themPod revisited

Not long ago I pointed out a rather glaring flaw in President Obama’s notion that he is building an “iPod government” through fiat:

We like our iPods ultimately because it’s not a themPod. That is to say, Obama’s vision pays no attention to “i” prefix and the like, which in the era of tablets and smartphones has become as ubiquitous as the “Mc” in a McDonald’s menu board. There are iPhones to iPads, MySpace, YouTube, and so forth. Technology that by its opening syllable proclaims highly individual, personalized services to suit the unique tastes of each individual customer.

Sleek, hand-held devices that give you your own personalized choices at the press of a button are the stuff of technophilic dreams. The imposition of the government’s only choice for you at the press of a button is the stuff of futuristic dystopian nightmares.

James Lileks, il miglior fabbro, exposed the same fatal conceit last week:

The failure of the government to build the front door to the future of health care should be a lesson to young voters, accustomed as they are to whiz-bang tech that works — a generation that grew up with flat-panel screens connected to a magical network that answered every homework question, served up videos of their favorite song, connected them in a trice to friends who were posting pictures of pumpkin-spice latte, freed them from the dull world of sloth and error, and revealed a world of frictionless exposition of their own individuality. Having seen what private enterprise can do, why would they want to hand over their fate to a government as nimble as a slug on sandpaper? Why would they want single-payer?

Pollster Scott Rasmussen is also talking about this divide between a consumer culture based on increasingly personalized service on a consumer-by-consumer basis and a governing class operating on a platform of do-as-we-say. His is a more optimistic take — this dichotomy cannot hold:

Over the past 30 years, as society has moved away from centralization, the political class has resisted. Government has grown ever more centralized. In fact, the federal government today directly controls a far larger chunk of the nation’s economy than it did just a generation or two ago.

That disconnect exists partly because politics and government always lag behind. It’s also partly because politicians are not thrilled with riding the new wave that disperses power away from the political class.

The disconnect cannot continue. Sooner or later, the politicians will concede and the government will catch up.

Simply put, a one-size-fits-all central government cannot survive in the iPad era.

I hope he is right.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...