Today’s Guest Saturday post comes to us from Pat Slattery of The Free Market Project blog. Pat originally published his essay on January 17, 2014.
Is there a life lesson in this?
As I’m working on my prototype, something keeps coming up that seems to be a life lesson.
When I’m building something, using Plan A, I will run into a stumbling block. I go to Plan B, which is generally created on the fly, using lessons learned from Plan A, but sometimes the only lesson is, “Well THAT didn’t f-ing work!” Plan B is generally simpler than Plan A. Most importantly, Plan B usually works.
I am one guy, experimenting with how to build something that is effective and efficient. I can look at what I’ve done, or sometimes catch myself in the middle of doing it, and have a realization, shift my plan, and get the job done.
What happens when Plan A is decided by someone in a huge organization (the Federal Government, for example), and literally billions of (taxpayer) dollars are spent implementing it, and hundreds or even thousands of people are employed to implement it, and reputations are on the line? If it doesn’t work, or is clearly not working, who in that scenario is even capable of saying, “Crap! We need to scrap Plan A and shift to (or create) Plan B.” It seems far more likely to me that what the big organization would do is to double down on Plan A. Add more stuff, not simplify. Make that round peg fit in that square hole. This is true even if the “square hole” happens to be people who you are going to have to endeavor to change whether they want to or not.
The entire scope of the project would change. Instead of merely trying to solve Problem A with Plan A, now more resources would be devoted to somehow trying to make Problem A and Plan A align in some way, or in convincing people either that Plan A really does work or that Problem A is not what they thought it was, it’s really something that Plan A actually does solve. For example, the federal government’s meddling in education with top down oversight and money. Problem A was trying to improve the education of K-12 students. Plan A was Federal involvement in curriculum and funding. Problem A was demonstrably NOT solved by Plan A, but billions of dollars and thousands of people were involved in trying to solve the problem that way, so the bureaucracy and politicians had to convince people that the real problem is not enough of Plan A. We need more Federal oversight and (ALWAYS) more money thrown at the problem. The option of a Plan B (like simplifying by closing the Department of Education, putting control back at the state and local levels, and letting people close to the problem figure out how to solve it) is off the table. Too many people are involved and too much money has been spent. We HAVE to solve Problem A with Plan A, which can be tweaked, but never abandoned.
Is Obamacare any different? Is the EPA any different?
People wonder why conservatives/libertarians are always preaching about Federalism. The smaller the operating unit is, the easier it is to shift from Plan A to Plan B. I’m one guy working on a prototype and I can make the decision instantly. A skunk works in a company working on a new product has to have a meeting, but they can make a change quickly. Big companies that have become bureaucratic are far slower to change, which is why they need to become cronies of government in order to have a partner that can fend off the smaller, more agile competition. Government works in roughly the same way. A municipality is more agile than the state, the state is more agile than the Federal government, and the Federal government has no agility at all.
How many big government Plan A’s are there that need to be scrapped in favor of Plan B? How much money could be saved by doing so?