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The Bureaucracies That Ate Obama

It has been great fun this summer watching the intelligentsia rebuking President Barack Obama for “acting like some bloke on a bar stool getting his information from the evening news” rather than like a good take-charge progressive president, as the Washington Post’s uber-liberal columnist Dana Milbank complained recently.

President Obama will accept “no control over the actions of his administration,” ignoring the Justice Department’s monitoring of AP reporter conversations, fumbling the responses to the Benghazi consulate assault and the Egyptian coup, and downplaying the IRS targeting of political groups. Yet the truth is too bitter for progressives to face since it undermines their central myth—that Washington experts efficiently manage pretty much everything. Conservatives should know better. Yet a Wall Street Journal editorial took a tone similar to Milbank’s, asking “if the president doesn’t run the government, then who does?” Charles Krauthammer went so far as to question whether “anyone is stupid enough to believe” that the IRS targeting was not planned from the top.

In fact, every serious student of public administration knows the federal government is unmanageable, a fact verified even by the progressive experts at the National Commission on the Public Service itself. The commission has proposed reforms for years—usually inadequate—but even they are routinely ignored by left and right. Its experts dare not question adding new ungovernable programs like Obamacare, but deep down they know the present system is already too bureaucratized, and adding large new programs must make things worse.

The dirty secret is that no one at the top runs these programs. The president has little idea what the two million person bureaucracy below him does. Poor Hillary Clinton was criticized for signing official cables on the Libyan fiasco, when everyone who knows anything knows no secretary of state ever sees 99 percent of what she signs. Krauthammer may not believe that relatively low-level IRS agents could decide to go after enemies all on their own. But many there actively supported Obama, and even the higher-ups named so far, with one possible exception, were liberal career employees. As far as the AP leaks, what Attorney General under attack, as Eric Holder has been, would dare question subordinates who invoke “national security”? What about the bureaucratic leaks if he did not signed off?

Ignoring that the bureaucratic forces and commitment necessary do not exist, neoconservatives keep demanding the U.S. save more failed states such as Syria. Oops—now it is Egypt again. Where did that come from? Some social conservatives want more power for the Department of Health and Human Services to “support families,” even though its bureaucrats are to the left of the IRS. Many economic conservatives supported the Treasury and Federal Reserve architects of the Wall Street bailout, when their bureaucrats have positive distain for the market. But the strangest bedfellow demanding bureaucratic help is the libertarian. He relies on judicial experts, especially those Ivy League-only stewards sitting on the Supreme Court.

Libertarians placing their hopes on nine old wizards from our elite universities, appointed for life and responsible to no one, confuse means and ends. Such libertarians want freedom as the end but do not want anyone outside the judicial system to be free to contradict the beliefs of the court when it comes to important matters like rights, which these days cover just about everything. Not being able to sue the feds because of sovereign immunity and judicial deference, these activists mainly go after the easier target of local government. The problem is that in targeting local abuses they inadvertently increase national power by nationalizing the local issues.

Even in the 2005 Kelo v. New London case brought against the taking of Susette Kelo’s beachside house and the transferring of it to a private developer—which did prompt many states to somewhat narrow their takings criteria—the unfortunate result was a 5-4 decision that expanded the 5th Amendment’s “public use” definition nationwide. In another Connecticut case, dentists pressured local officials to allow only licensed dentists to give advice on the use of teeth-whitening pastes, even though they are available to anyone over the counter. A suit was filed against this ridiculous, self-interested law, which after being lost was appealed to the feds as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Is there some section there on teeth whitening?

Suits against local or state licensing restrictions have been filed regarding eyebrow threading, vending, hair braiding, limousine services, florists, interior designers, sign bans, yoga studios, tour guiding, and animal massages, among other things. All of these rules are undoubtedly frivolous and self-interested—but cannot local governments make and correct mistakes of their own without their betters in Washington telling them what they can and cannot do? The bottom line is that federal court decisions are a victory for centralization every time.

And the basic fact is that the national bureaucracy is sclerotic: it cannot act in a rational manner. It is overwhelmed, and even President Obama understands this. At the press conference that so irritated his liberal pals when he tried to explain the “glitches and bumps” reported about Obamacare, his explanation was unintentionally revealing: “Oh look, this thing’s, you know, not working the way it’s supposed to, and this happened and that happened. And that’s pretty much true of every government program that’s ever been set up.”

