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The Government ‘Oops’ Factor

It seems to me that much of what drives activism these days is a fear of government. People seem inordinately afraid of what the governments they elect are doing or may do in the not too distant future.

I can understand people being concerned about incompetence, stupidity, malfeasance and bad policy but I’m not talking about those kinds of fears. I’m talking about the irrational fear that democratically elected governments are attempting to enslave us.

548179_358888637543099_2105589013_nMany behind the ‘right to bear arms’ debate post messages and articles about the need for the populace to be armed to protect themselves from government as if, at any moment, the government is about to invade their home or their community. They post a quote by Adolf Hitler who once said that the first step to controlling the people was to disarm them.

Others go apoplectic at the mere thought of any kind of regulation on the Internet, furiously tweeting and posting messages about the infringement of democracy and freedom – as if the Internet was democratic. The Internet is a world of technology and social media monarchies that provide us with the opportunity for mindless entertainment even as they sell all the information they can glean about us to others.

pole in driveway

It’s not my fault they put a driveway where I was told to put the pole”

They don’t own the web but they make the rules by which we must abide. We are forced to sign user agreements and obey the rules they impose and which we had no voice in approving. If we contravene the rules we quickly find ourselves thrown out of their kingdoms; our Facebook or Twitter account shut down. We are, in other words, living in a world of virtual baronies that have nothing democratic about them.

But we continue to indulge the illusion even as we become increasingly hysterical about the threats from our governments.

I’m not sure I understand where this paranoia comes from, especially when I look at government today. While there are some highly competent and professional politicians and individuals in the bureaucracy, collectively most democratic governments, especially their bureaucracies, couldn’t organize a rock fight in a gravel quarry.

The incompetence is staggering at times.

Last week, for example, Human Resources Development Canada managed to lose the data records for a half a million student loans. This included the outstanding borrowing amount plus all of the personal information of each borrower.

The information was contained on a portable hard drive which apparently nobody can find.

How is that possible? How is it even conceivable that a bureaucracy could be that careless with anything let alone data that important? You might well ask but you won’t get an intelligent answer. What you will get are excuses and a reassurance that steps have been taken to insure it won’t happen again, including the ‘possibility’ of termination of employment for those responsible.

How about termination of employment for those responsible this time? Does there actually have to be a policy in place to make people understand that losing the data is an unacceptable level of job performance and there are consequences for not being more careful?

Apparently in government there does.

A few years back a sitting cabinet minister left classified and top secret documents in a briefcase at this girlfriend’s place; a girlfriend who had been known to have had ties to biker gangs including the Hells Angels. Shortly after that, a CSIS (Canada’s spy agency) agent lost a briefcase with sensitive data in it. He left it in a taxi.

Sometimes the careless level of incompetence is so staggering it takes my breath away.

“When we’re scheduled to clear snow – we clear snow whether there is snow or not!”

Too often democratically elected governments act more like gangs that can’t shoot straight than efficient marauders of liberty. People should probably be more afraid of the threat to their privacy from Facebook and Twitter.

Billions are squandered every year on inefficient program delivery and outright stupidity.

not my job

“I don’t get paid to move branches. I get paid to paint roads – not to think.”

I once watched the city in which I live rip up and widen a two lane road to four lanes. It took seven months and when it was completed, repaved and reopened to traffic, they came back two weeks later to rip it all up to install a natural gas pipeline to feed houses in the neighbourhood. It apparently never occurred to the crack planning department at City Hall that the pipes should have been installed while the road was ripped up the first time.

Government is less to be feared for the threat some think it poses to liberty than for what I think of as The Government “Oops” Factor.

Government bureaucracies are so inefficient that they spend as much time saying “Oops” and trying to cover their butts for one mistake after another as they do for anything else.

To be sure, they impose all kinds of pointless regulation on us, especially at the municipal level where city councils seem to have far too much time on their hands; but most of that regulation is more annoyance than threat. Many governments, especially progressive governments, are very interested in protecting us from ourselves but that isn’t so much an infringement on personal liberty as it is a lack of respect for the fact that most (although not all) of us are actually thinking adults.

The simple reality is that the government is less to be feared than reformed.

We need to get serious about demanding a higher level of service – calm down progressives, that doesn’t mean you’re getting more entitlements – I’m talking about demanding accountability; real accountability where people are held responsible for their mistakes and their malfeasance.

That should apply to not only the bureaucracy and politicians but to everyone who is on the public payroll including teachers, first responders, works crews, professors, doctors, nurses and all the others who make a better than average income “serving” the public.

One of the great oxymorons of our time is “Service Canada”.

The idea that somehow, simply because it is government, a higher level of incompetence should be tolerated is an idea that is long past its shelf life. Government is a monopoly. The people cannot seek another provider for most of the program services that government provides. This places a higher degree of responsibility on government to operate in an efficient and professional manner – a responsibility too many of our governments do not even begin to meet.

While there has and will always be a certain insular attitude in government bureaucracy, the simple truth is that we train them by our acceptance of poor service and gross mismanagement of our common resources.

