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> 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.

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