I don’t remember that I was ever one of those who feared, or had a deep suspicion of, government, even in the days when I called my self a conservative. That may be because I spent a number of years working for local and state governments and saw the tremendous good they did for the people, on behalf of the people and by the peoples’ authority. I also spent more than a few years messing in and around Washington working on issues of public policy that were important to particular regions of the country, and began to recognize that whatever difficulties and disagreements might exist, government was neither the enemy nor the problem.
What was, and is, more important is whether government is efficient and effective at doing what needs to be done for the public welfare of the community. Of course there are those who derisively assert that government is never efficient or effective, at least not like the private sector is. I’m not sure where that idea comes from, but the private sector has not generated much evidence on its behalf.
What is true is that the larger the organization, the larger the administrative bureaucracy needed to handle the logistics of whatever it is that the organization does. Whether private sector of government, it does not matter. The problem comes when the needs and wants of the bureaucracy become driving forces that operate by their own internal market forces. That happens when essential pieces of information become commodities to be traded in the organization’s internal market place. It happens when functions that exist to support the organization’s core products or services become important products and services in their own right to be bought and sold within the internal market place. It also happens when status is conferred according to the size of one’s domain. In the largest, richest organizations that internalized marketplace finds it’s epitome in executive offices where want, need, product, service, and market all focus on the egos of a few well compensated persons whose most important decisions can often do great damage and sometimes a little good.
It’s a function of human nature and of the psychology of organizations themselves. From a theological point of view, one might even say that it is the organizational manifestation of original sin. I’ve heard the argument for smaller more limited government, and on the surface it holds out the promise of smaller bureaucracies that are able to function more effectively and efficiently. There are only two problems with that. First, I doubt that those who argue for smaller more limited government really want effectiveness of efficiency; they just don’t want government that will do any more than protect and serve their own selfish interests, and the devil take everyone else. If that’s true, it helps explain why, in recent years, government has grown more rapidly when conservatives are in power. Second, since size is a very elusive target, the real issue has got to be how to engage in a never ending disruption of bureaucratic original sin that does not punish but redeems the necessary and important work of government. I’d like to say that I have an answer for that, but politics and redemption are not all that compatible. In that regard the private sector does have an advantage. It’s called bankruptcy.