What happens when you combine "fast track" procurement, minimal
oversight, pork-based contracting, and a comprehensive lack of
responsibility for results? Well, you get the Bush administration, of
course. More specifically, you get the Coast Guard's disastrous
Deepwater program. Nadezhda runs through the grim details.
This is perhaps the single greatest fallacy that props up big government. Specifically, the notion that corruption, inefficiency, and stupidity are failures in government related to certain individuals. The implication is that if only "our party" was in control, big government would be great. Except that both parties have had their chances in alternating fashion for 70 years (what I would call the era of really big government) and government has been a mess regardless of who has been in control.
People like Hayek and Friedman have written who books about it, so I want try to elucidate the whole theory, except to summarize that the nature of incentives in government, particularly the big sacrifice-one-group-for-another government we have today, will ALWAYS lead to massive failures. Period.
I wrote over a year ago that statism always comes back to bite its creators, because no matter how beautiful the machinery of government control, you can never control for the human beings who get behind the levers. At that time I pointed to three fallacies, of which the third is particularly relevant to this post:
- You don't have the right to make decisions for other people.
Period. No matter how high-minded and idealistic you want to portray
it, at the end of the day you are proposing to use force to coerce
another man into doing your will. You may stop them from using force
or fraud against others, but an adult may make decisions for
themselves, even if they are bad. I am reminded of a great line from
the HBO show Deadwood, "Can you let me go to hell the way I want to?"
- You can't make better decisions for other people, even if you
are smarter, because every person has different wants, needs, values,
etc., and thus make trade-offs differently. Tedy Bruschi of the
Patriots is willing to take post-stroke risks by playing pro football again I would never take, but that doesn't mean its a incorrect decision for him.
- Technocratic idealists ALWAYS lose control of the game. It may
feel good at first when the trains start running on time, but the
technocrats are soon swept away by the thugs, and the patina of
idealism is swept away, and only fascism is left. Interestingly, the
technocrats always cry "our only mistake was letting those other guys
take control". No, the mistake was accepting the right to use force on
another man. Everything after that was inevitable.