Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Government Worship

In the sunday 08/27/06 opinion section of the Detroit Free Press is an op-ed by James Lee Witt CEO of James Lee Witt Associates, a public safety and crises management consulting firm in Washington D.C. who served as FEMA director from 1993 to 2001, and Max Stier who is the president and CEO of Partnership for Public Service in Washington D.C..

For reasons known only to the Free Press, this op-ed is not in the online version so I can't link to it. Anyway it's titled "Learn the right Katrina lesson." What might the right lesson be? Well, if you're thinking that the human disaster that was New Orleans is proof of governments' failure and inefficiency, you just get those thoughts out of your mind right now.

"...we had better accept that good government is essential and start looking forward to getting things right."

Good government to me means protecting people's individual rights. To sirs Witt and Stier it obviously means providing for people's needs, not rights. But what is meant by 'getting things right?'

"Levees require sound engineering, investment and upkeep.[which would have happened in a laissez-faire economy. Insurance companies would have required it--ME] Advanced preperations need to be made to ensure the prompt delivery of relief supplies. More attention needs to be given to ensuring that those who need it most are being helped."

This paragraph, in fact the whole article, reminds me of the commercial where Bret Favre walks past a lady whose grocery bag just ripped apart and says "I would have double-bagged it." I take these gentlemens' solutions just as seriously as that commercial. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20 and that is what these admonishers are exercising.

"But we also believe the failures suggest some longer-term, more consequential, attitudinal lessons on the part of government and citizens that must be learned if we are to do better in the decades ahead." (my em)
They then offer 5 lessons that must be learned.

1. "Good results require good people." Sure sounds reasonable to me. But what is meant by 'good people'?

"The greatest assets of any organization are the ability and passion of its people. Just like the private sector, our government must attract quality people to its ranks by making government a place where public servents are well led, well trained, empowered and rewarded for their service." (my em) In other words, we must stamp our feet and demand that our government act and become just as effective as the private sector.

Obviously, these gentlemen never sat down to figure out what is the essence of government (force) and what is the essence of the private sector (trade) and that what motivates one doesn't motivate the other. They never learned that the government is (or should be) motivated by the task of protecting everyone's individual rights and that the private sector is motivated by the profit motive which is the exercising of those rights.

2. "Coordination matters." Again, *I would have double-bagged it.* "The federal government must play the role of coordinator as well as responder in a crises." Why? Why not let private sector handle it? The profit motive would ensure all kinds of 'coordination' and the money would come from insurance companies who would love the chance to save millions in liability claims. Evidently, these guys think that the lady should not be responsible for double-bagging her own groceries, rather the government should coordinate that aspect of her shopping routine.

3. "A long term perspective is necessary." Yeah, I would have double-bagged that too.

4. "There is no cheap fix." (Get ready, here it comes!) "The damage to a region like the Gulf Coast is almost incalculable, but taxpayers often bristle when told billions may be needed for some mundane sounding necessity like levees and restoring wetlands. If we don't learn that lesson now, we are doomed to repeat it."

This is obviously one of those "attitudinal lessons" we citizens must learn. So when the government comes to loot more billions from our wallets, no more bristling. We must shut up and take it.

5. "Understand and build on successes." Another one for the double-bag.

It doesn't occur to these gentlemen, and most Americans for that matter, that when government assumes such responsibilities, large sacrifices will be required. But when the private sector does so, no sacrifices are required. So why the insistence on a system that requires sacrifice? Because these gentlemen, like most of us, were wrongly taught that sacrifice is virtuous and that trade, because it does not require sacrifice, cannot be virtuous. Thus it becomes obvious that these gentlemen are pursuing what they think is the virtuous rather than that which is effective. Which means performing the altruistic ritual rather than getting results. This in turn, supports the identification of altruism as a morality focused on ritual rather than results.

Or to put it another way; a rational, objective, non-sacrificial way of caring for others is unaceptable to thier minds when in fact, such a morality of rational self-interest is far more virtuous than any sacrificial one.

That is why these men are so blindly attracted to government (force). It can provide them with the forced sacrifices they believe are needed in order to be virtuous.

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