BUREAUCRATS KNOW BEST
UPI’s James Bennett opines,
We perennially decry the stupidity of bureaucrats, and ponder how citizens and their representatives can hope to impose some control on the bureaucracy. However, this past week we have seen the opposite problem present itself: how can we protect smart bureaucrats from stupid politicians? The cancellation of the idea-futures program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a project that promised a substantial improvement in our ability to forecast events in the Middle East, was, simply put, a victory for Osama bin Laden.
More frightening than the demise of the program, however, was the manner of its demise. Not only have we been deprived of the information the program would have given us, but we have sent a powerful message to those on the front lines of defense against terror. That message is “Don’t think. Don’t Innovate. Don’t take risks.” It’s not as if these characteristics have been so predominant in the civil service that we can afford to suppress them gratuitously.
This is an interesting and longstanding debate in US politics: Do we trust the “experts” in the bureaucracy or the vox populi in the form of elected politicians? We’ve had a perennial war between State Department bureaucrats and presidents for decades. Ditto the conflict between military bureaucrats and reformers in the Congress, White House, or even DOD secretariat.
The remainder of Bennett’s essay is also worth reading, as it traces the origins of bureaucratic intransigence and inertia.
(Hat tip: Kathy Kinsley)