Every government program! The most important social-science lesson of the 20th century was revealed by economists F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, when they demonstrated that social life is too complex to be understood by—much less be managed by—any central political authority. We are all blokes sitting on bar stools. Private and public decentralization is the only rational solution. While commentators like Joseph Baldacchino of the National Humanities Institute [1] are correct that decentralization without the local moral fiber to support it will fail, the only way to find out if there is still enough local fiber left is to attempt it.

Donald Devine is Senior Scholar at The Fund for American Studies and is author of America’s Way Back: Reconciling Freedom, Tradition and Constitution [2] from ISI Books. He was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term.

35 Comments (Open | Close)

35 Comments To "The Bureaucracies That Ate Obama"

#1 Comment By Max Planck On August 15, 2013 @ 9:09 am

Oh, please. These aren’t even “scandals.” There were 60 embassy deaths with over a dozen embassy attacks under Bush, but Darrell Issa and Senator Graham didn’t peep.

For these outside commentators who never lived under a regulatory environment: when ANY regulator gets a wave of similar sounding requests from different parts of the country within a narrow time frame, that is going to result in something called “heightened supervision.” To an IRS person, that looks like a Nigerian e-mail scam.

Based on the responses of the people who were “victimized” it seems few have noticed that none of them were qualified for (c)4 status. These were hardly “social welfare” groups.

Quite surprised at AmCon for beating the Tin Drum on these non-events.

#2 Comment By balconesfault On August 15, 2013 @ 9:51 am

Heh. The IRS “Scandal” is being used as anything but an example of GOP grandstanding?

The IRS officials … correctly, imo, and in response to requests from the Senate Finance Committee … referenced words such as “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” “Israel,” “progressive,” “occupy,” or “9/12 Project” as triggers to screen for organizations which are abusing 501(c) status by engaging in political activity (and which therefore should not be granted special tax-exempt status).

None of the conservative organizations had their tax exempt status denied, and 1 liberal group .. ” Emerge America” … did have their status denied.

Ironically – many conservatives have been making the argument that had the IRS not been slow-walking the applications of various Tea Party groups while doing further scrutiny … Romney would have defeated Obama in 2012.

Which kind of blows the whole idea of these groups being non-political … doesn’t it?

#3 Comment By The Wet One On August 15, 2013 @ 10:51 am

So.

It seems like it’s time to split up the U.S. into smaller more manageable units isn’t it?

Seems pretty obvious to me.

Who’s with me on this?

#4 Comment By Richard Parker On August 15, 2013 @ 11:48 am

The country is too big to be governed by the people. The US warfare-welfare state needs to be broken up into about a dozen new nations.

#5 Comment By WellAlongTheRoadToSerfdom On August 15, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

Hmmm, OK, Max & Balconesfault – putting the IRS scandal or non-event (whichever you prefer) for a moment, what are your thoughts on the actual theme of the article?

At what point does a bureaucracy become too big to manage?

Any thoughts on the inherent inequality, inefficiency and inherent corruption of a bureaucracy – especially one of such leviathan proportions – regardless of who is at the helm? (afterall NO administration since Coolidge has actually shrunk the size off the Federal government – not even the posterboy for limited government, R. Reagan -which mean’s it’s been steadily, often exponentially growing with bi-partisan support, regardless of campaign rhetoric among small government conservatives and libertarians.

what is the solution? If we are too far gone to decentralize power in this bureaucracy? Is it even possible to cut a few of the tentacles reaching into every aspect of American life (economic, health, housing, food, transportation, energy, recreation ad infinitum)? Is it possibly return even a small fraction of the power to communities and individuals? or are we destined to ride the Titanic to the bottom?

#6 Comment By WorkingClass On August 15, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

“Private and public decentralization is the only rational solution.”

It’s the only possible solution. And “decentralization” will characterize post imperial America. Opportunity awaits those who survive the crash.

#7 Comment By Jim C. On August 15, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

In a way, it’s somewhat comforting to watch the last few years play out. It saves me a lot of time and effort with my reading material.

If someone claims that things like Benghazi or the IRS are real, actual scandals I know that I can skip the rest of the article because the person writing it is a partisan hack rather than a serious thinker.

Been that way for a lot of the made up scandals over the last few years from the birther nonsense, to Acorn, to the new Black Panthers, etc. It’s like reading the National Enquirer only the writers really and truly believe that people with brains aren’t looking at what they are writing as tabloid trash.

#8 Comment By spite On August 15, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Max Planck and balconesfault
Neither of you have actually taken the time to read what this article was really about, there is no need to instinctively jump to the defense of dear leader.

