Our Experts' Top Reads of 2012: Charlie Firestone

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the most influential reads from 2012 for our experts across different issue areas. New entires can be found on this blog or here.


"I am a job creator: A Manifesto for the entitled," by Steven Pearlstein. Washington Post, September 29, 2012

This column by Steven Pearlstein takes a clever approach, I think, to the hypocrisy of some of America’s most influential businesspeople – those who rail against entitlements, but actually feel entitled to many hypocritical excesses for themselves or their businesses. An example: “I am entitled to confidential information about my employees and customers while refusing even to list the company’s phone number on its Web site.” I understand this represents a relatively small number of CEOs, but I think many of the statements in the column do reflect an ironic reality to our corporate attitudes, particularly with respect to government.

More important, I like this piece because it brings to our attention a broader feeling that I fear is prevalent in the US, that of entitlement or enjoyment of rights, but without a sense of responsibility for the broader good. In that way it is a statement about the responsibilities of citizenship for all of us – a topic that I think is crucial as we continue to try to govern ourselves in troubling times. In short, we as citizens need to assume the responsibilities as well as the rights and entitlements of citizenship. Until we do so, we cannot expect good governance.

This article relates to my work at the Institute in that the Communications and Society Program looks to the impact of information and communications technologies on democratic institutions and values. I try to have us focus more and more on citizenship as an important element in the governance value chain. We are in the middle of a series of sessions on Open and Innovative Governance, a project that is supported by the Knight Foundation, and was inspired in part by our joint work on the Knight Commission for the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. We need informed and engaged citizens, and that comes from a realistic – as opposed to cynical – attitude towards citizen sovereignty.

Charlie Firestone is executive director of the Communications & Society Program. Learn more about Charlie and his work at www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/communications-society.