Once a framework for creating projects is running, the first big task that Citizen Intelligence will take on is the central question of what is government. The second task it will take on is what does it do? Those two items don’t seem to have a ready constituency prepared to fund the infrastructure to provide truthful, updated answers but without the answers to these questions you can’t systematically oversee government and make sure that it is an honest tool that serves the people well and is limited to its proper scope. Once you lose track of what government does, or even worse, functionally lose track of entire governments, the idea of seriously having a functional system of popular oversight of government is in a great deal of trouble.

As an aside, almost a throwaway, Citizen Intelligence has always included subsidiary questions to both those tasks like “for each thing that government does, who is in charge”. It wasn’t a major milestone, target, or goal, just an obvious corollary step that we’d pick up along the way and hopefully find some use for.

Saturday’s Washington Post offers an article on how badly things can snowball when who is in charge doesn’t have an answer, describing the Maryland state health exchange rollout disaster in some detail. In a culture where every government initiative always has someone asking, persistently, “who is in charge” and tracking who said it and when, playing fast and loose with lines of authority will become much less common.

It isn’t really part of the plan as a major goal. It’s an incidental, an artifact of creating a structured approach to government oversight and following through on all government tasks.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful. To the contrary, asking who is in charge, getting an answer, and then treating the answer as if it were real and applying accountability to that person all through the process would likely have uncovered the difficulties in the Maryland exchange much earlier when there was time to come up with alternatives. The best time to do this sort of work was always years ago. The second best time to start it is today.

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