Robert Moses for digital services

Have you read The Power Broker? If not, you absolutely should.

I’ll skip the biographical details (which you’ll get from the book) and just mention that Robert Moses is a very controversial figure. Among other things, he raised slums in NYC, displacing thousands of mostly low income families, to replace them with highways, parks, and social housing.

He was also an extremely competent and effective operator. For better or worse, he got shit done.

Canadian governments (at all levels) are not very good at getting shit done. This is especially true in the digital realm, whether when trying to develop electronic health records or centralize payroll systems.

Part of the problem, in my view, is that we’ve developed a vetocracy. To avoid the sort of harm caused by some of Robert Moses’ projects, we’ve designed systems that ensure there is not enough power vested in any one person to cut through political, bureaucratic, and regulatory interference.

This was Robert Moses’ specialty.

I think that a Robert Moses for digital service delivery is on balance a good idea. The worst of their excesses would be confined to the digital space, and we might just get good at getting shit done.