Saturday, July 30, 2016

Where we are now.

At this moment between the end of the primaries and the final stretch to November it seems to be a good time to reflect on lessons learned.  My first thought at this point is that Bernie Sanders candidacy showed the usefulness of backing an individual, who though he may have not been faultless, nevertheless brought out a lot of truths about our society and brought together a diverse coalition of the left.  It is not surprising at this point that the coalition is breaking up into its component parts, but it seems to me that the Sanders run showed the importance of committing to an actual electoral effort.

Another thing which I think has been clarified by the contest is that none of the primary aspirants really addressed the importance of digital technology and its relationship to the economy.  For instance, there are significant relationships between technological developments and the need for patent and copyright reform, along with internet governance issues which hardly have been touched on in the election so far.

Sanders had good ideas about educational reform, but I don't recall him mentioning the revolutionary possibilities offered in that area by digital technology, or any real specifics about the distortions created by commercialization and monopolies.  Even with free tuition, there would still be many economic disincentives to education holding us back, one of the foremost being the cost of text books at all levels.  There is really no excuse for that to continue in this digital age.  India and Brazil have made huge progress toward making texts universally accessible in digital form and on line, and those examples could easily become part of the electoral conversation.

The Sanders team made some real strides in exploiting the possibilities for on line campaign financing from small donors.  Like the other candidates, however, I did not see Sanders exhibiting any real appreciation of the importance of the digital components of the economy.  Clinton obviously lacks an understanding of digital security issues.  Trump does not seem able to get beyond Twitter trolling.  All of them seem to be focused on rather low-level tech support and statistical and polling techniques rather than broader issues of importance to tackling economic development and economic inequality.  It would be nice to see the inclusion in their teams of economists, educators and social scientists with some real competence to address these issues.

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