#9 Comment By libertarian jerry On August 15, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

It seems obvious to any fair minded Conservative or Libertarian that brick by brick and plank by plank the Political Class public servants have,over time,built up their positions to the point that they are now the masters and we are the servants. American citizens have lost control of the bureaucracies and now they control us. The question to ask is: Is it too late to reverse these positions? Or,does a voting majority like things the way they are as long as they continue to receive their handouts.

#10 Comment By channelclemente On August 15, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

The bureaucracy is in fact shrinking. However, when you continually unplug key points in a hierarchical management network, as has occurred, to coin a phrase, sh!t happens.

#11 Comment By balconesfault On August 15, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

I apologize for the sidetrack … the defense btw was not so much on my part of Obama, but of the IRS. In this case, if I’m to fault the IRS, I’d fault it for not being hard-nosed enough on its investigations of a lot of organizations on both the right and left that I think incorporate a significant amount amount of partisan activities into their “social welfare” programs. I’m somehow reminded of escorts who apparently charge for their time and companionship, and not for any activities between consenting adults which might take place in the meanwhile. Personally, I don’t like tax-exempt status going to organizations engaging primarily in political activities.

Off that particular horse … of course the bureaucracy is huge. And of course no President can know every decision, at every level, being made. He should be responsible for appointing capable and responsible people to manage things (it obviously helps if the opposition party actually allows him to appoint people he believes to be capable and responsible, rather than reflexively filibustering even those who they agree are capable and responsible over doctrinal issues), and the President should be responsible for the jobs done by his appointees and those beneath them. And there should be perspective as to what represents bungling, what represents bureaucratic inertia, and what represents true corruption when screwups occur.

The article itself is difficult to deal with, because it skips around anecdotally using some kind of shorthand to “prove” that things are too complex to work well.

Besides the simple retort “the perfect is the enemy of the good”, I do disagree with the whole “decentralization” meme as a be-all-to-end-all. There’s a lot of “stick to the wall” type arguments in this piece – for example contending that Federal court decisions represent a victory for central power? Really?

And Obama agreeing that programs don’t always work immediately the way they’re expected/designed to do isn’t an admission that the bureaucracy is sclerotic – which is what the author wants us conclude. It tells us that for things to work, we need to encourage our bureaucracy to be more dynamic, and to channel information up when things are bolloxed instead of hunkering down in their bunkers hoping they don’t get blamed. Unfortunately, a political climate where anything short of perfection is viewed as a scandal or as gross incompetence doesn’t help this.

Yeah, the system is complex. We live in a complex world, with very complex problems that just aren’t going to get properly addressed without a strong central government helping set the playing field. Certainly no central government can perfectly manage every aspect of the economy – and we should not only not expect that, but not want it to even try.

There are things that are going to work best if they are decentralized. There are things that are going to fail miserably if they are decentralized. Anyone interested in policy should be very interested in a dialogue over what those things are, and what the implications and functional application of decentralization are. I’ll take the pitch for decentralization much more seriously when it’s more a nuts and bolts discussion, than one of esoteric broad brush swipes against the establishment.

#12 Comment By FN On August 15, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

“…neoconservatives keep demanding the U.S. save more failed states such as Syria”

Save?

#13 Comment By FN On August 15, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

The managing of government programs and the setting of rules for the behaviour of citizens are two different things. Some government programs or institutions might be too big to be managed at the federal level, but I do not see why every county needs to make its own rules on who is allowed to advise on teeth whitening. Local rules for such things only make life more complicated.

#14 Comment By Clint On August 15, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

Max Planck says:
“Based on the responses of the people who were “victimized” it seems few have noticed that none of them were qualified for (c)4 status. These were hardly ‘social welfare’ groups.”

None of the tea party groups scrutinized by the IRS have lost the 501(c)4 designation.

#15 Comment By Clint On August 15, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

Diane Belsom, President of the Laurens County Tea Party in South Carolina, filed her group’s application for tax-exempt status in the summer of 2010.

“To date, we still have not been approved, and there are other groups that are pending as well,” she said. “There do not seem to be any consequences for anyone involved in the IRS for what they have done. It kind of seems like things are getting swept under the rug.”

As of July 29, the IRS reportedly had approved just 48 of the 104 applications from groups that had the words “conservative,” “tea party,” “patriots,” or “9/11” attached to their names. They were asked an average of nearly 15 questions by IRS agents.

