Every now and again, I hit upon related topics in more than one reading in one day.
1. kludge…what? Not sure I like the name, but I like the thought (via Marginal Revolution). Steve Teles writes about a real problem:
The fact that so much of our welfare state is jointly administered — either inter-governmentally or through contracting with private agents — makes it hard for Americans to attribute responsibility when things go wrong, thus leading blame to be spread over government in general, rather than affixed precisely, where such blame could do some good. The consequence of complexity, then, is diffuse cynicism, which is the opposite of the habit needed for good democratic citizenship.
Though, I’d say the government rarely gets the blame. Rather the blame is placed on the free market. When a heavily regulated and government subsidized health care market doesn’t seem optimal, I think there’s a tendency to overlook the government’s cause in the matter and blame the problems on the free market, simply because there exists some for-profit companies in that public-private morass. Same goes for housing and banking.
…government policies that undermine the…reliability of money prices also make the discovery of inefficiencies profoundly problematic.
Using the rules of arithmetic, for example, it’s easy to see that the statement 1 + 2 = 4 is wrong, but what about _ + _ = _ ? What’s the solution to this “problem”? Is there even a problem here? Money prices fill in the blanks; they “create errors”—i.e., reveal mistakes that no one could see without them—that alert entrepreneurs might then perceive and correct. If mistakes and inefficiencies remain invisible, the search for better ways of doing things could never get off the ground.
3. But somebody had these guys beat by a couple hundred years as I coincidentally discovered on a plane this evening, I happened to start reading Thomas Paine’s Common Sense on my Kindle app and found this passage as he was building his case against the English Constitution:
I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature…that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered.
Absolute governments (tho’ the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs, know likewise the remedy, and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies, some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.
Holy Schnikes, T. Paine!