americans claim to hate bureaucracy, but isn't it interesting that the institution that gets the most respect in national polls is the military. which, i shouldn't really need to point out, is a bureaucracy. americans love its professionalism and efficiency and dedication to goals. and yet, most americans myopically claim that the state cannot do anything well. except, apparently, for running this magnificent bureaucracy.
why is it that people who love and respect the military are unable to see it as the arm of government that it is? why are these people unable to believe that the government that created this incredible institution (with lots of money) can create other, just as excellent institutions? they answer: just look at other government bureaucracies. they run terribly.
but this is selective reasoning and self-fulfilling prophecy. these other bureaucracies are badly funded and demoralized. of course they are no good. their awfulness is no proof that government cannot do anything well. in these areas, government (with the people behind it) has not been allowed to do things well. if the people in charge the last 30 years (including the clintons) believe government cannot do anything well, then the political will to do well does not exist. it is just expecting, and planning for, failure.
ever since reagan, the one part of bureaucracy and government that was believed in was the military. and guess what? it was well-funded, praised, and supported. and voila -- it functions well. this is the real lesson of what governments can and cannot do: they do what people want them to do. this simplistic idea that government is either "good" or "bad" regardless of context is absurd. it is what we will it to be. and for the last 30 years we have elected people who willed it to fail. and guess what? it did fail -- except in the military.
here's hoping that we will it to succeed in more important ways, such as health care and education. it is not fair that only soldiers get the benefits of a well-running bureaucracy.