If at first you don’t succeed

My experience with the Social Security Administration was interesting. I spent one week a month there training their team of programmers, back when microcomputers were relatively new.

The team leader had a prominent sign in his cubicle office:

If at first you don’t succeed
Get a government job
Then you don’t have to try anymore

It was clear that the entire team, and the 27,000 employees in the building they were working in, were similarly inspired. Some of them, I thought, might be salvaged by transferring them into the private sector immediately. But most were beyond hope. They would hold fire drills, dumping people into the street every week, to keep from getting too much done.

There were people that read magazines all day, and were not to be disturbed because they had union or lawyer connections. The entire project was intended to be as inefficient as possible. Most people had no clue how to “work” — and were generally frustrated by their unsupported attempts.

A few strugglers in that environment were trying to make a difference, but the entire system was engineered to provide incentives to defeat them.

The military can be quite different, especially at the edges. Unfortunately, the closer you get to the bureaucracy, the less the military looks like an efficient combat team, and the more it resembles the Social Security Administration.

Government should have only the clearly defined roles laid out in the Constitution as amended, and be limited in size and scope so that it accomplishes those roles as efficiently as possible, and does nothing else.

From Ben Bernanke attempting to control a feedback process from the wrong end to Obama and other catastrophists mandating that expensive boondoogles suddenly become popular by fiat, we now have a government that is massive, massively corrupt, and rigging the game to grow itself at the expense of the nation.

The last century has seen the government at all levels moving into the bread-and-circuses business, displacing literally hundreds of thousands of organizations set up to care for the truly needy. In so doing, the government directs most of its effort to take care of what it considers the most needy: government bureaucrats, and voters who will sustain it.

The money and favors given to people to vote for this could be called “bootliquor.” We need to change the system so that this incentive instead points in the right direction.

We can afford an organization [but reduced!] like the State Department, who considers their role to be “making the world safe for cocktail parties.” But we cannot afford that mindset being in charge of the US economy, or any significant part of it.

Unfortunately, it is already there, and will be tough to unwind. And bureaucracies, like any other living organism, will fight hard to survive.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • http://www.dehavelle.com/ Keith DeHavelle

    Thanks. I’m just coming off of a massive project — I’ve billed almost a hundred hours in the last week — and will be back in the saddle here soon.

    And I very much appreciate your comments — you’ve been commenting since at least March 2008 that I know of, and probably before that.

    I hope to do more to earn your loyalty.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • http://www.billandmeganb.com/bill Bill Buhler

    I had to chuckle at your article because the day I first read it (last Wednesday) was the day after USA Today reported that government workers are more likely to die on the job than be fired. . .

    Honestly, I would love it if the chief executive would appoint a fat trimmer to reduce the size of most of the executive branch.

    Oh, well, it isn’t likely to happen but I keep feeling like there has to be 20% or more waste in the federal government.

    BTW, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles of years, and hope you see some dialog on this site soon (which is partly why I’m commenting here rather than LJ).

    Thanks!