Monday, March 2, 2009

Steve Randy Waldman on the Link between the Financial Crisis and Open Democracy

Over the weekend I came up an idea as to how civic media can help resolve the worsening global financial crisis. A format idea. I mulled it over and now it's a bud about to bloom. And today along comes Steve Randy Waldman with a post that fertilizes it:

I've just listened to NPR's recent interview of Timothy Geithner. Adam Davidson did a great job of trying to get answers from Mr. Geithner. I felt sorry, at a personal level, for our Treasury Secretary, a very smart man imprisoned in a series of talking points, desperately afraid of the consequences of holding an honest conversation.

As an aside, we've come to take it for granted that policymakers ought to be circumspect for fear of provoking traumatic moves in the markets. But isn't that dumb? Markets are supposed to be about aggregating and revealing information. In what sense is it "more responsible" to hide information or ideas so that markets do not move on them? And if markets do misbehave so wildly that public officials can no longer afford to be candid because of market consequences, does that suggest an incompatibility between the kind of financial markets we have and open democracy? [my italics]

Waldman has the respect of other finance bloggers. And my format idea addresses the incompatibility he speaks of. Here it is. It's a windfall for CNBC, if they have the wits to run with it. Just remember where you saw it first. Alternatively, it can be done on the Internet. Anyone want to make it happen?

Imagine an American Idol-type reality TV contest of from eight to as many as sixteen rival solutions, presented by small groups of from one to four individuals competing for the prize of Best Solution to the Global Financial Crisis. Imagine this contest aired over a period of weeks or months primetime evenings on CNBC. Half the contestants might come from CNBC's existing on-air team and half from elsewhere and indeed anywhere: they could be finance writers and bloggers, Bloomberg reporters, financial institutions, universities here and abroad, and Vii's (Very intelligent individuals) with few credentials but great ideas.

Now imagine an on-air selection process, open to anyone, that winnows down hundreds of aspiring contestants to a field of eight or sixteen finalists, as happens in the first phase of American Idol. Finally, imagine the finalists advancing their solutions by interviewing anyone and everyone connected with the financial crisis, including even, conceivably, Timothy Geithner. Who could judge the contest? Who would govern it? How would contestants be selected? How would the government be involved at local, state and national levels? How would winners be rewarded? I have answers for questions these and other questions.

Read the rest of Steve Waldman's post - he would be one terrific contestant for this show.

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