Are you sure government is poorly managed?

Rob Taub announced that he’s a Democrat thinking of voting for Romney because his informal polling suggests that Obama is about the only person around that thinks government is well managed.

“I have conducted my own straw polls in various U.S. cities and I’ve yet to find anyone who believes our government is well run, except for President Obama.

Waste and mismanagement are the words frequently used to describe our federal government…”

The problem with this is it asks the wrong question — or at least can only be really understood by also asking opposing questions, like,

“Do you think big corporations are well run?”

“Do you think small businesses are well run?”

“Do you think the oil industry is well run?”

“Do you think the meat industry is well run?”

…and then you can take the obvious next step – ignore these polls and just look at actual outcomes. The venture capital industry considers successful outcomes on 20-30% of its investments a “success”. What was the success rate of the $20 billion DOE green energy loan guarantee program that everyone loves to bemoan as a disaster, chanting “Solyndra! Solyndra! Solyndra!”? What was the success rate of TARP money or the Auto bail-out?

What’s the success rate of new small businesses? 90% fail within 2 years. Is your hard-earned money somehow better spent when a significant fraction of will, indirectly or directly, end up supporting many small businesses that will soon fail? (Whose owners will likely take their earnings and abscond on their obligations).

Some people love to say government is “bad at picking winners” and Taub asserts that there’s some alternative to alleged government waste – but “waste” can only be judged relative to some realistic alternatives. The belief that government is managed so poorly really arises because you never see “the U.S. government” go away. No one remembers what The Tea Pot Dome scandal was about anymore, but they do know such spending and quid pro quo scandals have seemingly always happened, continue to happen, and always will.

Meanwhile, the private sector seems so much better because scandalized company names go away. Public companies that fail are de-listed from stock exchanges, and all failed companies and assets are eventually bought by other companies – their employees (even the bad ones responsible for problems) move on to other organizations. Occasionally the only change is a new corporate logo or name. Why do name changes happen? Because it works. Human beings are terrible at remembering the events or factory or people that tarnish a brand name – but they do remember the brand and that it was tarnished – even if every person and place behind the scandal has been replaced.

If we simply renamed the U.S. government it might go a long way toward reforming people’s opinions of its management. Perhaps we need a little bit bigger revolution, now and then. On the other hand, maybe the most available solution to our current political impasse is to scrap the EPA, and simultaneously establish a new agency named Dept of Resource Conservation and Accountability. The Dept of RCA could start staffing immediately using all those laid off EPA bureaucrats.

After all, that’s how the private sector would do it.

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About stormculture

In pursuit of reality.
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