Coase Colored Glasses


Archive for April 19th, 2011


The Bureaucracy–the worst of both worlds or a cumbersome yet neccesary institution?

As other posts have clearly stated, our country effectively has a de facto fourth branch of government that is the vast bureaucracy. As many of you know, the Federal government today is bigger percentage wise than it has ever been. So what incentives and outcomes does this create? Is the bureaucracy a neccesary evil so to speak or is it really just a pointless mess of red tape citizens must go through for licensces, regulations, benifits, and governmental services?

One quote in particular stirred these questions, “Bureaucrats do not face direct electoral constraints, and unlike firms, they do not face external market pressures.”

Is this a solution to our so called flip-flopping, corrupt politicians (much of which I attribute to the median-voter therom–an interesting economic explanation of the problems with primary elections in a two-party system) who are often “too close to the people” (as opposed to not enough as uninformed voters may claim) or simply proof of ineffiecient government.

To answer the first, a slightly insulated fourth branch seems more desirable than a complex system of agencies that can instantly be dissolved every switching election. But as Stearns and Zywicki allude, can a market make the system better?

Government employees ranging from truly poor school teachers to oblivious DMV workers are virtually immune from termination without an agrigeous offense. Could we contract the agencies out for cheaper and more effiecient results such as the department of defense already employs for cheap (relatively) military bids, etc. Or should we adopt a truely minalmalist approach where the market completely takes over? Unfortuneatly these options are more about preference than anything else, hence the reason they will probably not change.

On a bright side for our entire governmental system is that as a whole it is viewed in contempt on all sides, alluding to fairness (as a soccer referee you learn you can never please everyone, same concept applies here). It seems that we, the aggregate people, complain when our politicians act according to our whimsical desires yet also whine when our bureaucracy is “too” insulated. Albeit these could be individuals on both sides of the ideological spectrum, regardless, the grass is always greener on the other side, even when we experience both perhaps!