Efficient Government Market

man-screaming-at-computerIn reply to a Ayn Rand Libertarian in a political forum (forgive me, it’s a MySpace political forum), I posted a collection of quotes to explain how conservatives tend to dislike government for its inefficiencies and as a result end up making government inefficient because they don’t know how to govern.

On his part, he wrote:

Take where I work, back when things were good they pissed money away like it was going out of style. Now, in order to compete, they have to get more bang for their buck.

Now look at the Government, do they become more efficient no, because there’s no incentive to.

The following is a direct quotation of my reply post in the forum:

That’s because of people like you who expect government to not function effectively therefore end up making it happen. Take Thomas Frank‘s testimony of that:

BILL MOYERS: That government is a perversion.

THOMAS FRANK: Government is– yeah, government is a perversion. And to believe that the federal government can be operated, you know, with all of its programs, can be operated well and do things that are good for the people, is, as you say, is a perversion.

And they look at someone like Barack Obama and it makes them seethe. Because that’s, you know, that’s what he’s trying to do. What conservatism in this country is about is government failure. Conservatives talk about government failure all the time, constantly. And conservatives, when they’re in power deliver government failure.

BILL MOYERS: Not merely from incompetence, you say, but from ideology, from philosophy, from a view of the world.

THOMAS FRANK: And sometimes from design.

BILL MOYERS: From design? What do you mean?

THOMAS FRANK: Not always from design, but often. The Department of Labor, for example, the conservatives when they in office, routinely stuff the Department of Labor full of ideological cranks. And people that don’t believe in the mission.

And the result is that it doesn’t– they don’t enforce anything. Towards the very end of the Bush-era, the Department of Labor had been whittled down. It was a shell of its former self. And at the very end of the Bush Administration, one of the government accountability programs did a study of the Department of Labor. And, I’m smiling, because it’s kind of amusing. It was like an old spy magazine prank.

They made up these horrendous labor violations around the country and phoned them in as complaints to the Department of Labor to see what they would do, okay? They responded to one out of ten of these, you know, where they called in as like, “Well, we got, you know, kids working in a meat packing plant during school hours. You know, can you, you going to do anything about that?” “No.” Or you look at something like the Securities and Exchange Commission. These guys are supposed to be regulating, you know, the investment banks, okay? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, that sort of thing. These guys were so under-funded, and not just under-funded, but you had people in charge of it who didn’t believe in regulating Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: So, they made the Securities and Exchange Commission a laughing stock, if you will.

Also take what you will (I know you won’t give a shit) from William D. Eggers and John O’Leary on why Libertarians should learn to love government for the sake of their own ideology:

1. Bad government leads to bigger, badder government. Today, only 23 percent of Americans trust government to do the right thing. At first blush, this would seem to be an encouraging statistic for those opposed to “big government.” After all, the less citizens trust government, the less willing they should be to give it big new responsibilities, right?


An important recent academic study called “Regulation and Distrust” shows that, paradoxically, the worse government performs, the more citizens demand greater government intervention. The authors’ explanation for this curious finding is that in societies where people distrust large institutions—whether government or big business—the demand for more regulation and for more government is higher, even when government is incompetent or downright corrupt.

You can see this playing out with the stimulus conundrum and the cognitive dissonance in the American public. They want the government to bring down the deficit and debt but they want the government to do something about job creation — meaning they want more government interference. Why? Because conservatives demanded more of the original stimulus consist of tax cuts and that was mostly ineffective; technically only $300 billion went to actual stimulus but only $80 billion of THAT went to actual job creation projects so the stimulus didn’t have as big an effect as it could have.

2. To shrink government, you need to love government. Most liberals believe deeply in government. As a result, they sit on school boards, city councils, and regional planning boards. They become expert at navigating through the bureaucracy and know which bureaucratic levers to pull to make their policy vision reality.

Many conservatives and libertarians come from the world of business. They don’t particularly like government. They view it as merely a necessary evil. As a consequence, they rarely immerse themselves in the intricacies of governing, preferring to make their case from a safe distance.

Once in power, they tend to have far more difficulty navigating the complex terrain of the public sector. The result? From Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission to the 1995 government shutdown by a GOP Congress, most high-profile attempts to shrink government fail.

Until small-government types better master the nuts and bolts of the public sector—how to design policies that work in the real world and how to execute on large public undertakings—their initiatives to downsize government will continue to disappoint.

Yet look what Obama, someone who loves government and understands how it works — and wants it to work — has done so far in his first year; from John Judis:

These days, liberals don’t know whether to feel betrayed by or merely disappointed
with Barack Obama. They have gone from decrying his willingness to remove the public option from his health care plan to worrying that, in the wake of Democrat Martha Coakley’s defeat in Massachusetts, he won’t get any plan through Congress. On other subjects, too, from Afghanistan to Wall Street, Obama has thoroughly let down his party’s left flank.

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for — but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.


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