Everything is Related

Author: Gary Hart

In a simpler time, not too long ago, we governed the U.S. in what might be called issue “boxes”.  There was a box called “the economy,” one for education, one for energy, one for health, a big one for defense and security, and of course one called foreign policy.  Virtually overnight these boxes became irrelevant and all these issues became interlinked.

Today, still early in a new century, the economy is globalized and related to energy dependence, and thus to foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and thus to national security and defense.  But the economy is also related, at home, to education, job training, environment, and even health care.  Workers, including those trying to enter the job market (such as it is), have to have a host of new skills, particularly information and technical ones.  The computer has replaced the assembly line in importance.  And if you are obese or undernourished, or both, you can’t contribute as much as you should.

Wouldn’t you know, however, that Congress, and to too large a degree the Executive branch, still govern using those “boxes”.  Obviously, there cannot be one big Congressional committee for everything, or one big administrative department for everything.  But surely by now major efforts should have been underway in both branches of government to reorganize themselves, perhaps using inter-agency task forces, to construct policy along more coherent and productive lines.  Security cannot be provided absent reference to our total energy picture, to climate, to foreign policy, and so on. 

Perhaps the problem is the lack of a single threat or demon, such as we had with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, that provided the central organizing principle around which to coordinate policy.  That’s the way we got a Department of Defense, but also an interstate highway system and a national education program.

Despite all the policy centers and think tanks in Washington, New York, and elsewhere, to my knowledge none has produced a proposal to reorganize our government and its strategies (if it had any) into a coherent whole that matched the realities of the 21st centuries.  Perhaps this is because they are all pursuing their own ideological agendas.

8 Responses to “Everything is Related”

  1. Adam Gladstone Says:

    Mr. Hart,

    I would be very interested to see your assessment of the following article on the truthout website:

    Do you believe that the end of American Century of World Leadership is at hand?

    A very interesting read with some very viable scenarios leading to the demise of America’s place as the dominant power.

    Thank you,
    Adam Gladstone
    Horsham, PA

  2. Forest Book Says:

    Isn’t the passive, aggressive method of government reorganization found in the growing implementation of Privatization? I am not stating the Privatization is correct or ineffectual. It seems to be the method that many municipalities throughout the US, and the Federal Government (ref: DoD) are stating preference. The best example on a local level would be waste management, aka: Waste Resource Asset Management systems.

  3. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Yes. Everything IS related. It almost seems ‘quaint’ all these boxes we have. However, for the 21st Century, those boxes really do need to communicate. Share ideas. So that the ‘right’ hand knows what the ‘left’ is doing! It seems incredible to me that in this ‘information age’ that our government is so unwieldy. A few points and clicks and voila you disseminate your ideas! Just like I’m doing now. But I do have a caveat here. Wikkileaks? That recent ‘dump’ may have done way more damage than ANY good! If we are going to use cyberspace, then a need for ‘security’? I’m not talking about what Bush did by his all out assault on our liberties. But security in the sense that if officials are using the net to collaborate, then it must be secure, don’t you think?

  4. Joseph Furtenbacher Says:

    I’d’ve said that 99.9% of Americans’ agendas were pretty much the same:

    In matters of necessity, swim in the moat; in matters of luxury, stand like a castle.

    Not sure Thom would be entirely impressed, and I must admit, neither am I; sure wish we could locate the other 300,000 or so who feel the same way…

  5. Andy Says:

    It would be great for government to reflect and prioritize what exactly is its purpose to the American people. We need simple clarity on what its purpose is and why. Some people feel it’s the safety net, others feel it’s an overbearing big brother. Its purpose and vision and concrete goals should be explained. Then comes the efficiency piece which is, is it operating smoothly – are there better means such as using the private sector? Unfortunately the American public has a very short attention span but without clear leadership and vision, America is continuing to be more divided and dysfunctional.

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    To Mr. Gladstone, thanks for the referenced article. I will read it. I do b3elieve the brief era of US dominance (1947-1974) was ended by the OPEC oil embargo, globalization, information, and the rise of regional power centers. To Mr. Book I would say that the privatization movement is less about government reorganization of the type I’m advocating here and more about another approach by those who dislike and distrust government to get rid of it by putting its obligations in the hands of profit-driven corporations.

  7. Brian C. McCarthy Says:

    Senator, I think part of the reason things like reorganization of departments doesn’t get done is because things like that have little or no “media value.” To use a sports metaphor, ESPN doesn’t show bunts on its highlights reel, regardless of how important they may be; the highlights reel focuses on home-runs and bench-clearing brawls. It seems that if a thing that might be done won’t play into the ideologically-driven news media of the day, and thus won’t get coverage and drum up controversy, that thing won’t get done because there won’t be any star power attached to it. There are certainly advantages to having more news focus on politics now than was the case some years ago, such as higher voter turnout and more interest in politics and government, but there are also disadvantages involved, and among them, I think, are an unwillingness on the part of public officials to get non-ideological things done for pragmatic reasons because they won’t capture media attention.

  8. MJR Montoya Says:

    Part of the issue regarding holistic thinking depends upon our ability to think systemically. There are few institutions who value the ability to see the world-system as an increasingly structured place, whether by formal or informal rules. The value of learning those rules is immeasurable. How do nations measure global scale phenomena in the 21st century? What is at stake if we do not think about those phenomena in commensurate ways? I think there are ways to explain certain policy trends in the US in relation to the systemic issues at heart within the world. The first and most important systemic relationship that needs to be articulated is the relationship between government services and global productivity. without a healthy, motivated workforce who clearly understands the issues of a 21st century political economy (the latter being a current key element that is missing), we are subject to the same errors that have plagued us for over a decade. Another one that I know is essential is understanding our true competitiveness in the global economy, not in dollars, but in some other language we have yet to identify. Again, something commensurate with our relationship to global interests, including interests of sustainability, and the cost of addressing basic human needs on a planetary scale.

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