At the same time, all seven of the applications from groups that had “progressive” in their names and had fewer than five questions asked of them by IRS officials, were approved.

#16 Comment By Max Planck On August 15, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

To answer WellAlong, et.al., the conceit expressed here is that government intrinsically stinks and we have a “big government” and it’s TOO big. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Well guess what? You happen to live in a big country. A VERY big one. And ANY large bureaucracy is likely to be one giant PITA to deal with. Ever stay in a large hospital and see how many layers of staff you have to go through to get something care of? Who hasn’t called a large institution like an insurance company or a large bank and hasn’t been greeted with 15 choices of phone prompts- none of which suit your needs.

This whole thing is nonsense, and needlessly politicized and it gets the unwashed all hot and bothered. And the people who stoke this issue know it. If the IRS isn’t perfect in every way, well, that’s life.

#17 Comment By Fran Macadam On August 15, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

What we have is regulatory capture, where the donorist corporate class ended up owning/directing the policies that drive the buyreaucracies. The President becomes the mere spokesperson for this anti-democratic shadow governance – with the same qualities necessary to any modern CEO – that is to be gifted at dissembling on their behalf.

This too, is why 92 million bureaucratic documents get classified each year. A security mindset takes over, because documentation from the captured bureaucracy will tend to be revealing of special interest capture, including the revolving door between regulators and highly lucrative employment proffered them by those they carry out policy for. With accountability gone, there is also a mania of paranoia about the public finding out – hence, the many agencies anxious to access the NSA’s massive inwards surveillance of the American people, and the fright about leaks and leakers – and the secret laws and secret courts that criminalize even finding out, let alone public disclosure.

#18 Comment By Tim D. On August 15, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

The bureaucracy is in fact shrinking and hiring, at least at the federal level, is more fiercely competitive than ever. As for the ‘scandals’, they’re only scandals in the Fox News cocoon the vast bulk of Republicans live in these days.

You have two elephants in the room: (1) someone is always screwing up somewhere in the bureaucracy, (2) FEMA, and (3) Iraq + Afghanistan. (1) is something that comes naturally to any large institution, such as the large company I work for in the private sector, so my response is ‘meh’. (2) showcases the difference between Republicans and Democrats as clearly as day and night. (3) occurred despite the bulk of the federal bureaucracy making a case against Iraq, and warning that chaos would result once the military went from invasion to occupation. But the nitwits in charge of the federal government ignored their subordinates.

Presidents really do have an influence and impact on the federal bureaucracy, even if the influence is as subtle as morale. Under Obama, morale was revitalized like the phoenix in departments like FEMA and the State Department after enduring the insanity of the Bush years.

#19 Comment By AG On August 15, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

Interesting piece. And while there is something to be said for the inefficiencies of government bureaucracy, (thank Hayek et al). But, are we going to have this conversation without acknowledging the inefficiencies of private corporate bureaucracies, which, to my mind, suggests that large societies are complex, no matter the organization. Of course, with government bureaucracies there is some level of democratic accountability. With corporate bureaucracy, not so much.

#20 Comment By AG On August 15, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

I’m all for small government – as long as we can get small business as part of the deal. If folks are going to talk about decentralized POWER, what’s good for the big bad government goose is good for the gander.

#21 Comment By icarusr On August 16, 2013 @ 10:04 am

As to the central point of the article, I think AG nails it.

Certainly, Fran has a point – regulatory capture is a major risk of any regulatory organization. It is not, however, endemic, nor is it necessarily the case, unless you create the conditions for it. And, guess what, where an understaffed bureaucracy overseen by politicians who hate them are facing the combined forced of well-funded labs and lobbyists, something gives.

Liberals as a whole understand this power imbalance, and try to correct it by providing for a range of responses: private sector surveillance through class action, and public sector surverillance through greater transparency and resourcing, and “staffing up” to be able to challenge the labs and the lobbyists. (If you have ever sat across from Monsanto and challenged their positions – as I have – you know what I mean.) Liberals also tend to support more vigorous enforcement of competition laws, to correct for the size problems.

“Conservatives” start with different propositions. The first is that government is bad, in a sense regardless of what it does or how it does it. Norquist never actually talks about programs and efficiency; it is a starting point, not a policy conclusion. (Unless, of course, government is blowing up Arabs or spying on traitors domestically.) The second is that private business can do no wrong – or that, the “invisible hand” magically corrects for everything, “in the long run”. That Adam Smith himself never denied the importance of correcting for externalities through collective action, and that even early Hayek acknowledged the Tragedy of the Commons as a basic problem of the “invisible hand”; and that the very notion of private enterprise in any but a hunter-gatherer commune does not exist absent strong collective action (and what are property laws but collective action?) alter not one iota the conservative attachment to the myth of the enterprise.

