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Failure by Design

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The Republicans have managed a nifty trick over the last twenty-five years. They have worked ceaselessly to make government less effective, while at the same time deriving political benefit from inadequate government. The Republican attack on good governance involves the cutting of necessary funding, the wholesale transfer of critical government capabilities to the private sector, the stocking of government agencies with inept, corrupt, and obstructionist appointees, and the sellout of regulatory agencies to the industries they’re supposed to observe.

In a fair world, all of this would result in the Republican party taking some degree of blame for bad governance. In this world, the exact opposite seems to happen. Government fails by design. Government failure feeds into an anti-statist narrative that allows the Republicans to further slash funding, to further gut federal agencies, and to further cripple the capacity of the government to do anything useful.

I think we’re seeing the beginning of this with regard to Katrina. It seems readily apparent that Republican ineptitude and obstructionism at FEMA, combined with the general problems associated with tight funding, have played a significant role in slowing down relief efforts. Whether more government competence could have prevented the breaching of the levees, we’ll never know. Watch for the discourse the subtly change, however. Dubya has already admitted that the relief efforts thus far have been inadequate. The trick that the Republicans (and their conservatarian allies in the blogosphere) will be trying to play over the next few weeks is to convince the world that the problem is not an inept Republican government, but is instead the abstract concept of an activist government.

It’s perfect, because it lets Dubya and his cronies off the hook while at the same time making the populace that much more resistant to effective government and its necessary corollary, a reasonable level of taxation.

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen, via Axis of Evel Knievel:

New Orleans shows how hidebound and slow-moving the bureaucracy is, at all levels, from local through Federal. But the lawyers are always waving their codes, prattling on about the orderly practices we have designed to deal with daily life in this highly civilized society.

But when something like this happens, political leaders should recognize that those rules no longer apply, and that the only way to deal effectively with it is to switch to military codes of conduct.

Carl Schmitt, where are you now? What we need here is the firm, guiding hand of a benevolent dictator, capable of declaring emergencies and brushing aside all the unnecessary “laws” and “bureaucrats”. That’s right, giving George W. Bush more power would solve the problem. . .

And this really goes beyond absurd. The idea that normal operating procedures prevented Dubya from saving New Orleans? Christ, what planet does this guy live on? Does he remember the five week vacation that Bush could be dragged away from with only the greatest reluctance?

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