At the end of the day, I believe there needs to be a change in attitude by both government and by us. We need to stop accepting levels poor service and inefficient program delivery.

Government needs to stop looking on the people as merely a means to get elected or an endless source of tax revenue and start understanding that they are actually accountable to the people. Politicians were not elected nor were bureaucrats hired to rule us but rather, to govern on our behalf.

They were hired and elected at very attractive remuneration to serve us. If they can’t serve us better than this, it may well be time to hire and elect some who can.

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© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • http://www.ansenscm.com ARM Cortex Development Board

    I’m having a tiny issue I cant seem to be able to subscribe your rss feed, I’m using google reader fyi.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      I’ll look into it.

  • Sebastian Anders

    Thank you for that. That was a refresher course on stuff I either discussed or wrote about in the past, and right on the money.

    But as I pointed out in some other commentary, one of the biggest difficulty newly elected MPs, MPPs and municipal councillors have, either as individuals or as a new government after years in the wilderness, is overcoming the entrenched bureaucracy who, not only think they actually run the show, but, because they know every closet and every skeleton, although contrary to their sworn duties, sincerely believe that elected officials have no business telling them what to do.

    That is why the first term of any new government, especially if it is one that is ideologically and politically of a different colour as the majority of the members of the bureaucracy who probably owe their jobs and certainly their loyalty to the previous government, is extremely difficult and not very productive.

    In spite of that, it is very surprising to a lot of people that the present government was able to accomplish as much as it did, even while a minority government, all the while sorting out some of the problems within that entrenched bureaucracy, at least at the top, by shifting them around to far distant posts, if not out the door. And now, with a majority, they are sorting through the lower echelons of the public service, not only to save the taxpayers billions, but also to break that entrenchment and complacency, which results in so much incompetence or “don’t give a damn-itis”.

    To me, it shows the tremendous strength and determination of this Prime Minister and his Government in achieving what they promised to do. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. And they may not succeed 100%, but if they achieve only half of their goal, they will, hopefully, have changed this country enough to bring it back from the brink of the abyss where we stood when the Liberals were finally defeated, and where they and other “progressives” will remain for a very long time to come. My only fear is for the corrupt elements of politics and aspiring politicians who are waiting out there for their opportunity to come on board the winning train so as to subvert the government from within.

    This may not be exactly along the line of what you wrote about here above, but it may serve as an explanation as to the source of the “oops” factor, at least from my perspective.

    But I do have an unrelated question: Why is it that, according the the posting time that comes up with each post, there is a time discrepancy. You are, it appears, five hours ahead of me. You are already tomorrow the 15 while I am still today the 14, five hours behind you?

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      You raise good points to which I would add a couple more. I believe that most politicians first enter politics with good intentions but rose-coloured glasses. While they represent their constituents, they are ruled by their party and often find themselves in positions of conflict with their own beliefs. The purpose of the elected government is to legislate. The purpose of the opposition is to try and improve that legislation before it is passed or block it if they believe it is wrong. The purpose of the bureaucracy is to implement legislation.

      In the old days, when the Deputy Ministers were Mandarins who led the same departments for many years, there was a sense of the bureaucracy having more control but those days are gone in Canada. Deputy Ministers now move more often than some cabinet ministers and that is part of the problem Each tries to put his or her stamp on their new portfolio and often are moved before it is completed and a new deputy arrives to start the process all over again. This tends to leave many departments in a constant state of transition which is very disruptive to the smooth order of things.

      There has also been a power shift over the past three or four decades and the bureaucracy now ‘snaps to” when the government snaps its fingers, whether they want to or not. In fact, part of the bigger problem is that the bureaucracy at all levels has become quite politicized.

      None of this is an excuse for the high-level of incompetence that is common with all bureaucracies and it often amazes me that they get anything done at all.

      I agree with you about Stephen Harper. I think he is an excellent prime minister.

  • Alex

    Oops tyranny. You are right and wrong on this one. Oops is always something to be worried about AND it can lead to tyranny. Don’t say it’s irrational. It has happened over and over. It happened recently. Look at Iran, Syria etc…

    Well meaning people and governments can get wrapped up in terrible things without ever setting out to do so. It’s almost the rule.

    I won’t pester you with history. I’ll just say that credulity is a prerequisite for some very awful oopsies. We are as Human as the rest of our predecessors. As the examples of the great follies of history fade so does our wariness of repeating them.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      I’m afraid neither history nor the facts are on your side on this one but any time you would like to debate history, I’m ready.

      • Alex

        This is your space. I’m not here to argue. I’m here to learn.

        So I’d like to know where Tyranny comes from in your opinion? What makes us so special that we are invulnerable to it?

        • http://abearsrant.com thebear

          I don’t consider debate to be arguing. It is a long-honoured form of learning and I always welcome respectful and civil debate. I’ve learned a lot from being debated and even had my own opinions changed more than once because of what I learned so feel free to express counter opinion to mine.

