Oil spill illustrates the limits of government

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Suddenly, even the hardcore Obama acolytes are calling for the President’s head. The government should be doing more, they say.

It’s wholly unfair to Obama to blame any part of this spill on him, just as it was unfair to Bush to blame him for Katrina. The slow response after Katrina shows the fundamental problem with relying on governmental agencies to be quick and agile when disaster strikes. It is not that Big Government is evil on any metaphysical level. It is the fact that it is well, Big. The bigger an entity, the more ponderous it becomes.

The German army during WWII is commonly thought to have won its early battles because it had superior technology. Some think that its Panzer tanks were superior to English and French machines. In fact, the French possessed arguably the world’s strongest army and both Englisha nd Frech armor was better than Germany’s. It was the way the Germans employed those tanks that made the difference. After WWI, Germany carefully studied its failures and decided that increasing the decision making capabilities of its small unit leaders would make the German fighting force must more tactically flexible. Instead of a squad leader calling all the way up to higher headquarters merely to be told to execute a flanking maneuver, the squad leader was trained to recognize the situation in which the enemy’s flank appeared vulnerable and then flank and destroy him.

So the German Army, instead of being micro managed from a singular person who had no feel for the actual tactical situation, gave its NCOs vast powers. It also gave its officers the authority to disobey orders should a situation require it.

And so we find, that with any large, centralized government agencies, a slowness of movement. Too many moving parts. The entity, like Hannibal’s war elephants, is powerful when you can get it into the fight, it’s getting it there that presents the biggest problem. It’s not useless or evil unless we make it so. We must understand its limits and we must also know when to pare red tape when it hurts us. Some regulation is severely slowing the ability of foreign nations to help us in the cleanup effort.

If we know the limits of government, if we understand its tendency to grow itself, than we can make it better. If we continue to act like an artist who believes that making a sculpture means adding instead of carving away, we will limit our own government’s ability to serve its own people. And that’s the only reason for a government to exist.


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