Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Cult Of Efficiency

The Harper government tells us that its recent budget is all about making government more efficient. It's an argument the world has heard before. In the 1930's, Dan Gardiner writes:

Liberal democracies withered while authoritarianism blossomed. And many leading thinkers became convinced that open societies simply couldn't compete.

Open societies have free markets, which means duplication of efforts, failed experiments, and wasted resources. That's inefficient. And democratic governments encourage debate, which means squabbling, delay, and private interests blocking necessary changes. That's ineffective.

Authoritarianism replaced all that with centralization of decision-making, rigid hierarchies, and planning. That meant efficiency. And, when change was necessary, it would be done, swiftly and without complaint. The trains would run on time.

Except their were drawbacks. The Germans, the Italians and the Russians stand as witnesses to those drawbacks. Fortunately, democracy -- sloppy and inefficient as it was -- prevailed:
In 1948, Luther Gulick, a highranking official in the Roosevelt administration, wrote a book to explain why. The answer, he decided, was that the supposed strengths of authoritarianism were actually weaknesses and the weaknesses of open societies were strengths.

In authoritarianism, plans "are hatched in secret by partially informed men," Gulick noted. Such plans may contain weaknesses, but those in charge won't know because they're not subjected to broad criticism. "Even the leaders tend to believe their own propaganda; they live in cocoons. All of the stream of authority and information is from the top down."

But in an open society, "the public and the press have no hesitation in observing and criticizing the first evidence of failure once a program has been put into operation." As a result, information is far more widely shared and this ultimately makes actions better informed and more effective.

Which brings us to the F35 debacle. The Harper government refused to supply detailed cost estimates for the project. The numbers it floated, we now know, were patently false. Parliament has been prorogued twice. Parliamentary committees meet in camera. And environmental hearings will be curtailed, we are told, because they are inefficient.

The Auditor General has just provided us with evidence of how spectacularly inefficient the Harper government is. To make matters worse, Gardiner writes, there are more boondoggles to come.


Lorne said...

An excellent and timely post, Owen. So much for the mythology of efficiency the extreme right-wing claims.

Anonymous said...

Three comments:

(a) I was quite astounded some time ago when I went through the popular list of the fourteen characteristics of fascism, as defined here:

I was able to check off most of the 14 characteristics as already existent, or in the process of happening, since 2006 especially under the Harper government,

(b) I have always been under the impression that many Conservatives really do not want a democratic government. I believe part of this is because they had grown up in an authoritative household, probably with a strong father figure. They could rebel but then seem to carry it with them for the rest of their lives ... which could explain this: :>)

(c) As to Gardner predicting more boondoogles to come, this is also in today's Ottawa Citizen:

Is it a coincidence that the Harper government seems to be drastically reducing the number of auditors in the Dept. of Public Works? I suspect they are cutting the auditors in DND as well.

Guess bureaucrats have belatedly realized that playing along with the games of this government does not guarantee that they will not be thrown under the bus.

Hopefully, this will encourage more bureaucrats to speak up. Which of course leads us back to the point about fascism in our homeland. Hopefully, we are beginning to see the seeds of awakening in a citizenry that has been asleep and that has taken our hard won democratic rights for granted.

Owen Gray said...

Sometimes, Lorne, I think we're reliving the '30s. We're repeating the same economic policies and electing -- at least in Canada -- the same kind of leaders.

Something tells me that Stephen Harper has never read Barbara Tuchman's book, The March of Folly.

Owen Gray said...

As was the case with Statistics Canada, Anon, I suspect that the first people on the hit lists are the record keepers.

Corporatists would prefer no records at all to patently false ones.

Life becomes easier if the Auditor General or the Parliamentary Budget Officer have no data to work with.

thwap said...

Bertrand Russell said much the same thing.

It's why we push for more democracy. Conservatives like to mouth the word "democracy" but by their actions they show they have no idea what they're talking about.

(When I say "by their actions" I believe that my meaning should be clear to anyone who isn't a partisan hack with his stupid head up his stupid ass.)

Owen Gray said...

You're last sentence goes directly to the point, thwap. Democracy is the antidote to fascism.

But democracy won't work when citizens choose stupidity over the facts.

meadowlark said...

Harper is a Neo-Nazi Reformer, from his Northern Foundation Party of 1989. They said, the skinheads assisted to organize Harper's shady party.

I posted this a few years back. I was told I would be banned from a certain web site, for using the word Nazi, even if the word fits Harper, to a T.

Another Common Wealth country's media said, how badly Harper is destroying, Democracy in Canada. Our Civil Rights and Liberties have been taken away from us too.

But, God forbid, don't call Harper what he really is. Dictators always need the criminal element, to do their dirty work for them. Harper had a many times convicted criminal working for him, Bruce Carson. Ex BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, has the dirtiest, most corrupt and foul, political record in Canadian history. Harper rewarded him, the High Commissioner to England, for doing his dirty work for him. Campbell also twice lied, to be re-elected for two different elections.

There are records posted that say, Harper and his Conservatives, are responsible for the election fraud and the robo-calls. Well over half of Canadians did not want Harper as P.M...and he knew it, so he cheated. Harper also campaigned over a Calgary radio station, right on election day. That too is election fraud.

Democracy is very much under threat, from Harper. It's very difficult for the citizens these days. You have politicians who blatantly lie, thieve, are corrupt and certainly don't mind, cheating to win.

Harper and Gordon Campbell, are every bit as hateful as, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini.

Owen Gray said...

Perhaps Harper's past is beginning to catch up with him, Meadowlark.

At least, I'd like to think so.

ChrisJ said...

The right-wing media yip and yap about the expense and inefficiency of the CBC, but the F35 debacle is not newsworthy in their opinion ( "just move along folks; nothing to see here.")

With the failures of education, many don't even know really just what facism is - read some of the comments in the media and you'll see what I mean. Obama, for instance, is accused of being a socialist, communist, fascist, which if true must pretty much cause mental illness from total confusion!

Owen Gray said...

You've just retired, Chis. It's been seven years since I left the classroom. So you would be closer to things than I am.

But my impression is that a lot has changed. When Twitter is your channel of communication, you're unable to handle a lot of ideas. You can't get fascism into 140 characters.