Our failing institutions
I read Glenn Greenwald’s article, which I blogged, and then by coincidence I started watching Spotlight on Netflix. Talk about an institution failing!
And then I recalled that I had just blogged this article on how we are losing the safety of our public places, and I also just blogged this article on how the Chicago police department is never held accountable for its misdeeds (a failure of two institutions: the police department and the city government (and, for a long time, the media, which still isn’t doing enough)). And just before that one I blogged this article on how homebuilders have successively fought building requirements that would have saved the lives of some of their customers, and have spent millions making sure their customers do not have up-to-date protection against fires. That’s a severe institution failure: an industry, the government, and our state legislatures. They all failed to protect the public.
And the one before that was how we could help fight human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking. (And I have recently seen articles on the upsurge in slavery on a global scale—don’t we care about that any more?)
And also this article on how government emergency services—those responding to 911 calls—are being turned over to private corporations so they can make a profit by cutting costs and services.
There does indeed seem to be a strong pattern of institutional failure far beyond Congress and the Supreme Court. Take, for example, the water quality in Flint MI. Or how the state of Kansas supports public education.
Update: One thing that shows up in watching Spotlight and in reading the report on the Chicago Police Department’s misdeeds is how long the cover-ups persisted. And what broke it loose? I think the Internet. Victims could contact each other, support groups could arise, databases could be built (like the databases of police shootings and of mass killings), and so on. Things can become visible because information no longer has to use a single exit: the mass media (newspapers, magazines, network TV). Now there are millions of exits for information to escape, and social media ensures rapid propagation of information that catches the public interest.
Update 2: More examples of failing institutions:
The private-prison industry: a long and very interesting report in Mother Jones, including some video. And see also this $2 billion fine for having a wood pile on your property, another result of privatizing the criminal-justice system.
David Dayen in TPM points out “Why the Private Prison Industry is About so Much More Than Prisons.”
The government has failed to care for the mentally ill at the city, county, state, and federal level: a new Boston Globe series from the Spotlight team.