The Monday Morning Economist
Independent Opinion - Unadorned

Why is government so incompetent?

The short answer is that it is not incompetent. The long answer is that is no more or less incompetent than any private business, it is just more visible.

Private business interests have had a propaganda party over the last two dozen years having successfully colored government as fumbling and corrupt. The irony is that this is the worst case of the pot calling the kettle black imaginable. You only have to have worked at a convenience store to have acquired suspicion that your boss was an idiot. If you have worked in some senior capacity in a large corporation you are soon overwhelmed with the notion that it is miracle that they even exist. Business, especially big business harbors every bit as much greed, corruption and outright dysfunctional stupidity as has been disclosed in any major government scandal. You just don’t hear about it because it is bad for business if you do.

Be honest now, you believe yourself to be competent and that everyone else is an idiot. This is probably especially true of you if you own a small business or are highly placed in a corporation. By your criterion for measuring competency, you are probably right, but consider the following.

You have heard of the 80-20 rule. 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It is a fact of business hiring and operation. Some businesses, say Microsoft, have convinced themselves that they are better than that. They aren’t. They are just better at convincing themselves that they are better. Microsoft has 61,000 people and yet produces product at the rate of a company about one tenth its current size. Apple, for instance, not only produced product superior to Windows, did it in 3 years instead of 10 with a company one quarter of the size, and Microsoft had the luxury of being able to copy it. Microsoft actually does not quite reach the quality you would expect when applying the 80-20 rule.

The point is that 80-20 also applies to government, because government is made up of people. As in business, some people are good at their jobs but we also employ people who are bad at their jobs. Why we employ people that are bad at their jobs is the same for both business and government.

The single most cited argument that business is more competent than government is that the bottom line does not forgive incompetence and so companies that exist are superior in some way to government. Businesses that are incompetent go out of business. And, there are a lot of them that do. Many, many more businesses fail than succeed. What does that really say about the inherent superiority of business to government? It says by this measure the only way we could have to know government was working right would be if it failed to work at all. Enron was a wildly successful business. If Ken Lay had been running the government we might be living under a different flag right now.

Continued.....Why is our foreign policy failing?

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