Our Government in Action

A few weeks ago I responded to Economist Philip Verleger, a classic technocrat, who lamented what private industry had done with the auto industry and felt government run by smart people like himself could do better:

Suppose a government plan could revitalize the
automobile industry and the rest of the transportation sector, encouraging it to
leapfrog several generations of technology; suppose this same plan could cut
U.S. dependence on foreign oil to zero; and suppose, finally, that the plan
could develop new technologies that would bump our economy to a higher growth
path and foster U.S. economic leadership in the 21st century. Would that idea be
worth exploring?

I am not sure there are that many adults who don't also believe in Santa Claus who can imagine the government succeeding at this, but in case there are, here are some further thoughts on government efficiency:

But while Harrison County and all but one of its cities hired contractors on
their own, Jackson County and its cities, at the urging of the federal
government, asked the Army Corps to take on the task. Officials in Jackson
County said it was a choice they had regretted ever since.

The cleanup in Jackson County and its municipalities has not only cost
millions of dollars more than in neighboring counties, but it is also taking
longer. The latest available figures show that 39 percent of the work was
complete in Jackson County, while 57 percent was done in Harrison County and its
cities that are managing the job on their own, according to federal records....

Pascagoula and other Jackson County cities are sticking with the corps. But City
Manager Kay Kell of Pascagoula said she was disappointed. Her city had a private
contract to clean debris for $7.80 a cubic yard, but now relies on the corps,
which is paying its contractor $17 to $19 a cubic yard for the same work....

Officials in Jackson County and Pascagoula cite numerous reasons for the

One is the complexity of the contract the Corps of Engineers has with
Ashbritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that is overseeing the debris
collection in Mississippi
and parts of Louisiana. Its 192 pages include sections on the type of office
paper the company uses and a ban on releasing information to the news media
without the written permission of the Army Corps. (Ashbritt officials declined
to comment for this article.)

Simply getting an agreement from the Army Corps on the exact wording for the
legal release document that residents must sign to authorize contractors to
clear their homes took several weeks, officials said.

Then the Army Corps and its federal partners repeatedly gave new demands,
such as satellite-based measurements on the location of each house, before
large-scale clearing could start, county officials said.


  1. grumpY!:

    aren't we a few decades late to ask if government can effectively cooperate/coopt/sponsor free enterprise? you know, like our free market approach to regulating the money supply (whoops, government monopoly). or maybe our free system for competing in export markets? (whoops, government routinely fixes deals for boeing). or maybe our free and fair labor markets? (whoops, government has left the gate open on the mexican border for some time, providing free no-rights labor)

    should i mention that the free market continues to project it costs on to taxpayers by ditching on underfunded pensions? or the health care costs that major employers like walmart turn back on the public?

    one could go on and on. does anyone really believe the US is a true market economy? i put those people into the same group as the "terrorists hate us because we are free" camp.

    what we have is the system that the business community has salivated over for decades - privatized profits, socialized costs.

  2. JohnDewey:

    "or the health care costs that major employers like walmart turn back on the public?"

    How is Walmart turning back health care costs on the public? Walmart does what tens of thousands of employers, large and small, are legally doing. Some offer health insurance as an option, others do not offer it at all. The problem is not Walmart. The problem is that the public picks up the cost of health care in the first place. If public health care were not available, uninsured Walmart workers might decide to take up Walmart on the health plan it offers. Or they might decide to take a chance on their continued health. Or they might find another employer.