And so it is that we get silly articles like this. For those who bemoan the distractions of IRS and direct us to the “main point” of the article, I note the subheading. The premise is that there are scandals. If the premise be wrong, the rest is at least open to question. Then you have this gem: “every serious student of public administration knows the federal government is unmanageable,”. Depends on what you mean. If you think that management is about centralised control, then yes. If you think that management is about getting the right people to do the job and letting them do their work, and putting in place policies and practices and oversight mechanisms to achieve that, then the situation is a little bit more challenging to characterise. Add in “organizational object” – which is curiously missing in an article on government efficiency and management – and then you have a rather more complex picture.

Take the observation about the Secretary of State not seeing 99% of releases or cables she signs. Well, the United States is one country and it has one department of foreign affairs. It has trade and political interests, as a single economic and national unit. It has relations with all countries and embassies in most of them. If you constructed a private business of such complexity, do you expect its CEO to see everything? Of course not. The point on 99% is therefore asinine. The issue is whether mechanisms are in place to alert the CEO when something goes wrong in a magnitude that requires her attention. And in Benghazi, the State Department did vastly better than BP, and it is a far more complex entity. And so on.

An argument can be made that the problem of government today is not that it is manageable, but that it is over-managed. Imagine if you are in the collection department for a large multinational, and every time you are a bit zealous in collecting, there is a shareholder’s meeting to question your actions – mostly to embarass the CEO, and not necessarily to actually deliver value. Of course it would be silly. And yet, this is the environment in which government officials – all two million of them – have to operate. If you have a problem with manageability, you should talk to Issa, not Obama.

#22 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On August 16, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

What a breath of fresh air this article is. Yes indeed, personnel is policy. How hard is it to grasp that government bureaucracies, or any bureaucracy for that matter, develops cultures and goals of their own? I spent most of my adult life working within such structures. Over and over I saw the acting out of the old adage that organizations beyond a certain point come to exist for their own purposes and defend their own priorities. Obama didn’t have to tell his fellow liberals at the IRS to stick it to the Tea Partiers. They just assumed it was a good idea both for their interest and Obamas.

It amazes me to see left supporters of Democracy take the side of bureaucrats. Do they think that the culture within the bureaucracy is democratic?
Bureaucracies are inherently regimented. They exist to enforce government policy. They have nothing whatever to do with empowering citizens, even when that is their mission, because they are driven by internal standard operating procedures and productivity goals which have nothing to do with common sense or decency. Frequently the internal dynamics of government bureaucracies actually run counter to their stated mission.

#23 Comment By Tim On August 17, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

Obama met with the IRS head I think at least more than 40 times during his Presidency. Anyways, it was more than all of his immediate predecessors combined.
The bureaucracy’s a big part of the problem, but I’m just wondering why this site’s defending Obama and his administration yet again?
Benghazi to which “poor” Hillary responded “what difference does it make how they died?”, the AP scandal, and the IRS scandal show a corrupt and incompetent government, and while Bush wasn’t a good President they’re certainly more severe than the Plame and lawyer firing scandals he was hit with, probably not with this place coming to his defense and saying he had clean hands.

#24 Comment By Tim On August 17, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

How can they or others say Obama is an unaccountable victim of those acting alone on lower levels under him but Bush and his cabal were guilty as sin of everything they were accused of?

#25 Comment By PJ On August 17, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

“If the IRS isn’t perfect in every way, well, that’s life.”

Yeah, and we should stop complaining that the Mafia is also not perfect. That’s life.

There is a solution; it’s called panarchy. Those who live just fine with a bureaucrat looking over their shoulder for every tiny detail of human life can get what they want. Those who find the control stifling can get what they want. Everyone is happy.

Breakup of this country would also be a step in the right direction. Let people move to the state that suits them, rather than everybody being stuck with “one size fits all” government.

Unfortunately some who don’t mind the boot on the neck are not happy with such solutions unless everyone else is similarly trampled. Misery loves company, I suppose. That’s why neither of these solutions will be tried, and war is ahead.

