The Outstater: Why Government Fails

September 10, 2015

It is good every once in a while to push personalities and ideology out of the way and look at public policy in its purist form. It is bad for the blood pressure to always be imagining little Stalins, Trotskys and Obamas lurking in the back desks of the county planning department (although history tells us they surely are there).

So the work of a favorite analyst, Chris Edwards, is always welcome here. He has a gimlet eye for the misaligned incentive or the good intention gone awry. Most recently, he put down the reasons why government always falls short. Here are the nuggets, applied not just to the federal government but state and local ones as well:

Edwards reminds us that both private enterprise and government bureaucracy fail, but only the government fails more and corrects itself less. He quotes the British economist Paul Ormerod on the point: “Governments of all persuasions appear chronically unable to admit that any single aspect of their policy has failed.”

The result, whether it be in Washington or in Indianapolis, is stifling obstruction of the economy and of the society. It isn’t a matter of following our particular vision of a better world. The fact is that bigger government doesn’t work — for anybody, regardless of personality, religion, race, sex, immigration status, carbon footprint, tattoo placement, ideal weight or ideology.

And that is why, dear friends, we work for public policy that prunes rather than merely reorders, policy that ensures government will be neatly trimmed to the smallest possible size in every place and in every time. — Craig Ladwig



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