The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


On many occasions, I have expressed concern about the size and scope of the Federal government—a self-perpetuating labyrinth of bureaucracies that cancer-like, grows without bound, regardless of the party in power.

As one example, The Washington Post has published an excellent series on the size and scope of the nation’s 1,200 government intelligence agencies and 1,900 private intelligence contractors. In the eyes of Washington bureaucrats, simple and streamlined is never better. The problem, of course, is that the complexity they create is difficult to manage, difficult to adapt, and difficult to execute. But no matter, the 850,000 people with top secret clearance generate 50,000 plus reports. It’s as if paper or pdf were their primary objective.

Over the past 18 months, the Obama administration (a strong proponent of big government solutions) is trying to do to medical care and financial regulation what previous administrations have done to intelligence—make it bigger, more complex, less adaptable, and sadly, not demonstrably more effective. David Brooks reports:
In the second part of the period [2000 – 2010], Democrats were in control. They augmented the national security bureaucracy but spent the bulk of their energies expanding bureaucracies in domestic spheres.

First, they passed a health care law. This law created 183 new agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies, according to an analysis by Robert E. Moffit of the Heritage Foundation. These include things like the Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Program, an Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and a Cures Acceleration Network Review Board.

The purpose of the new apparatus was simple: to give government experts the power to analyze and rationalize the nation’s health care system. A team of experts on the newly created Independent Medicare Advisory Council was ordered to review and streamline Medicare. A team of experts within the Office of Personnel Management was directed to help set standards for insurance companies in the health care exchanges. Teams of experts serving on comparative effectiveness boards were told to survey data and determine which medical treatments work best and most efficiently.

Democrats also passed a financial reform law. The law that originally created the Federal Reserve was a mere 31 pages. The Sarbanes-Oxley banking reform act, passed in 2002, was only 66 pages. But the 2010 financial reform law was 2,319 pages, an intricately engineered technocratic apparatus. As Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute noted, the financial reform law is seven times longer than the last five pieces of banking legislation combined.

Many of us who are not members of the political class sense that government growth is out of control, that laws are too complex, the regulation is overbearing, that spending to support all of this is obscene. Worse, we sense that none of it truly solves the problems we face. In fact, much of it might make those problems worse.

In the sciences, there’s a term called “entropy.” To oversimplify, it’s a measure of the disorder or uncertainty of a system. In nature, orderly systems slowly trend toward disorder as they evolve.

Governmental entropy is what we’ve experienced in the first decade of the 21st century. Disorder or uncertainty increase, and to grapple with it, the political class makes things worse by increasing complexity and as a consequence, increasing disorder or uncertainty. It’s an unstable feedback loop that can lead to ruin.

It’s time for our leaders to recognize that simplicity is elegance, that sometimes less is more, that the majority of people in the United States do not need, nor do they want government involvement in every aspect of their lives.

But then again, there’s entropy. We’re in trouble.