For the People, By the People in the 21st Century
By Amy Willis
How can government be made more user-friendly and to work better for everybody? That’s the question that seems to motivate Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America and this week’s EconTalk guest. As you might expect, there’s some divergence in Pahlka’s and Roberts’s views as to what government ought to do, and I suspect the same holds true of you.
1. Code for America’s website claims, “The two biggest levers for improving people’s lives at scale are technology and government.” To what extent do you believe this to be true?2. How does Pahlka describe the use of empathy in guiding Code for America’s project designs? Is this the same sort of empathy Paul Bloom recently spoke with Roberts about? Is Bloom’s empathy more dangerous in the public or private sector? Is Pahlka’s private sector empathy transferable to the public sector?
3. Pahlka and Roberts agree that there’s a distinction between what we can do alone and what we can/must do together, which is where government has its role. How do they differ as to where exactly this line should be drawn? Is it more important to make government more efficient or to make government smaller?
4. Roberts suggests that the sort of “blue-sky thinking” that Code for America employs doesn’t come naturally to government. What reasons does Pahlka offer to explain this, and to what extent do you think she’s correct?
5. How can we make government service “the most honorable profession in the country,” as Pahlka suggests, and to what extent would this be beneficial?