That's not to say agencies should be a black box of spending. But I suspect the pendulum has swung too far towards transparency, and the next era of government reform is going to have to be about restoring enough discretion to get better results.
I think the same thing is true for a lot of government work. We should give agencies/nonprofits/etc money and let them do their jobs. If the outcomes are bad, we should replace the leaders. But micromanaging the money doesn't work.
There's a bit of an analogy to social policy here. Maybe it's top of mind because i'm married to the author of "Give People Money" (Hi @AnnieLowrey!), but attaching all kinds of conditions to cash is much worse for most outcomes than just...giving people cash.
Sometimes it’s not about the agency. Sometimes it’s funders who are trying to justify how they spend their money to donors. Sometimes it’s politicians trying to show they’re tough on budgets.
In many, maybe even most, cases the intentions are good. But the outcomes are bad.
But there’s a big failure loop. An institution falters, or becomes unpopular. Transparency, audits, rules and oversight are applied. The agency has more trouble acting agilely under the new burdens. Outcomes degrade. More oversight and management is applied. Outcomes degrade. Etc
Trust-through-transparency has become very popular. And not only for government.
You see this *a lot* in blockchain thinking — if everything is trackable, visible, verifiable, then institutions will work better.
@vitalik and I talk about that here: nytimes.com/2022/09/30/pod…
Another version is that you can trust an agency that gets the results you want. That might mean giving the agency a lot of discretion to spend money, interpret rules, do unpopular things that they think will pay off later, etc.
Let’s call that trust-through-outcomes.
What does it mean to trust an agency? One answer is that you can trust an agency that is transparent, heavily audited, tightly bound by rules and regulations, highly accountable to the public or other overseers.
Let’s call this trust-through-transparency.
As part of my dive into how “affordable housing” came to cost almost $600,000 per unit in Los Angeles, I had a conversation with @HeidiEMarston that I’ll be thinking about for some time.
This is the paradox of housing development in Los Angeles and so many other cities: The politics of the affordable housing crisis are terrible.
The politics of what you’d need to do to solve it are even worse.
Still very much in the learning phase though, so if you have books we should read, critiques we should hear, case studies we should look at, people we need to talk to — get in touch!
(I'm not on Twitter much, though -- [email protected])
I’m writing a book with @DKThomp!
It’s about Abundance — how we lost it as a vision, how we can make it a reality. It will build on my work on supply-side progressivism and his on abundance — but where we’re going with it will be fun.
From @AvidReaderPress in 2024...
There is, rightly, a lot of focus on the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth. But those numbers say nothing about the intense suffering, and lifelong damage and disability, so many more experience.
One more thing, while I'm breaking my Twitter silence. Something you learn, being near a truly horrible pregnancy, is how common such pregnancies are, because when people know what you've been through, they begin telling you what they've been through.
I'll only add: The idea that any legislator would force her, or anyone else, to undergo this much agony and this much danger, is unthinkable to me. But it's the reality now in much of the United States.
On the podcast, I've talked around this experience, and how it changed the way I see pregnancy and reproductive choice. But I've tried not to say too much, because it was @AnnieLowrey's story to tell.
Now she's told it, at least some of it. theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
But I think Musk's ownership of Twitter, combined with what he tweets, is going to make this place feel pretty different, and make clearer what it really rewards. So maybe a little space is opening up. We'll see. nytimes.com/2022/04/27/opi…
And I share some of that despair. I had this conversation with @elipariser yesterday, where he said, "It’s easier to imagine colonizing Mars than it is to imagine building new forms of public infrastructure."
What a great line. He's right.
Some people just disagree with me that it's on-net bad. But some disagreement comes from an inability to imagine anything else could play this role, that something better than this could be built or could arise. That it's this or nothing. twitter.com/DavidCornDC/st…
My argument is we've made Twitter our public square and it's poorly suited to that. This is a gamified discourse built to maximize engagement and it shows.
Twitter shouldn't disappear, but it shouldn't be this important.
Of course Matt isn't wrong that you can learn a lot here. I do! But is this the only place you can learn it?
Twitter was in many ways invaluable for expert analysis during Covid. Was it better than a healthy blogosphere would've been? I'm skeptical. wired.com/story/opinion-…
People whose political outlook deeply reflects this often refuse to recognize it.
One example: That Twitter politics has warped political perceptions and it's a huge threat to the country is central to Matt's commentary now, and yet: twitter.com/mattyglesias/s…
Twitter goes algorithmic in roughly 2015. It's obviously not monocausal to our politics.
But has our politics (or media, or...) gotten better as Twitter has gotten more important? I guess it depends who you ask, but I don't think so.
A politics where there's so much shrinking down to what will 1. fit in this box and 2. get wild engagement is, on-net, a worse politics, the kinds of politicians and voices it elevates are worse.
There's a reason Trump was Twitter's most natural and successful user.
The nature of Twitter is it shrinks everything down to units of a single thought, image, video, and then makes it possible for that unit to go viral, reaching communities it would never reach and building a community behind it.
This is an important counterargument, so let me encourage you to read it — @Sifill_LDF's full thread, not just this one tweet — and try to answer it, and some others, and explain why I think Twitter is ill-suited for the central role it plays in our politics. twitter.com/Sifill_LDF/sta…
Anyway — that's my optimistic case. Twitter is a fine place for shitposting and slacking off, and if Musk can get everyone to see it that way, he'll have done the world a favor. nytimes.com/2022/04/27/opi…
"Everyone on Twitter is talking about X" has driven too much elite thinking for too long. It's done that because it feels like some vox populi.
Soon it'll be Musk's game, and he'll never let you forget it, and he will wield its powers constantly. It's a very different vibe.
This is not a public square. It's a gamified discourse posing as a public square, and it does not have our best interests at heart. The way to "fix Twitter" is for people to see it for what it is, and treat it as that.
I don't think Twitter collapses under a Musk regime. But I think its contradictions become unbearable to many, in a way that weakens the cultural hold it has on key industries and institutions, and that will be a good thing!
On some level everyone here is providing free labor for Twitter.com. It's weird.
But now we're going to be providing free labor for Elon Musk. And Musk will be making clear his contempt for the views of a lot of the people creating on his platform. Do they stay?
Musk's tweeting today is making me more confident of the argument I make here.
I don't think he'll change the platform that much, at least not soon. But I think having the owner of the platform tweet like he does will change the feel of it dramatically. nytimes.com/2022/04/27/opi…
Kudos, @ezraklein on the smartest take yet on the Twitter takeover by @elonmusk. There are dozens of ways this could play out. Some bad, some genuinely hopeful. "Betting against Musk has made fools of many..."
Crypto folks tell themselves that their killer app is you don't need to trust the counterparty, and I think that's blinded some of them to the deep vulnerability of a system where you can't trust your money to stay where you left it, and there's no one to turn to if you lose it
This gets at a long-term problem for crypto, which is that it has defined "trust" in a really unusual way. A "trustless" system isn't one in which you're at pretty high-risk of getting your money stolen, or being scammed out of it. twitter.com/DKThomp/status…