23 January 2010

The Future of the Academy, Courtesy of Critical Commons

Any resemblance to university presidents of large, research universities being run more like capitalist businesses is strictly coincidental.

Critical Commons: obsolescing copyright since 2009.

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17 January 2010

Hello Chicago? History is Calling

David Olive has a useful column in today's Star. In it, he describes John Cassidy's analysis in The New Yorker, explaining how the still-in-denial Chicago School of Economics not only misread, but misled American policy makers into the financial debacle from which we are still recovering. Olive notes,
It was the Chicago-influenced lawmakers who relaxed government supervision of financiers with their eyes on the main chance, oblivious of the consequences if their ego and avarice led us all over a cliff. This rankly irresponsible behaviour by the masters of the economy seemed to be validated by the Chicago school's unshakable belief in "efficient-markets hypothesis" and the "rational-expectations theory." The former assumes that the prices of stocks, houses and other assets accurately reflect all available information about economic conditions. The latter insists that all economic players, from everyday citizens to high-rolling CEOs and investors, are both acutely knowledgeable about the economy and act wisely on that knowledge.

Both theories are pure bunkum. And never has there been a shortage of experts with a sense of history to explain why – John Kenneth Galbraith, an economic adviser to three U.S. presidents – being a prime example with his steady output of corrective tomes until his death in 2006. ... What becomes evident, and is downright frightening, in Cassidy's account is how deliberately untutored are the free-market Chicago school economists in ... economics.

Cassidy's full article is behind a New Yorker paywall, but he has posted transcripts of his interviews with key Chicago School figures, including Judge Richard Posner, who has converted to Keynesianism. Well worth the read for those who want to understand what we are up against in attempting to bring the 21st century into, well, the 21st century. Remember, it was Chicago's Milton Friedman who (in)famously said, "a corporation's social responsibility is to increase its profits." To which I say, not in my book.
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11 January 2010

Bureaucracy Kills

Today's National Post has an article by "Ishmael Jones" and "Michael Ross," respectively former operatives of the CIA and Mossad. They describe how the CIA's bureaucracy prevented information about the Christmas Underwear Bomber from properly being assessed and disseminated within the agency, and to those who needed to know at the TSA. They write:
There are so many managers and administrators, in so many separate and loosely organized chains of command, that not only is acquiring the intelligence a stroke of luck, but getting it to where it needs to go, on time, is almost impossible. This is in sharp contrast to the Israeli intelligence community, which has worked to eliminate unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and implemented clear lines of communication and guidelines for inter-agency intelligence sharing.

The Mossad’s organizational culture scorns bureaucracy because it recognizes the danger in excessive layers of management. Its counterterrorism division alone supervises and directs all terrorist-related intelligence obtained from overseas sources. The intelligence received is promptly assessed, analyzed and disseminated as an actionable product in accordance with strict terrorist-threat protocols. This information is put into the hands of end-users who will employ it to address the threat — such as allied intelligence agencies and aviation security officials. Israel’s intelligence community has learned from hard experience that bureaucracies and hierarchies are ineffectual in fighting terrorist networks.
Ironically, according to various permutations of Structural Contingency Theories, the internal structure of an organization is, more or less, supposed to match the external environment in which it exists, or to which it must respond. Ideally, then, the CIA should quickly transform into an amorphous, decentralized network in which "when nobody is in charge, everyone is in charge."

That last bit, by the way, is taken from my thesis draft, specifically from the next chapter to be posted (expected in about three to four weeks or so). In other words, the CIA would do well to begin thinking about a transformation towards becoming a more UCaPP organization. Perhaps that's why the Sitemeter tracker logged a hit from the CIA domain recently.

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