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  • Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on September 16th, 2005 (All posts by )

    The Department of Homeland Security appeals to those of the Intelligent Design faith. It was created under the theory that the reason that government failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks was that it was not centralized enough. What we needed was a larger organization, with more missions and less ability to focus. As a hard-core Intelligent Design believer, [economist Brad] DeLong believes that DHS could be effective with the right administrators. To skeptics (including many of its employees), DHS is a clusterf*** no matter whom you put in charge.

    Arnold Kling

    UPDATE: In the comments, Lex presents another good quote from Kling. I think it’s worthwhile to read the entire essay. Kling is consistently insightful about economics and the nexus between economic and political issues, and he writes engagingly.

     

    11 Responses to “Quote of the Day”

    1. Kevin F Says:

      It is a typical nanny state response. Moynihan long ago pointed out the culture of learned helplessness fostered by the welfare sate. The anger from NOLA critics firmly believe that The State Will Do It is the answer to every human problem. It is axiomatic to them, and requires no defense because it is simply true, like gravity.

    2. ed in texas Says:

      We know what Reagan died of now, don’t we? The bureacrats that he patronised slowly smothered him. (Paperwork all in order, too.) [BTW-IRONY]

    3. Stevely Says:

      I’m sorry, but I must be unusually dense today. I completely miss the analogy; what does Intelligent Design (capitalized, so must be refering to the theory that life can only have evolved according to the design of an intelligent Creator) have to do with Statism?

    4. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I’m not sure what the answer to the DHS bureaurocracy problem is, or even if the answer is knowable.

      For example, one of the key findings of the 9/11 Commission was that our intel assetts were not merely disconnected, but were actively hostile to sharing information and jurisdiction with each other. So in that case, decentralization was a problem not a feature. On the other hand, when you create a massive government agency, the degree of bureaurocracy and levels of management needed just to try to keep organized must be truly astounding.

      This is a situation where there seems to be no good choices. Just choices that are less bad than others.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Stevely,

      It may be worth reading all of Kling’s column to see the point of his comparison. Essentially, he is arguing that statists’ faith in the emergent decisionmaking ability of large institutions is both unsupported by experience and analogous to the faith of Intelligent Design advocates. But Kling says it better than I can, so read his column.

    6. ArtD0dger Says:

      I would say that the analogy between Intelligent Design and statism is very compelling, and more than superficial. At least it is when Ďstatismí is interpreted to mean central planning in a top-down hierarchical / bureaucratic organization, as Iím sure Kling does here. The first posits that biological complexity can only be explained by an irreducibly complex designer which is the source for all design complexity in the system; the second that complex social action can only be effected by an irreducibly complex executive which is the font of all directed action in the system.

      That the adherents of the two doctrines tend to have opposing political views is amusing, and allows Kling to tweak DeLong to great effect. But the analogy is hardly new. Here are a couple of related items Iíve read just recently.

    7. Lex Says:

      I liked this Kling quote even better:

      Large organizations, in the private sector and the public sector alike, are inherently dehumanizing to employees, clumsy, inflexible, and unable to handle sudden new challenges. In addition, public sector organizations are hampered by political constraints and the stultification that comes from the absence of competition. In the private sector, the pressure of competition means that the surviving large organizations tend to be slightly less dysfunctional than those that go out of business.

      “Slightly less dsyfunctional” is exactly right, and that margin makes all the difference in the world.

    8. David Foster Says:

      “Large organizations, in the private sector and the public sector alike, are inherently dehumanizing to employees, clumsy, inflexible, and unable to handle sudden new challenges.” In my view, the structure and culture of the organization matter more than the size. I have seen highly entrepreneurial behavior in a very large corporation, and I have seen unbelievable bureaucracy in fairly small companies.

    9. Jonathan Says:

      That’s a good point.

    10. Lex Says:

      Point conceded, but size cuts against “highly entrepreneurial behavior” unless you can cabin off some area or department where it can thrive. It takes a strong culture and very sound organization to go against this tendency. It happens, but its rare.

    11. mariana Says:

      “For example, one of the key findings of the 9/11 Commission was that our intel assetts were not merely disconnected, but were actively hostile to sharing information and jurisdiction with each other.”

      Maybe we should just make them one giant organization.