Those who believe government is the panacea for all that ails society need look no further than impotent post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts for empirical evidence that it’s not. The failures further evidence how regulation and bureaucratic ineptitude are the government’s own worst enemies.
Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” Some of the people of New Jersey and coastal areas of New York are undoubtedly wishing the government would attempt to prove Reagan wrong, but it has thus far proven incapable of doing so.
The Saturday following the storm, President Obama declared, “We don’t have patience for bureaucracy. We don’t have patience for red tape. No bureaucracy. No red tape. It’s critical for us to get power on as quickly as possible.” He concluded, “There’s nothing more important than getting this right.”
It’s important to understand his words, for they are replete with verities that believers in “big government” usually deny. His first statement clearly indicates that bureaucracy is an obstacle to progress as he reminds us that it takes a great deal of time to get anything done. My dad used to joke that watching for governmental or bureaucratic action is like watching cold tar move.
His second statement about having no patience for “red tape” is a denunciation of the very types of government regulation that statists advocate. Regulation is a massive obstacle to accomplishing anything, either by the government or by the private sector. The more regulation and red tape there is, the higher the hurdles and greater the hindrance to accomplishing anything. If regulation was conducive to productivity and action, why would we need patience in dealing with it, and why would the president call for its elimination in order to facilitate recovery efforts?
The International Business News reported this past week, “The first sight after entering the upscale Brooklyn neighborhood [Sea Gate] was an Army National Guard distribution point, where about a dozen soldiers helped police, firefighters and local community groups get food and supplies to residents.” But that’s an upscale area.
IBN continues, “But when driving though the hardest-hit coastal areas of Staten Island last Sunday afternoon, the scene was vastly different. Despite the fact that major sections of neighborhoods like New Dorp Beach, Tottenville and Great Kills were wiped out by the storm surge and high winds, there was little sign of government assistance on the debris-strewn streets.” And that’s with all the “red tape” and bureaucratic bungling suspended. Imagine what it would be like if all the regulation was still in place!
If Bush was still president, he would be called racist or elitist for the inequitable distribution of federal resources between the wealthy areas and the middle or lower class areas.
The bizarre regulatory environment of the unions that service the area creates some of the regulatory hurdles. Union limitations on types of garbage that could be hauled have had to be temporarily suspended to help expedite cleanup efforts. And the primary electric service provider of the area, Consolidated Edison, turned away assistance from across the country if the electricians who came in to help were not union. It’s pathetic when political interests trump the interests of the people they claim to be serving.
IBN finished their report, “But over a period of about six hours of walking and driving through Staten Island’s ground zero for the hurricane, only a lone Red Cross truck was seen, along with a few Con Edison and National Grid vehicles. There seemed to be no federal or local government relief presence whatsoever on the island, the third-largest borough in New York City.“
“People on the ground there say it’s been that way since shortly after the storm hit, and concerned volunteers from across the city, New Jersey and beyond are banding together in roving crews in an attempt to make up for what they say is a shocking dearth of help. It’s people helping people, and it’s what’s driving the recovery effort forward, one block at a time.”
Alan Keyes has said, “Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients.” I would actually rephrase the final line, “its subjects.”
Government can and sometimes does work efficiently and effectively, but the larger it becomes, the greater the hierarchical bureaucratic structure, and the more regulations there are, the less efficacious and responsive it is. Clearly, our bureaucratic structure has bloated to the point where it fits Reagan’s aforementioned description.
Sandy is Obama’s Katrina, even though the mainstream media will never report it as such.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Creative Commons by canihazit