Ignorant Politicians Are Bad But Arrogant Politicians Are Worse
from the humility dept
Adam Thierer points out a Washington Post op-ed arguing that politicians should be embarrassed about their tech ignorance. Now, obviously it would always be better to have politicians who were more knowledgeable about the technology industry, and Sen. Steven's inability to tell the difference between an "Internet" and an "e-mail" was kind of embarrassing. Certainly, politicians who head committees where tech-related subjects are a major focus have a responsibility to have at least a minimal competence with technical concepts. And there are a few tech-savvy members of Congress, with Rush Holt and Rick Boucher as outstanding examples. We could certainly use more members of Congress with their in-depth understanding of tech issues.
However, I don't think it's reasonable to expect every politician to be an expert on tech issues, and actually think we should give some credit to politicians who are willing to admit that they don't know very much about technology. Our elected officials are asked to vote on a truly mind-boggling array of topics, from foreign policy to health care and from agriculture subsidies to copyright law. It's not physically possible for a Congressman, much less a president, to become an expert on every subject about which he's expected to cast a vote. And so it's perfectly reasonable for elected officials to pledge, as Sen. McCain did, that they would seek out deputies who would be experts on the subjects they don't personally know very much about. The alternative is not to find philosopher-kings who are experts about every subject they are responsible for regulating. The alternative is politicians who delude themselves into thinking they're experts and rush headlong into passing ill-conceived bills. That leads to a lot of poorly thought out legislative proposals. A politician who knows his own limitations will at least think twice before proposing legislation on a subject he doesn't understand. And that can only be a good thing.