Thursday, January 20, 2011

George F. Will : people dependent on government leaves it squandering, incompetent, reckless of its scope.

Hubris heading for a fall
By George F. Will 
Thursday, January 20, 2011
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song, and in a recent speech that seemed like Larry Summers's swan song, the president's now-departed economic adviser warned that America is "at risk of a profound demoralization with respect to government." He fears a future in which "an inadequately resourced government performs badly, leading to further demands that it be cut back, exacerbating performance problems, deepening the backlash, and creating a vicious cycle."

The idea that America's problem of governance is one of inadequate resources misses this lesson of the last half-century: No amount of resources can prevent government from performing poorly when it tries to perform too many tasks, or particular tasks for which it is inherently unsuited.

Actually, government is not sufficiently demoralized. The hubris that is the occupational hazard and defining trait of the political class continues to cause government to overpromise and underperform. This class blithely considers itself exempt from the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve - the fact that in most occupations a few people are excellent, a few are awful, and most are average.

In fact, the bell curve is particularly pertinent to government. Surgeons achieve eminence by what they do "in office" - in operating rooms, performing surgery. Politicians achieve eminence simply by securing office - by winning elections, a skill often related loosely, if at all, to their performance in office.

James Q. Wilson, America's preeminent social scientist, has noted that until relatively recently, "politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything." Until the 1930s, or perhaps the 1960s, there was a "legitimacy barrier" to federal government activism: When new policies were proposed, the first debate was about whether the federal government could properly act at all on the subject. Today, there is no barrier to the promiscuous multiplication of programs, because no program is really new. Rather, it is an extension, modification or enlargement of something government is already doing.
... Read the rest at the Washington Post

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Going to get worse before it gets better? I for one believe it is going to get much worse before it gets better. A lot of progressives that live and enjoy the fruits of a capitalist lifestyle will soon quite literally have to eat crow, or perhaps rat. Only then they will come to admit they were wrong for a very long time. I have faith that our great nation will regain its leadership role in the world.

Most Read in the last 30 days