Random Numbers

Brian Epps returns to blogging….maybe?

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Big and Small

Posted by Brian Epps on October 1, 2010

“If only the government wouldn’t try so hard to help us, we might all be a lot better off.”

That is the final sentence in this post by Phil Liberatore at Big Government.  It is also the most fundamental principal to remember about the effect of government trying to think small.

Small?  Yes, small

It is a paradoxical truth, to borrow a phrase, that the smaller the things government tries to do, the bigger,  more unwieldy, and more ineffective it gets..

Governments can do big thing pretty well.  Winning a war, a moon shot, a national highway system, all these things actually benefit from there being a large, central authority coordinating the individual parts into a cohesive whole.  But try to turn that around and you get disaster.  When you try to coordinate central systems to do a whole lot of individual things with individual goals and results, you get individual tragedies.

Education?  The more centralized it gets, the worse it performs. The DOE was established in the 70’s, creating an incentive to produce larger, more centralized school districts with literally millions of students under their sway, has this improved education?  It seems that the largest school systems are the ones graduating ignorant savages and keeping child molesters on the payroll.  A small  school system with a couple of thousand students has a big problem if one single teacher is not getting the job done.    A large system is far more capable of absorbing failure and passing the buck.

Welfare?  A large centralized system is so full of holes that abuse is rampant and multi-generational poverty is actually encouraged to keep the central planners in their cushy little chairs. If we were to judge solely on results, we would have to conclude that the nationalized welfare system was specifically created by George Wallace to keep blacks” in their place”.  No matter how compassionate the systems creators and administrators may be, the end result is a soulless machine that pigeonholes everyone in it and punishes them harshly for leaving their pigeonhole.

Heath Care?  Take a look at what centralization of heath care results in.  People getting free breast implants for their teenage daughters while cancer patients, who would almost certainly recover with treatment, are kept on waiting lists until they are untreatable.   Surgeons in the UK routinely stop at the pub for a pint at lunch before going in and cutting up another in their overloaded queues of patients.  Those queues are overloaded because so few people of intelligence want to be a surgeon in a system that treats them like dirt.  The fact that the system treats doctors poorly means only those who are willing to tolerate being treated poorly will work in it, ending up with substandard doctors who drink before cutting.

For the patients it gets worse.  The lack of doctors and overloaded queues means treatment is slow in coming ans substandard when it arrives.  To add insult to injury, as the system gets more overloaded, it tries to limit it’s load by denying more drugs, treatments, and procedures, especially in the eerily prophetic “last months of life” (that would not be your last months if you got the proper treatment in many cases).

“Now, wait a minute,” you say.  “Those things aren’t small!”

Your individual education, welfare, and health care are big things to you, but the key word is individual.  You are just one of hundreds of millions of people in this country.  Compared to all of them at once you are quite small.  As long as someone in a central office can produce a nice chart, he doesn’t give a fart in hell about you.

You are smaller than the chart.

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