‘Government Efficiency’: Trying to Turn Cats into Dogs

I’ll have more to say later on Mitt Romney’s speech on federal spending, but his banal call for making government more “efficient” gave me an opportunity to share some good commentary on the subject. In a recent piece criticizing Indiana’s Republican-led state government for not doing “anything substantive to improve Indiana’s budgetary, fiscal or economic position,” Craig Ladwig, editor of the Indiana Policy Review, nails it:

Most troubling of all is that few in the leadership of either party share our belief that government must be kept small for smallness’ sake. The goal is not to run it “like a business” or make it more efficient (consolidate), but to ensure that government is simple enough that average citizens can understand and monitor its workings. The constitutional ability to do that and a passion for self-government (governing one’s self), thereby reaping the rewards and accepting the consequences, are what is meant by American exceptionalism.

Nor does the current leadership appreciate that government cannot by nature be proactively involved in prosperity, that it cannot create wealth but only refrain from taking it away or destroying it. Even Republicans busy themselves in such neo-mercantile schemes as tax rebates for politically favored companies and industries, or training programs to win more contracts from the federal government. At the same time, they slap a tax on entrepreneurial activity as soon as it finds success, most recently in Internet commerce.

Look, Democrats already work tirelessly to extract from us the revenue to support a bloated, systemically flawed and misguided state government. Do they need Republican help?

Milton Friedman famously described those trying to reform government without changing its makeup as being engaged in an attempt to transform a cat into a dog. This General Assembly may learn to bark, but it will still be a cat.

The “government efficiency” snake-oil salesmanship from politicians has become tiresome, especially when it comes from high-profile Republicans like Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, I don’t see too many people “on the right” taking these people to task for it. So kudos to Craig.