"People Who Don't Believe in Government Do a Bad Job of Running It":

I've heard this refrain over and over, with regard to FEMA, the V.A., and other examples of government incompetence that happen to occur in the Bush Administration. Via commenter Justin, here's an example from "Balloon Juice": "people who don't believe in government do a crappy job when they try to run it. You can look practically anywhere in government today and find the same story -- managing the occupation of Iraq, science, women's health, disaster management."

Here are two major problems with this thesis: (1) The Bush Administration is not exactly full of libertarians; exactly who in the Bush Administration "don't believe in government"? Given that government spending during this administration has increased at rates not seen since Lyndon Johnson, the better lesson would appear to be that "throwing government money at problems doesn't make them go away." (2) We have plenty of examples of people who surely did believe in government that didn't do a very good job running it. Anyone for the late and unlamented Mayor John Lindsay of New York? The kibbutzim of Israel, which survived for decades on government subsidies, before finally abandoning their model when the Likud reduced these subsidies? On a completely different level, the commisars of the former USSR? A common belief among folks on the economic left is that good intentions lead to good results, and thus "fixing" government is simply a matter of getting high-minded people into the right positions. Surely, government can be more or less efficient depending on how it's set up, how competent the people who run it are, and what incentive structures are in place, and so on. But it's simply a fallacy to believe that the fundamental problems attendant to statist economic organization can somehow be resolved with a large dose of idealism.

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  1. "People Who Don't Believe in Government Do a Bad Job of Running It":
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