Simple Economics Explains Why Gov Tech Safer Than Private Sector

People often falsely believe the private sector always delivers better technology than a government.

The public sector instead is capable of delivering dramatically better results, if you measure properly (safety).

First, let’s just set aside the point that terrible public sector technology is truly terrible. Boston is home to Harvard, MIT and… the MTBA.

In case that last acronym isn’t familiar, it’s arguably the worst managed infrastructure in America.

Truly awful. And we can talk about it’s failures all day every day because freedom.

Yet, did you realize, the only possible way to get worse would be if the scam artist known as Elon Musk became its CEO? I mean if Musk ran MTBA he’d be now frantically censoring tweets about it.

One of Musk’s obvious flags is his record on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues at Tesla, which was excluded from the S&P 500 ESG Index, an industry standard on corporate responsibility, in part due to racial discrimination and fatal car crashes.

This kind of proves the point already.

Getting rid of Musk at fraud-riddled Tesla is proving harder even than flushing out corrupt Communist DDR leaders who had pumped up Trabant demand.

As bad as the MTBA gets it isn’t likely to ever be worse than Tesla.

Second, it’s been pointed out many times before that private sector is driven by greed in ways that directly undermine technology quality (safety) oversight.

Computer engineers, unlike structural engineers, never sign any code of ethics and face almost no obstacles from management to build faulty bridges for profit.

Although there’s been a rapid rise of C-level (Chief) information security officers (CISO), almost everyone overlooks how that role for the private sector is mostly a marketing game for cover-ups.

No qualifications, no code of ethics, means again the private sector rewards those who pump margins regardless of quality (safety). Alex Stamos’ tragic record of failures (two attempts at CISO, both disasters) has become the business school canonical example.

Some ask me why not use Uber’s disgraced CISO Sullivan, given his high profile conviction. My reason is simple. Sullivan was chased by his former colleagues to turn the CEO over to regulators.

Instead he took a highly paid fall to let the CEO get away. That’s more like 1900s America classic strategic organized criminal behavior than an emergent class of low integrity coin-operated unqualified “security” officers who are loyal to nobody.

Different levels of market failure.

Can’t lead (CEO), can’t account (CFO), can’t innovate (CTO), can’t persuade (CMO) but you bring an empty resume to take bags of money to spy on people and spread misinformation about breaches while ignoring crimes against humanity… maybe you will show up absent of qualifications and ask to be Facebook’s next millionaire CISO to “oversee” risk.

Third, perhaps most frustrating of all, technology companies attempt monopolist tactics to get margins higher while intentionally failing.

One day many years ago I was hired to hack into a privately run bulk energy company that covered huge swaths of America.

Literally within ten minutes I had root. They were completely insecure. When I presented findings as “power distribution could be disabled, causing human suffering…” they interrupted me and said “outages are profit, we make more to respond to them as sad and tragic as it might sound”.

They then asked if I had anything on their financial systems, the infrastructure and so forth. I told them of course, I had root even faster to AIX core to their trading desk (ironically a backdoor created by their internal financial auditors). I’ve never seen executive action faster as I watched them grab phones and bark security would immediately be enhanced. Safety was very narrowly defined… to their personal and direct benefit.

It was clear they saw failure as a form of profit where they had positioned themselves as the only private vendor, yet also at arms length from the accountability of public officers.

We’re seeing more proof in the news lately with headlines of “Ticketmaster crashes during Taylor Swift ticket presale.”

Of course they crashed. They are juicing profit via outages, not concerned with trust let alone service.

In response we see sage points made like this from people dedicated to delivering public service:

Over my years in the public and private sectors, I’ve had people tell me: If only the government could work like business. Well, the team at @USEdgov and @USDS built a Student Loan Forgiveness portal that processed 8 MILLION applications in the first 30 hours without a crash.

Not only are US government services operating at higher levels of reliability, governments also lately have been delivering innovations faster. Giant private sector companies have become laggards.

Again, I’m saying the best in public sector tends to do better while its worst isn’t as bad. That’s a long view, not to say private sector can’t be better in a straight comparison at some point in time. A balance between private and public is ideal, which begs recognition of the clear benefits of public run infrastructure.

Another way to put it is regulation inherent to representative systems (integrity controls) turns out to deliver safer (more representative) technology than systems easily corrupted to serve interests of only a few.

It should sound logical and obvious, yet people in a giant rush to get what they want often dominate the technology dialogue by shouting down multiuser representation with governance as too slow for their dreams of a self-dealing privately owned organization.

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