could have expected 25 years ago."
At the same time, Jenkinson clings to a vision of an empowered American public. Making government easy, he insists, fuels a collective laziness and inattention. Digital democracy should be far more than online services that reduce frustration with government. "I think that's a terrible squandering of the idea of electronic government," he said. "It has to be more than that. For one thing, if that's all that it produces, the American people will like government a little better, but it won't improve America."
He suggested that convenience has become a mantra, fed by Internet speed and ease. "Jefferson would say that liberty is hard. It's an ordeal. Liberty is getting up in a town meeting when you least want to and knowing you are going to pay a price for it, and saying the hard things, fighting it out. Liberty and democracy and sovereignty are things that require a chunk of your soul's life."
Given the duality of digital democracy, Jenkinson suggests that the nation is poised for another great leader. He believes the few who have visited our world, such as Jefferson, Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi, offered people a "gentle enlightenment." This, he suggests, has more value to democracy than does convenience and speed. That is not to say that Jenkinson is suspect of government's motives. "I see it as all good. I believe our government is effectively benevolent. It is doing what we say and what we say is, 'Make things right.'"
At the same time, Jenkinson -- the author, lecturer and businessman -- is willing to sacrifice some of his own liberties to gain the efficiencies of centralized government. He likes the idea of smart cards and doesn't bristle at the idea of a national identity card. He thinks the post Sept. 11 environment requires great vigilance. He is excited about new technologies that hover on the horizon and take the Digital Age to the next level. Jenkinson, the historian, does not live in the past.
He believes that as long as the people are not prepared to drive their own destiny, government must take the lead. This is not a viewpoint that would make his role model comfortable. "Government will have to take a much more paternal and supervisory role than it probably wants to. But in the absence of the people taking it on for themselves, the John Ashcrofts of the world have to take it on, on their behalf," Jenkinson admitted. "And Jefferson would see that as a national tragedy."
Jenkinson's new books, "Message on the Wind: A Spiritual Odyssey on the Northern Plains" and "The Character of Meriwether Lewis," along with other information, are available online.