When Too Much Is Asked Failure Is Predictable
“The Corps of Engineers has completely and totally let us down,” Gary Grittner, a Fort Pierre resident, said. “We, the people of Fort Pierre and Pierre, are paying the price for incompetence on the part of the Corps of Engineers.”
Overall, court records reviewed by The Washington Times show at least 170 confirmed falsifications of interviews or record checks and more than 1,000 others that couldn’t be verified. The background investigators, whose work helps determine who gets top-secret security clearance, were submitting forms saying they conducted interviews or verified official documents when they never did.
Walter Russell Mead may have had the right of it when he argued that government has “Jumped The Shark” in a recent blog post. People get told to trust and obey it, and all of their troubles will go “Bye-Bye.” This doesn’t happen, and we get the montage of quotes shown above.
The reaction is somewhat unfair, but sadly predictable. It is what happens when too much is asked and far too much is promised. Government cannot do everything, and it fails miserably at the basic core of its mission if it tries. Meade lays out the fatal conceit that underlies all of the recent failures of American Government below.
A bureaucratic and professional elite would mediate social conflict between rich and poor, improving the lives of the poor while engineering the best possible administrative solutions to pressing social problems. Keynesian macroeconomic management would ensure lasting prosperity; progressive taxation would spread the benefits of prosperity as widely as possible. Levels of education would rise as more and more Americans spent more and more years in school. Progressivism held out the hope that capitalism, democracy and history itself could all be tamed by competent professional management.
What Walter Russell Mead and his fellow dreamers lost sight of was the dark side of this Progressive dream. George Orwell described this brilliantly in his Novel 1984 as he defined his concept of Oligarchical Collectivism.
“In each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned. The new movements which appeared in the middle years of the century . . . had the conscious aim of perpetuating unfreedom and inequality”; because the true goal was to end history upon becoming the perpetual High ruling class — composed not of aristocrats or plutocrats, but of “bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organisers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians” originally from “the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class”.
A major goal of those who assume power now is not to help us, but to help themselves. The power has increasingly become an end, rather than means to a more morally justifiable conclusion. Orwell would not be surprised to learn that the US Government, despite the $14Tr National Debt, owns more limousines that in any time in its past history. Thus missions and mandates stop being sacred duties and become instead ways to expand a taxpayer-funded, lucrative empire.
Another problem our modern governance faces is the sheer impossibility of its vast and conflicting mandate. As part of my own training to be a better and more responsive Federal Bureaucrat, I got tasked with learning about how DoD contracts. I was informed that the job of a Contracting Officer was to acquire the best and most economic material solution to help The Warfighter win. But also, to make sure that certain set asides were met for small businesses, minorities, women, Native Americans, the blind, the otherwise handicapped, etc, et al.
That laughter you hear in the background is Col. Kaddafi’s. You can hear it all the way from Tripoli. It takes “weeks, not days” just to figure out how in the heck we’ll buy all the ammunition we intend to waste on that sordid and pointless conflict. The Contract Officers are smart, patriotic and nice to small furry animals like you’d want them to be. They just have to dig through way too much horse manure to ever have a chance of really finding the pony.
So finally, despite the fact that our Federal and most of our State and Local governments are staffed by decent and patriotic people, it all becomes like The Myth of Sisyphus. There are too many moving parts, too many conflicting mandates and too many uncontrolled interests that undermine what should be condign processes. The end result of this is that our citizenry gets promised the moon and then shown reality’s ugly rear orifice.
The only workable solution to this is to dismantle, simplify and start the whole thing over from scratch. Raising the debt ceiling and promising to reform this or that will only miserably fail. It will buy maybe six or eight more months of oblivious fustercluck and then miserably fail. So let the hubris that government can solve all problems and cure all ills die this summer as Congress fails.
This puts me outside the mainstream of people who just want the can kicked and the next hit of fiscal morphine to make the bad times go away. But so be it. Sometimes systemic failure is the only thing that can wake the somnambulant. Let what doesn’t work utterly fail so that what will work tomorrow can be designed and effectively deployed.
So no to the next debt ceiling increase, no to QE3 and no to the idea that the Blue Social Model will ever effectively govern America again.