Posts Tagged: inventions

The real deficit is one of confidence and readiness to change

Nicholas Kristof had a thought-provoking piece over the weekend in the New York Times pointing out how reckless politicians are hurting America from within:

The biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.

Motivated by ideology rather than practicality, some members of Congress are blind to the way their position will actually make America weaker, and how their “budget-cutting” stance will actually end up forcing the government to spend more (to finance debt payment at higher interest rates, for one). (more…)

Government is Breaking the Rules . . .

. . . by being flexible and creative in seeking solutions to America’s biggest problems.  Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post reports on the surge in prizes sponsored by federal agencies who want input from more sources, and different ones, than government itself can provide.  NASA’s newest space glove is one well-known result of this new approach (Peter Homer has won $450,000 for two designs), and a second NASA prize went to Paul’s Robotics for a new lunar excavator.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has also used prizes and competitions to seek out the best designs, and today the White House is hosting a meeting with representatives of 35 federal agencies to spur this approach.

What’s exciting about prizes and competitions is not just the result, or the fact that it doesn’t cost too much (Achenbach points out that “the government pays only for results,” while “competitors invest their own money in research and development”).  There’s a crucial longer-term benefit in terms of citizen engagement with government.  If government seeks new solutions this way in the social sciences, in economics, in education, in management, and even in foreign policy, a generation of people in different parts of American society could come to see government as a partner in solving problems everyone cares about.  And in that kind of effort, winning isn’t everything.