          I don’t know if any of us truly understand or even know exactly what creates a tyrant generally speaking or what separates them from someone else in a similar position who does not become a tyrant. Consider the difference between a Gandhi, for example, and the Ayotolla Khomeni. Both were responsible for the overthrow of oppressive regimes, both had an immense following and popular support but one became a tyrant and one didn’t.

          I think each is a product of his own life-experience and his ability to deal with it. More than one scholar has asked what would have happened if Hitler had been accepted to art school and become a successful artist rather than being rejected.

          Some tyrants inherit their power from their father as is the case in North Korea which is on it’s third generation dictator from the same family.

          One thing is clear. Oppressive regimes share some common characteristics. They devote considerable resources and time to trying to control their own people, often through fear and in a brutal manner. Many try to compare regulations and laws being put forward by Congress, the President of various Parliament in democracies around the world as evidence of this happening but this is coming from people who have never experienced true tyranny.

          I have friends who lived in the former Soviet Union who can’t believe we are so paranoid about our own governments compared to what they experienced.

          One thing is clear. Tyranny can only exist for as long as it has enough power to suppress the people and it can only have that power as long as the majority of people bestow it on the tyrant. Once the majority has had enough, the regime’s days are numbered as we are seeing today in Syria. We saw during the French and American Revolutions, the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Iran (the first time), Iraq, Uganda, South Africa, Cuba and across the Middle East and in North Africa with Arab Spring.

          Unfortunately, sometimes a people throw off one tyrant only to embrace another form of tyranny as we see in Iran, Egypt, Cuba, Nicaragua and other countries.

          I understand the frustration many have with Barrack Obama because I share many of their concerns. I find him glib, arrogant and very self-centred. I think his policies are bad for the economy, decidedly unfair to various sectors of the country and poorly thought out. I do not think he is a tyrant nor do many other Americans. They thought George W. Bush was a tyrant and in the end, it demonstrates how quickly we paint those with whom we disagree in the most extreme light.

          In Canada, the left absolutely hates Prime Minister Stephen Harber, calling him a fascist and all kinds of other things. The right, hates the leaders on the left with the same passion. None of them are tyrants, they’re just politicians of varying ability with whom a good chunk of us either agree or disagree. It is one thing to speak out against their approach to the issues. It is something else altogether to fear them as if they were the second coming of Vlad The Impaler.

          The simple reality is that you and I could not have this conversation out in the open as we are now in a tyrannical regime. Nobody in North Korea, for example, would dare. It is why, even though I am highly critical of government, I am not afraid of it.You can’t publicly (or otherwise) criticize a tyranny without serious repercussions…sometimes your very life.

  • Pingback: A Bears Rant | Grumpy Opinions()

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      As you know, I don’t have an issue with responsible gun ownership, I just find some of the hysteria around government these days to be off he charts. It isn’t just in your country, it’s everywhere. As soon any government considers introducing legislation to put some order and regulation on the Internet people go nuts as if government is moving to put everyone in concentration camps. It isn’t the individual issues so much as the irrational response to those issues. People are afraid of the very people they have elected and can replace. It is an unrealistic fear that only interferes with reforming government.

      We have the same irrational response up here only in reverse. The left absolutely hates our Prime Minister. They’ve accused him of wanting to put troops in the streets, having a hidden agenda (which has never reared its head in six years), of being ant-environment even though he passed the Environmental Protection Act and basically being willing to serve as 2nd In Command to Attila The Hun.

      It’s all irrational and unnecessary.

  • http://grumpyelder.com/ Grumpy

    We’ve found ourselves in a strange situation Bear.. First let me remind you our history is just enough different than yours that we tend to see things similarly but a little differently–

    American politicians from the time of our founding until Washington started to ignore our Constitution (sometime in the 1960’s) have always said the Second Amendment was created to act as a check on Government- Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphrey put it this way–

    Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. … the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, and one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”

    It was only after after or politicians started ignoring our Constitution that they became concerned about law abiding citizens being armed– In fact none of the anti gun crowd will mention the 440 school kids in Chicago by gang banger’s with illegal weapons. The press won’t even mention that virtually all of the so called mass murderers have been on Doctor prescribed anti depressants. They are only interested in disarming ordinary citizens..

    Add to that, this is the first time in our we’ve had a President who before becoming President sought council from a group of notorious (maybe former) Communist Terrorist Bombers. One, Mike Klonsky, he helped finance while he sat on then boards of the various foundations in Chicago. Klonsky was his Education Blogger briefly during his 2008 campaign. One- One of the others, Bill Ayers likes to visit Venezuela and brag to Hugo Chavez, on a public stage, about he’s corrupting the American Education system to further the Revolution.. Back in the days when they were blowing up buildings and killing cops that merry bunch felt it would be necessary to exterminate 25,000,000 Americans to achieve their Utopia–

    Obama’s first fundraiser was in Ayers living room. World Net Daily just claimed to have proof he’s writing much of Obama’s Education policy.. WND isn’t the best source. But I’ve looked at it myself, talked to my education Bloggers and 2 of my 3 education Bloggers as well as myself had come to the same conclusion weeks ago- but I can’t publish a gut feeling.

    People are scared of this President

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