What's up With Wired's Presidential To Do List?


Magazines of every stripe are going wild with policy suggestions aimed at the next administration. Wired is one of those magazines, and its October issue contains 15 ideas "about how to fix the things that need fixing." (Earlier this month, Brian Doherty analyzed two similar lists from Foreign Policy.) After reading these babies online and in print, I'm tempted to conclude that they're all for show. (One Wired editor to another: Goddamnit, man, we need more Web 2.0 imagery!) The compilers seldom take applicability into consideration, and the Wired list in particular builds on the assumption that the next president lacks a concrete agenda for environmental concerns and foreign policy. Cabinet members, too, have plans, and so do the expert yappers in the next concentric circle. A group of West Coast journo nerds isn't likely to be anywhere near the bullseye.

But just for a minute, let's pretend that the endless excretion of lists titled, "What Obama/McCain Must/Can't/Should/Shouldn't do to Fix the Country," are relevant, and that one or two suggestions here and there possibly will resonate with somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who is the next president. In this scenario, the Wired list disappoints, not because it lacks innovation, but because it possesses a big-government mentality.

The ideas worth keeping, such as making 401k plans more difficult to opt out of than into and relaxing trade restrictions, could be realized most efficiently through government inaction. Using genome studies and investing more in the prevention of—rather than responses to—future epidemics are wothwhile preventative health measures in and of themselves, but the former, if implemented with no other healthcare reforms, could deny healthcare access to the unknown number of Americans with genetic ticking bombs; while the latter idea could devolve into one more reason to impede immigration. 

And some of the ideas, like investing more money in NASA and redesigning entire cities "from scratch" (Le Corbusier lives!), are just plain dumb. But don't take my word for it, check out the complete list here, and use the thread for neas and yeas (or whoos! and boos). Bonus points will be awarded to the commenters who come up with the most totalitarian and the freest First 100 Days agendas.