Government wastes money. Some of that is unavoidable. A degree of wastage is implicit in every human endeavor. Efficiency is essential, but it cannot become an obsession in any human enterprise whose goal is the betterment of society.
So much to the chagrin of businesspeople like me, you cannot run a government like a business.
That does not mean, however, that you cannot or should not hold individuals and institutions to account. Every dollar spent in the public interest needs to be assessed as to its benefit and its opportunity cost.
Fiscally conservative is a code word in the popular American mind for cautious spending on social programs and regulatory enforcement, but utter profligacy with tax cuts and a silent enablement of shockingly bad defense procurement spending.
True fiscal conservatism is program- neutral. It insists in a dollar or more of revenue for every dollar spent.
My problem with Libertarians is that greater liberty is not the answer to every political and social conundrum. A careful reading of our history suggests that the consensual surrender of some human freedoms builds a bulwark against chaos.
There is, naturally, a fine line. But a dogmatic devotion to as much liberty as possible is as dangerous as a dogmatic devotion to security, to stability, and to the pursuit of happiness.
The worst part of the neo-conservative/Tea Party/Fox News axis is the tar it casts upon those of us who think of ourselves as thinking conservatives. What this crowd is spouting is not what it means to be a conservative or even a Republican in 21st Century America.
It is time we recognized that there is a growing reactionary axis in American politics that is every bit as extreme and odious as their cohorts on the Left side of the dial, and adjust our collective mental spectra accordingly. And for those of you who feel the same, how about we start staking out some intelligent ideological turf so as to distance ourselves from the reactionary right?
As a part of a rundown of expert opinions on the situation in Egypt, Tablet Magazine spoke to Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations. Gelb was asked a question about how well the U.S. Foreign Policy establishment was dealing with the crisis. His response:
“The naivete in the foreign policy community here is astonishing. For the moment, they’re intoxicated by democracy, at the total expense of U.S. security.”
The phrase “intoxicated by democracy” is superb. Clearly Gelb doesn’t think much of Tom Freidman’s belief in World Peace Through Local Elections.
The Northeastern Japan (Tohuku) Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, the Indian Ocean Tsunamis of 2004, the Sichuan Earthquake of 2008, and the Myanmar Cyclone in 2008 have collectively given Asia and the world a brutal crash course in what it takes to successfully respond to a major disaster.
What these disasters also prove is that we need to rethink our approach to disasters, focusing not just on the immediate needs but responding from the start with the ultimate end in mind. To that end, I’ve isolated what I see as six steps to disaster response.
Rescue: saving human life endangered by the disaster or its aftermath.
Recovery: Finding and removing the remains of those who perished in the disaster, and preserving physical assets damaged in the disaster or its aftermath, or threatened by its consequences.
Relief: Looking to the healing, health, feeding, and housing of survivors, and laying the groundwork for a return to normalcy.
Reconstruction: The re-creation of personal and community infrastructure to enable a return to normalcy.
Revival: The return to status quo ante, ensuring that all material losses are redressed and that people’s lives have returned to consistent rhythms.
Renaissance or Rejuvination: The effort to ensure that not only are things in affected communities “as good as before,” but that indeed the lives an prospects individuals and the communities are materially and spiritually improved through the process of reconstruction to a point even beyond where they might have been otherwise.
The key in this process is that each step is not seen as a discreet effort, but is both integrated with the previous and following steps, and is taken in a way that enables each of the following steps to be simpler and better.
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group.