Sunday, November 17, 2013

Governments are useless at most everything

It has been amusing, if somewhat predictable, watching the unravelling of the 'Obamacare' healthcare legislation in America. The US Government spent $200m on a health insurance website that doesn't work, but that is the least of the problems. The penny has finally dropped for most Americans that their existing health insurance plans will have to be abandoned and a more expensive scheme purchased, giving the lie to the name of the legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The British National Health Service is held up by Britons and by all advocates of socialised medicine worldwide as the exemplar for state-run healthcare, even to the extent of it being the centrepiece of the London Olympics opening ceremony (in a disgusting misappropriation of the supposedly politically-neutral Olympics for political ends). God knows why - as this Forbes article reports, you are 88% more likely to die of breast cancer in the UK than in America and less likely to survive all other major forms of cancer. So, why would Americans want to give up private medicine for socialised medicine?

In my consulting business in recent years I've been doing a lot of work for the New Zealand Government, much of it quite important stuff in terms of delivery of the Government's main policy initiatives. I work for government because Wellington, my home town, does not have much of a private sector any longer (and I've blogged on Wellington's economic situation before). In my work I see many public servants who are dedicated to their work and who genuinely strive to serve the public to the best of their ability. But I see a great deal of incompetence too - monumental computer systems failures like the Obamacare website, construction projects that produce buildings that are faulty from the day they are finished and ships that can't serve the purpose for which they are acquired.

The problem is that some of those who work in government believe that there is no limit to their role and moral mandate, that they can poke their noses into any area of citizens' lives that they see fit.  Any problem, be it social, economic, scientific or environmental is not so daunting that our elected representatives and unelected officials don't think they can fix it. Never mind that they have no expertise in the field concerned - there is always some patsy 'expert' (usually an academic with no practical experience of the subject) ready to support their view that the problem can be fixed by more government interference in citizens' lives.

The truth is that government can never compete with the market in terms of providing solutions to human problems. The reason for this is obvious - the market is the collective result of millions of people applying their knowledge to achieve individual goals, whereas even in the largest government agencies there can be only ever a fraction of the effort and wisdom applied to the problem. The market will always beat the bureaucrat and those who work in government should have the humility to accept this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Governments are useless at most everything".

Yes they are.

I say this not long after hearing that the "religion" of "peace" is about to set up an Islamic boys' school in Dunedin.

*Italy's* government is "onto it" - they don't even recognise Islam as a valid religion.

Our government? Uh... no.

The school will no doubt go ahead and the country will (in decades to come) count the cost of having thousands of Muslims brainwashed to hate the "unbelievers".

It is happening in Islamic schools everywhere else and one would have to be a fool to believe that "it won't happen here".