Monday, December 26, 2005

Government Failure, A Real World Example

When I was in graduate school teaching a course on socialism, I liked to tell my students that if they wanted to understand better how a state-owned enteprise worked, went to over to the library and you would see how it operated. At one time, I even organized a field trip for my studnets to check out our library actually worked. That was fun.

In the Christmas edition of the New York Times, there is another story that is illustrative of just how inefficient government enterprises operate.

In the aftermath of Harricanes Katrina and Rita, a lot of clean-up work has to be done. For those juridictions that rely on private contractors, the clean-up effort has progressed much further than those that get help from the Army Corps.

The story cites several reasons for the difference in performance, and they are all interesting ones:

"One is the complexity of the contract the Corps of Engineers has with Ashbritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that is overseeing the debris collection in Mississippi and parts of Louisiana. Its 192 pages include sections on the type of office paper the company uses and a ban on releasing information to the news media without the written permission of the Army Corps.(Ashbritt officials declined to comment for this article.)

Simply getting an agreement from the Army Corps on the exact wording for the legal release document that residents must sign to authorize contractors to clear their homes took several weeks, officials said.

Then the Army Corps and its federal partners repeatedly gave new demands, such as satellite-based measurements on the location of each house, before large-scale clearing could start, county officials said."

Bottom Line: Do you think the government officials will behave differently if they are spending their own money?

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