A Desire for Central Planning
Eamonn Butler thinks that Canada’s spending reform model is the solution for governments with spending problems:
The Canadians’ first move was to appoint a minister for public-service renewal — a single individual with the authority to drive change and make sure that all ministers did their bit. They put nothing off limits, not even health care. There were no spending targets because they knew that departments simply spend up to such limits. But there was a complete review of all government activity.
Ministers had to define what their department was for and ask whether it really needed civil servants, or could it be done better by private bodies or by the public themselves. With a reform minister rather than a finance minister in charge, everyone bought into this as a total rethink of how the government served citizens, not just an exercise in penny-pinching.
I don’t know enough about Canadian politics to know whether Butler’s characterization is accurate or how the structure of government differs from that of the United States, but a couple of general observations are still possible. First, such a program depends heavily on the person in the reform ministry chair. Inasmuch as we don’t have a parliamentary system, I would argue that our chief executive, the president, should fill that role, and that the people of the nation should vote to select him.
The related “second” is that benevolent dictatorships look good on paper but require a sacrifice of liberty and self-governance that is (and ought to be) anathema to the American system. If subordinate ministers did not rebel and workers did not strike, it is probable that they had some confidence in the particular leader to address matters as fairly as possible. But it is also probable that they saw no benefit in doing so, because that leader had power over them.
My suggestion is that the United States should head in the other direction: less government intervention. The reason our politics are so contentious and our special interests so gargantuan and influential is that we’ve consolidated far too much power in Washington, D.C. Spread that out, back to states and municipalities, and not only will there be less motivation for lobbyists to consolidate attention on federal seats, but the people will be better able to mount counter actions, thus increasing pressure on special interests to keep their demands reasonable.