Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bureacracies "are poorly incentivized, if at all. Budgets ... make bureaucracy's managers first responders to constant political whim"

Bill Murchison reminds us that plenty of government regulation subsists in the New World, along with the attitude of "Take care of me/us", this when public bureacracies will usually (if not always) underperform in comparison with private enterprise:
Naturally, it was all the president's fault. Everything is George Bush's fault in a dazed and rancorous nation. Whatever the actual defects of federal efforts to manage the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Bush is the boy to blame, because the federal government has become in our minds the guarantor of ... everything.

You can see the logic of it. In size, in cost and in presence, the U.S. government dwarfs every company, every institution and even every combination of governments. … how, if people are hungry and riotous in New Orleans, it must be Bush's fault. It must be, because he's the president -- and, as various Democrats would add, using their lips to make a rude and famous noise, never should have been.

Just what the political boo-birds would have done themselves to head off or alleviate the disruption in Louisiana no one is quite sure. The mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana traffic less in policy proposals than in invective. That helps a lot, as we all see. Yes, we need trucks and buses. And, yes, we need roads and streets to drive on.

A highly intelligent column by the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger suggests that a basic cause of the mess is over-reliance on bureaucracy, given that bureaucracies tend to personify inefficiency and waste.

"This was the primary lesson of the 9/11 Commission Report," Henninger notes. "Large public bureaucracies, whether the FBI and the CIA or FEMA and the Corps of Engineers, don't talk to each other much. They are poorly incentivized, if at all. Budgets ... make bureaucracy's managers first responders to constant political whim." Henninger's understandable preference, regarding the New Orleans crisis, is for infinitely greater reliance on private sector generalship, with bureaucrats functioning as "infantry."

Meanwhile, what about the looters and carjackers and rapists whose emergence and persistence in New Orleans must also somehow be Bush's fault? Here we get to another unpleasant byproduct of our reliance on government: namely, moral complacency.

While Claudia Rosett has praise for America, Roger Cohen scribbles nonsense about America's image (it never was up in the first place), and a former state legislator who represented the legislative district most impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 adds his two cents' worth:
The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people.

Indeed. The infighting has started to erupt…