The Artifacts of Big Government
Last month, the Washington Post provided an exposé on the proliferation of wasteful government reports. As the headline example, the author cites the 15 employees across at least six different offices that prepare an annual Report to Congress on Dog and Cat Fur Protection. The requirement was created as part of a 2000 law written by legislators no longer in office. It is, in other words, perfectly emblematic of Washington DC dysfunction. The question is: what exactly does this tell us about why and how our government is failing?
The Dog and Cat Fur Protection report is just one of many. The story claims that the current Congress expects 4,291 different reports from 466 federal agencies (aside: there should not even exist anywhere near this many federal agencies, and wouldn’t if the government stuck to its Constitutional duties).
It would be easy for some to blame all this on bad legislators. Certainly it would be possible for Congress to collectively decide to solve the problem by going through and eliminating unnecessary reports, just the same as they could close down duplicative and unneeded agencies. But that’s misleading. If the institutions of government, along with the incentives they create, and the political culture both remain constant, it’s not going to matter who is elected. The results will continue to be the same.
We have now a system that has grown out of control, and a populace enamored with magical thinking. We expect every problem in life to have a political solution, and we demand that someone – the more centralized their role, the better – be answerable for every setback or inconvenience. The result is that government not only must try to involve itself in far too many aspects of daily existence, but that politicians must constantly demonstrate that they are in firm control of the apparatus of government, even as such control becomes increasingly impossible.