November 06, 2004

Figuring Costs

Russ Nelson provides a general case for the Bush administration's big government conservatism in an essay ostensibly on building codes. Well, at least half a case. I've made the argument in the past that what Bush is doing is sacrificing to advance the runner, providing extra money to useless programs in order to gain systems that measure the currently unmeasurable costs of government programs and common sense requirements that we use the best alternatives, closing down inferior ones.

The small government movement, both libertarian and conservative, is a complete failure when it comes to direct assaults on illegitimate state activity. We still have huge structures, entire cabinet departments that have been targeted for elimination for decades and all efforts to remove them have failed despite holding the entire government in our hand for the last three years and holding significant control over the government for many years prior in that 3 decade period.

What President Bush has figured out is a winner is to build on the basic cultural consensus that we shouldn't waste money, that measuring results is a reasonable goal, and changed the terms of the debate so that he'll give up everything now to measure results from here on in. Once the results are measured, all the extra spending will be scrutinized and that which is wasteful will be eliminated.

The article of faith among small government types that the vast majority of government spending is wasteful and could be done better via the free market will get a workout. If the article of faith is true, we will, step by step, gain all that we wish in terms of government reduction as measurement proves our point. If we're wrong, well, it's definitely time to regroup and come up with something better.

With all the sniggering about a "reality based community" among the left, the Bush administration's reality based government program evaluation is the most radical extension of judging on empirical facts, not ideological faith in many a decade. You'd think that he'd get more credit for it in the "reality based community". Surprise, surprise, he isn't.

Posted by TMLutas at November 6, 2004 09:08 AM