Friday, March 26, 2004

"Your government failed you"

So says Richard Clarke, former "anti-terrorism czar" at the White House. Truer words were never spoken. Government fails all the time. What's amazing is that most people continue to look to government for "solutions" to "problems" that are really their own to solve (e.g., saving enough for retirement).

Government officials and employees aren't -- "West Wing" to the contrary -- smarter, more competent, or more honest than other people. In my considerable experience they're about as dumb, incompetent, and dishonest as the populace at large. Their dumbness and incompetence are leveraged into greater dumbness and incompetence by the gross size and rigidity of government bureaucracy, which has the reflexes of a day-old infant. Their dishonesty (at all levels, not just at the top) makes them even more dangerous to our well-being because government officials are rarely held accountable for their misdeeds.

Government-lovers will say: "Well, government does this or that, so how can you say government is incompentent." I don't say that government is always incompetent -- though it often is -- only that it is generally less competent than the private sector.

There are a few tasks that only government should undertake, national defense being one. But don't expect even those few tasks to be done with consistent competence. The Union won the Civil War -- despite poor generalship and many lost battles -- because it had superior technology. That -- not great competence -- is why we will eventually win the war on terror.