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Because they keep proving it over and over again? (at least in certain problem domains they do.)

Government activities are generally important to a lot of people, if not because said people are direct consumers of the alleged benefits then because they paid for them. We keep paying and they keep ballsing it up, and everything we know about the theory of government (in an economic sense) tells us this is a design flaw and, ergo, not something that can be expected to self-resolve.

And it's not that they're totally inept all the time (although ineptitude is a recurring theme) - sometimes they do get good stuff done. The much harder question to answer in these cases is how efficient was it? How much tax money was shat away in admin/stupid compliance BS, and is all that wasteful pomp really a necessary price to pay for democracy? Could there be another way?

It's all very contentious, high-stakes stuff and if you disagree strongly enough with it all to wilfully not comply you'll soon find the whole system is propped up on various threats: they'll take your money, your home, your pride - they may even take you. And they'll do it all under a banner of moral righteousness that turns it into you vs. "society". How could that ever not be a talking point?

I talk about it most days in one way or another, and not because I'm some horrible right-wing fanatic who wants to wipe my ass with money and glee in the suffering of others, but because it's an incredibly fragile, wasteful system that perpetually sits on a knife edge and I suspect does just as much harm as good. It's misguided in so many ways and so, so hard to change that all I can do is moan about it and hope that my moans contribute in some way to getting the volume of the debate loud enough to think that something could change.

So, yeah, that's why I think it keeps coming up.




> And it's not that they're totally inept all the time (although ineptitude is a recurring theme) - sometimes they do get good stuff done. The much harder question to answer in these cases is how efficient was it? How much tax money was shat away in admin/stupid compliance BS, and is all that wasteful pomp really a necessary price to pay for democracy? Could there be another way?

I think this largely misses the mark, for several reasons.

1) The problem with government isn't ineptitude. At least the federal government is probably average to above-average in terms of competency. But what's the competency level of the IT folks in your average Big Corp where IT isn't a front office department? It's not very good. Take those not very good IT folks and then make them do projects 10x the size and complexity of what your typical Big Corp handles, in areas where the tolerance for error is nil (health care, benefits), and political concerns make things like iteration and building MVP's intractable.

2) It's easy to talk about "admin/compliance BS" because you don't have to point to any actual procedure that you might have to defend as being BS. It's not clear to me that the federal government has any more internal red tape than your typical Big Corp.

I spent a short time at the FCC, after working as an engineer in the wireless sector, and it was pretty eye-opening. On one hand, it was quite lean and efficient for what it is tasked with dealing with. At the top it's five commissioners, a few very experienced policy advisors, and a rotating staff of interns doing grunt work. On the other hand, the necessary complexity is staggering. For every decision, there are dozens of stakeholders. Things that were no-brainers from a purely engineering point of view became multi-facted problems combining social justice issues and economic issues.

I think engineers, software engineers in particular, confronted with complexity, seek to eliminate it. Something is hard? Do less. That's usually just not an option with government.


>Because they keep proving it over and over again?

The incredibly complex and expensive purchasing/hiring system that seems to fail every single time exists because we don't trust government employees to spend our money. Perhaps we shouldn't. But you cannot deny that the system designed to prevent improper spending is the cause of a hell of a lot of improper spending.

Government agencies are often legally bound to purchase from the lowest bidder even when they know the product will be "technically correct" but extremely low-quality. Because the regulations and processes are so complex, it is incredibly expensive and difficult to sell to the government, meaning the few companies that actually manage to do it have higher costs and less competition. Of course prices are high.

Sure, the system is necessary to stop incompetent/malicious actors from wasting money or throwing contracts to their cronies. But it also stops a lot of smart and diligent people from getting the resources they need to complete their projects.

If you want government agencies to be able to purchase high-quality goods and services at reasonable prices, then you're going to need to loosen the chains. And that probably means some fraud. And that probably means some agencies buying slightly nicer stuff than the absolute cheapest thing that would work on paper. But the overall effectiveness of government might end up higher, and its cost much lower, if you were to eliminate the "government services" industry and open it to the wider market.


Honestly, government is pretty much the same as a big company. The wild card is that you have a strata of extra executive management that may be brilliant and fighting the professional workforce or incompetent but capable of screwing things up.

I work for a large state government. Plenty of Dilbert moments, but important stuff gets done. There are people all over the place that have dedicated their life to what they do and are masters of their craft or policy area. In IT, we have plenty of crap, but a few things that are world class and make a real difference in people's lives.

I've worked for small companies where the "friends & family plan" ruined key aspects of the business/workplace. I've also seen large companies with all manner of incompetence and bad behavior -- one bank leader I know actually built a business unit with no useful purpose... specifically for the purpose of having chum for a layoff.


If it's so hard to determine how efficient government is than how can you be so convinced that it's so wasteful?


Lowest bid policies are not just stupid, they're obviously stupid. So not only do you have an obviously stupid policy, you've got the obviously stupid system that settled on such an obviously stupid policy in the first place. Given this mountain of stupidity, it is safe to conclude that the government is not being run nearly as inefficiently as it could be in the absence of such multifaceted idiocy.


So the problem is that everyone in government is just dumb? That doesn't seem like a very plausible explanation to me.


Did I say the people are dumb? No, I said the rules are dumb and the system that formulated those rules is dumb. Extending this to the people running the system was an inference you made, not something I actually said.

As it turns out, the current rules are actually very effective if what you want is a system tailor made to produce large and profitable overages after any danger of losing a contract to a competing contractor has been mitigated.




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