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Institutional Collapse,
Individual Triumph

by Judy Cresanta

rom the moment the computer-on-a-chip began showing up in America, centralized power began draining away. Almost overnight the U.S. seems to have gone from the Machine Age to the Information Age, from big-time CEOs to no-name entrepreneurs, from an economy that resembled a machine to one that resembles an ecosystem-i.e., far too complex to be designed or controlled by planners.

Yes, there are dying horses but at the same time emerging steeds demonstrating this transformation of power every day. And the people and organizations of power yesterday are being replaced by fluid, interdependent groups of problem-solvers today. Texas Instruments' Steve Pruitt and Electronic Data Systems' Tom Barrett, in their book Cyberspsace: First Steps, say that such changes will render top-down, command-and-control systems dysfunctional and irrelevant-and the changes will simply "happen," absent bureaucratic regimentation.

NPRI agrees. Our mission as we approach the 21st century is to unleash-rather than engineer-entrepreneurial centers of opportunity throughout the state of Nevada. Those centers will begin in two primary arenas. Dr. Mary Novello, Ed.D., will head our new Center for Education Policy Innovation. Dr. Novello comes to NPRI from Seattle after serving as both a research fellow and a director of the Washington Institute for Policy Studies. Nevada schooling is going to be transformed because of competition. Parents will have choice. Students will be empowered. Although our school districts display, in classic form, the over-centralization and bureaucratic rigidity that afflicts government in general, the future is clear: Individuals will work in a contract society, as schools' internal functions are contracted out to take full advantage of superior opportunities in the marketplace.

Our second policy center will be the Center for Urban Policy Innovation. Even though Nevada is the 37th most populous state in the U.S., 85 percent of our population resides in metropolitan areas. And as we all know, there has been enormous domestic migration from all over the United States to these urban areas during the 1990s, creating unique and sometimes one-of-a-kind challenges. A recent study by the Allegheny Institute showed that Nevada has approximately 134 public employees per 10,000 Nevada residents, an average only slightly below New York. Certainly, such shocking figures suggest that without creative policy ideas carried directly to the people, Nevada is in real danger of sinking into East Coast-type torpor.

To better meet Nevada's needs, NPRI has also opened an office in Las Vegas. Two of our most accomplished staffers will be based in Southern Nevada: D. Dowd Muska, director of publications, and Steven Miller, Nevada Journal managing editor. The head of our Center for Urban Policy Innovation will also be based in the south to better serve and observe the needs of the nation's fastest-growing city. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and his staff have shown considerable interest in employing the free market to solve Las Vegas' challenges-an encouraging sign that making changes is high on the mayor's list.

Today, companies have reinvented themselves using PCs, voice mail, e-mail, fax machines, cellular phones, local area networks, satellite uplinks and other technologies to boost quality, increase service, cut costs, improve response time and accelerate responsiveness. Modern management is about liberating people-not holding them captive to bureaucratic categorizing and parsing. Can Nevada's state and local governments boast of such progress? Perhaps in some areas. But in those areas where innovation has been stifled, NPRI will be there to help find a better way.

We also know that how we make information available will often determine not only who sees our ideas, but also who uses them. Therefore, NPRI has invested in state-of-the-art technology to speed those ideas along to you. Today's instantaneous transmission of data-and the corresponding ability to make information available to those at every level of authority-means that human intelligence and intellectual resources have become the main source of wealth. We understand that the information revolution makes knowledge the new competitive resource.

The computer-on-a-chip will compel governments to bend or break. Clearly, big governments will crumble. Soon, for the first time in world history, we may have governance without government. Governments, like carburetors, are becoming irrelevant. NJ

Judy Cresanta (jc@npri.org) is president of Nevada Policy Research Institute.


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