what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Snow has eventually come to Bucharest - and I crunched my way to the old market nearby, availing myself of the opportunity of a tasty warm vin fiert (Gluhwein)
Working on my Devil’s Dictionary is a very useful exercise in cutting through the verbal guff about subjects on which so much hot air has been expended. The management literature of the 1980s and 1990s gave people the sense that dramatic positive changes were going on in commerce – a movement from Theory X management to Theory Y at the very least. It all concealed the reality of a dog-eat-dog world. That’s why Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power was so welcome to me – a recognition (if somewhat overdone) that, generally, “plus ca change plus c├ęst la meme chose”. A lot of my draft entries therefore suggest that the title should rather be “The Cynic’s Dictionary” – except that I do not see myself as a cynic. Here are a more draft entries -
Audit; a placebo to give the impression that all is well. Something both overdone and underdone – overdone in volume and underdone in results. A process more feared at the bottom than at the top as frequent recent scandals (auditors signed off on the accounts of Enron and those banks which subsequently almost collapsed). See also “Law”
Law; “the spider's webs which, if anything small falls into them ensnare it, but large things break through and escape”. Solon
Communications; the first thing which people blame when things go wrong; parsed - “I communicate; you listen; he/they misunderstand”.
But drafting it has also challenged my own prejudices. I was preparing to draft a cynical entry for “open government”. "A contradiction in terms”, I confidently started. Then I realised it has been some time since I had checked what was happening under this rubric; ran a google search and came across an interesting European site on use of public sector information and what looks to be definitive overviews of the position of freedom of information in the US and in the UK.
The contrast between the two countries seems quite striking – with the many contributors to the American book being the grassroots practitioners actually using the incredible amount of data available about government activities in the US (which seems to have a proactive system) and suggesting that bureaucratic silos are being broken up more effectively by a demand-led process whereas the academics of the British book plot patiently the resistance of the state to the inquiries which come in the reactive, supply-led 2005 british system. But at least there is a blog which plots the progress And a recent independent report does show just how far Britain has to go,

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