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A Wired World

A Doonesbury cartoon of the early 1980s got it right. Mike Doonesbury asks a store manager, “Excuse me, sir. Do …

A Doonesbury cartoon of the early 1980s got it right. Mike Doonesbury asks a store manager, “Excuse me, sir. Do you have any user-friendly sales reps?” The store manager replies, “You mean, consumer compatible liveware? No, he’s off today.” With this issue CE is launching Techscape, a new editorial department devoted to what every CEO should know about technology in a way in which he or she won’t feel chloroformed by a consultant.

Succeeding Soft Machine, our previous  technology column, Techscape endeavors to bring brief news items and useful “powertools” to your attention. It is our hope that the department will render technology more compatible with CEO needs by reporting how it is being used by your peers to attain strategic goals, and, just as importantly, where it’s imprudent use might send a business off the rails.(Is there a breathing CEO who has never wondered whether he’s just taken the wrong exit on the information interstate?) Designed by our esteemed art director, Michael Carpenter, to be inviting to explore, and edited by senior editor C.J. Prince to be easy to read and topically compelling, the department will continue to include contributions from Soft Machine columnists Frank Ruotolo of The Futures Group and Tom Pettibone of Transition Partners. Naturally, we invite your feedback and suggestions about challenges and issues you would most like to see addressed. You can e-mail us at tekscape@AOL.Com or fax us at (212) 687-8456 with your POV.

Elsewhere in this issue we report on developments in Europe of consequence for our readers. As the introduction of the euro in 1999 draws nearer, the effects of closer economic integration begin to show how different the visions of a united Europe are among EU member countries. As speed and agility become more necessary to compete in world markets, the consequences of low growth and high social costs are having a devastating effect on the economies of many European countries, particularly France and Germany, the two nations most deeply committed to European Union and to the tradition of government LED growth. Britain, about to elect a Labour government for the first time in 18 years, won the highest growth and lowest unemployment by following a very different star——a post-Thatcherite, enterprise-based economy.

The U.S. is normally mute during intra-European disputes, but at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, there was an exception. One might expect sharply divergent views from Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich, but the two seemed to be singing from the same hymn on many issues, among them trade, fast-track expansion of NAFTA, and working with China. Both said it was important for the U.S. to sustain its leadership position in IT by maintaining an entrepreneurial society. To a European query suggesting that the U.S. was abandoning its social safety net—a mark of civilization Europeans could not renege, Gingrich responded with a sharp rejoinder: “What is civilized about continuing a social contract in which people are trapped in bureaucratic redistribution of wealth and young people are paid a stipend not to work? Don’t tell me about the consequences of operating without a safety net when the system itself is clearly failing. The central question of our time is how to go from poverty to prosperity; not how can we maintain you in poverty.”

About J.P. Donlon

J.P. Donlon
J.P. Donlon is Editor Emeritus of Chief Executive magazine.