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.
Many 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.
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.
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.
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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