At the risk of stating the obvious, democratic government is unlike running a business in a number of important ways. David Olive gives one of the similarities in his excellent blog at the Toronto Star:

It is the death of any commercial enterprise to starve itself of necessary expenditures on R&D, new-product development and marketing. I'll never understand how today's conservatives fail to make that connection, slavishly devoted as they claim to be to free-market principles. Maybe it's because so few of them have run a business. Or had to make their way in the private sector - as I do - without being subsidized by a Rupert Murdoch, the Fraser Institute or the Heritage Foundation.

Incompetence is universal. It should be evident that the architects of such spectacular failures as the overdue Boeing 787 project, the GM bankruptcy or the Wall Street meltdown would do no better in public office, where oversight is more open but less effective. However, even successful companies are usually inappropriate models for government.

Choose Apple, for example, whose innovation and focus on design has made it wildly successful and won it hordes of fans who might well vote for a President Steven P. Jobs. But the breath-taking, march-stealing nature of Apple's product launches depends on a rigid and well-documented culture of secrecy. As much as politicos might envy the impact of Apple announcements, they would be ill-advised to try and duplicate it. Funding announcements without stakeholder input will miss the mark and be ineffective; unannounced funding and/or cuts make the granting government look guilty when they are inevitably unearthed.

Yet governing parties at all levels, in Canada and elsewhere, continue think they can engineer positive surprises and suppress negative ones—and they continue to fail in doing so.


You can observe a number of common privacy tactics among your friend with an online presence:

  • Private or semi-private blogs or portions of blog posts.
  • Using partial names on social networking services ("Paul K").
  • The use of handles or pseudonyms.

I use none of the above. If identify theft is a concern, they will foil only casual (harmless) attempts. As for sharing details of one's personal life, it is mostly pretentious to expect they are consequential, or that large numbers of others will be interested in them. I—and certainly others—often neglect life proper, so why further the problem by spending time writing about it?

Alternate identities are another easy target. We spend entire phases of our lives struggling with identity, so maintaining a second (or third, or fourth) introduces needless complications. Where concerns about one's employer motivate anonymity, there is doubtless a value conflict that deserves close examination.

Having grown up before the advent of cyber-bulling and, being male, unlikely to be the target of sexual violence, I am no doubt privileged in being able to hold these views. Still, I firmly believe in consistency and honesty of online identity.


Finally, the Walrus (after disappointing in May) redeems itself with this excellent short story by Zsuzsi Gartner in its September issue. Delicious! If the quality of writing remains so high for a full year, I can quit whining forever.


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