The Illusion Of Permanence

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Jason Scott

In a recent article in The Atlantic (“Why Canada Is Able to Do Things Better“), Jonathan Kay talked about the differences between Canada and the United States and how our outlook on taxes completely changes the political picture.  It’s pretty much summed up like this:

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hiked the marginal income-tax rate up over 50 percent on rich taxpayers, right-wing commentators expressed disapproval-but the issue was relegated to the status of political subplot.

Among the American right, by contrast, the conversation about taxes often seems infused with magical thinking. Specifically, it is imagined that even severe and abruptly implemented tax cuts will serve to actually increase government revenue, thanks to the turbo-charging effect on economy growth.

Americans (predominantly Republicans) believe that taking one dollar out of circulation due to taxes causes a bigger decrease out of the GDP than utilizing that dollar for the benefit of the constituents.

And this pretty much explains the mess in the United States right now as one set of politicians wants to decrease taxes in the hope that the economy booms while the other set wants to increase taxes to pay for everything that needs to get built and repaired.  Those items that people thought were in the “build it and forget it” model.  And what needs to get built and repaired?

Bridges:

Water Systems:

Roads:

So, what does this have to do with IT?  Glad you asked.

There is a belief amongst “leaders” that once an application is in production you can just let it run forever without additional costs.  But that doesn’t happen.  You need to maintain the application and continue to move the application into the future.  Once you build it, once you create the asset you need to maintain the asset.  If not?  (See pictures above.)

Based upon surveys of public sector organizations, the Government of Alberta invests less in Information Technology than other public sector organizations.  The exact number?  Well, that’s up for a lot of debate.  But initially, it looks like we are not investing what we should be investing to ensure that our infrastructure, our assets, are being well taken care of.  I’m sure that all of us use one or two applications per day that need some TLC, but just don’t seem to get it.  (Example:  go to https://jobs.alberta.ca and select “Not an Employee of the Alberta Government”.)  I won’t even go into the infrastructure behind the applications other than to say Larry Ellison likes us.  (At least until December 2018 at which point we need to be off this system.)

Money spent on IT should be the same as money spent on infrastructure:  necessary for the smooth operation of society.  Failure to understand that concept will cause us to experience the American perspective.

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