. It is the disenchanted like you which will give it to them. Sorry, but I can not think of a more important election which may run down to the least bad.

Dick, get Florida in shape. You ,at least, have a better Governor.

10:16 PM  
Blogger David Wood said...

Ed,

I agree about supporting the Republicans. I see the PorkBusters phenomenon as part of the Rino-busting job which you are describing in Colorado. They are putting pressure on Republicans, to be sure. I don't think that necessarily weakens the Republicans' position, though. The difference between the reorganizations of the two parties is that the Republicans are reorganizing toward policies that work, while the Dems are going toward policies that can't work. I don't see how that can hurt the Republicans in the long run.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Henry Meers said...

Ed,

We could sure use some supply-side Republicans in Illinois. Our guys seem to be running on Democrat lite and hoping the governor will be indicted. There's no chance of that until after the election, so they are just setting up a disaster for the party.

The "earmarks" are important, because they have become a national "talking point". It doesn't matter that the criticism came from the Democrats, everybody has picked it up. State and local politicians love federal spending, because somebody else levys the taxes. That is the toughest part of getting rid of it. Even those who should know better say things like Washington is paying for it, when its coming out of the same pocket.

12:16 PM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Henry

You must be correct, I now remember all the Light coming from the dems when Robert Byrd guarranteed a billion of the fed gov for West Virginia.

I am sorry, earmarks are a nothing, used to distract from the real problems.

1:40 PM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

David

Maybe it is just because I am getting old but the short run is becoming very important to me. We have discussed the coming problems of SS and, medicare, and medicaid, add to it the universal health care on the dem agenda. Then we have all the symptoms of a new world war brewing, four years of the wrong agenda will be critical.

1:45 PM  
Blogger David Wood said...

You're right, Ed. Lets get rid of the Dems and the Rinos.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Henry Meers said...

Ed,

The earmarks are important despite their size, because of the effect they are having on the election. Perception seems to be almost everything in politics.

As for the bigger problems, I don't think SS is going to be one at the rate it's going. The feds will probably cap the tax rate, raise the retirement age back to where everyone lives two years after they retire, means-test everybody who works for a living out of most benefits and have a new welfare program for people who never worked.

There are a couple of trade-offs that will make this work: ever-larger private retirement accounts and lower income tax rates across the board. The latter make the former work by putting responsibility for their affairs back into the hands of productive people. Growth powered by the capital investment funded by increased savings invested from retirement accounts will also provide the productive people with the wealth they need to pay for the unproductive.

Medicare will have to go the same way,if only to provide people with the innovation they require from the medical profession. That can only come through competition and it addresses the needs of consumers rather than government, which is increasingly in competition with its own citizens in this area.

9:35 PM  
Blogger ed hanson said...

Henry

Found this article on the Econlib site.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2006/Mungerrentseeking.html

It supports my bigger project against grants. You will enjoy it. It makes many of your arguments.

I love the Tullock Lottery, especially the later modification.

10:00 AM  

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