#26 Comment By indyconservative On August 17, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

I don’t think decentralization is really the solution. The fact of the matter is that the dysfunctionality of our bureaucracy starts with congressmen who are more interested in re-election than in their constituencies, and with an army of consultants who benefit from complexity. Hence the endless creation of programs by Congress by liberals and conservatives, and of course every program ends up with one or more sponsoring bureaucracies in near perpetuity. Government organizations that perform well (Social Security would be an example, in my opinion), generally have narrowly define missions and procedures for achieving these missions, and little REAL political interference. Of course Social Security is projected to run out of money in 2033, but this is the fault of Congress, not the bureaucracy.

Decentralization is continually cited as a panacea, but in the end it never works. The Homeland Security grants to local governments are a hilarious example of what can happy there. For one thing, decentralization requires sound local government, and it requires that such government can’t be overwhelmed by self-interested types who just run over local government or largely control local government (Texas has a new example every day). But the other reasons are simply that most of the issues of the day don’t respect political borders or are inherent measures of national interest.

What is really needed instead is to require governmental agencies to have narrowly defined missions which are long on authority but short on breadth. But this will only come if we stop electing clowns who are focused on political agendas and don’t get around to the business of governing. In short, Obama is right, he can’t control this bureaucracy or make it work effectively. But Congress can do a lot to make it more manageable, if it either is willing to give up some authority to make decisions or step up and actually try to work for the people. But that will only happen if we throw out a lot of these bums rather than re-electing them again and again….

#27 Comment By anonymous On August 18, 2013 @ 1:28 am

” And yet, this is the environment in which government officials – all two million of them – have to operate.”

Does anyone else think that the fact that one in one hundred and fifty citizens is a “government official” is the problem?

#28 Comment By Richard Parker On August 18, 2013 @ 6:18 am

@Max

“You happen to live in a big country. A VERY big one.”

I want to live in a smaller country, a much smaller country.

It’s a start.

#29 Comment By DDS On August 18, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

You guys are all missing a crucial point. The American people don’t want control of their government. They certainly don’t want responsibility for what it does in their name.

It would be way too hard. They would have to think. It might even distract them from the latest Kardashian event.

#30 Comment By balconesfault On August 19, 2013 @ 8:49 am

@Tim Benghazi to which “poor” Hillary responded “what difference does it make how they died?”

This is why it is hard to take some of the extreme on the right seriously. From the following response by Hillary, all they take away is the Fox soundbite Tim quoted.

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

#31 Comment By Tim On August 20, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

balconesfault,

And your response shows why it is so hard to take the extreme left seriously. Her response is totally incoherent. One the one hand, she is suggesting that it really doesn’t matter whether the four Americans were killed by some protestors who got a little out of hand, or whether they were killed in a planned terrorist attack, which, in itself, is just mind-boggling. But then she says two sentences later that “we have to figure out what happened.” So which is it? How do you square “it doesn’t really matter” with “we have to get to the bottom of this”?

#32 Comment By TexasTea On August 20, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

“I want to live in a smaller country, a much smaller country.

It’s a start.”

If that is the case, then you’re in the wrong country. Sorry. But that is the reality.

#33 Comment By Myron Hudson On August 21, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

Max Planck raises an interesting point and indyconservative more or less backs it up.

In my business I deal with both public and private sector bureaucracies and businesses. The main determining factor in how incredibly obtuse, inefficient and obstructive said party can be is the size of the organization; whether it is public or private is immaterial. It’s age and entrenchment also come into play but again that tracks right along with size.

Once an organization reached a certain size, it’s mission shifts from its initial function to self-preservation. In meeting the endless flow of new demands, requests or requirements, it will seek to institutionalize the responses in the interest of efficiency. At the same time it develops new layers of rules and personnel for implementation and oversight.

The above paragraph could describe a health insurance company, a school district, a utility, a manufacturer, or a local or a federal government or agency. I don’t have any answer to this problem other than people knuckling down to work, delivering results while demanding results, and somehow working through or fixing what does not work.

Refining and narrowing tasks or missions is a great idea but will always be counteracted with mission creep. Once can even imagine a bureaucracy tasked with refining and narrowing missions and fighting mission creep. How would that institutionalize itself?

#34 Comment By Myron Hudson On August 21, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

My apologies for the typos above. I just got back from vacation and I’m apparently not quite sharp yet.

#35 Comment By Brent On August 21, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

Having served as a senior official in the Bush EPA, I couldn’t agree more. Even for the politicals in agency leadership it is difficult to manage the agency’s doings, due to the shear quantity and complexity. [3]