For a Serving Elite, Genius–Out of Touch with Non-Elites
February 20, 2010
Now that my own book INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability is at the printer am back into reading and really looking forward to catching up with the 25 books on my “to do” shelf. This one jumped to the top of the list at the recommendation of James Fallows, recently back from China and author of Blind Into Baghdad: America’s War in Iraq among many other extraordinary books.
This might have been a four because despite the gifted genius of the author–I use the term with admiration–the book is out of touch with two thirds or more of the relevant literature and all the non-elite movements that are doing precisely what she advocates but DISPLACING governments.
HOWEVER, the recurring theme of multinational information-sharing and information-driven harmonization grabbed me by the throat. A handful of quoted phrases, generally citing others properly end-noted:
+ European agencies “are best described as ‘information agencies.’ Their job is to collect, coordination, and disseminate information needed by policymakers.
+ “Modes of regulation based on information and persuasion…”
+ “Debousee also sees the European information agencies as network creators and coordinators.”
+ “In short, the ability to provide credible information and an accompanying reputation for credibility become sources of soft power.” She acknowledged here that non-governmental organization networks are doing this now, and that government networks need to do more of this.
+ The following sentence moved me–the author has clearly derived on her own some very powerful ideas for which literatures exist outside the legal-governmental frame of reference–the bottom up multinational crowd-sourcing world–and this one sentence, idealistic as it may be, is so consistent with all that I believe in it more or less sealed my appreciation for this work: “The concept of regulation as a high flexible process of collective learning through dialog is precisely what animates the United Nation’s new effort to improve corporate behavior…” While not connected to the “true cost” and ecological intelligence literatures, and under-stating all the corruption or data pathologies and information asymmetries that characterize the global arena, “collective learning through dialog” (and of course information sharing) grabs me as a gold nugget would.
The book is also a five because the author is an innovator and a builder, not a typical ivory tower pontificator, and in her brand new political job as Director for Policy Planning at the Department of State (from mid 2009) she initiated the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. She does not have the staff or the in-house knowledge to get that done right, but it is a good start, and could one day help the Secretary of State both implement the ideas in my own book and General Tony Zinni’s book, The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America’s Power and Purpose, perhaps by taking over the Open Source Agency that Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT-02) and I and a tiny handful of others have been working toward for these past 21 years.
In this book, which is 1993 knowledge updated in a sabbatical in 2000-2001 and finally published in 2004, and in her other book that I will review today, The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith With Our Values in a Dangerous World I am moved by the author’s idealism, sincerity, and frustration with the hypocrisy that is American policy and American mis-behavior. The author strikes me as a deeply moral and equally pragmatic person who is confounded by the disconnect–the cognitive dissonance–between what America can and should be, and what America “is” in the reality. I share those sentiments, and am often comforted by Winston Churchill’s dictum, “The Americans always do the right thing; they just try everything else first.” We’re done with trying everything else first, it has not worked, and the author’s vision in this book, and her current position with two years remaining, and her creation of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (which impresses me hugely) could be the beginning of America doing the right thing into the future.
All of that to justify the fifth star. The author’s next book, deeply informed by first-hand evidence of how decrepit the US Government has become, how stupid, how uninformed, how inept, is certain to be a block-buster.
And now my notes and comments on the substance of this excellent work that is narrowly cast.
+ Clearly a culmination of years of work with two Oxford degrees and time at Harvard and Chicago, this is a legal scholar broadly impacting on the rather immature discipline of international relations. The bibliography is really fascinating, this is both a hugely integrative and a hugely explorative work.
+ The book is a major push-back on “World Government” as both the Wall Street bankers and the United Nations aspirants would have it be, and also a pragmatic examination, with strong legal understanding generally lacking in most books in this field, of how vertical and horizontal governmental networks can use information sharing to achieve regulatory harmonization, achieving transnational good effect without “global sovereignty” by any one party. She calls this the disaggregation of the state.
+ It is at this point that I realize the author has not integrated the insights in either Philip Allot’s The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State, no doubt because he is a Cambridge man; or the work of JU. F. Rischard, then Vice President for Europe of the World Bank, whose book High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, including his attention to the need for a new rule book and new forms of global issue networks, remains one of a half-dozen truly useful books relevant to the future of humanity on earth.
+ Horizontal and vertical (informal) integration functions include information exchange, enforcement cooperation, harmonization, and technical assistance & training
+ Five principles concluding the book including global deliberative equality (drawing on Michael Ignatieff); legitimate differences, positive comity (new code words for multilateralism); checks and balances, and subsidiarity, the really important one, locating government at the lowest possible level, with a nod by the author to Montesquieu.
+ The subversive element of this book lies in its realism in pushing away from national sovereignty as a unitary concept, and instead seeking to imbue partial sovereignty status as an informed and sanctioned representative on informal participation by varied elements in multinational networks (much as the intelligence inspector generals have recently done in Asia).
+ I note with interest the author’s draw on Michael Dorf and Charles Sable on “Democratic Experimentalism”
+ Throughout the book I see subtleties that might be missed absent a high regard for both informal governance and information sharing and learning as a form of governance–I still smile thinking of George Will’s book, Statecraft as Soulcraft–my own book seeks to create a human soul by reconnecting humans to one another and to all information in all languages, and the author keeps me on side when she observes that the role of government is not to control the information, but rather to set up the networks, jump start the information flow, foster learning, and step back.
+ The author’s reference to virtual public spaces is precisely what I outline in my new book and at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Network–we need to create the World Brain and the Global Game so that we become Whole again through shared information and dialog across all issues addressed holistically as would be made possible by Robert Ackoff in Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books) and others like myself in de-designing government to eliminate intermediaries with vested interests and shorten the OODA loop (Orient Observe Decide Act) to humans, decisions, and behavior–more often than not, money can be left out of the equation.
+ I note with interest the citation in the main body of Lani Guinier’s emphasis on power with versus power over.
+ I agree that government networks are under-appreciated, under-supported, and under-used, but that is because political corruption has created a government tailored to special interests and pork in which easily two thirds of the spaces and buildings and dollars are fraud, waste, and abuse.
+ Useful concluding focus on the Nordic system which is where my Swedish military colleagues and I derived the new term of art M4IS2: Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making…..95% of it NOT secret, NOT federal, and NOT in English.
+ I note the author’s statement that soft power flows from expertise, integrity, competence, creativity, and generosity with time and ideas (see The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom and Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.
I am out of links, so I will end with the observation that all the other books I might have listed are linked out of the free copy of my new book that is already online in pre-typo draft at Phi Beta Iota, and also searchable via the 98 categories in which I read in non-fiction, also at Phi Beta Iota.
It’s time we start doing the right things righter. The information-based processes this book advances are worthy.