Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Government's Dilemma

One of government's ongoing problems can best be understood by cleaning up your kitchen. Nobody else is home; the kitchen counter is littered with crumbs; dirty dishes clutter the sink. As you clean up the mess, think about whether anyone will notice the difference. A family member will arrive home, see a clean counter and sink, dishes stowed away, and think everything is as it should be. Only you remember how it looked just one hour prior, and know how much work it took to put things in order. Most everyone's played both roles in this scenario countless times.

Now consider an administration that puts government's house in order. Programs run efficiently; taxes and expenditures are kept in line; crises are avoided through wise judgement. The voters will have no clue as to how much work it took to achieve this desired state of affairs, because none of the myriad small decisions and acts of diligence that make an organization run well will be considered newsworthy. It's harder to claim credit for avoiding crises than for solving them. And a rival will claim that he can cut taxes and still balance the budget. Furthermore, the voters will have become complacent during this long period of peace and prosperity, leaving the administration vulnerable.

It is in our makeup to tackle problems, but the ingredients are also there for the desired state of affairs, when it is occasionally reached, to be taken for granted, for bulls to find their way into the china shop, and for government to fall again into disarray.