Microseconds and Macropolicy

Wriston, Walter B.


Microseconds and Macropolicy by Walter B. Wriston for Regulation: AEI [American Enterprise Institute] Journal on Government and Society


On JANUARY 8, 1815, Andrew Jackson's army defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans. What makes the battle particularly noteworthy is that it was fought more than two weeks after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent had ended the war. A great many men died because a sailing ship carrying news of that treaty did not arrive in time to prevent the battle.

Today we routinely watch our secretary of state on live television as he steps off his plane in distant capitals and delivers his views on world problems. The implements of war have also changed. Our "fir-built frigates," the world's fastest in 1812, have been replaced by ICBMs that cross the ocean in twenty-odd minutes.

The flow of real-time information about political, military, and economic events is now both routine and prolix. But is our government organized to deal effectively with what can only be described as a new situation in the world? At this point in our national development we do not seem to have in place the structure to formulate policy on information flows--especially their global aspects--let alone to implement it. Indeed, we have given relatively little thought even to understanding what kinds of policy problems we are dealing with, and what vital interests may be at stake for America. This is not an unusual posture in the long history of governments' reactions to technological revolutions.

  • This document was created from the article, "Microseconds and Macropolicy" by Walter B. Wriston for the March/April 1985 edition of "Regulation: AEI [American Enterprise Institute] Journal on Government and Society." The original article is located in MS134.003.026.00019.
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