Monday, November 07, 2005

What Fearsome Government?

Two items today that show the weakness of the government, ironically both from relatively conservative commentators:

One is Sebastian Mallaby, writing an op-ed in the Post on the problems of preparing for a flu pandemic:
A Double Dose of Failure: "Like Hurricane Katrina, the preparations for avian flu expose the weakness of American government. Pressing dilemmas get passed back and forth between executive and legislature, and between federal government and the states; lobbies get multiple chances to confuse and paralyze policy. Flood walls don't get built. Flu preparations don't get done. Government lets people down, and people don't trust government."
The other is Diane Ravitch, writing an op-ed in the Times on the problem of assessing students progress:
Every State Left Behind - New York Times: "WHILE in office, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton both called for national academic standards and national tests in the public schools. In both cases, the proposals were rejected by a Congress dominated by the opposing party. The current President Bush, with a friendly Congress in hand, did not pursue that goal because it is contrary to the Republican Party philosophy of localism. Instead he adopted a strategy of '50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests' - and the evidence is growing that this approach has not improved student achievement. Americans must recognize that we need national standards, national tests and a national curriculum."

(Incidentally, GAO just did a report on the problems the Department of Education is having in standardizing data elements across the country so they can pull educational data into a national system.)
Of course, the founding fathers didn't want the government too powerful. See Federalist 10. The problem is that, if we can agree on a goal, the government can work. See the military knock off opposing military. But if we don't agree, as Ravitch and Mallaby find, the government does not work well.

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