Bill Murchison

This just in: "Bureaucrats Slower, Less Efficient Than Capitalists."

Hard to digest, I know. Yet consider the front-page account in the Wall Street Journal of the recovery process after Hurricane Katrina wiped out two bridges connecting the Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.

"Sixteen months later," notes the Journal's Christopher Cooper, "the automobile bridge remains little more than pilings. The railroad bridge is busy with trains. The difference: The still-wrecked bridge is owned by the U.S. government. The other is owned by railroad giant CSX Corp. of Jacksonville, Fla. Within weeks of Katrina's landfall, CSX dispatched construction crews to fix the freight line; six months later, the bridge reopened. Even a partial reopening of the road bridge, part of U.S. Highway 90, is at least five months away."

The Journal story goes on: delays, delays, delays, all across the region; growing frustration among citizens; "spools of red tape spawned by a bevy of old and new government procedures." I might argue, picayunishly, that fish and suchlike get "spawned," whereas tape spools get manufactured. The point would remain: Government efficiency is a contradiction. It wasn't private enterprise that gave us the invaluable acronym SNAFU: "Situation Normal -- All Fouled Up."

The reason is, private enterprise ponders, decides, acts. Government ponders, asks for studies, distributes forms for filling out, ponders, holds hearings, ponders, hands out new forms, ponders...

It is the way of things, like cracked ground in a drought, like spaghetti sauce on white shirts. We should be used to it by now. Yet with each election cycle come the repeated avowals of government's unparalleled efficiency in solving all our problems.

We are inevitably in such a cycle now. The government -- by which I mean the establishment that comprises both political parties -- has plans to give everyone generous health care, make energy ample and cheap (well, cheaper) and minister to a supposedly overheating environment. All while doing everything else we could want, such as promoting good education. I think the indicated response is: Oh, yeah? Democratic government is probably a good thing, under the aspect of eternity, but the less we see of it, and the more we see of private initiative and creativity, the better we're likely to appreciate the results.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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