David Foster, in the comments to my previous post, links to this article. Actually, one of the factors that got me to thinking about the problem of bureaucratic failure about 10 years ago was an article in some British medical journal, probably either the Lancet or BMJ (I can’t remember which and if anyone knows this article, I’d appreciate the cite), talking about how measuring specific performance factors in the British Hospital system made things less safe because anything that was not on the government performance evaluation was not given any thought or resources, and the government had missed some pretty big and life-threatening issues. If it jogs anyone’s memory, I believe that the author was an Indian practicing in Britain.
As a small “l” libertarian, I tend to take the same approach to civil society and business regulations that I take to parenting. Laugh if you wish, but I came across an expression of this philosophy when I was 7 or 8 in a children’s book, The Great Ringtail Garbage Caper. It’s a book about a bunch of raccoons who take matters into their own hands and “borrow” a garbage truck to make their own rounds when two new garbage men start cleaning up too efficiently. Pretty libertarian book, now that I come to think of it. It resonated, and I even thirty years later I still recite the line verbatim:
“Make as few rules as possible, but don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”